Monthly Archives: October 2014

Social Justice Synonyms #6: “Slut”

Welcome back to Social Justice Synonyms! In honour of Hallowe’en, and the problematic conversations that may likely be happening on campus today, this week’s word is slut.

The word “slut” has been kickin’ around since about 1450. Though its exact origins are unknown, it started appearing in Middle English around that time. It began as a sexualized term for a woman, and has continued to carry similar meaning – it places negative judgment on a higher level of sexual activity or a more ‘revealing’ style of dress than was considered ‘socially acceptable’. This term, unlike some others, has always been used as an insult and has never held another meaning, and is therefore almost universally considered to be a derogatory term for women. The use of ‘slut’ is particularly harmful in cases where race, gender, and class intersect (more about that later). This discussion will centre mostly around its use toward people who identify as women, but does not mean to silence the experiences of others negatively affected by the term. 

The term ‘slut’ is inevitably gendered; it originated as a term for women and has continued to be for them throughout its history. Only in the past century has ‘slut’ been used (seldomly) to refer to men, and when it is, it is usually prefaced with a gender distinction (i.e. “man slut, man whore”). Although the term can have a negative impact on men, it does not have equal cultural/social effects across genders. Due to its origins and the patriarchal society in which we live, the implications of calling a cisgender straight man a slut are never as harmful. As well, there are equivalent terms for cisgender straight men that have positive connotations and reinforce machismo and social status (i.e. stud, ladies’ man, etc.).

What you’re saying by calling someone a ‘slut’ or calling their outfit/actions ‘slutty’ is that you don’t approve of their assumed sexual promiscuity. That, in turn, says a lot – that you have the right to comment on their sexual promiscuity and that their sexuality warrants shame since it does not conform to your/society’s expectations. This is called slut-shaming. Calling someone a ‘slut’ shames them for being sexual, for identifying sexual desire and acting on it, and/or for expressing their sexuality. Its use reinforces the idea that women’s bodies and sexualities can be policed by men in social circles, institutions, and/or families, and that people aren’t able to express their sexuality or lack thereof however they want.

‘Slut’ is most often used as an insult without knowledge of someone’s sexual activity. This assumes that the person being shamed is sexual or identifies with sexuality, which erases the possibility of asexuality – the lack of sexual attraction. (For more information on asexuality, click here.) Additionally, it is commonly used in contexts in which a woman is seen as a ‘tease’, such as when someone invites sexual attention and then chooses not to act on it. This removes the person’s sexual autonomy and implies that consent isn’t fluid – and consent is fluid. By “fluid”, we mean that consent is a necessary part of any sexual experience at all points of that experience for all partners involved, and it can change at any time. Using ‘slut’ term in these contexts invokes the she was asking for it narrative, implying that if a woman is perceived to invite sexual attention and then changes her mind, she is deserving of any non-consensual sexual act or attention that follows. Any non-consensual sexual act is rape, and rape is rape regardless of someone’s clothing or perceived “sluttiness”.

The term ‘slut’ disproportionately affects women of colour, Indigenous women, poor women, trans women, and sex workers. These bodies are continuously hypersexualized, devalued, exotified, and fetishized. This is particularly true for Indigenous women, who experience the historical, ongoing, and intergenerational effects of gendered violence, state violence, colonialism, and dispossession – to list a few. This can be seen in the normalized violence of Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women, in which thousands of Indigenous women have been abducted and murdered at a disproportionate rate compared to other women. As Anishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson writes,

I think it’s not enough to just recognize that violence against women occurs but that it is intrinsically tied to the creation and settlement of Canada. Gender violence is central to our on-going dispossession, occupation and erasure and Indigenous families and communities have always resisted this.

(Read about the Feb 14th Annual Women’s Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women here.)

Lastly, women calling other women sluts is still harmful, even if it is a joke between friends. It perpetuates negative views of sexuality and reinforces the heteronormative idea that women are in competition with each other for male attention. This is not to say that the word can’t be reclaimed – there are folks who have embraced the term as part of their identity and given it positive connotation. However, it is important to note that certain populations, by virtue of cisgender, white, able-bodied, and middle-class privilege, are ‘better enabled’ to reclaim the term. As previously mentioned, Indigenous women, trans women, sex workers, and women of colour experience disproportionate degrees of racialized and gendered violence compared to cisgender white women, and thus may not feel as compelled or safe to reclaim the word “slut” for themselves.

