Necessary rib: We need feminism on campus

With York University Student Union refusing to ratify a feminist society on campus, student campaigner Helena Horton remains convinced that they need one more than ever

I am co-ordinating a campaign to get the Feminist Society at the University of York ratified, and therefore accepted by our union. Along the way, I have gotten support from far and wide, from feminists and non-feminists alike, and this is so important, both for my own mental well-being and for the cause itself.

In my view our union tends not to listen to students in the first instance. To illustrate this, our recently ratified Palestinian Solidarity Society was not initially supported, despite repeated requests from a large number of students and other societies.

A similar situation is happening with FemSoc. YUSU hasn’t listened to petitions or protests from students. We get an automated email when we ask why they refuse to recognise a feminist society. However, if we apply pressure by using NCAFC  and other student unions - so far we have had support from UEA, Bristol, LSE, Royal Holloway and the University of Essex, and emails are still coming in - and hopefully make the union look bad, they will probably sit up and listen. It’s a shame that it will have to come to this, and that they don’t seem to listen to their own students, but that’s just the way it is.

Lecturers from the university are also getting involved, I have been in correspondence with people from the Philosophy, Gender Studies and History departments about the issue that we are unable to have a space to discuss feminism as an academic and political movement. It’s great to know that even people from our esteemed, world-renowned academic departments are getting interested. It shows me that we are on the right side of the argument, and that the union is in the wrong here. 

Of course, the union should be listening to the students who it represents, but again, it isn’t, so we are having to get support from outside. It’s also important to get our esteemed academics involved because a university is supposed to be a place of education and open-mindedness. This happens outside of seminar rooms and lecture halls, too, and if there apparently isn’t a place to discuss political ideologies such as feminism at one of the top Universities in the country, where is there? Limiting education is the last thing that our university should be doing.

Pressure from the national media is really important too. It has been raising the profile of our cause, which YUSU wants to keep quiet and bury. We refuse to be buried, and so have risen to the challenge and are trying to create as much of a ruckus as possible, so everyone sees our struggle and how difficult our Union is making things for us.

Lastly, a point which is probably the least important. Whenever one does anything ‘controversial’ (and sadly, feminist campaigning is currently seen as controversial in a lot of circles), one gets a huge amount of abusive backlash. I’ve had people being awfully abusive to me throughout, and have received rape threats amongst gendered insults such as ‘witch’, ‘bitch’, ‘screeching harpy’, and ‘whore’ and even a threat to rip my tongue out.

Needless to say, this gets very tiring and has caused me a huge amount of anxiety and stress on top of my university deadlines and the energy that hours of campaigning a day inevitably saps. However, the wonderful comments that I have had from people all over the world, especially those involved in the Everyday Sexism and No More Page 3 campaigns have got me through this. I’ve learnt about the stability and conviction that solidarity can give, and the balm it applies to abuse-inflicted wounds.

Over 500 people have signed the petition and to have this amount of people supporting us and our cause is breathtaking. The messages of support from all different people, all around the country and indeed the world have bolstered the campaign, and my spirits, and given everyone involved the strength to keep fighting.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - C# .Net

£23500 - £28500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are looking for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18 - 20k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)