reclaimthecunt

Pro-Choice motion to EUSA Welfare Council on the 11th

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2013 at 6:30 pm

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On Monday Welfare Council will once again debate whether EUSA should have policy supporting a woman’s right to choose. If this is made official policy, this will mandate EUSA to campaign for easier and fairer access to abortion, and to affiliate with Abortion Rights- a national campaign calling for an extension of women’s rights and access to safe and legal abortion.

Access to abortion is fundamental for liberation, women’s rights and access to employment and education.

Only when women have full control over our own reproduction will we be in a position where we can access both education and employment. It is vital that we can choose when we become pregnant and when we continue with a pregnancy. If we do not have full control over this, we are squeezed out of education and employment because of the obligation to go through with pregnancies and the subsequent childcare that is impressed upon us. A woman’s right to choose means that if she becomes pregnant and feels- for whatever reason- it is not the right time for her and she does not want to continue with the pregnancy that she does not have to.

In recent months there has been a rise of right wing attacks on women’s rights, including abortion rights. Last year, Jeremy Hunt (our HEALTH SECRETARY) said that he would support halving the time women have to access abortions- reducing the limit from 24 weeks to 12.   Groups such as Abort67 have been growing in support and becoming more active on campuses and outside abortion clinics.  We must oppose these attacks on our right to bodily autonomy.

We must oppose restrictions to our current rights and access to abortion, campaign to make abortion available on the request of the woman making it easier to access, and improve the experience of abortion, by challenging stigma and improving education and before and after support.

EUSA must take a stand and support the continuing fight for women’s rights.

Come to Teviot Dining Room at 6pm on Monday 11th March and vote for access, equality and liberation.  

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the problem with EUSA and how do we fix it?

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm

In a previous blog post, I explained what was problematic about a pair of posters EUSA published, to publicise the student elections. Find that blog here https://reclaimthecunt.wordpress.com/2013/03/04/eusa-democracy-and-provocative-posters/

This issue, and the way it was dealt with, is symptomatic is the difficult relationship that EUSA has with itself, in that it is on the one hand a democratic body, which has policy on liberation, safer spaces, zero tolerance to sexism, racism etc; and on the other hand, a business, functioning to make profit.

There seems to be a power struggle between the elected representatives and the unelected staff members. Philippa Faulkner Vice President of Services 2012/13 is quoted in The Journal as saying “I felt sometimes there was an attitude of not recognising that I was the elected leader of the organisation.” And this is something that I experienced today as Equal Opportunities and Liberation Officer, when speaking to the head of marketing about the offensive posters. Essentially, I felt that liberation was ignored. I was raising legitimate and serious concerns about sexism, and one of the answers I got was “we have spent a lot of money and resources on these posters so we may not be able to just not use them”. This is quite obviously an unacceptable stance to take on this issue. If you do not want to lose money because you’ve thrown away sexist posters- do not mate sexist posters. I believe that the posters were not meant to be offensive, I believe it was a mistake, but the way you deal with a mistake such as this is to apologise, sincerely, and remove the posters so that they do not continue to cause offence, contribute to oppression and do damage to liberation groups.

This indicates a pattern in EUSA where are politics are not matching up with our actions. Another such example is one of the factors in the controversy surrounding the current Vice President of Services, Max Crema, who came under fire for publishing a blog by an anonymous worker at an unnamed fringe festival. What has been described as a “witch hunt” ensued, as well as Crema being accused of “bringing EUSA into disrepute”. As such, no steps were taken to learn more about workers’ experience of sexual harassment during the fringe, no steps have been taken to minimise the occurrences of sexual harassment during the fringe, and all year round, in fact, despite the subject being all over the student press and social media, very few people are talking about sexual harassment! The allegations of “bringing EUSA into disrepute” are perhaps the most troubling for me, as it seems that keeping a nice clean shiny reputation is more important than securing the basic right for workers to work in a safe environment. The fact that sexual harassment occurs in our bars and venues does not bring our student union into disrepute, for me it’s the fact that our union refuses to deal with it that brings us into disrepute.

There is no easy solution to these issues, to an extent I feel there will always be a tension between the democratic aspect of EUSA and the business side. However, one step that I feel it is vital we take is more representation for liberation and equalities issues. A full time sabbatical officer for Equality and Liberation would be in a far better position to truly represent the interests of liberation groups, those who are marginalised and oppressed, and make sure that liberation and equality is no longer seen as less important than our reputation or losing some money on posters we now have to take down.

If EUSA wants to be serious about actually being a democratic body, it must take liberation and equality seriously, and one way of making sure that this happens, is by having a Vice President of Equality and Liberation, whose job it is to make sure that EUSA is behaving in a way that is not damaging to liberation causes, and work towards EUSA being the powerful force for good within civil society that I believe it can be.

EUSA, democracy and “provocative” posters.

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

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EUSA election campaigning started today, and along with the flurry of candidates’ placards, leaflets and t shirts a new set of EUSA’s own posters also went up in and around our union buildings. These posters aimed to publicise the elections, increase turnout and make voters consider why they vote for who they vote for. The aims of this project are obviously important and good, and in recent years EUSA has been criticised for not publicising elections and referendums as well as they could have; so this new effort is a step in the right direction. However, two of the set of posters that EUSA produced were incredibly problematic and have been considered by many today as a step in the wrong direction. 

The two posters in question are the pink and blue “He’s got” and “She’s got” posters. There is first of all obviously the issue with tired, old gendering of “girly pink” and “manly blue” and the reinforcement of a gender binary. This is problematic for many reasons, not least because of its complete ignorance of gender minorities such as trans* people and people who do not define as a gender within that binary. If we are serious about our democratic structures being appealing and accessible to people in liberation groups, we cannot exclude groups of people by making assumptions on how people define, especially not when those people have been historically oppressed and still face very real oppression and discrimination in their lives.

 

The posters are set out like a ballot paper, the idea being that they are encouraging the audience to consider how they choose who to vote for. They have listed on the “He’s Got” poster that the man/male candidate has got “The answers”, “No idea” and “A nice poster”. On the “She’s Got” version, the female/ woman candidate has got “cool ideas”, “no clue” and “a great smile”.

 

There are some quite glaring differences in what has been attributed to the candidates. The male/ man candidate having the answer vs the female/ woman candidate having some cool ideas- the male gendered poster is assertive, if elected he will come in and fix everything, he’s got the answers, he knows what to do, he’s going to get the job done. The female gendered poster is a less encouraging picture. She has some cool ideas, they’re abstract and they might be nice if they happen and work, but they’re just ideas, nothing concrete, no plans, just ideas.

 

The second, and possibly least problematic, are the “no clue” vs “no idea” lines. While there is nothing inherently gendered in the word “clue” as opposed to “idea” members of Edinburgh Uni Feminist society took issue with it, one member describing it as “’no clue’ just sounds so much more airy fairy and ditsy than ‘no idea’. To me having no clue sounds like you have no clue what’s going on with anything, whereas having no idea it sounds like you have no idea about something- one specific thing”.

 

The most worrying is the last on the list, the male gendered poster says he’s got “a good poster” while the female gendered poster says she’s got “a great smile”. The woman candidate is valuable for her physical attractiveness, and how closely she resembles a beauty ideal, against the man candidate who is valued for a skill that he has used to make a poster. This line actively objectifies women, valuing us for our physical appearance, whilst valuing men for their skills (or at least ability to access and utilise others’ skills).

 

These posters are in my eyes a very clear breach of EUSA’s Safe Spaces Policy, Zero Tolerance Policy and commitment to widening participation in democratic structures for members of historically oppressed and marginalised groups, such as women and gender minorities. I am not for a minute suggesting that it is posters like these that actively stop women from running for positions in EUSA, but they certainly contribute to a culture where women are taught that we are not assertive enough for positions of authority where we may have to make decisions, that we’re too emotional to really be able to deal with big issues and get work done, that we’re not pretty so people might not vote for us, that we’re too pretty so people might think we just get by on our looks. All these are frankly antiquated views of women that are still very much prevalent in our society. It is shocking and disturbing that EUSA’s marketing department feels it is appropriate to play on these very damaging perceptions to make a snappy poster.

 

Publicising elections, creating debate- these are good things. These are things I support. These are things I do myself and I am glad that EUSA is making an effort. But this effort cannot be at the expense of alienating and contributing to the oppression of members of our student body. The head of marketing at EUSA told me that she had wanted to stir up debate by being “a little provocative”. Being sexist is not a little provocative, it is being sexist. I don’t believe it was the intention of the designers to be sexist, but the marketing department now needs to apologise for what is quite clearly sexism, whether intended or not.

 

We do have a big job on our hands, we have to try and get as many people involved in EUSA as possible, we want high voting turnouts and we want people who vote to be making really considered and educated decisions based on candidates’ manifestos. But this must not come at the expense of our principles for liberation and equality. EUSA must be committed to really challenging sexism and misogyny no matter how subtle or unsubtle, no matter how large or small.

 

If you need to use sexism to advertise democracy, we’re all a bit fucked.