The Setbacks and Successes of York University Feminist Society

Posted: May 11, 2013 in UK

Students at the University of York wishing to establish a feminist society have been denied ratification for second time. The York University Students Union (YUSU) claims as the universities union already has a Women’s Committee and a Liberation and Welfare committee there is not a ‘unique need’ for such a society. However Helena Horton, a member of the FemSoc group, criticised YUSU, saying: “We have two ratified campus newspapers, who cover the same stories and the same sports. Why is this not counted as a ‘duplication of interests’ and our society is?” she believes that “There seems to be an ulterior motive at work here.”

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Alex Wilson, a first year student and president of the society, held a petition over 24 hours and managed to collect over sixty signatures, a large proportion of whom were members of Women’s Committee, and two of whom were former Women’s Officers. Over 100 students have signed up to the society which, were it to be ratified, would define itself as a political group that would meet weekly to discuss “feminism and feminist issues in a welcoming, informal and inclusive group.”  York University has a diverse choice of societies for students to get involved in representing from different ethnicities, sexual identities and political interests. Yet there seems to be no question over whether or not these are already fully catered for by the liberation and welfare committees of the YUSU.

Chris West, the activities officer for YUSU, commented “The application for Feminist Society was rejected on the grounds that the proposed society was not “exclusive from other areas of the Union,” in this case the Women’s Network, which is active and holds very similar aims and objectives. As a Union, we have limited resources, and so it’s important that we don’t replicate effort when it comes to student activities.”

But the fight will continue with students at York University pledging to continue the campaign and raise greater awareness of the struggle facing York University’s feminists. Horton determinedly says “I am here for at least two more years, and by the time I leave, our University will have a ratified FemSoc.”

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Fortunately, in other universities across the country the fight against patriarchy is going strong with a recent surge in the number of FemSocs being set up. Students at the Universities of Westminster, Durham, Liverpool, Gloucestershire, University of West of England, Central Lancashire and Kings College London have all set up feminist societies in the past year hoping that they will be able to provide a space for students to debate issues such as how to tackle sexism on campus and begin to dispel the myth that feminism is no longer relevant.

After continued campaigning Alex Wilson met with Chris West, welfare officer Bob Hughes and the Women’s Officers at York University to discuss the future of FemSoc. It was stated during this meeting that due to the bureaucratic processes involved the society could not be ratified until November, but the Union was willing to find another solution. This solution was for the society to temporarily operate under the broader banner of Women’s Network. This will enable the society to still be self running and have their own entity and be advertised as such. The society will also now have an email, access to room bookings and a table at next years freshers fair.

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