Alternatives:

*Before we discuss some alternatives, we want to stress that the best alternative to calling someone a slut is to not comment on their level of sexual activity at all, because that is their own business! It is too difficult to remove connotation from those kinds of statements. The only time you should be concerned about someone else’s sexual activity or interests are if they a) involve you, b) are unsafe, or c) are non-consensual.

Synonyms that are similarly problematic: skank, hussy, nympho, whore, hoochie mama

———————

Use Alternative
“Dude! Check it out, that chick’s costume is so slutty.” “Hey, that person is wearing a Halloween costume! Neat!”
*here, again, question why you feel as if you have the right to comment on the nature of what someone is wearing and pass judgment on it.
A: Is this outfit too slutty?B: The skirt’s a little short… A: Is this outfit too revealing?B: If you are comfortable and confident wearing it, wear it!
“I heard Amanda made out with like three people last night – what a slut!” “I heard Amanda made out with like three people last night! Wow! Consensual kissing is awesome.”
“I’m really into this girl, but I’ve heard she’s kind of a slut.” “I’m really into this girl. I’ve heard that others talk about her sexual experience. If that’s who she is, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

Note: This article has been edited to reflect that the term “slutty” has been used to denigrate gay/queer men, particularly in the context of the AIDS epidemic. We apologize for the oversight and encourage you to read the thoughtful comment on the topic below.

Hip vs. Horrible Halloween Outfits

I get very excited about Halloween. Without a doubt, my favourite part is seeing fun and creative costumes. The one part that has never appealed to me is the horror, because I get scared way too easily. Fortunately, I can usually avoid all things scary. Unfortunately, the most frightening sight is one that is more difficult to avoid. Culturally appropriative Halloween costumes are surprisingly common but also horrifying, and if you’re unsure why, then read on.

What is cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation is a tricky topic to navigate, but a fairly basic definition is the unauthorized use of practices, items or symbols from a non-dominating culture that has typically been (historically and continuously) oppressed and exploited. The person who appropriates belongs to a dominating or different culture than the one they are mimicking. In the context of Halloween, if a person wears a costume that depicts a culture they do not belong to, that person is appropriating. In even simpler terms, the costume is racist.

Although there are so many bright individuals at our university, racist and appropriative costumes are sadly something that is common, especially this time of the year. The problem with these costumes is that they often represent a culture as a (negative) stereotype. Stereotypes fail to acknowledge the diversity within a culture, instead conflating the culture into a shallow depiction of what it truly is, while trivializing the history and significance of practices, items, and symbols. Often these costumes are also sexualized, which adds another problematic aspect as historically, sexualisation and the demonizing of sexuality has been used as a tool of oppression again non-dominating cultures. While all culturally appropriative costumes are equally bad, considering where UBC is located I think it’s important to spend some extra time on discussing appropriation of Indigenous culture(s).

The context

Geographically, the UBC Point Grey and Okanagan campuses are located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people and Okanagan Nation (Sylix) Territories, respectively. Most members of the UBC community are uninvited visitors and settlers, and as such I think our obligations to the Aboriginal communities whose land we occupy have to go beyond land acknowledgements. It is also our responsibility to learn about the past and continued violence these communities face and actively participate in decolonization work. Reducing Indigenous people to a one-dimensional stereotype is just one example of the ongoing oppression, silencing, and violence that Aboriginal peoples face.

Unnecessarily sexualized Halloween costumes are in themselves problematic, but in combination with appropriating Indigenous cultures it is particularly so. Aboriginal peoples, especially women, have historically been constructed as sexually deviant, so costumes and stereotypes that reinforce Aboriginal women as heavily sexualized are both disturbing and upsetting. According to a statistical report from 2013, Aboriginal females in Canada make up 4.3% of the population, but make up about 11.3% of missing females and approximately 16% of female homicides. The effect of perceived deviance combined with other aspects of colonization has led to devaluation and disregard for Aboriginal lives. I think that everyone can agree that this is wrong.

Other popular costumes that are culturally appropriative are dressing as a Mexican, a geisha or wearing blackface. Each and every one of these culturally appropriative costumes have real and damaging consequences for these groups. Although the intent behind wearing a costume that is culturally appropriative may not be malicious, it is still a choice that stems from ignorance, privilege, and racism. As part of a university that aims to “value and respect all members of its communities,” offensive and oppressive actions should be opposed by all members of UBC. Cultural appropriation erases the real life challenges that non-dominating groups face and is an inherently violent action that perpetuates negative stereotypes and oppression of these communities.

