In Defence of the Women’s Campaign

Ahead of Reclaim the Night, POPPY DAMON considers the idea that ‘all oppression is connected.’

CUSU reclaim the night women's campaign

I have frequently been called a femi-Nazi during my time at Cambridge. I have also often heard from men and women alike that they have problems with the methods and opinions represented in the Women’s Campaign. When these accusations are made I always respond with the same answer: ‘Was it the candlelight vigils that you had a problem with? The non-violent, police-authorised marches? The charities we support? Or the articles written in the student newspapers? Or perhaps it was the fun and feisty Gender Agenda that we publish once a term?’

It seems bizarre to me that people have this image of the Cambridge Women’s Campaign as some militant militia, when none of the people who make these complaints ever bother to come to the Women’s Forum and see for themselves the passionate, inspiring women that I encounter every time I go. I find it terrifying that even the most socially-engaged and politically aware of my friends have no idea what the Women’s Campaign do and instead take their information from…well, the student newspapers, who are hardly our number one fans.

One particularly heated issue was the DSK protest. Although it was passionate and controversial, the most inspiring part of it was the platform given to rape victims on the day. I ask the critics of the Women’s Campaign: what other methods would you employ? What other issues would you engage with? Student parents, slut-shaming, body issues, the Women’s Campaign tackles a variety of problems in a variety of ways. For example, it supports student theatre that deals with feminist topics like the Vagina Monologues this term, but it also supports The Rape Crisis centre and Women’s refuges. Whichever way you look at it, it is a body which campaigns for a more equal society for us to live in. What exactly are these critics imagining that an organisation for gender equality should look like? Why is it so ‘in vogue’ at the moment to reject a movement supporting equality?

People often also wonder how I can simultaneously work for The Tab, The Women’s Campaign and the Union. These are three student bodies which, especially of late, have been in conflict over women’s issues. Again, the answer is that these groups should not be in conflict. Most modern, liberal minded people would agree that the pay gap, sexual double standard and under-representation of women in certain industries (to name a few) are bad things, so can’t we all get on board with a movement which aims to reverse these injustices?

Credit: Raphael Scheps

From this stance I implore you all to come to the Reclaim the Night march, which is happening tonight. I also implore you to tweet Mary Beard, a Newnham professor of classics, and raise your support for a woman who has been demonised for her appearance on Question Time as a means by which to distract from her opinion, and as a means to deter other women who may be thinking of having or expressing an opinion themselves.

If you think women’s issues don’t affect you, then I would ask you to consider not only the direct impacts of living in a society which favours men, but also to realise that in the words of Stacey Ann Chin, ‘all oppression is connected’. Germaine Greer and Caitlin Moran have unfortunately spouted transgender-phobic and racist comments respectively and this is symptomatic of a lot of movements for different forms of equality; sexism in LGBT+ movements, homophobia in anti-racism groups and so on.

Until everyone at the ‘top university’ in the world can support women, we’re never going to see other forms of hate and suppression eradicated from wider society. Mary Beard and all the people involved with the CUSU women’s campaign are fighting for change, and it’s simply too easy to be a critic and not be involved yourself.