FemSoc look at EUSA election hype!

If you’re wondering why people keep handing you small pieces of paper with their face on when you’re trying to get into the library, voting opens in the EUSA elections today at 12pm! There are lots of lovely candidates running this year and, if you’re so inclined, you should really take a look at all the manifestos over at: http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/elections/candidates/10/

Of course, we know you’re not actually going to, so we asked a few questions to all the presidential candidates about the important things – by which we mean feminism because, hey, what’s more important than feminism?

We feel it’s important to mention before we get started that the campaigning period this year has been particularly brutal; we’ve been seeing candidates subject to similar abuse that many members of this society have been this year and, it must be said, from many of the same people. The message these people seem to be trying to send to us is that women with opinions aren’t welcome at this university – whoever you decide to vote for, let’s all of us who can head to the virtual voting booths tomorrow and prove them wrong, eh?

So, we sent all presidential candidates the following message and have posted their responses underneath:

“Hello candidates,

FemSoc loves democracy and given the feminist motions passed at student council this year, we’d like you to tell FemSoc why we should vote for you to be EUSA president. We’d like to ask for a short blurb from each of you on why/how you would support women’s liberation in your position. We’d like to publish your responses as part of a blog post and share it with our members via email and through our Facebook group and page.

In your response, please be sure to address the following questions:

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

2) What have you done this year for feminism and what would you do in the future? (particularly how would you take the motions of EUSA being a pro-feminist organisation and supporting sex workers’ rights forward – if at all?)

3) Sexual harassment and assault are big problems on our campus – how would you approach tackling this?

4) FemSoc are pleased to see there is a lot of emphasis on liberation and welfare in the manifestos this year! So what steps would you take to support students who define into more than one liberation group?

Please send your responses to our email account (edinburghfeminists@gmail.com) by Sunday 6pm. Best of luck to all of you in your campaigning!

FemSoc team”

Kirsty Haigh

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

I think campaigning for liberation should be one of EUSA’s key priorities, and women’s liberation is a big part of this. EUSA has a chance to genuinely improve the lives of our self-defining women students and tackle the oppression they face. Not only that but it can provide a platform to educate and change the culture and tackle the structures of the patriarchy.

2) What have you done this year for feminism and what would you do in the future? (particularly how would you take the motions of EUSA being a pro-feminist organisation and supporting sex workers’ rights forward – if at all?)

Feminism is a big part of my life. This year I’ve been trying hard to improve my feminism, learn about other women’s struggles and help those who I can. Among other things I brought a motion which made our students’ association a pro-feminist organisation, attended a pro-choice training day, helped on the outskirts of organising for Reclaim the Night, voted to help pass the motion supporting sex workers and started a national debate around rape culture in popular music after calling out Blurred Lines and banning it in our Student’s Association buildings.   

3) Sexual harassment and assault are big problems on our campus – how would you approach tackling this?

I want to introduce a zero tolerance to sexual harassment policy for night clubs across the city. This will introduce structures for people to report harassment and ensure that nightclubs publicise these structures. However, structures aren’t going to solve the problem. The big thing about sexual harassment is changing the culture. ‘Lad culture’ and ‘rape culture’ are very prevalent in our society and until we can change this we won’t solve the problem. One of the key parts of introducing this policy is ensuring that people are talking about it- about why it’s needed, why we’re introducing it and why people don’t know how to or don’t want to report at the moment.

4) FemSoc are pleased to see there is a lot of emphasis on liberation and welfare in the manifestos this year! So what steps would you take to support students who define into more than one liberation group?

At EUSA we need to properly establish the equal opportunities forum. This is a space for our liberation groups to come together, collaborate, learn from each other and further their causes. More than that we need to just get students talking about these liberation groups, increasing their understanding and thus being able to offer their fellow students more support and understanding.

Dan Scott Lintott

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

We live in a patriarchal society and I think EUSA should do all it can to show solidarity with women in their fight for liberation.

2) What have you done this year for feminism and what would you do in the future? (particularly how would you take the motions of EUSA being a pro-feminist organisation and supporting sex workers’ rights forward – if at all?)

3) Sexual harassment and assault are big problems on our campus – how would you approach tackling this?

2 & 3)

In my manifesto one of my key policies is a more accessible and confidential way of reporting experiences of sexual harassment on campus. I would also ensure that there is a specific person on-site at the Big Cheese and other EUSA club nights who would be there to respond quickly to incidences of sexual harassment and assault.

These are a few things that tackle the effects of the patriarchy on students but I realise more has to be done to tackle the root cause of harassment and abuse that women students face daily. I think that EUSA needs to remain committed to feminism, pro-feminist policies and working to increase awareness of liberation issues so that many more students define themselves as feminists and feminist allies.

4) FemSoc are pleased to see there is a lot of emphasis on liberation and welfare in the manifestos this year! So what steps would you take to support students who define into more than one liberation group?