So what can you personally do? First of all, never wear a costume, on Halloween or otherwise, that is culturally appropriative. If you’re still unclear on why cultural appropriation is bad or if your costume is appropriate there are many online resources. Take some time to educate yourself, and then educate your friends by sharing this or other articles, or by talking to them. If it feels safe to do so, call someone out on their racist costume. In summary, keep talking and eventually the culture of acceptance toward cultural appropriation will shift.

Before wrapping up I want to acknowledge that cultural appropriation is not isolated to Halloween or dressing up. Incorporating practices, items or symbols that have a significant meaning from another culture into your own is also a form of cultural appropriation. Please take some time to educate yourself on respectful ways to appreciate other cultures, and what the difference between appropriation and appreciation is.

Hannah Barath is a Swedish-Canadian 4th year doing a major in Cognitive Systems and a minor in Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. This Halloween she will dress as a bellhop and Pippi Longstocking.

This post was originally posted on the UBC Access & Diversity blog: http://blogs.ubc.ca/access/2014/10/22/hip-vs-horrible-halloween-outfits/

Students Vote for Action Against Tuition and Residence Hikes

This afternoon, UBC’s student association – the Alma Mater Society (AMS) – held its Annual General Meeting. This historic meeting was the first AGM to meet quorum in almost forty years. At the meeting, UBC students voted overwhelmingly in favour of giving the AMS a mandate to oppose the university administration’s recent proposals to increase international tuition for incoming students by 10% and 8-month contract residence fees by 20%, effective next year. The AMS now has a strong mandate from students to lobby the provincial government for increased post-secondary funding and advocate for legislation that protects UBC students, who are not protected by the provincial Residential Tenancy Act. Moving forward, the AMS will be required to support groups on campus organizing against the fee increases and also to organize their own student protests against the hikes.

We would like to thank every student that took the time to help out today, whether that was attending the AGM, inviting friends, or tweeting about it in class. Without you, this historic moment would not have been possible. We are thrilled that all the motions we presented at the AGM received the overwhelming support of the student body.

We call on the AMS to respect and implement the clear mandate the students have given them. Students have spoken loudly and clearly: we do not want these increases and we want the AMS to be on the front lines with us, fighting against the proposals.

Any student who is opposed to these hikes is part of the I Am A Student movement. We are building people power and creating spaces for us to come together and have our voices heard. If you are looking for ways to get further involved in organizing and mobilizing the student body, we are having a meeting on Monday, November 3rd at 5:00 PM in room 207 of the SUB.

Today, we have all proven that the idea of an apathetic student body at the University of British Columbia is not true. Our numbers will continue to grow and our actions will multiply. Together we will fight for accessible education.

The students united will never be defeated!

3 Talon-approved Events this Week

1. AMS Annual General Meeting

This year’s UBC Alma Mater Society Annual General Meeting is crucially important due to the recent tuition and residence increases. The meeting will feature votes on student action against these hikes as well as an opportunity to discuss the increases as well as other issues affecting UBC students. A quorum of 500 students is needed for binding resolution, which is actually quite a bit of people. Come out to oppose the hikes!

Tuesday, October 28, 12:00pm

SUB Party Room, Old SUB Building, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

2. ‘On the Side of the Road’ UBC screening & discussion with director Lia Tarachansky

A screening of Lia Tarachansky’s documentary film On the Side of the Road, which explores the plight of Palestinian refugees and the Israeli perception of Palestinian occupation. The film also deals with Tarachansky’s personal experience as a former Israeli settler. The event is hosted by the UBC Social Justice Centre and Independent Jewish Voices Canada and will feature a Q & A with the director.

Wednesday, October 29, 12:00pm

Norm Theatre, Old SUB Building, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

3. Big Talk: Unpacking Halloween – Culture, Not Costume

This talk, co-hosted by the UBC Sociology Students’ Association and the UBC Anthropology Students’ Association, will offer some much needed guidance about halloween costumes through a discussion of “cultural appropriation, racial relations, and the effects of colonialism in our everyday lives.” $2 entry also includes membership to one of the two student associations and a cool-looking official badge.

