16 Views
1 Comments

Student politics is becoming narrower, polarising and hostile

In my first year at Sussex, one of the first things I was told about writing essays is that fence sitters aren’t welcome. To get good marks, you have to come down on one side of the debate, and you have to convince the reader why your argument is correct, without calling the issue at hand “complicated” or pointing out that “there are many factors to consider here.” As a fairly standard Sussex left-­winger, I’ve argued against imperialism, cultural appropriation, rape culture, transphobia and other injustices that I feel are genuinely prevalent in society that need addressing through practical solutions and radical action.

I’ve also recently been considering the arguments for leaving the EU.

*Gasp* *Heckle* *Vomit*… the shock. Did somebody just throw an egg in my direction? Have I been excommunicated yet? I know, I couldn’t believe it myself. How could I, an intersectional feminist whose idea of a perfect world is a socialist utopia (with many cats) dare to cross the invisible line of the Brexit campaign and read opinions that are usually written by people who are ideologically against everything I believe in?

It’s called being an adult, putting my big-­girl pants on and crossing the fence to at least talk to the poor souls on the other side. Try it. It might surprise you to find out that most of them are human beings with interests, ex-boyfriends, beloved pets, Adventure Time posters and dreams. It’s called looking at each other as humans, not sets of opinions. Trust me, I know how difficult it can be, especially when you believe that their opinions are a real and imminent threat to humanity. It’s just, recently I’ve realized that people can be fantastic thinkers and activists, but as soon as they reveal a tiny aspect of their personality to be out of line with our own beliefs, we utterly condemn them as being terrible people. We take a bad opinion, stretch it out like chewing gum and analyze every facet of it until we are satisfied that this person is indeed, a super villain, disguised as one of us.

This is resulting in a narrow minded, aggressive form of politics. We have started a system whereby people are either conformists to a particular set of beliefs or non­-conformists. We’ve created a checklist, which we pull out and evaluate someone with if they hint at not ticking even one of the boxes. A friend of mine wrote an article a while ago, offering her opinion and criticism of the student occupation at Bramber house. We all know the exact article I’m referring to, because for a while it was more controversial than Will Saunders himself. The reactions to it however, were in my opinion the most shocking and saddening aspect of the ordeal. I saw progressive students that I’ve looked up to at university shooting the author down, calling her “dumb”, mocking her and accusing her of being imperialist. This culture is present in every political identity and it results in intelligent, kind and well-meaning people, like the author above, being made to feel like they are not wanted in any political sphere due to one opinion they hold out of hundreds.

Remember the case last year of the UCL professor, Tim Hunt, who made sexist jokes about women in science? I believe he hilariously quipped: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.” Hunt was a 70-something-year-old man, educated in a single-­sex school with offensive and tedious views of women. He deserved to be told why what he said was wrong and how it caused real problems for women in science. Hunt was also a Nobel laureate. His work in cell division has had profound impacts in the area of medicine, particularly cancer research. It’s been just under a year since Hunt made his stupid remarks during his lecture, and he is now jobless after being forced to resign by UCL. His career is now defined by the mistake he made, rather than his brilliant accomplishments. Is this really just? When I eagerly ranted about him to my feminist friends last year, I never did so with the hopes that this man would have his life’s work undermined and his career ruined. These types of disproportionate reactions to people’s mistakes though, seem to be happening more often. We’ve stopped accepting that, as human beings, we each have faults and bad habits.

Real life isn’t an academic essay. This black-and-white mentality has seeped into our interactions with each other, even outside of student politics. We have to allow ourselves to step back and call an issue “complex” and consider both sides of an argument. It’s unrealistic to expect somebody to fit a precise mold of a Tory, or of a Socialist. More importantly, it’s destructive to human relationships and friendships. I don’t want to spend my last day of term sat in Falmer Bar debating lad culture with myself. I want to cultivate relationships and respect people as humans before my political beliefs end up taking over every realm of my life. What happened to striking up a discourse and challenging our political foes to a good old fashioned pub debate? Instead, people articulate carefully scripted arguments and insults in online comment sections and level personal attacks over Facebook messenger. It’s laughably depressing.

Here’s the thing: no matter which side of what fence we’re on, we’ve all reached this point during arguments where we think that we are genuinely privileging ignorant uneducated people around us with our opinions of the world. It’s a cringe­-worthy symptom of educated snobbery and I’m done with it. It’s okay if someone wants to leave the EU. It’s okay if somebody doesn’t agree with a student occupation or protest. It’s okay if somebody feels more comfortable putting warnings in front of triggering content. We need to stop polarizing ourselves and viewing each other in black and white terms. It’s unproductive and child like.

Student politics is relevant and essential. I believe that some of the most radical changes on society start on student campuses. I’m entitled to hold that belief alongside the opinion that student politics is in danger of polarising people more than it unites them. Most of it comes down to taking a step back and gaining perspective. If you see a Badger article that you don’t like, stop accusing it of being “desperate” and of content baiting. Instead, write your own article explaining why you disagree with the opinion voiced, not the person who wrote it. Start engaging in mature and healthy discussions and have some humility. Acknowledge that every person has had different life experiences that have led them to their set of beliefs. Accept that this makes them human, not the enemy.