I think what EUSA does to fight for the four Liberation groups is central to what we do as a Union. The fight against oppression should be led by these groups, but I would put supporting the Women’s, BAME, Disabled and LGBT+ campaigns at the heart of my Presidency. Intersectionality plays a major part in fighting oppression and as President I would do everything I could to facilitate co-operation between caucuses.

Briana Pegado

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

Yes.

2)     What have you done this year for feminism and what would you do in the future? (particularly how would you take the motions of EUSA being a pro-feminist organisation and supporting sex workers’ rights forward – if at all?)

I think EUSA should support sex workers’ rights. As for whether or not EUSA should be a pro-feminist organization, it is. That has already been declared. I just hope we get to a point in society where we do not have to declare anything feminist but that we embody awareness, tolerance and freedom. Our society marginalizes and oppresses so many groups across the spectrum of self-identifiers. I cannot hide the fact that I am black, American and female. Many would consider at least two of those groups oppressed. What have I done for feminism?

First off, I am standing for EUSA President. Second, I have worked tirelessly throughout my university career with brilliant female leaders at our university to improve the lives of students. Our Chaplain and Vice Chaplain, our Vice Principal for Learning and Teaching, the University Secretary, the head of EUSA Global and so many members of our student community are women fighting to improve our experience. My society Edinburgh University North American Society (EUNAS) chose to support EWRASAC for our Annual Thanksgiving Charity Ball and we raised over 2,000 for them. I am not going to list my CV but if you have worked with me you know what I have done for feminism.

3)     Sexual harassment and assault are big problems on our campus – how would you approach tackling this?

Three words- sexual health education. And four more – sexual harassment and abuse awareness. This is an issue close to my heart. One of my best friends from home was raped in 2012 and it took her over 6 months for her to come to terms with the fact she had been raped. It took another year for her to tell me. I do not tolerate sexual abuse or sexual harassment. The level of both on our university campus is … more than unacceptable, disgusting, unreal – (there is no single word to describe how I feel about it).

For starters, we need emergency help points on our campus. Our campus is disparate and widely integrated into urban areas of the city. Most American university campuses have help points. They are stations where you can push a button that allows you to connect to the local police or provides a phone where you can call your friend to escort you home if you are feeling unsafe. What happened to the walking trains across the Meadows. There were a substantial number (substantial takes just 1) of rapes in the Meadows a few years ago and we had created a buddy system for students to walk home across the Meadows together. What happened to it?

4)     FemSoc are pleased to see there is a lot of emphasis on liberation and welfare in the manifestos this year! So what steps would you take to support students who define into more than one liberation group?

We need to make sure liberation groups are working together and not viewing their liberation demographic with a single lens or perspective. No one is simply one-dimensional. The beauty of humanity is that we are a diverse group with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. We need to embrace it. The problem with the university is that it does not collaborate enough. It does not share enough. Everyone is focus on their little niche and do not view themselves as part of a bigger, living organism. That is the entire reason why I’m running. We need to work together.

There should be a liberation group forum. Liberation groups should be pooling resources, information and sharing stories to work together on these issues.

Jacob Webber

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

Undoubtedly, yes. No question about it.

2) What have you done this year for feminism and what would you do in the future? (particularly how would you take the motions of EUSA being a pro-feminist organisation and supporting sex workers’ rights forward – if at all?)

On a fundamental level, intersectional feminism informs how I conduct myself on a day to day basis. I am always mindful of trying to limit the extent to which I exercise the power that comes with my privilege. This manifests in lots of ways, even things as small as making sure I thoroughly understand someone’s point of view and not just blindly trying to convert them to my way of thinking. Real change begins with the individual.

It is important that the president of EUSA is a public voice for students. If elected I will take a vocal stance in favour of the complete legalisation of sex work in this city and elsewhere. I will condemn the police harassment of sex workers. I also believe that a person’s gender is whatever they define it to be. We need to push for more gender neutral toilets and support the trans community in Edinburgh.

3) Sexual harassment and assault are big problems on our campus – how would you approach tackling this?

These are big problems and difficult to solve. We need to take a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment. This begins with believing the victims. I believe this would make people more willing to report sexual harassment. This is made easier by having our venue security in house, which we can train and instruct appropriately.

In terms of other clubs, EUSA can compile a list of those that meet a high standard in ensuring their patrons safety, while blacklisting those that don’t.

As well as this information on safe clubs to go to, the advice place can provide support for victims of sexual harassment. We should advertise this.

4) FemSoc are pleased to see there is a lot of emphasis on liberation and welfare in the manifestos this year! So what steps would you take to support students who define into more than one liberation group?

Listening. As someone who scarcely defines in to one liberation group I need to listen to those who define into many and act as a reliable ally. I’m all ears.

So, there you have it! We were very impressed with all the candidates answers and we’d like to thank them all for taking the time out of campaigning to send them in. Now, it’s up to you – if you’re a matriculated student at the university, head over to MyEd or http://www.eusa.ed.ac.uk/getinvolved/elections/annualelection/ before noon on the 13th March and get your democracy on!

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