Panelists:

-Renisa Mawani (Sociology)

-Charles Menzies (Anthropology)

-Leonora Angeles (GRSJ)

Thursday, October 30, 2:00pm

Lino Lounge, Anthropology and Sociology Building, UBC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories

March Against the (neoliberal) Machine: Students Unite Against Fee Raises

On Friday October 24th, angry students gathered at the Koerner Plaza to demand fair tuition and housing costs. The university, in a move of callous money-grabbing, has recently announced that it will raise international students’ tuition by 10 percent and residence fees by 20 percent as well as adding new costs to the residence meal plan. Justifiably outraged, students — domestic and international, living on and off campus — mobilized against these fee hikes. For many of us already barely eking out a living in the most expensive city in the world, the university’s move comes as a slap in the face. If the university itself is hanging the students out to dry to the uncaring winds of market forces, who is left on our side? If the institution that ostensibly exists for students does not stand up for accessible education, who will?

The answer, it seems, is the students. In rousing speeches to the assembled crowd, Gabriel D’Astous, Nina Karimi, Amna Elnour and Mitchell Dean declared that if the university will not listen to its students, the students have no choice but to demand attention. With red squares — symbols of student resistance from Quebec and elsewhere — pinned to their lapels and red bar codes painted on their faces to symbolise how we are merely commodities, the crowd listened intently, and began to march as one to the Vanier, Totem, and Marine Drive residences with special visits to the President’s office and the Housing Services on the way. In front of somewhat bewildered but attentive Housing Services staff, students continued to make speeches and chant emphatically against the proposed hikes. Chants like “Hey, hey UBC, how much money will you take from me?” and “We’re on a mission, for housing and tuition!” surfaced from the crowds. Some people watched from their bedroom windows as their fellow students beckoned them down to join the protest; a few rushed out to be part of the momentum.

The gathering of around 300 hundred students marched up Main Mall and along towards the Martha Piper Plaza where the #IAmAStudent Teach-in was held the week before. They carried their signs with creative slogans, including Hogwarts asks for less; Down with Neoliberalism!; The poor need not apply; and Who needs border control with prices like these?. The impassioned crowd maintained the fervour, chanting, marching, waving signs, educating and calling in passers-by all the way to the fountain.

At the fountain, the protest culminated with Bathing Babes, a symbolic demonstration of how unaffordable housing and tuition leads to students to be so out of pocket they cannot pay their water bills. Organised by Marina Classen of the GRSJ Undergraduate Students Association, around twelve students stripped to their underwear or bathing suits and waded into the fountain. With loafers and sponges they attempted to scrub dollar signs from their bodies. The surprise ending marked a radical demonstration of how passionately students oppose these tuition and housing fee hikes, and the lengths to which their activism will extend. Although the protesters represented only a fraction of the student body, the shouting, cheering, and mere presence of those who could spare a few moments in the midst of mid-term season, not to mention the vast online support from those who could not, indicates that UBC students will not go down without a fight.

On Tuesday, October 28th, the AMS is holding their Annual General Meeting which requires five hundred students to meet quorum. Five hundred UBC students must be present so that the AMS can officially vote against these proposed increases! Five hundred students must stand united.

Students listening intently to Amna Elnour.

Students listening intently to Amna Elnour.

Students chant and hold sign reading "Students not Status".

Students chant and hold sign reading “Students not Status”.

Students hold sign reading "UBC + BC Libs: Symphony of Greed"

Students hold sign reading “UBC + BC Libs: Symphony of Greed”

Students from the GRSJ Undergraduate Students' Association hold a variety of creative protest signs.

Students hold a variety of creative protest signs.

Students prepare for the march with red squares and bar-code face paints.

Students prepare for the march with red squares and bar-code face paints.

"Hogwards asks for less"

“Hogwarts asks for less”

Students gather at Marine Drive Residences to hear speeches and call-in residents.

Students gather at Marine Drive Residences to hear speeches and call-in residents.

Bathing Babes: students bathe in the fountain to protest tuition and housing fee increases.

Bathing Babes: students bathe in the fountain to protest tuition and housing fee increases.

Why all students should oppose fee increases

Post-secondary education has to navigate two contradictory identities: as both a basic right and a purchasable commodity. This leads to some strange situations. For example, an international student can pay up to five times as much for their education as a domestic student. Imagine being asked to present your passport every time you shopped for groceries, and then being charged according to the words on its front jacket.

‘Citizenship’ is the usual excuse – non-Canadians do not have a right to a Canadian education. In practice, however, it isn’t a right for all Canadians either; even among those that do manage it, the average Canadian graduates with a debt of $27,000. Many will be forced to drop out.

The differences between international and domestic students makes it seem like we have separate interests. Don’t the universities need the extra revenue that international students bring? Don’t domestic students benefit from that revenue? Don’t internationals stimulate the economy, and don’t citizens benefit from that too?

