Is enough being done to target sexism on campus?
A week with Warwick Anti-Sexism Society
Open-minded humans at Warwick have had their patience tested recently. Last term, a number of the University’s high profile societies became involved in some exasperatingly ugly instances of public sexism, including humiliating sexist chants and a battery verbal threats and abuse designed as an insult to women.
These events, propelling a tiresome laddy culture of heteronormative shitbaggery, were universally deplored by the student body and were even described as “unacceptable” by the president of one offending society.
There is no doubt that Warwick Anti Sexism Society (WASS) would find themselves in agreement with this quote. It would have made sense for a group as outspoken as WASS, who have been known to aggressively defend their position as campus’s only feminist society, to offer a response to events that so obviously concern them.
The society’s response was lacking. Did they stage a protest? No. A petition? No. Did they have a bake sale? Yes.
In an effort to discover how Warwick Anti Sexism were dealing with the issues facing women on campus, I began attending WASS meetings and listening to the weekly radio show That’s What She Said.
This has been a hugely enjoyable experience and I highly encourage everyone reading this to give WASS meetings a try. The speakers are varied and interesting and the issues at hand pointed and diverse. The only time I found myself becoming bored during the meetings was when one discussion opened up and, within seconds somebody, started harping on about Blurred Lines in a way that completely overlooked the point.
Still, there’s no need to judge WASS for this. Every society has its arseholes and the majority of the work that this lively and enjoyable group does is great. The problem is that the work they do often overlooks one of the key words in the society’s name.
Almost none of the campaigning I was exposed to during my stint at WASS had anything to do with life on campus. As nice as it may be to imagine that the Warwick Bubble is a feminist utopia where no misogyny ever takes place, the events of last term demonstrate that this simply isn’t true.
Since WASS insist on remaining Warwick’s only feminist society, the impetus is on them to respond to events such as these in order to show their solidarity with a student population that is frequently made to feel uncomfortable or even threatened by the prevalence of on-campus sexism.
When asked, one WASS member described the response to last term’s events as ‘lacking’ and expressed disappointment at the society’s shortage of interest in such issues. Many female students have also admitted to feeling afraid of becoming a victims of sexist verbal abuse on campus, and expressed a desire for a society more focused and effective than WASS is being at present.
To reiterate; this is not an attack on WASS. This is an appeal for the society to re-engage with feminist issues on campus. Telegraph reporter Bryony Gordon recently accused modern-day feminism of losing touch with the everyday struggles of women in the developed world. With discussion topics from this term including Women in Film, Women in Science and Women in Climate Change, it is difficult not to levy this accusation at Warwick’s own feminism, too.
In contrast to these, WASS’s What Makes An Effective Anti-Rape Campaign discussion held earlier this term did offer a glimmer of hope. WASS exec have stated that the ideas presented in this discussion now form part of the initiatives of WASS’s I <3 Consent and Good Night Out campaigns.
Despite this discussion, alluded to before, being held together with the structural integrity of a Bread Oven sandwich, the meeting was encouragingly down-to-earth and clearly held Warwick students’ wellbeing at the centre of its concerns.
With exec elections coming up next week, one hopes that such a prominent society as Warwick Anti Sexism will begin to involve itself more in the lives of the students it is supposed to represent.