FemSoc questions the sabb candidates…

Every year students can run in an election to be a sabbatical officer and have a full-time job representing students. We sent all of this years sabbatical candidates four questions:

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

These are the answers we received from the candidates. Have a read (or watch!) them and then don’t forget to vote before Thursday at 5. You can vote in the elections here:https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/representation/elections/submit/

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President: 

Alec Edgecliffe-Johnson

Theo Robertson-Bonds 

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
I’m a feminist ally; I realise there is some controversy between whether or not men should call themselves feminists, and in calling myself that I’m taking the lead from women whom I know.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes. EUSA is a political union, and students’ associations have a proud history of campaigning for the liberation of all oppressed groups. I want this to continue.

In terms of how this can be done, this is not my place to answer as a man. Answering as an LGBT+ disabled-defining man supportive of the autonomy of liberation groups, I do feel that liberation group budgets at the moment are far too small to support credible campaigns and the sending of delegates to their respective NUS conferences.

If I were President, I’d do my best to be a strong ally to these groups. I think there’s a huge amount to more to be done as well to ensure that those with lived experiences can be more included in our union, particularly in those paid full time positions. We haven’t had an LGBT+ President in several years (not since I’ve been here!) and the lack of diversity shows that EUSA’s elections are nowhere near accessible enough.

I’d also open up a dialogue, led by the liberation groups, about introducing some sort of affirmative action, perhaps quotas for women and non-binary people. Working with all liberation groups and with their help, I’d do my best to ensure my successor isn’t a white man.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
I agree entirely, firstly because this is a policy advocated by women’s groups and it’s my duty to be as supportive as possible toward them. Secondly, rape is rape, and it shouldn’t be excused, hidden, downtrodden or silenced in any way. Victims must be listened to first, and their oppressors do not deserve a platform in venues that must make everyone feel safe and included.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
Again, I’m a cis man, so it isn’t my place to prescribe solutions here. However, from my conversations with those that do define, there are a few things:

* On campus, trans representation is poor. We need a conversation about having a trans officer in EUSA; I supported this in last year’s NUS conference on similar grounds after soliciting feedback from those that define. We also need to remove the gender binary from as many forms, procedures and other elements of university life.

* Nationally, the government has been cutting benefits and bursaries that are desperately needed by women in particular; this goes beyond a student finance issue, but it’s a fight EUSA absolutely needs to be part of

* In terms of our education, we always seem to hear from cis straight white able men. That’s inexcusable, and we need to see a broader curriculum that includes a diverse range of voices

* Here at Edinburgh, there’s no safe place for anyone to get back to if they have a difficult night out. This affects the oppressed the most. We need to establish this in a EUSA venue to make nights out as accessible as possible

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Vice President Societies & Activites

Jess Husbands

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
    YES. I believe in social, economic and political equality for people of all genders; it’s that simple.
  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
     Yes. And I don’t think this should be limited to women within the university. I’d really like to promote links between the university and women’s groups and charities around the city, in order to raise awareness among students of these organizations. In my manifesto I mention collaboration with Edinburgh, the city, and this is a perfect example of this.

That’s not to say that there aren’t women’s rights issues within the university environment. Women continue to feel threatened simply walking home at night, catcalled in public and subjected to the double standards that punctuate the pressures of daily life at uni.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
     Yes, rape is a crime and anyone advocating it or justifying it in any way is guilty of hate speech.
  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
    I think a particular struggle women and non-binary people face, especially in the academic environment, is that of representation. Despite the fact that women make up the majority of university students, women’s and non binary people’s historical contributions to all fields are consistently overlooked. I’d like to work with the elected VPAA to make sure that women and non-binary people are incorporated into the curriculum not only in literature fields but also in science, music etc., to honour their invaluable contributions. In this vein, I’d also like to continue Imogen Wilson’s fantastic work in widening the gender studies options, and continuing her work on GenderJam. I’d aim to look into creating a similar event that focuses on societies; a university-wide society event that encourages and celebrates women and non-binary people’s contributions to university societies and promotes their taking up leadership positions.