Although the set up isn’t perfect, the abolition of public university tuition fees for both domestic and international students in Germany proves that there is another way to think about education. This begs a very different question from the ones raised earlier: what do school fees mean in the first place? Different tuition rates seem to divide us, but from the perspective of the university administration domestic and international students are alike in one key respect: we are, all of us, sources of revenue.

The BC Liberal government deregulated college and university fees in 2002, leading to massive increases in tuition rates (they had doubled by 2005) until domestic tuition fees were capped to inflation in 2011 thanks to a successful campaign by the Canadian Federation of Students. They remain entirely deregulated for internationals. This is a move that is known to drastically affect low-income families’ access to education.

Officially, tuition hikes are a reaction to the chronic underfunding of post-secondary education on the part of the federal and provincial governments. This is a very real issue. At the national level, in the 1960s and 1970s, over 90% of university funding came from governments. By 2012, government funding accounted for only 57%, the lost funding having been largely compensated for by raising student fees. At the provincial level, since the Liberals took power, real per-student operating grants have declined by 9%. Their latest budget projects a cut of $51 million over the next three years. This is in keeping with the general pattern of their policy, which has cut government funding for post-secondary education in real terms since 2002. They have done this while mandating yearly increases in enrolments.

The effect has been a stealthy privatization of higher learning right under our noses. These policies can be broadly thought of in terms of neoliberalism, a particularly pure variant of capitalism which, since the 80s, has instituted a massive shift of wealth towards the richest segment of the population in part by cutting public spending on social services. We are seeing the Liberal Party’s version of this agenda. During their 2009 election campaign, the provincial NDP promised to freeze tuition; in the 2013 elections, they didn’t even promise that much. And students certainly aren’t any better off where the Conservatives are in power. The truth is, all the major parties, at both the provincial and federal levels, are the agents of neoliberalism. They have been for about 40 years.

As universities come to rely more and more upon tuition and corporate donations to stay afloat, the logic of rights and public good increasingly gives way to the logic of the commodity and the market. Degree production gets leveraged for the market – BC colleges alone generate $7.7 billion annually, over 4% of the province’s GDP; UBC alone spends $1.5 billion every year.

The effects of market integration are familiar enough.

Quality of education becomes less important than the prestige of the university’s name, and bravura marketing campaigns fight with staff and facilities for funding. Students become customers and their turn-over rate becomes a measure of efficiency; getting them in then out again becomes more important than providing adequate support or the best possible learning environment. Education gets put in a production line which is better suited to processing testable knowledge than original thought.

The burden of student debt has helped to transform education. Instead of being a source for our personal development, we attend universities primarily to become employable. What that means is that universities and colleges have become the primary source of the skilled labour that the 1% has come to rely on in order to make their profits. In order to become fit to do the work that the 1% need from us, we have to acquire massive debts while their government gives them tax breaks. Imagine if you had to pay your employer to train you to do the job he was hiring you for. That is the kind of con game that the dismantling of the public university has foisted on us.

This is the context in which degrees become a major export. The deregulation of international fees is a symptom of a disease from which we all suffer. But it is sold to us as a logical response to the market’s invisible hand: UBC must remain competitive with the other major universities. And ‘being competitive” just means making similar profit rates.

But the interference of neoliberal governments have tied universities closely to the market, and university administrators across the nation have been trusted accomplices in this process. As the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators points out, when the BC government deregulated tuition rates in 2002, they also passed “amendments to the College and Institute Act that remove the legislated rights of faculty, staff and students to have input” regarding the president’s remuneration rates. UBC’s previous president made an annual salary with benefits of over half a million dollars. Universities are corporations, and their presidents are CEOs – entrenching them firmly within the 1%.

In addition, the government could not have hammered through their neoliberal policies without undermining the bargaining positions of the teaching staff. So deregulation has come with increased power for the administration and a bloat in university bureaucracy and their salaries. More and more, teaching staff are being put on sessional contracts which weaken their bargaining positions. And research staff are chained to the ‘publish or perish’ treadmill of production.

This was not done by any invisible hand: it was done by the hands of the Boards of Governors and the university presidents. They tell us they had no choice, but they did. Imagine a world where when governments said cut back, university administrators taught us to fight back. Imagine if Arvind Gupta, the President of UBC, were at student demonstrations promising to help us organize against government cutbacks. Imagine if he promised, in the name of accessibility, that tuition rates would not climb one cent more. That would require getting funding from a government whose tax cuts have disproportionately benefited income earners in the same tax bracket as university bosses – tax cuts which the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates to have cost the province $2.4 billion every year. No member of UBC’s upper management has helped us fight back against a government that is starving us out of our education. Instead they have chosen to sell us their tuition hikes, shrugging their shoulders because, after all, it’s not their fault, the market made them do it.

