AUDREY SEBATINDIRA and CONNIE MUTTOCK: Women’s Officer Candidates
We interviewed Audrey Sebatindira and Connie Muttock, the candidates for CUSU Women’s Officer.
We asked the two candidates about their views on WomCam, what their priorities were and how they’d engage with the wider student body.
|What is the best thing about WomCam last year?|
|Charlie being women’s officer has helped in as people find it very easy to identify with her and she made it very clear during her campaign that the Women’s Campaign wasn’t going to be a place where people get shot down constantly and are afraid to engage.
And that’s one of the things that I think keeps people away from the Campaign. Getting a wide range of people into a forum is – at a very basic level – a step into what the Women’s Campaign is about and getting people in at that stage is when the Women’s Campaign becomes more approachable.
|For me, it’s been consent workshops. They’ve been implemented for a couple of years now but I had loads of help from Charlie in putting together the first Freshers’ Week consent workshops at Queens. And we had really good feedback from that and it was really good to work with the Women’s Officer and with my JCR. Almost everyone turned up
We tried to keep it non-patronising but also keep it to things people wouldn’t have come across before.
|How will you engage students who don’t know, or don’t care about feminism?|
|I noticed there was this pressure – or this difficulty – trying to balance trying to educate new feminists or the student population generally while also having spaces that were safe because we all appreciate that sometimes questions or comments inadvertently cause harm and you have to balance the two.
I personally think that it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to have spaces where you can both educate and protect.
So I want education workshops where the purpose is purely to educate, where people can come in and bring in questions that would otherwise be damaging but aren’t in this environment and open those up to as many people as possible. And I have experience running these kinds of workshops.
|Firstly taking it back to basics. At Queens I hosted the highest attended FemSoc event we’ve ever had and the title of that event was ‘What is Feminism”. It was really really productive because nobody was calling each other out in a way that was intimidating, it was more supportive of each other.
Having tangible things that people can actively do – pop on a badge and say ‘Oh look, I made an effort today’.
Online is really important. I think the Women’s Campaign Discussion Group has kind of lacked a little this year – building that up again, getting more people involved, encouraging more people to post.
|Is there a space for men in WomCam?|
|There is definitely a role for men as allies within the feminist movement but I feel like they are at their most effective when they go into feminist spaces that are explicitly for them, learn and then go into spaces that aren’t really feminist and spread the feminism there.
Once an ally really realises that they’re there just to help they’ll be less inclined to force themselves into spaces that are just about women.
|I think it’s really really important to include men as allies. Encouraging more men to come along for WomCam events, encouraging men to listen to women’s experiences and then to act on behalf of women – calling out their friends in terms of rape culture, calling out their friends sexist comments in drinking societies.
I think male allies are a really, really useful source in terms of making Cambridge a more supportive place in terms of women.
|Will you engage with all student press?|
|Non-engagement with The Tab is not a blanket policy, its on a case-by-case basis. I think that is good – democratic for one thing. The idea of legitimising what lots of people deemed an irrational and unhelpful argument and legitimising it by responding to it was the issue at stake last time. Based on the way WOMCAM works, non-engagement was based on consensus at least.||I think it depends on the people you’re working with but I think it is a really important resource to tap into because everything on The Tab about the Women’s Campaign seems to be presenting it in a negative light and it’s partly because of this hostile engagement between the two. So I think tapping into that, being able to present the good side of the Women’s Campaign, because obviously The Tab is the widest-read student newspaper.|
|What is central to all of my policies and my manifesto, is the idea of me using my woman’s officer role as a platform for all women who choose to speak from themselves. I want to bring different women from all different kinds of backgrounds, because you can’t blame a person if they come from a particular background to not know about other people’s backgrounds. but the woman’s campaign should be bringing all of us together.||I think it comes down to inclusion. It’s very easy – in Women’s Forum – for it to be the same people speaking every time and the same people getting involved every time.
You can do that in person but I’d like to do that with an online suggestions system or an anonymous email system where people can make their needs heard. And I would always make sure to raise other women’s voices, to put other women on the platform and make sure it’s not just me speaking and a select few around me speaking but as many women as possible.
|Worst thing about Cambridge?|
|Just the work. Is that boring?
There is so much to do in Cambridge. I read in the Cambridge News, France decided that Cambridge is the most romantic city in Europe on Valentine’s day. I thought, only if you don’t have any work.
|The worst thing is the pressure. There’s no easing up when each week you have to be on top form and you can’t really afford to have a bad week and that can be really, really difficult especially if you’re a survivor of sexual violence or struggle with mental health issues. Cambridge is quite an unforgiving place.|
|Sexual harassment policies?|
|The reason why College harassment policies are good – beyond the obvious, tangible thing that it’s good when things go wrong to have a proper policy and to know that your college is behind you. Women should feel entitled to your college being behind you.A a college harassment policy shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be an entitlement and that will only come when colleges appreciate that women, who face certain specific issues generally, have specific needs that should be met, just as much as a man’s needs would be met in a college.||I would write a new one for the University and I’d produce an interpretive document. I did this at Queens’ with our harassment policy last year and it had a summary page of everything involved and then it had a flowchart of the policy and then it had advice for students and this went through the legal jargon, it meant that it was way more accessible and it advertised it on our website. So I’d do that with the University policy as well. I think that’s a really useful thing to do.
Especially if you’re a survivor of sexual assault, you’re not going to be in the best mindset. We’ve really got to make it as easy as possible for people to understand what their rights are and what support they can get.
Voting for all CUSU Sabbatical positions is open now. In case any self-identifying men are confused, as a sizeable amount were last year, only self-identifying women are eligible to vote. For a rolling update of all the scinitillating drama, The Tab’s liveblog has a moment-by-moment summary.