In order to look to combat the lack of women in further study, I’d speak to various schools about organising a women’s and non-binary information session for postgraduate study, aiming to address the huge discrepancy between the numbers of women and non-binary students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Maddie Payne

 1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Yes – I don’t think there’s any excuse not to.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes, I think given that over half of the students at this university are women or non-binary, there is clearly a need for strong representation and campaigning on their behalf.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Yes, I think that this is an important tool to protect students and to ensure that safe-space policy is upheld. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding around safe space policies and no-platforming, and that it needs to be clarified for everyone’s benefit.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
I think that one thing to be aware of is issues around the current refugee crisis. Women, and particularly non-binary and trans people are often disproportionately affected by conflict, and this should be tackled at every level. One way the university could help is to possibly ensure that at least half of their bursaries for asylum seekers go to women and non-binary students.

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Vice President Academic Affairs

Nataliya Bondareva

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Of course I do.

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
I think that EUSA is, first and foremost, here to represent all students. I personally believe that it is very important that EUSA actively campaigns for women’s right, and I have faith that the majority of the student body supports me in that, in which case yes, it should be EUSA’s job to do that.

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Absolutely. University campus needs to be a safe zone where all feel included and everyone’s rights are respected. This kind of environment is impossible where there are people who hold an attitude that is disrespectful of women’s rights or makes others unsafe. Moreover, we must remove platforms for hate speech and deplorable attitudes of rape activists.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
Sadly, it is very much the case that people assume that you are either male or female, and don’t allow any other category. So it is difficult for non-binary people to be accepted because few people accept them for who they are, not trying to put them into category of “man” or “woman”. I think that what can be done about this are more gender-neutral toilets and more non-binary writers on the curriculum, so that people see that there are some who don’t fit either of the gender stereotypes and that’s okay. For both women and non-binary people things are improving, but there are still a lot of issues: harassment, ‘lad culture’ and common conceptions of the role of a woman in society. I think that a lot of people feel like because things are improving and are better than they used to be, there is nothing to worry about. As a result, everyday struggles of women, like the glass ceiling, somewhat get forgotten and that shouldn’t be the case.

Patrick Garratt

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
    Yes, I define as a feminist.  However, I realise that as a white man, my position in the movement is definitely that of an ally.  If I’m elected VPAA I’ll work with the women’s liberation group convenor and offer any help that is needed, and will always give priority to women’s voices in feminist spaces.
  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
    EUSA should most certainly campaign for women’s rights. I am really hoping that the referendum passes and we get paid liberation representative. There is always a need for feminism in society, and EUSA should naturally, and actively campaign for women’s rights and intersectional feminism.
  2. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
    I fundamentally agree with this policy and would uphold it if elected VPAA. There is absolutely no place for rape apologists or organisations that protect them like the SWP in our union. Keeping out organisations or individuals who protect rape apologists is integral to the safety of our students, and I will help in tackling rape culture on campus.
  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
    I think it is not really for me to decide what women and non-binary people will struggle against most, or dictate their appropriate responses. As an ally, I feel more comfortable lending my support to the issues which women and non-binary people on campus have already worked on. This year, I have really admired recent steps EUSA has made to improve the experience of women and non-binary people, such as anti-sexual harassment campaigns and gender-neutral toilets. However, I’ve also been really disappointed to see the resulting transphobic and misogynistic backlash on social media platforms like Yik Yak. I think a struggle on campus this year will be improving awareness and knowledge about these issues. EUSA itself, and organisations like Sexpression, are already doing fantastic things to target these issues, and if elected VPAA I’ll do my upmost to support autonomous liberation groups.

Harriet Protheroe-Davis 

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?

I certainly do!!

  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?

Of course.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?

Yes I do. We Have policy on this. If people are made to feel unsafe or are scared and triggered by someone on campus then this is something that EUSA should be trying to stop, to protect the welfare of our students.

  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

Wow this is a hard question. What I’m wanting to do within my role of VPAA is to focus on how non-binary people and women are represented through our courses within the university. The university has a very large ideological platform and should therefore be positive in its action towards how it represents minorities, both within literature and within the University itself. This is something that I want to be a priority focus if elected. I want minorities to feel welcomed and part of institutions such as academia which they have been historically marginalised from.

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Vice President Servies

Jenna Kelly

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
Yes, I fully believe in equal rights for women

2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
Yes I think they should campaign for women’s rights. We should be reducing the threat of sexual harassment on campus by extending the zero­tolerance policy to university venues, as well as pushing the concept of a free taxi scheme to ensure that safety is at the core of what we’re doing. It’s also vital that we campaign strongly for equal pay, especially within the university ­ an issue which should have been resolved a long time ago!

3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
Without a doubt, rape apologism is inexcusable. As a students association serving such a large number of students, it’s crucial that every one of our members can feel safe in our venues.

4. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non­binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?
It’s clear that women and non­binary people find themselves faced with problems that a lot of the student population don’t equally face; a lack of campus facilities for non­binary students and lack of women and academics in STEM subjects to name a few. Any individual’s struggle is dependent on a variety of factors, and if I’m elected I’ll make sure that the entire student population of edinburgh university feels comfortable coming to talk to their sabbs or using the Advice Place for any issue they find themselves faced with.

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

Hannah Baker Millington

  1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?

Yes, I am a Feminist 100% !

  1. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?

Of course, and by ‘women’ I want to make clear that we refer to self-defining women, not just those who fit inside the gender binary.

  1. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?

It is completely right and I would uphold it.

  1. What do you think are going to be some of the biggest struggles women and non-binary people will face over the next year and what do you think can be done about this?

I find the growing opposition to safe spaces and no-platforming on campus extremely worrying. No-platforming is not a new idea, the BBC were doing it in the 1980s! I think we really need to stand firm on this issue; as well as fighting the backlash feminists are currently experiencing for being more out in the open, as well as strong in our demand that feminism be inclusive of trans and non-binary people. I think consent is a major issue, which I’ve addressed in my manifesto through consent workshops during Freshers’ Week, and the new data showing that women professors at this university get paid £6000 less than their men colleagues! This is unacceptable and I fully intend on launching a campaign around that after campaigns are over.

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You can vote in the elections here:https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/representation/elections/submit/

 

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I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’

A piece by one of our members…

I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’.
When I was 15, I told my boyfriend not to handle me as roughly physically as he did. He said that what I did to him psychologically was just as bad as what he did to me physically.
He was a very jealous person, what I ‘did’ to him was wearing a skirt, or a top, talking to other boys, buying the wrong shoes, anything really.

He never hit me.
His fist was placed neatly on the wall next to my face, but not on my body. He handled me roughly. He pinched me a lot.
But he did not hit me, so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.
He did not force me to have vaginal intercourse with him.
He pushed me down towards his penis a few times and eventually just held my head down until I gave him a blow job.
But he did not force me to have what I then perceived to be ‘sex’ so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.

He screamed at me daily. He pinched me in public to police my behaviour and speech when I ‘stepped out of line’, e.g. said or did something he didn’t agree with. I completely stopped being myself.
But it rarely left physical marks so I thought it couldn’t have been abuse.

I came to believe that the way I was treated was justified and that really it was merciful of him not to hit me.

I used to say I was in a ‘bad relationship’ but that completely undermines the systematic abuse that I was subjected to, and that so many other women are subjected to because of the prevalence of dangerous patriarchal structures – yes I’m going there. His behaviour was inherently linked to ideas of male policing of female bodies, of male control in relationships, and male possessiveness over a female partner.

I used to be in an abusive relationship and admitting it and coming to terms with it is one of the hardest and most terrifying things I have ever done.

But we need to talk about this, we need to talk about what abuse can be and what sex can be and that consent is vital.
And we need to do it earlier.

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Last night I met the man who raped me.

One of our committee members, Kirsty Haigh, talks about some of her experiences and the events of this week. 

Last night I met the man who raped me.
Well, it wasn’t last night, but it was when I first started to write this many weeks ago.

Last night I met the man who raped me.
He came right up to me and smugly stood in front of me.


Last night I met the man who raped me.
Funnily enough though, like me, he wasn’t actually able to say it out loud.

He said he couldn’t believe I didn’t remember him or that I hadn’t walked away because I’d written a whole blog post about him. He told me he was pretty sure I didn’t like him but he quite enjoyed that. He told me it was a shame he didn’t know where I live anymore.

