‘Jazz hands’, the NUS, and identity politics ad absurdum

March 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm (Beyond parody, comedy, post modernism, posted by JD, relativism, strange situations, students, surrealism, wankers)

I thought this was satire at first: specifically, an exercise in reductio ad absurdum directed against identity politics. But, depressingly, it isn’t. This is what lies behind the widely-ridiculed NUS Women’s Conference decision to replace conventional applause after speeches with so-called “jazz hands”:

From Gay Star News :

UK students’ union passes policy to stop white gay men acting like black women

Cross-dressing and drag is banned as delegates use jazz hands instead of applause

Do you find this offensive?

Photo via Will & Grace/NBC.

UK’s National Union of Students has passed a policy to stop gay men appropriating black female culture.Delegates at the Women’s Conference today, many of them self-identified feminists, have passed plenty of motions.Just one of them was ensuring everyone at the conference understood that some behaviors were damaging.On Twitter, they announced: ‘Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping as it’s triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!’

A later motion passed was 503: ‘Dear White Gay Men: Stop Approprirating [sic] Black Women’. Put forward by the NUS LGBT Committee, they believe the appropriation of black women by white gay men is prevalent within the LGBTI scene and community. ‘This may be manifested in the emulation of the mannerisms, language (particularly AAVE- African American Vernacular English) and phrases that can be attributed to black women. White gay men may often assert that they are “strong black women” or have an “inner black woman”,’ they said.

‘White gay men are the dominant demographic within the LGBT community, and they benefit from both white privilege and male privilege. ‘They claimed the appropriation is ‘unacceptable and must be addressed’. Passing the motion, they agreed to eradicate the appropriation of black women by white gay men and to raise awareness of the issue.

A second motion passed was the banning of cross-dressing or drag as it could be offensive to trans women: ‘To issue a statement condemning the use of crossdressing as a mode of fancy dress,’ they pledged.

‘To encourage unions to ban clubs and societies from holding events which permit or encourage (cisgender) members to use cross-dressing as a mode of fancy dress’.

This ruling was given an exclusion to queer students who want to use cross-dressing in their everyday lives as a mode of expression and to those who want to cross-play by flipping the gender of a fictional character in fancy dress.

A NUS spokeswoman told Gay Star News: ‘We’re a democratic society, and if members voted for it, these are our policies’.

Several have mocked the policies online, with the New Statesman calling into question the second motion for being ‘remarkably conservative’ for a group ‘otherwise so much at pains to stress the variety and fluidity of gender’.

Others on social media also questioned the first, saying inspiration for the slang like ‘shade’ and ‘spill the T’ was taken from the underground drag culture in the 70s and 80s, Paris is Burning and modern shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race.


More on this nonsense over at Comrade Coatesy’s, and a particularly interesting comment from someone with a genuine anxiety condition,  here.


  1. john l said,

    Thought you were in the AWL? Your students were all over this kind of headbanging identity stuff like a bad rash.

    • Jim Denham said,

      AWL students have always opposed this sort of nonsense (to the best of my knowledge). Or Do you not understand the point I’m making?

  2. Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

    This is a joke. Do those people actually exist on the planet Earth alongside ISIS.

  3. Jim Denham said,

    From Dave Ostland’s Facebook page:

    The website of Socialist Resistance – a organisation of which I was once a member – is currently running two articles on the transphobia debate.

    Author A, a radical feminist, sets out her position. Author B, a trans woman, subjects it to critique.
    The first writer does not stoop to Julie Burchill-style cheap shot invective aimed at ‘chicks with dicks’ but simply sets out her stall in entirely reasonable terms.

    See More

    Against Socialist Resistance’s Hosting of Transphobes

    I just visited http://www.ipetitions.com and signed an important petition. I really care about this cause and hope you’ll show your support for it.

  4. John Welsh said,

    NUS is a gift that keeps giving. It just makes you pause when you realise they’ll be running the Labour Party in a few years.

  5. dave said,

    the gay agenda…
    why the west is hated throughout the world.
    among other reasons.
    Putin has the right rational approach to this problem.

  6. Rosie said,

    I’ve lost touch with feminism for decades & have only noticed the transgender controversies as vague rumours. I read the article on the Socialist Resistance site and it is very clear and seems reasonable.

    However it was introduced with – “Trigger Warning – some readers may find some of the views in Smith’s article offensive.”

    I quite appreciate being told that this television programme contains scenes of violence or of a sexual nature as I don’t like seeing torture or sex scenes much.

    But being warned that an opinion or an argument might be offensive? It’s not an article describing in graphic details the desirability of lynching or approval of ISIS methods of propaganda.

    Shouldn’t there also be the anti-trigger warning. “Lull warning – most readers will find the views in tie article will confirm their prejudices.”

  7. Rosie said,

    Also “Trigger” – there should be “trigger” warnings on Brendan O’Neill’s arguments as “may trigger desire to kick smug git of a writer in the goolies”. But seriously – doesn’t that mean – “trigger an episode of real mental dysfunction”, not annoyance or rage.

  8. Paul Canning said,

    Glad to see you picked up on Gareth’s article on how to respond to requests from anxiety disorder sufferers. I have since spoken to a professional who has confirmed that Gareth is correct.

    The woman who asked for it at the NUS conference has a post and I commented drawing her attention to Gareth’s piece and comments from several other sufferers that NUS made the wrong decision. Her response is that the NUS women must be right because all of them agreed!

    Dialogue of the deaf …

    • Steven Johnston said,

      I await the post where allI of them agreed that 2 + 2 = 5…

  9. Jim Denham said,

  10. Rosie said,

    And he pulled the fastest milk-cart in the west.

    • Glesga Keeping Scotland Free From Loonies said,

      Ernie did pull the burds Rosie.

      • Steven Johnston said,

        Wow, I can remember chatting with some leftie female students around the time Basic Instict came out, they said the film could be seen as offensive, but it was just a movie so they were not going to give anyone that watched it a hard time. This current lot don’t sound so sane and lack perspective.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: