By Benjamin Leatham
An article was recently published in ‘The Lemon Press’ called ‘Are You Oppressed Enough?’. A number of students have raised significant concerns with the article and have gotten in touch asking why it was approved. The purpose of this blog is to clarify what approval process publications from ratified student media societies go through and to outline my own thoughts on the piece.
I think use of the word ‘approval’ has lead to a lot of confusion around YUSU’s role with regards to student media. What staff members at YUSU do is work with student media societies to ensure that they aren’t breaking any laws (libel, defamation etc…) and also to offer advice and support at the request of the editors, especially at navigating the balance between exercising freedom of expression and protecting certain groups from harassment. What staff will never do is block articles from going to print if they disagree with them, regardless of how offensive those articles may be. Both YUSU full-time and part-time officers only get sight of publications when they go to print. This is because we are not experts in media legislation and it is not our role to be involved in the approval process. That is not what we were elected to do.
In the case of the recently published Lemon Press edition, I have been assured that proper process was followed. The editors were warned that the piece ‘Are You Oppressed Enough?’ would likely cause a large amount of offence to some students but ultimately the decision was made to print it. I respect the right of editors to make this decision,
The Lemon Press uses humour to make us question our own opinions and beliefs. This can often make us laugh whilst simultaneously making us feel uncomfortable. The question we need to ask ourselves is where should the line between acceptable and unacceptable humour be drawn? In my opinion the article ‘Are You Oppressed Enough?’ falls on the side of unacceptable humour. This is because elements of it ridicule some of the most marginalised people in society on the basis of their oppression, as opposed to on the basis of any opinions or views those marginalised individuals may hold. Intelligent humour sparks discussions around controversial issues. All this article has done is spark a discussion around the legitimacy of oppression itself. I don’t think that is intelligent or clever humour. It is easy and it is cruel.
For future publications I strongly encourage the editors of the Lemon Press to reconsider their approach and to think about what impact their articles are likely to have. At the minute pieces like ‘Are You Oppressed Enough?’ are simply contributing to the negative experiences of oppressed individuals on campus. From my understanding the editor of the paper is meeting with the YUSU LGBTQ Officer this week to discuss this publication and future ones which is a positive step forward.
It is also important to reiterate that YUSU takes harassment incredibly seriously. I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago outlining the steps we are currently taking to tackle all forms of harassment on campus. It can be found here -/blog/view/1558. If you have any suggestions about what else we could be doing feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.