Spanning March 24th through the 26th, the National Union of Students Women’s Conference has been discussing a wide range of issues this year from universal income proposals to getting more women involved in STEM fields. But there’s one kind of expression that was not allowed and that expression is clapping for speakers that you agree with.
Clapping, long a sign of affection and agreement, has been banned in favor of the absolutely silent and somewhat vague display known simply as “feminist jazz hands.” The request was made via the above tweets noting that for some with anxiety disorders the sound of clapping was triggering. This confused and insulted a lot of people.
For their part, the Oxford Student Union which made the request did their best to explain themselves stating that the request was intended to be inclusive towards those who have generalized anxiety disorder and who were having trouble with what one attendee, Aliya Yule, described as a heated and somewhat raucous environment. She described those poking fun at the request as “Twitter trolls” and a quick glance at the flurry of responses on Twitter indicates that, yes, many people were trolling.
However, this “troll” designation ignores that a conference wherein there is guaranteed heated debate will always be stressful and anxiety-inducing even for those without a generalized anxiety disorder. In the view of those who already have a stereotyped view of feminists and feminism, and even for those that don’t, neutering what is perhaps the least confrontational portion of engaged debate (clapping) only seems to perpetuate the notion that the members were both oversensitive and misguided ala “life has no trigger warning.”
At the same time, Yule isn’t wrong. Those who emotionally and irrationally disagree with feminists and feminism will find any excuse to parody it and jazz hands is just the latest.