This week, we at the Feminist Society were dismayed to learn that our Union was refusing to support our new Society, We currently have about 100 members, and the decision was met with great dismay.
When we first submitted our desire to be ratified, we were met with the response that we are too similar to the Women's Committee on campus, which is a Liberation and Welfare committee and a branch of our Union, much like Racial Equalities, Disabilities and LGBTQ, rather than a student Society.
We decided to appeal. The founder of the society, Alex Wilson, wrote a long letter to YUSU explaining why and how we will be different to WomCom. A few reasons include; we would be a political society, not a Liberation and Welfare committee. This means that we would spend most of our meetings in discussion groups about feminism as a worldwide political movement and ideology rather than combatting sexism on campus and acting as a support network for women on campus like WomCom does (though we would support them in this, of course, if they called upon us). We would get speakers in to talk about all sorts of facets of feminism, such as women in politics, feminism and literature, and feminism and film. It would be about like-minded people meeting up and talking about a political ideology that they all want to be a part of.
Another way in that we are different from WomCom is that we are diverse. We have people from all different ideologies - from me as a raging socialist to Alex who is a Tory. We have a good gender balance, with a large number of men feeling that they can join in, that this is a space for all genders to talk about Feminism and get involved in the movement. Unlike WomCom, which does not let men onto the committee. We argue, at FemSoc, that there is a place for men in the feminist movement and that it is counter productive to exclude them from discussion. It just paints a picture of feminism as an exclusive group just for short-haired shouty women. This open environment is perfect for political discourse, and perhaps activism. It's perfect for educating people about what Feminism is and raising awareness about the movement.
We then were told that we had 24 hours to start and finish a petition. So petition we did, even though it was a weekday and we had lectures. We managed to collect 60 signatures, more than 10% of which were WomCom members, and one of whom is the ex-women's officer. This surely shows that there is a great need for FemSoc on campus, as to be a ratified society you only need a maximum of 15 potential members. From this 24 hour petition alone, we have four times that. And the fact that WomCom members want to be part of both shows that it would be different and they don't feel that we pose a threat to them.
Finally, we met with the appeal board and spoke to them about how we would be different from WomCom and answered all of their questions. Sadly, the appeal board all voted that we should not be a separate society and should just become a branch of WomCom instead, which is not what we want, as we would have to abide by all of WomCom's regulations, such as not having men on the Committee. Men can be feminists too, and there is a difference between merely being a woman and being a feminist.
We found it strange when we were told that we are duplicating aims as a society, as LGBTQ Liberation and Welfare Committee, and LGBTQ social society both exist separately, one as a Liberation and Welfare network and one as a ratified society. It seems slightly hypocritical of YUSU to allow this, and the two seem far more similar than FemSoc and WomCom, and not us. We have two ratified campus newspapers, who cover the same stories and the same sports. Why is this not counted as a 'duplication of interests' and our society is? There seems to be an ulterior motive at work here.
I emailed Chris West, our activities officer, asking for a copy of the rules and regulations that a society has to meet in order to be ratified, which I received, as well as examples of how FemSoc breaks any of those rules, which he outlined but was unable to provide exact minutes due to not being permitted to share individual's information on ratification decisions.
We need a FemSoc. There is only one man who goes to WomCom meetings because the other male Feminists on campus feel excluded. We can't exclude 50% of the population from our movement. We need a space for political discussion and campaigning. We need a society which isn't just the same old clique of people who meet up each week, which the majority of people on campus haven't even heard of. I get a sour taste in my mouth when I think that I have to be supporting York against Lancaster in Roses this weekend when Lancaster's student's union supports feminism and ours does not.
We aren't going to take this lying down- we are going to campaign and raise awareness until our Union ratifies us. I am here for at least two more years, and by the time I leave, our University will have a ratified FemSoc. I hope that our Union deigns to give us a good answer why they have decided not to support feminism on campus soon, and I hope that they reconsider our plea.