Guest post: How inclusion works at NUS Scotland Women

Guest post by Magdalen Berns.

Since I wrote about my experience of being excluded from Edinburgh University Student Association (EUSA) Women’s Liberation, LGBT Liberation, and LGBT Society Facebook groups, I can now confirm that I have also been banned from the NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign Facebook group which represents around 0.2% of roughly 100,000 female Scottish higher education students. My latest thought crime was having the temerity to post a discussion between Chris Hedges, Lee Lakeman and Alice Lee and quoting the following remark from Alice Lee.

I think with neoliberalism it’s worse for women of colour, indigenous women, because now a sort of–they use an excuse of subjugating women and the exploitation of women of colour and indigenous women almost as if it was a viable option for women–that’s the only thing that we’re good for. So it really puts us to being not human, in a way that it dismisses us and all the contributions that women make in those countries.

Such a post must have disrupted the natural order of things by “offending” the self defining student “sex work” caucus again. Back in September last year, I posted an article which resulted in members attempting to get me banned for being a “SWERF”. The President of the NUS disagreed with the hostile way I had been spoken to and offered to take a formal complaint from me. I still had not heard back about that by October, so I shared another article which was deleted by the NUS Scotland Women’s Officer after complaints were made by the Edinburgh “sex worker” caucus who were harassing me all over social media at that point. The Women’s Officer vowed to “look into” how a conversation on prostitution could be facilitated without making student “sex workers” feel unsafe. I haven’t heard from either of the NUS Scotland Officers since, and I did not get any warning before being banned from NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign Facebook group. I can only assume representatives have allowed themselves to become too intimidated to be seen to be showing any sort of sympathy for the idea that women have legitimate reasons for disagreeing with the global sex trade in women and girls. The threat of a non-confidence smear campaign seems to be one tactic which keeps NUS Officers in line.

In the spirit of identity politics, I looked over who should be checking whose privilege according to NUS  “intersectionality 101” publications. It turns out the documents don’t have anything on “sex workers” (yet). Although one part says, “listen to and support lesbian women, do not question their judgement”, the “intersectionality 101” presentation makes no mention of sexuality and none of the “intersectionality 101” publications have anything to say about heterosexual women. A comprehensive description of class oppression is also absent from the “intersectionality 101” toolkit which might explain why student reps find it difficult to appreciate that vast majority of prostituted women and girls don’t have access to higher education because they are underprivileged compared to the student “sex workers” we are are told to listen to.

NUS “feminism” is easily reconciled with the cognitively dissonant act of banning a sister for posting an article on how structural racism, imperialism and colonialism work to subordinate the world’s most marginalised women in prostitution, because the NUS essentially rejects the idea that women are a subordinated sex class. Having resolved that the word “sister” is too exclusionary to be allowed at conference last year, the NUS recently came up with a set of new ideas designed to undermine female students’ ability to unite against patriarchy. It is no wonder that NUS Women are now under the assumption that “inclusion” means women should speak of oppression only when this is being done to shut other women up.

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