Last night I met the man who raped me and lives a guilt-free happy life.

It’s been a year and a couple of months since I wrote my blog post about being raped. Since then I’ve lost count of the sheer number of women who’ve come to speak to me or sent me messages about their heartbreaking experiences. 

I still try not to think about it. I hadn’t even tried to reread the blog post till this morning. I managed to write it down to tell my counselor but I’ve still only said it out loud twice and I told her I didn’t want to talk about it.

Last night I met the man who raped me.

This week we saw rape advocate Roosh V arrange meet ups across the world. Outrage and counter-demos erupted. In some ways this has been empowering but it has actually made me pretty angry and, despite our Edinburgh one massively taking off, has left me sitting on my kitchen floor feeling shit.

Rape culture, misogyny and sexism were problems long before Roosh V and will continue to be problems for a lot longer.

This man is not an anomaly, he’s part of a much bigger problem and the result of a patriarchal society.

For hundreds of years women have been sharing their stories and telling the world that rape culture is a problem. For hundreds of years small sections of society have been fighting against these abhorrent attitudes yet it takes a man to call for people to unite around these opinions for the world to listen.

Don’t get me wrong I’m delighted that thousands of people got angry about are were willing to go out and stand up to misogyny but I hope it doesn’t take another man to publicly be a dickhead for people to act again.

It’s real women who face the horrific consequences of these actions and too often it’s left to these women to fight it.

These men will carry on living their lives and spreading their ideas while I’m left hiding from the world on my kitchen floor and many other women are ignored and abandoned by society.

Last night I met the man who raped me.

Well, it wasn’t last night because these things scar you and leave you unable to process them.

Last night I met the man who raped me.
Take a moment to think about how that may feel and then please don’t make this the last time you think about and get angry about rape culture.  

 

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Anyone for Milk?

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As part of our ‘No Shame’ campaign, this past Monday we hosted a screening of the documentary ‘Breastmilk’. The main focus of the campaign is to put an end to the stigma surrounding certain elements of women’s bodies. From body hair to stretch marks, we want to raise awareness of the uniqueness of our form and celebrate womanhood in all shapes and sizes. Breasts, in our media-centric society, are particularly sexualised meaning that a human process as natural and as necessary as breast feeding is deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ when performed in public and, as a consequence, mothers feel as though they must hide away from disapproving stares and mumbling negativity.

The film brought much of my ignorance about breastfeeding and plain old human biology to the fore. I found myself asking questions such as ‘what’s a mammary gland?’ and ‘can a baby safely consume milk from a woman who is not their biological mother?’. New terms were being thrown around such as ‘engorgement’ and ‘latching’ that made me feel out of my depth. (FYI, engorgement is when your breast is full of milk, and latching is when the baby takes to the nipple and begins to suck). Not only did the film expose to me the seemingly ‘foreign’ language of breastfeeding, I also became aware of the psychological strains that it imposes on women. The film emotively depicted the pressures that surrounds mothers in some communities when complications arise concerning their milk capacity. Many women in the documentary were not able to produce ‘enough milk’ for their babies, and so were urged by health professionals to supplement breastmilk with formula milk.This really confused me. Just a few hundred years ago, when formula milk was yet to be invented, mothers would have had to breastfeed – it was quite literally a matter of life and death. Now however, a large majority of women have trouble providing enough milk for the healthy development of their children. The film proposed many reasons why this might be the case, but the reason that stood out to me was the sheer amount of milking that needed to happen in order to stimulate sufficient milk production. Some women were worried that if they relied solely on breastfeeding to nourish their babies, they would be much less efficient in their jobs due to the amount of time that sustaining milk yields requires. One woman stated that she was late to work waiting for her child to ‘latch’ (which by the way can take up to 30 minutes!!), and was afraid that she wouldn’t have the time at work to pump milk when her breasts were engorged. Lots of women spoke about feeling guilty for not being able to breastfeed, and the mantra that ‘breast is best’ made them feel like inadequate mothers. It seems that the age old dichotomy between being successful in the office and successful in the home is still very much alive and kicking. How can this still be the case in 2016?! Surely you can be a breastfeeding mum and be successful in the work place? Isn’t keeping your child alive and well nourished a legitimate excuse for being late to work? Breastfeeding shouldn’t be made to hinder the ability of women to be successful in their working lives.