The university’s bosses are not going to stand with international students or students at residence. But, for our sake as much as theirs, the rest of us should. Holding back the rate hikes – for both domestics and internationals – is the first step in rolling back the cuts.

Anton Cu Unjieng is an Art History student and a member of the International Socialist Discussion Group that meets every Monday at UBC.

Social Justice Synonyms #5: “Reverse Racism”

This week’s phrase is reverse racism.

The general understanding of reverse racism is “racism” towards white people, by people of colour. Proponents of reverse racism also liken it to oppression of white folks and compensation/revenge for centuries of oppression against people of colour.

However, reverse racism does not exist. It does not exist because there are systems of oppression that disadvantage Indigenous people and people of colour while privileging white folks. Essentially, this means that racism is about the assertion of power – power that is institutionalised and systemic. It is a result of colonialism, dispossession, slavery, genocide, assimilation, and other histories of racialized oppression that have benefitted white people at the expense of non-whites. These forms of racism are held up today by governments, courts, schools, media, and many other institutions. Take for example, how 51% of cocaine users are white, while 95% of those in prison for cocaine-related crimes are black, or how black unemployment is consistently double that of white unemployment, or how employers are 50% more likely to hire someone with a ‘white sounding’ name than someone with a ‘black sounding’ name. These are examples of racism, which is discrimination within a system of oppression that disadvantages people of colour. It cannot, therefore be reversed. People of colour cannot be racist to white people.

While people of colour may indeed experience privilege in some facets of their identity (e.g. as men or as able-bodied folk), people of colour are never privileged as people of colour. In the same vein, white people are never oppressed as white people. It is certainly possible that a black person may insult or assault a white person based on the colour of their skin, or they may throw around remarks like cracker* as a racial slur. But this is not racism; it is racial discrimination. Discrimination is when prejudice – usually unfavourable preconceived judgements of others – physically manifests. Discrimination refers to the unjust treatment of another or a group based on a certain aspect of their identity. It is founded on individual attacks, not centuries of oppression. Racism, on the other hand, is embodied by the full force of histories and ongoing experiences of exploitation, occupation, and violence – to list a few.

As Sara Luckey says,

There is no system of oppression in America that actively works to oppress and subjugate white people. Sorry to break it to you, but your individual suffering is just that, individual. The individuals acting against you do not have the institutionalized power to actively oppress you in every facet of your life, nor would their racism be upheld and supported by government, media, and legislation if they did. Because you’re white.

Using the term reverse racism is problematic because it largely comes up in conversations where people of colour and Indigenous people are sharing examples of actual racism. This serves to further silence racialised stories in a world in which racialised voices are already marginalised. It is also problematic because it assumes that racial prejudice occurs on a level playing field. It doesn’t. Racial prejudice occurs in and as a result of a society formed from colonial violence and racial hierarchies.

The society in which we live not only privileges white people, white skin, and white bodies; it simultaneously marginalises people of colour and Indigenous people through racial profiling, violence and murder, detention and deportation of immigrants, Islamophobia, workplace discrimination, unjust imprisonment, negative media portrayal, cultural appropriation, white domination of queer spaces and so many more ways. Therefore, racism refers to discrimination based on race, in addition to the weight of historical, political and societal oppression, marginalisation and unfairness.

Racism is a unidirectional form of prejudice. It cannot be reversed, unless, of course, we were to travel back in time and convince West Africans to take white men as slaves and Indigenous people of Canada and Australia to violently invade and settle in Europe. Alas, that wouldn’t be possible, would it?

If this was TL:DR, watch this video of comedian Aamer Rahman’s brilliant takedown of reverse racism.

Here are some Talon-approved alternatives for reverse racism:

Use Alternative
“That totally happened to me! Once I was chased by a group of black people in a rough neighbourhood!” Please carry on with your story; I should listen to racialised people when they speak of their experiences of racism.
“You can’t call me a cracker, that’s reverse racism!” That is racial prejudice.That is racial discrimination!That’s not a very nice thing to say!

I feel discriminated.

“He said white people can’t dance. That’s reverse racism.” That’s stereotyping!Please don’t perpetuate stereotypes about white people. Not all white people are bad at dancing.
“Ugh, affirmative action is so racist. Some Asian guy got a job over me!” I see how affirmative action attempts to combat some of the inequalities in our society.
“You can’t generalise white people. That’s racist.” I understand that you are talking about whiteness as a system, and that you are not necessarily speaking to me as an individual white person. I see you are pointing out how I may be complicit in this system, and that I have white privilege.

