Who’s afraid of clapping? Feminist students, that’s who

As the National Union of Students’ Women’s conference opened yesterday, delegates were asked to replace applause with ‘feminist jazz hands’.

The request came from the Twitter feed of the Oxford University Student Union’s Women’s Campaign (@womcam) – it claimed clapping was ‘triggering anxiety’. This latest safe-space policy requested attendees refrain from applauding motions that included calls to ‘end transphobia, biphobia, and Islamophobia on campus’.

Before the day’s proceedings came to an end, and delegates went off to a ‘feminist disco’, the inevitable Twitterstorm had taken hold. In between fits of laughter, the internet shook its collective head at the sorry state of UK students. Last month, we couldn’t listen to Marine le Pen; this month we can’t listen to the sound of our own clapping.

Embarrassed students had had enough, and struck back. The jazz-handing request was ridiculed and torn apart. How will blind students know when a motion is gaining approval? How will students without hands join in with the NUS sanctioned Newspeak applause? How exclusionary!

And what makes these jazz hands so ‘feminist’? Are feminist jazz hands replacing once-feminist applause? It’s certainly something to think about before the feminist disco, which is presumably right after feminist dinner, and the feminist cigarette, before delegates go home to their feminist beds, ready to get up the next morning for the feminist train journey home?

While Twitter giggled, Oxford’s student radical feminists descended deeper into the realms of self-parody. On one notable feminist Facebook group, a discussion began on whether the use of feminist jazz hands meant the NUS delegates were engaging in some sort of abhorrent ‘cultural appropriation’. In their attempt to create a space safe from oppressive clapping, it appeared to some that the conference may have just also offended ‘gay black men’, as jazz hands were ‘used as a signal among New Orleans LGBT community as a way of identifying themselves to one another’.

Fellow students of Britain, if you support ‘a liberated and democratic curriculum’, please wave your hands in an erratic manner, palms facing outwards and fingers splayed. But be careful not to make any noise – we wouldn’t want to scare anyone. And make sure those jazz hands are adequately ‘feminist’. And then apologise.

Sam Slater is a student at the University of Oxford and an organiser for spiked’s Down With Campus Censorship! campaign.

For permission to republish spiked articles, please contact Viv Regan.

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