Chelsea Murfitt 

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

One Comment

  1. In regards to the joke told by Tim Hunt, it needs to be heard in full to understand that far from being sexist, he was actually praising female contributions to science in South Korea:

    “It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

    Asides from that, good article.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
16 views

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia’s Cinderella review

Georgia Grace - February 23, 2018

The Russian State Ballet of Siberia came to the Theatre Royal Brighton this week with a trio of classic ballet performances to impress a range of audiences.…

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock
Science, Science & Technology
30 views
Science, Science & Technology
30 views

Billionaire builds colossal 10,000 year clock

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has gone ahead with a plan to build a giant clock to promote long term thinking. The clock's design should allow it to…

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain
Science, Science & Technology
79 views
Science, Science & Technology
79 views

Neuroscience: it must be love on the brain

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

If you're madly in love, I'd like to ask you to take a moment to consider what exactly is happening inside your brain. Love is a many-chemical…

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy
Science, Science & Technology
48 views
Science, Science & Technology
48 views

Rockets and technopoltics: SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy

Luke Richards - February 23, 2018

The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy could become a defining feature in humanity's exploration of space, but this impressive technical feat opens up a new frontier of…

Should the monarchy be abolished?
News
23 views
News
23 views

Should the monarchy be abolished?

Will Cronk - February 23, 2018

YES William Cronk Since the time of Alfred the Great, this country has had a monarch of some form or another. The monarchy has provided stability and…

News, Podcast
28 views

News Round Up: UCU strike updates, tuition fees and more

William Singh - February 23, 2018

In this news round up of the week, Will and Deniz catch you up on everything going on around campus. Thanks for listening and tune in next…

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr
Features, Top Stories
22 views
Features, Top Stories
22 views

Academic Armchair- iObjectify: self- and other-objectification on Grindr

Devin Thomas - February 23, 2018

The Badger Features Team interviewed Sussex’s Yasin Koc about his work on the psychological factors behind Grindr. He posits that use of the app is associated with…

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls
Arts, Film & Theatre
25 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
25 views

The Badger Reviews: Derry Girls

Sophie Coppenhall - February 22, 2018

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MwnpSEzprQ[/embedyt] This week, Sophie our film editor, reviews season one of Derry Girls. Have you seen it? What did you think? Leave us a comment on…

Arts, Film & Theatre
40 views

Krater’s Valentine’s Day Special review

Daniel Green - February 21, 2018

Love was in the air at a Valentine’s special of Krater Comedy Club last Wednesday and, despite the pouring rain outside, Komedia was packed full of people…

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule
Campus News, News
41 views
Campus News, News
41 views

‘Paws for Pensions’ among strike event schedule

William Singh - February 21, 2018

University of Sussex staff are hosting a full slate of events on strike days, including talks, teach-ins, and even a day to bring along your puppers. Members…

Exploring Mumbai Street Food
Lifestyle
40 views
Lifestyle
40 views

Exploring Mumbai Street Food

Louisa Streeting - February 21, 2018

Mumbai is a place that assaults the senses; an array of smells you’ve never smelt before, vibrant colours, and constant noises from the surge of tourists and…

Comment, Opinion
44 views

Comment Cast: Misogyny In Hollywood

Will Cronk - February 21, 2018

In the is episode, Will and Sophie discuss misogyny in film and tv. For more, pick up a badger around campus or read it online. Tune in…

Students need to support the UCU strike
Comment, Opinion
51 views
Comment, Opinion
51 views

Students need to support the UCU strike

Johnbosco Nwogbo - February 20, 2018

The question of whether or not the current UCU strike is justified is an easily settled one, if one took a broad view. According to the Joseph…

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?
Features, Top Stories
50 views
Features, Top Stories
50 views

Women’s suffrage 100 years on: what’s changed?

Roisin McCormack - February 20, 2018

As it reaches a century since the defining moments of women’s suffrage, Roisin McCormack looks into how much things have really changed. Is a celebration of the…

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views
Arts, Film & Theatre
31 views

Retrospective: Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2002)

Gabriel Ross - February 20, 2018

During a 2002 interview with Charlie Rose, when asked whether he is going to take some time off, Adam Sandler promptly replies, “I don’t really wanna have…

News
52 views

Live: Students’ Union decides on UCU strike backing

William Singh - February 19, 2018

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000
Campus News, News
68 views
Campus News, News
68 views

U.S.S.U-Turn: 54 students decide stance for 17,000

Jordan Wright - February 19, 2018

On Monday 19th February, the Students’ Union Council will vote on whether or not to support the national Univerity  and College Union (UCU) strike action that is…

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review
Arts, Music
38 views
Arts, Music
38 views

The Wombats: ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ review

Matthew Nicholls - February 19, 2018

Three years after their last release, The Wombats are back with their long awaited fourth album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’. Since 'Glitterbug' reached number 5…

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse
Artist Focus, Arts
50 views
Artist Focus, Arts
50 views

Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse

Louisa Hunt - February 19, 2018

Ella Barkhouse is a second-year Brighton student, studying Fine Art: Critical Practice course. Her work ranges across all sorts of media, from some more traditional writing, drawing…

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February
Books
76 views
Books
76 views

The ultimate LGBTQ+ books guide this February

Shiri Reuben - February 19, 2018

  Throughout the month of February, LGBT History Month aims to promote tolerance and spread awareness of the historical and present-day prejudices faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual…