A male student who "self-identified" as female before running for the women's officer position at his university claims he is being persecuted after being censored by his union following a backlash.
Kirk Sneade, an undergraduate at the University College, London (UCL), and his campaign team have been branded "misogynist pricks" by fellow students following his controversial run for candidacy.
The UCL student uploaded a video of a woman being punched by a man and a photo with the slogan "memes are gay" as part of his campaign. Sneade, who is now claiming discrimination, reportedly likened his plight to the communist persecution in Nazi Germany.
Sneade's original manifesto stated:
- Kirk Sneade has self defined as a woman ever since he realised it gave him legal access to the women's changing rooms at the Bloomsbury gym.
- Kirk wants to make clear his desire to attend all Women's forums to talk about Important Woman Issues such as hair dressing, shopping and walking sassily away from confrontations with your exes.
- Kirk understands the need for equality. He wants to campaign to encourage women of UCL to wear leggings, jeggings and summer-time denim hot-pants.
- Kirk would also like to formally change the name of the Print-Room Cafe to the Pretty-Girl Cafe, and launch an official enquiry into why there are so many pretty girls in the cafe compared to the rest of UCL and what can be done about it.
- More speculatively, Kirk also suggests perhaps herding up the pretty girls you see around campus and keeping them ready for emergency transport to the Roxy later on when things start to get a little dry.
- Kirk is worried that people may see this manifesto as sexist. Kirk wants to make clear that while it is sexier than most, you should probably have a look at the others because some of them are pretty sexy as well.
- Kirk also wants to campaign for reinstatement of the Varsity rugby match, campaign against student politics being full of students who are out of touch with the student body and start the dissolution of the Women's officer position as it an inherently sexist and outmoded position of power within the union.
After a huge outcry, and the university's union (UCLU) refusal to publish his manifesto, Sneade posted a public apology on his Facebook page.
It read: "As requested the campaign video and the homophobic campaign photo has been removed.
"First we would like to apologise to the feminist, gay and trans communities for any offence caused by material submitted under the Kirk Sneade for Womans Officer campaign page...
"...We will upload a revised manifesto that will highlight our intentions as soon as possible, however we are not able to attach this to our candidate page so it will be posted here.
"We would like to thank the general support but unfortunately we will have to censor our page by removing anything we deem offensive. This is so we can run a clean campaign and be taken seriously as an alternative."
He also responds to a comment made by Beth Sutton, the current women's officer at UCLU and who is running for this year's position against Sneade, who tweeted:
Sneade adds: "During the campaign a lot of attention has been drawn to the fact that Kirk is a white, straight, -cis, male, we did not initially envisage this being an issue as we assumed a sabbatical officer campaigning for equality wouldn't be discriminated against due to his or her gender, race or sexual preference.
"We have been branded "Misogynist Pricks" throughout while we, for the most part, have attempted to enter into serious debates. We, nor our supporters, have led personal attacks on the opposition, rather, we are quite happy to let democratic voting run its course and we would be grateful if this act was reciprocated."
In order to run for women's officer candidates must "self-identify" as a women before running for election, and to be eligible to vote for a women's officer, students must tick the box stating they identify as women.
UCLU's women's network, which Sutton belongs to, released a statement describing Sneade's campaign video and picture as "highly offensive material".
"Sneade’s, now retracted, manifesto was equally abhorrent," the group added. "It is clear to us [Sneade's] apology is insincere.
"Earlier today at candidates’ breakfast Sneade and Stander [Sneade's campaign manager] met with several feminists who voiced their disgust at their plans to run for Women’s Officer. An argument ensued in which Sneade made a comparison between UCLU’s refusal to publish his manifesto and the persecution of communists in Nazi Germany."
"We believe that the only reason they have issued an apology is because they have realised the effect that publically running such a misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic campaign would have on them personally in the future."
The women's network has started a petition calling for Sneade to be banned from running for the position, which has garnered support from other university students.
Tyron Wilson, equalities officer at Essex University, tweeted:
The student union refused to publish Sneade's manifesto and will not publish the revised edition either. A member of the union, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Huffington Post UK the manifesto was "objectively misogynistic".
"It's not about being offensive. Misogyny goes beyond offensive. [The manifesto] is part of a sexist society which is physically and mentally threatening to women."
Tom Robinson, a trans student at UCL, added:
But some students have criticised the UCLU for refusing to upload Sneade's manifesto. In a blog for HuffPost UK, Patrick Thompson wrote: "While there is no doubt that the original manifesto offended many, the union's decision to censor it is an ugly response to such offence...
"...The notion of censoring material because it is offensive or not in tune with a particular views of an institution has no place in free society, especially within the safe harbour of learning and debate that a university is supposed to provide.
"Not only does it reflect badly upon an institution, placing it in the company of the ignorant and tyrannical who attempt to expunge all traces of descent, but in this case it also denies the electorate a chance to asses every candidate fully."
Sneade claims the reason for standing for women's officer is to prove the position is futile. "We propose an alternative to save the funds of the union by amalgamating the position over the course of a year into an equalities officer," he says. "During this time, there would still be an active and proficient effort made by Kirk to represent the women's liberation with a large input from the women's liberation boards."
UCLU has 10 sabbatical positions, compared to other institutions, such as the LSE, only having four. Sneade argues: "We are 1 officer away from having more than St Andrews, Durham and SOAS combined. It should also be noted that these are rated as having much higher student satisfaction than UCL. Does we also have 3 times the funds of these unions?
"460 out of 26000 [UCL students] voted for this extra representation, is it any wonder there is some resentment? We could restructure the union to mirror the Birkbeck's and still save £75,000 a year."
In an interview with the London Tab, Sneade said, much to the chagrin of other students. the campaign had started off as a joke.
He added: "I do not differentiate between people for their gender, their race, their sexual preference, their political stance... The student union does not represent the vast majority of students, rather it represents a small minority of highly politicised students (as reflected by the voting turnout).
"I feel that my campaign, albeit perceived as controversial, has done vastly more to get students involved and interested in UCLU’s politics than any other campaign, past or present."
Despite being in the running for women's officer, and therefore competing against Sneade and Sutton, student Helen Chandler-Wilde said: "It was absolutely not in Sam Gaus’s [UCLU president] power to not publish his manifesto.
"Had it been published then everyone could have quickly realised he’s an idiot. Censoring his freedom of expression made this into a much bigger deal than it ever should have been. Furthermore, Sam Gaus should remain impartial to ensure a fair contest between candidates. Otherwise it’s simply not democracy.”
HuffPost UK has been informed Sneade and his campaign team may be facing disciplinary action, although the union could not confirm this.
A spokesperson for the UCLU said:
"Kirk Sneade's manifesto was taken down from the website because it violated UCLU's safe space policy as it included misogyny and sexism. This policy follows on from UCL's Codes on Freedom of Speech, where discrimination... mis not tolerated.
"Many people, especially women, have contacted Union officers expressing alarm at the offence, intimidation and threat they have felt from the manifesto and the campaign in general. We are fully committed to freedom of speech. Kirk, however, abused the platform he was granted by the Union, causing distress to many students, especially those he claims he would represent (women)."