YOUNG VOICES

2014: What A Year For Student Feminists

12/29/2014 08:33 am 08:33:57 | Updated 29 December 2014

2014 was the year of student feminists. From the inspiring number of feminist societies that have been set up (Westminster, Durham, Liverpool, Gloucestershire, Central Lancashire and Kings College London have each set up femsocs in the last 12 months), to the successful Reclaim the Night events organised by student societies across the country, student feminism has never been so predominant.

So, which student feminists, women's officers and student femsocs really stood out this year? We've rounded up the movers and shakers. Bring on 2015.

1. Royal Holloway's feminist society AKA 'The Ugly Girls Club'

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The feminist society on the night they were dubbed "the ugly girls club". L-R: Molly Coulthard (secretary), H Beverley (social sec), Natasha Barrett (president), Grace Kirkby (communications officer) and Antonia King (diversity officer)

When members of Royal Holloway's femsoc were dubbed "the ugly girls club" while running a stall on sexual consent at their student union club night, it really hit a nerve.

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English Literature student Natasha, who is president of Royal Holloway's femsoc, told the Huffington Post: "We sort of started laughing about it. And then we started sending each other very tongue in cheek selfies with the hashtag #uglygirlsclub."

The hashtag took off, snowballing into a viral online selfie campaign for reclaiming being called 'ugly'. The Ugly Girls Club was born, with the campaign receiving national media coverage and students from other universities joining in and posting their own unsightly selfies on various social media platforms.

2. The University of East Anglia (UEA) became the first university in the UK to have nonprofit sanitary products

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After a motion proposed by Women’s Officer Dolly Ogunrinde was passed almost unanimously at UEA Union Council, UEA agreed to sell tampons, sanitary towels and mooncups for the same price they pay to buy them in. Prices will start at 49p, halving the cost of some items, to minimise the cost of having a period.

The government adds 5% VAT to sanitary items, classifying them as a luxury and non-essential.

Dolly told the Independent: “It is a disgrace that sanitary products are being taxed at the rate of a 'luxury item' when they simply are essentials for so many women. I am proud to say that the University of East Anglia is now selling them at no profit and feel that other student unions should follow suit.”

3. Nottingham feminists demand action against misogynistic chants taught to Cavendish Hall freshers

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The chant is believed to have been led by week one reps, trained by the student union to welcome new students in their first few weeks of term

At the University of Nottingham a video emerged after freshers week, showing a crowd of first-year students singing a misogynistic chant that included the lines:

These are the girls that I love best,
Many times I’ve sucked their breasts
F*ck her standing, f*ck her lying,
If she had wings I’d f*ck her flying
Now she’s dead, but not forgotten,
Dig her up and f*ck her rotten

Members of the group featured in the video were then fined £150, the maximum penalty for misconduct according to Nottingham’s code of discipline, following an investigation by the Students’ Union.

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4. Glasgow students stand up to the sexist advertising of Supermax nightclub

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One of Supermax's offensive posters showing a woman licking a clenched fist which appears to be pinning her down by the face

Glasgow students threatened to boycott a night called Supermax held at the Berkeley Suite club until it removed and apologised for the use of a violent, sexist and misogynist image to promote their upcoming club night.

In an open letter to Supermax and the Berkeley Suite, women's collective TYCI wrote: "This image is highly offensive and disturbing, as well as potentially triggering to survivors of sexual violence.

"It perpetuates and glamourises dangerous ideas regarding violent male dominance of women, and is a flagrant example of using highly sexualised imagery and the objectification of women to sell a product – a practice that is extremely damaging, not to mention boring."

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Glasgow's femsoc supported the open letter and threatened a boycott of the nightclub. Laura Dover, co-president of the GU feminist society, told The Huffington Post: "I think ad campaigns for club nights which present women as passive sexual toys who exist for the pleasure of men suggest that the atmosphere in the club would feel really uncomfortable, if not downright threatening, to a lot of women."

5. Cardiff University cancels Dapper Laughs gig as he 'trivialises rape'

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The controversial comedian from Woking in Surrey comes up with witty one-liners such as: "Alright babe, like my face, wanna sit on it?"

Back in November, "lad comedian" Dapper Laughs was prevented from performing at Cardiff University following a petition by student Vicky Chandler to cancel his gig.

Vicky wrote on change.org: "As a woman of Cardiff University, I cannot believe a man whose jokes centre around the trivialisation of rape, unprotected sex and dehumanising women, is allowed a soap box for his misogyny inside the walls of an academic establishment that claims to protect the rights of its students."

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Dapper, proud star of 'On The Pull', the latest offering from ITV2, was to appear at the student union's Y Plas venue in February as part of his 'Socially Unacceptable' tour.

6. #LifeOfAMuslimFeminist hashtag goes viral

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Last January, economics post-graduate student Noorulann Shahid started the hashtag #lifeofamuslimfeminist to discuss the complexities of being a Muslim feminist.

The hashtag took off and has been used by Muslim feminists all over the globe. In a piece for The Huffington Post UK, Noorulann explained the hashtag was created "unintentionally".

"Although feminism may mean different things to different people, the concept is universal, and what the movement desperately needs is more unity, which can only be achieved through a more intersectional and inclusive feminism.

"The hashtag has also taught me that there are lots of internal issues that Muslims need to collectively address, which can be achieved through more discourse and activism."

7. Bristol University's femsoc launches 'Boobie Nights'

boobie nights

Boobie nights is Bristol's first feminist club night

A night celebrating non-mysognistic, sex-positive music, 'Boobie Nights', instigated by Bristol University's femsoc, is the city's first feminist club night.

All proceeds raised from the first 'Boobie Nights' event went to Kinergy - a Bristol charity providing support and professional counselling to all victims of rape and sexual abuse.

8. Kent University students force the uni to apologise for using a sexist poster to promote its summer ball

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The offensive poster was interpreted to be perpetuating rape culture

Kent University's SU was held to account by its own students, including the female who appeared in the poster. The flyer, which appeared around campus to promote the annual 'party in the car park' ball depicted a female standing alone in a dark car park accompanied by the caption "someone will lose their friends".

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The union's women's campaign officer Bethany Taylor said she was "disgusted".

"I think it's really harrowing for women students in particular who may have been attacked or had a bad experience on campus," she told Kent Online.

"It perpetuates the message that it may not have happened if they hadn't become separated from their friends, which is victim-blaming.

"A lot of students, both male and female, find it quite disturbing. The picture was also used without the consent of the girl featured. It only shows her body, which objectifies her."

9. Cambridge University's Student Union sexual consent workshops and talks reach more than 3,000 freshers

During the 2014 freshers’ week, 21 Cambridge colleges hosted either a compulsory workshop or talk on sexual consent as part of their induction activities. Overall, 3,000 students had consent education in their college during the week - a huge increase from 2013, when only one college (King's) hosted workshops.

Every fresher also received a leaflet on sexual consent in their freshers’ packs from CUSU.

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21 Cambridge colleges hosted either a workshop or a talk on sexual consent during induction week

CUSU's workshops and talks aimed to counter myths about sexual violence, point students in the direction of organisations and individuals that might be able to help them if they experience sexual violence and give students a space to talk openly about sexual consent.

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