By Poppy Howard-Wall
I’m tired of watching full time students have to become full time activists in order to enjoy basic human experiences.
When we look back on our university years, it will be impossible not to feel a little resentful about the year we lost. No, I’m not talking about tuition fees (there’s a hundred articles to be written about that) - I mean the nights out we lost. The missed boogies, one-night stands or afters are by no means close to the biggest tragedy of the pandemic, but they certainly shouldn’t count for nothing.
Many of us were quarantined, jabbed, tested and tested again, determined to return to revive the Edinburgh night clubs - institutions that we had all so dearly missed. We complied with rules to protect others - now we demand we are protected.
This is not an attack on a wounded night life industry, this is not an accusation of negligence. This is to bring to your attention the reality that we are once again scared to go out. Sarah Everard was murdered, our friends have been spiked, some of us have been INJECTED, it's not good chat for pre-drinks, but it's true.
I messaged @edi_anonymous about organising a boycott on the 12th October. They replied, and then I waited a few days to do anything because I was busy. I so desperately wanted to do something to try to prevent myself from hearing, or even becoming, another story in the week ahead. But I had a dissertation, work and commitments, and I was going to have to carve out the time to make this happen. Fortunately, while I tried to get my life together @girlsnightinedinburgh stepped up, set up the boycott and gathered momentum fast, because so many of us were wondering what to do. Luckily for us, Edinburgh has an abundance of girls that will get it done.
But, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we shouldn’t have to. We brush off ‘isn’t it so ridiculous’ as we say it to each other ten times a day at the moment. Yeah, it’s f***ing ridiculous. The girls don’t want to have to share infographics to our stories about a night when we will avoid the clubs and sit in solidarity, some of us with one another and some of us alone. If we fill it with activities and cocktails or even a house party it will probably be fun, but we will also be chatting or thinking about our stories. Stories of spiking, stories of harassment, maybe even stories of rape. I sat in my garden after Sarah Everard’s murder when we were told we would have to Reclaim the Streets from home. We shared stories, we burned the names of men that had harassed us and we cried. I plan to sit with my friends during the boycott and drink cocktails and laugh and talk, and maybe some of us will cry again. Collective coping and collective action come together in the case of this boycott. I am so grateful that I have all of you that make the fear manageable. All of the girls I know, or don’t, that organise, write, spread the word and set up boycotts, I am so grateful for you. BUT WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO DO THIS.
The messed up individuals who have put needles into some of us represent the absolute worst of this world, their kind have taken away our feelings of security on the streets since we were very small. Their kind have caused marginalised groups to distrust the police for decades, their kind raped and murdered Sarah Everard. Their kind made it so we cannot ask the unreformed police to help us solve this issue, not just for fear but for the sake of all those oppressed by that institution that are part of our movement.
Despite having a million other things to do, I have no doubt we will brainstorm and come up with solutions together. I hope all of the nightclubs in Edinburgh and beyond will work with us on that goal. I know we will continue to share our Uber statuses and to take our friends home and pick up when we call each other when walking at night. I know that @StrutSafe will continue to expand and help us in these endeavours so that we can all be free to enjoy going out. It seems with this new increase in spiking we will have to start doing the same for our male counterparts.
But please don’t think this is something we want to have to do. Don’t make fun of your friends if they bring it up and bring down the mood, don’t make fun of people just for sharing stuff on social media a lot - that’s how information and movements spread today.
I would encourage everyone to remember the shoulders on which we stand and be careful about sharing unconfirmed reports of HIV infections. Until these reports can be 100% confirmed, raising stigma around HIV can inadvertently lead to a rise in homophobia and have nasty consequences for many who are on our side.
For those who don’t think this is an issue that affects them or don’t want to support us, I can’t make you care - you can’t sprinkle empathy and decency into someone's drink. But the girls just want to have fun, and after the year we’ve had we are willing to fight for it.
Instagram accounts mentioned:
- @girlsnightinedinburgh (Boycotting clubs on October 28th)
- @edi_anonymous ('Anonymous submissions for students in Edinburgh, to raise, awareness of sexual violence and empower survivors').
- @strutsafe (Helping people in Edinburgh stay safe when out alone).