As if mothers don’t have enough on their plate! Stigmatising them for doing what is probably THE most natural things that women are capable of doing is as ridiculous as banning people from eating phallic shaped foods because it may be offensive to others. We are in the 21st century and it is a real shame that people have to be reminded not only that breastfeeding is a crucial reason why human civilisation is able to exist on the planet right now, but also that women should have the choice to feed their baby wherever they please and in whatever capacity they deem fit. Talking about the reality of breastfeeding in the raw and uncensored way that it was presented in the documentary will get rid of the stupid stigma around breastfeeding and breasts in general.

Thanks to everyone who came along to the event and contributed ideas to the No Shame Campaign. They were much appreciated! If you didn’t make it, keep an eye out on our Facebook page for the dates and locations of the next events. Hope they will be as insightful as this one was.

P.s. here’s a link to the trailer of the film! http://www.breastmilkthemovie.com/trailer.html

Love,

Kara Weekes (BME representative) x

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FemSoc looks at EUSA election hype

Voting for EUSA elections just opened and since FemSoc loves democracy, we encourage everyone to have a look at all the candidates and their manifestos: https://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/elections/candidates/18/

But to make things easier for you, we also asked candidates a few questions about feminism, so we sent them the following email:

“Hello EUSA sabbatical candidates,

Campaign season has now kicked off and so we thought it would be good to find out a little bit more about you all and help get our members more involved. We’re therefore drafted up this list of questions and re giving you until midnight on Sunday 15th to reply. We’ll then by circulating the results to our members.

1. Do you define as a feminist and if not why not?
2. Do you think EUSA should actively campaign for women’s rights?
3. EUSA has a no platform policy for rape apologists and the SWP. Do you think this is right and would you uphold it?
4. Are you pro-choice and would you propose any changes to the current abortion laws?

Good luck in the elections and we look forward to your responses.

Thanks,
Femsoc team ”

Before going on with the answers, we wanted to mention that we’re horrified by the various abuse we’ve seen thrown around during the campaign period and we wanted to express solidarity with everyone affected.

(Candidates are listed in the order they appear on the EUSA website)

Continue reading

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Statement on the DKE Edinburgh chapter

CONTENT WARNING: rape, sexual harassment, transphobia

In light of the publication of this article discussing leaked minutes and behaviours of the DKE Edinburgh chapter, FemSoc condemns in the strongest terms the abhorrent misogynistic and transphobic behaviour and statements made by the DKE frat. We hope the university will join us in standing up against sexism and take disciplinary action against students involved in the frat. We plan to take further action on this issue to make sure the Frat cannot continue to operate on this campus. If you would like to get involved or have ideas for action against the fraternity, please come along to our committee meeting this Thursday, 20th Nov, at 6pm in DHT 6.11.

The fact that this type of behaviour is acceptable to a group of students, and that it was even recorded in official minutes, is a clear example of how rampant sexism and misogyny exists in our everyday surroundings, and we must fight it. Please join us in taking sexual assault, rape, and abuse with the utmost seriousness and respect, and make sure you are calling out anyone you know who jokes about it.

The revelations in this article also confirm our long-standing view that the establishment of a frat chapter, or any all-male society in Edinburgh would be representative of misogyny and result in situations making people, particularly women, feel unsafe. We stand for a campus which does not tolerate inequality, hate speech, harrassment, or assault in any form.

We would also like to thank the Student for exposing the fraternity, and strongly support this and future reporting on the issue.

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Feminist Society first event!

We had our first event of the year this week, and it was a huge success! Thank you to everyone who came along, you made it super fun, chilled out and accessible. We hope that those of you who won prizes will treasure them forever. Especially the sword. Who wouldn’t love a sword?

Here are a few of the pictures of the crowd, if you have any more you’d like to share, send them to edinburghfeminists@gmail.com or put them in our Facebook group, Edinburgh University Feminists, and tag all your pals.

Our next event is Sunday the 21st, at 7pm in the Balcony Room, Teviot.

Hope to see you there!
Love and Solidarity,
Edinburgh Feminist Society.

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