*One possible etymology for the term cracker derives from white men being slave owners and ‘cracking the whip’. Ultimately, this still places white people in a position of power, even if the term is meant as an insult.

Meet the Editors: Urooba Jamal

They said I would get addicted. That once was not enough. That it would lead to more and more as I craved more and more.

They were right.

As soon as I had my first hit, I haven’t been able to stop since.

Feminism was my gateway drug to social justice.

It all began when I took a first-year Sociology class and was introduced to the concept of gender. As I took in more and more knowledge of sexism and misogyny, I found myself railing against the patriarchy everyday, sneaking in a bit of feminist theory in all the papers I wrote and the conversations that I had.

But things really escalated when I decided to begin volunteering at a women’s shelter. I soon began mixing with the feminist crowd at the shelter, whom people had warned me about. They’ll influence you with their commitment to anti-violence, they said.

But I didn’t listen.

It was during this time that I realized that I had overdosed on intersectionality without even knowing it. Because as soon as I had started to feel welcome, I learned of their transphobia and racism. The final straw came when one of them made a patronizing and disparaging remark about my hijab.

I left them then and realized my addiction was worsening. I craved even more than before.

Soon thereafter, I discovered Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism. With a near-obsessive fervor, I began to analyze mainstream news coverage of current affairs and international politics, relentlessly bantering about how Othering it was. I took to critiquing imperialism and Western hegemony on a near-daily basis.

Yet, this still didn’t quell my cravings.

It was then when I stumbled upon Audre Lorde, a prolific queer Black feminist. After reading her book Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches in one night, from cover to cover, I realized just how knee-deep in I was. There was no denying it — I was now at the stage where I got cold sweats at the mere thought of mainstream, liberal, white feminism.

But I still yet wasn’t prepared for what was to come.

By now I was at the point where I wasn’t just noticing problematic things once or twice a day — most days it was at least once every hour. My friends and family began to worry for me, throwing out concerns of “social justice warrior-ism” and “can’t-even-enjoy-a-movie-with-you-anymore-GOD.”

It was at this time that I enrolled in Benita Bunjun’s Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice class. And it was through this class, where I read many texts by Indigenous authors, such as Patricia Angus-Monture, and came to realize my complicity in Canada’s ongoing colonial project, as a settler on these unceded lands.

This is all part and parcel of how I came to establish The Talon with those who went down the same lifestyle path. ‘Cause they try to make me go to rehab but I won’t go, go, go!

I’m also involved with other illicitly rad activities (illicit under our current normative social, economic and political orders, that is), such as running for Vancouver Park Board  in the upcoming elections with the Coalition of Progressive Electors, the city’s only real leftist party. And by day you’ll find me working at the UBC Global Lounge, selling social justice concepts on the sly. All whilst finishing up my 5th and final year as an International Relations major.

And as I rail against the colonial imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis heteropatriarchy, of course.

Follow me on Twitter (@uroobajamal) and instagram (@uroobaj), and check out my blog.

Multiculturalism and Tuition Hikes: How National Branding Rhetoric Works in the University’s Favour

Names and details have been changed to ensure confidentiality.

While recently conducting an interview for a sociology course, a respondent happened to illuminate ideas that I felt were especially relevant to ongoing discussions surrounding UBC’s fee increases. In the past couple of weeks, UBC’s proposed tuition hikes aimed at international students and on-campus residences have been on the minds of many. I am publicizing the respondents thoughts as well as my own, in an effort to widen the conversation surrounding accessible education and peel back some of the layers I believe students should be aware of when engaging in these conversations.

Maia is a third year student who identifies herself as a black, queer, African woman. After giving blood, being x-rayed, and submitting multiple visa applications, she made it to Vancouver, excited to begin her degree at UBC. Before her arrival, Maia was enthralled with the idea of a multicultural nation. The ideology as she understood it meant: “we can all live side-by-side…without brushing up against each other like thorns.” However, as a visibly black international student, Maia explained how she quickly learned that the “myth of Canada being so polite” did not reflect her lived experience. Instead she described “having university be my first encounter with discrimination.”

