Guys, for once it isn’t about you. Let us eat our croissants in peace.
Happy International Men’s day everyone.
The debate within Trinity about whether we should be hosting all female and non-binary events rages on. Why shouldn’t they just be allowed?
The Women’s Officer, Beth Amelia Cloughton, organised the now infamous morning respite for next Monday for female and non-binary members of the college to mark to 40th anniversary of women actually being admitted to the college.
The result: internal squabbling. Trinity has been split two camps, those who support the idea of the event, and those who believe it is unnecessarily exclusionary. Some thought men should have the option to stand in solidarity with the women of the college. Others objected because there appeared to be no alternate breakfast provisions for male members.
The latter point was resolved with assurances from the President of TCSU, Cornelius Roemer, that it was all a “misunderstanding” and that “there will be breakfast available on that day for other members of college”.
Organisational mishaps aside, the huge disagreement within Trinity college, begs the question, ‘is gender equality helped when an event explicitly excludes men?’
There seems to be a consensus on the anti-breakfast camp that men and women should together celebrate Trinity’s admission of women. As one Trinity student asserted, “it is something we should all be proud of…and men should not be excluded”. Some took the argument further, branding Beth a sexist because she has excluded men from this event.
Arguing that all female and non-binary event are inherently exclusionary and therefore sexist is flawed. In this male-dominated environment, why isn’t it okay to provide a space for women to share experiences of difficulties they’ve faced?
Trinity, like many other colleges in Cambridge simply doesn’t exist within a paradigm of equality. It shouldn’t be so controversial for minority and marginalised groups to have a space to celebrate and discuss without the presence of men.
Why shouldn’t women have the opportunity to come together and celebrate years of female success at Trinity?
When women were first admitted into male colleges at the university, they were faced with unbelievable amounts of sexism. It wasn’t easy for the first cohort of female fellows, graduates and undergraduates.
They were forced to pursue their academic endeavours in an environment where comments such as “we have no objection to the college admitting women… So long as they do our washing” (St. Catherine’s, 1979) were accepted. Where it was okay for the Queen’s College JCR to organise a stag night, with female strippers, to coincide with the entrance of female students.
The historical experience of women in the university has undeniably seen struggle. They were faced with misogyny and institutional sexism which became so normalised.
Things have got better but they are by no means perfect. A survey conducted by CUSU Women’s Campaign last year found that over 3/4 of respondents had been harassed, and 30% assaulted. What do these students find when they seek help? Colleges ill-equipped to provide adequate support, tutors who are untrained and provide unhelpful advice, and senior staff who wish to just ignore the issue.
This event is also important because it highlights that there is still progress to be made in Cambridge. Trinity continues to be a male-dominated environment, with only 30% its student body being female.
This is why it is so sad and frustrating to see the event being attacked on the basis of male exclusion. For once, guys, it actually isn’t about you.
So stop criticising the event on pedantic terms. The argument that the event “seems like retaliation” for the fact that women weren’t allowed to attend Trinity for so long isn’t true. It’s a celebration of the efforts made by these women against the heavy misogyny they faced when first entering Cambridge.
Beth Cloughton is aptly frustrated with the people who have chosen to negatively highlight the fact that a women’s event necessarily excludes men. Why aren’t we seeing this as a “celebration of women managing to enter Trinity. A celebration of the fact we thrive here, despite the crushing weight of patriarchy embedded into its walls.”
She continues, “If they were really that bothered about celebrating women at Trinity, why not organise something else to do?”
Beth makes a valid point. Yes, men should be able to show their support for the fact Trinity is celebrating 40 years of female students. But is the best way to do so by attacking the Women’s officer for being sexist because males have been excluded from the event? No, I didn’t think so either.
In the next four years, we will see more events organised like this. Please don’t let them be mired in similarly pathetic criticism. These critics aren’t looking at the bigger picture.
Let us respectfully gives thanks to the previous generations of women who have made it possible to lead an easier (albeit not perfect) life at the university.
As one pithy Trinity student commented: “It took us until 1976 to admit women to Trinity. Letting them eat breakfast together is the least we can do.”