Feminists Flustered by Union’s Advances

The Cambridge Union Society has once again managed to ruffle feminist feathers, after a planned event to discuss sexism has fallen through.

CUSU cusu women's campaign feminists james counsell juan de francisco natalie szarek pole dancing Union

The Cambridge Union Society has once again managed to ruffle feminist feathers, after a planned event to discuss sexism fell through.

With the hotly debated ‘Pole Fitness’ sessions in full swing, feminists were hoping to take take on what they regard as the Union's poor record on female participation.

A ‘Discussion Forum on Institutional Sexism’ was planned to bridge the gap and tackle issues of sexism head on.  

Billed as a joint event between the Union Society and the CUSU Women’s Campaign, the discussion was supposed to offer both sides an opportunity to air their views.

Unfortunately for the Union, the Women’s Campaign were unhappy with the Union's organisation of the forum and consequently pulled out with days to go.  

In an open letter, Natalie Szarek declared that the society had ‘entirely failed to take the event seriously’ and, as a result, CUSU would pull out of the debate rather than collaborating with it.  

The Women’s Campaign is instead planning on holding its own event entitled, ‘Is the Cambridge Union Society Institutionally Sexist?’

CUSU admits that ‘representatives from the CUSU Women’s Campaign and the Cambridge Union had devoted effort towards planning the event’.

However, they maintain that the Union subverted the nature of the debate by including intentionally misleading information in its Facebook group and by failing to include details of the event on the online Union term card or emails.

In the open letter, Szarek also argues that the Union specifically altered the event description, removing the original group and creating a second which obscured the agreed proceedings of the debate.  

The Union has been quick to stress that any slight to the Women’s Campaign was entirely unintentional.  

They claim that the original Facebook group was removed due to official policy, which directed all publicity through one agent.

The Union also insists that it was very keen to run the debate on sexism, however due to a succession of small upsets the overall event and goodwill of the Women’s Campaign was lost.  

Alex Küng, Head of Press for The Union, told The Tab, “We were looking forward to hosting this event, especially in the light of recent debate.  We find it regrettable that the CUSU Women’s Campaign has decided to withdraw from this opportunity to discuss the very concerns they have been putting forward all term.”

The Union was additionally dismayed by the timing of the Women’s Union as the group cancelled with little warning before the event. 

“We were quite surprised and disappointed at the sudden decision to cancel the Forum" said Juan De Francisco, Union Ents Officer.

He told The Tab, "I actually personally phoned Natalie Szarek and restated our support for this Forum, and so did James [Counsell, President Elect]. The only response we received from the Women's Campaign was the impersonal Open Letter, and they have refused to contact us since.” 

“At any rate, despite the unfortunate events of the past couple of days, the Union remains committed to listening and attempting to engage.”

The fracas comes just days after CUSU's successful 'Reclaim the Night' march for safer streets.