Maia went on to detail her experiences of racism at UBC from tokenization in the classroom to racial slurs being tossed around in her presence. Classmates and professors speaking and acting “without realizing the psychological damage that they can do, and the emotional damage that they can inflict.” When discussing the importance of having international students on campus, Maia explained that when “we collide with each other, our prejudices are exposed and our assumptions of each other are exposed, and I think if those are allowed to happen [then we need] an avenue to work them out.” On the one hand, Maia felt there was a need for diversity and the opportunity for students to be exposed to many different types of people and backgrounds. On the other hand, she recognized shortcomings on the university’s part to encourage meaningful cross-cultural dialogue. Lastly, Maia touched on how expensive it was becoming in order for her to be a part of UBC’s community. “I think we’re a bit like dollar bills to be honest, with the university, and perhaps that’s why there’s been such a huge increase of international students from a certain income bracket — though I do believe that there is a semblance of genuine feelings towards diversity.”

What can we learn from Maia’s experiences, and how does her story connect to multiculturalism and tuition hikes?

Multiculturalism is one of Canada’s official policies and one of the main tools used by the state to brand itself as an ‘accepting and diverse nation’. However, the immigration statistics tell a different story. The largest class of migrants accepted into Canada are those who can significantly contribute to the state’s economy – a.k.a. the entrepreneurial and economic immigrants (see table below). As opposed to allowing in refugees or individuals attempting to join their family members, Canada prioritizes people who they deem will ‘positively contribute’ to the state, the people who will make them money. The fact that Canada has a large immigrant population does not mean that Canadian society is free from racism and other forms of discrimination.

UBC has attempted to brand itself as a ‘global university’, with many similar economic goals. The rhetoric of multiculturalism and diversity, like in the rest of Canada, directly correlates with a rise in income for UBC, as international students pay approximately twenty-thousand dollars more than domestic students to attend the institution (http://students.ubc.ca/enrolment/finances/tuition/undergraduate-tuition-fees).

However, the very students that UBC is bringing in to feed this neoliberal agenda are being left out to dry as they are discriminated against in classrooms and social spaces. UBC, while happy to reap vast profits from exorbitant international tuition fees, has not demonstrated a commitment to the more demanding aspects of multiculturalism: providing its students with the anti-racist, anti-oppressive training that befits its advertised status as a global institution. The recently proposed hike in tuition fees for international students would make education less accessible for a wide array of individuals and shut out essential voices in the ongoing conversation about race and ethnicity .

It is all too easy for the university to tune out and ignore the needs of the student body in a large, bureaucratic learning institution. For international students, one may posit that the university is under the assumption that because they are an entity separate from domestic students and taxpayers, there will be little resistance if costs are raised. Over these next few weeks it becomes increasingly important to see the value in attending a university with those who have grown up in different contexts from ourselves and how they bring an important voice to the table. We as domestic students must work to keep UBC not only accessible but pressure the university to implement programs that deal with racial inequalities.

Perhaps the advantage of UBC’s multicultural rhetoric is that it enables us to hold the university to a certain standard, one that I believe they are failing to meet.

# I AM A STUDENT Holds General Student Assembly

A General Student Assembly was held on Tuesday to facilitate discussion and organize action against the recently proposed tuition and residence fee increases. I Am A Student – UBC, a recently-created student group dedicated to action against the university’s recently proposed 10% international tuition fee hikes and 20% residence fee hikes, organized the event.

Around 175 students attended the General Assembly, which took place on the second floor of the Student Union Building.

The event offered students a space to get informed about the fee increases, and take part in organization against the hikes. Students who attended the Assembly were encouraged to help make signs, strategize action, and promote events on social media, as well as make buttons and {{Red-Squares}}[[Red-Squares]]A symbol of student solidarity, mobilization and affordable education used in a number of student movements in North America, notably during the 2005 and 2012 Quebec student strikes and at Cooper Union School of Art.[[Red-Squares]]. The General Assembly saw participation from members of the Alma Mater Society (AMS) and closed with a large group discussion facilitated by Iain Marjoribanks. Discussion centered on direct actions students could take, the effects these increases would have on rural BC students and how to involve more people living in residence.

Planning at the General Assembly focused on a protest rally set for October 24 and the AMS Annual General Meeting next Thursday, which will feature discussion, and potentially voting action, related to the increases.

The University announced the 10% increase for future international students earlier this month, saying that the increase will “improve UBC’s academic excellence and student experience.” The 20% residence fee increase, which will affect eight-month residence contracts on the justification that the increase will “support growth” and that UBC’s student housing fees are below market rates.


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All photos by Josh Gabert-Doyon. Photo editing by Claire Smale.