Motion to alter Women’s Officer position sparks controversy

A motion to change the YUSU Women’s Officer position to that of Gender Equalities Officer has caused controversy across campus

A motion put forward by a YUSU member which proposes changing the role of the Women’s Officer into a Gender Equality Officer and the Women’s Network into a Gender Equality Network has sparked controversy on campus.

The motion, proposed by Union member Gareth Bennett, has been put forward as one of two issues to be decided by a referendum under YUSU’s Bye-Laws between Wednesday Week 8 and Monday Week 9.

Bennett stated that he put forward the motion: “To raise the need for the representation of the views and issues that affect male students that at present do not have any representation within the union.”

However, the motion has received criticism with those opposing the motion asserting that it would subordinate the concerns of women.

In an email Cat Wayland and Nell Beecham, YUSU Women’s Officers, who are leading the campaign in opposition , stated that the motion: “Alleges the false premise that men and women are equally affected by gender inequality, when in fact women as a power minority have been and remain systematically disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts.”

Commenting further, Bennett added that he was aware that, “the motion has been wrongly perceived as an attack on women”, and that he felt the NO Campaign had “failed to fully understand the intent behind the motion.”

In what looks like an attempt to address the negative reception of the motion, it has been amended with the added stipulation that the roles of the, “Gender Equalities Officer(s) are to be held by two people; one must self-define as woman and the other must self-define as a man,” thus guaranteeing female representation in the role. Prior to this change, the motion was not gender specific.

In response to the amendment, the NO Campaign has expressed further discontent with the fact that: “There will also be a man stipulating the terms and conditions of women’s liberation.

The No Campaign has also argued that the amendment is transphobic as it restricts anyone who self-defines outside of the gender binary.

Attempts to mount support against the motion have been successful according to Wayland who said that, “by and large, support has been very good.”

The motion has received support from students at the University of York also, with some regarding the current role of Women’s Officer, which is open to women only, as a form of positive discrimination.

Matt Ravenhall, a York student, commented that he supported the motion as, “[the role] in its current form, denies men the opportunity to officially fight against sexism in all forms and to vote for those who represent the students.”

He added that the passing of the motion “will enhance the committee and pave the way for real, progressive campaigning for true gender equality.”

Despite this support, the role of Campaign Coordinator for the YES Campaign remains open.

Questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the proposed referendum, with some suggesting a violation of YUSU’s Bye-Laws under which it is proposed.

Emma Brownbill, LGBT Officer, tweeted that, “ByeLaw 9§10 requires @yorkunisu to give 10 working days notice of referenda motions. It hasn’t. This referendum is accordingly out of order.”

However in a blog post Luke Sandford, Union Chair stated: “As the delay has not changed the time available for debating and campaigning on the issue, and most importantly voting, Democracy Committee has agreed to keep the timetable of the referendum as it was published.”

A motion was also submitted to twin YUSU with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and to lobby the University to do likewise. York was joint 121st with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in this year’s Times Higher Education Authority’s rankings of the world top 200 universities.

Both these motions will be debated on Tuesday week 8 before voting opens the following day.

30 comments

  1. Putting the label “Gender” doesn’t make things go politically correct. I think that men are well represented in YUSU considering that a lot of positions are running by men… As a foreigner student from China, I have to rise above not only being a woman here, but also as a foreigner in this very white and middle class University. I feel that I have no voice here due to the racism, etc. and I feel that by labeling my own woman particular issues inside the Gender box… That I will never have a voice anymore. Women’s Officers make this go away, please. I need you. Figures that a man proposed this since he doesn’t understand what to feel like the ‘Other’ feels like. Thanks!

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  2. The Men’s Rights crowd’re remarkably quiet on this one.

    Hoping it’ll be rejected conclusively.
    Failing that, rolling it back come the next referendum would be an idea. This really is a terrifyingly ill-conceived proposal.

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  3. @Aileen

    Your comments shows how sexist you are, yes you are a woman and you are sexist and you do not understand the point of view from the male side.

    It clearly shows you don’t understand how it feel like the `othe’ feels like.

    The university of York has more females than males and males need a voice just as strong as any female voice.

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  4. @Aileen

    P.S

    Please do not play the race card.
    I am not white myself and I can say that the University of York is far from racist!

    Yes, it is white and middle class, but then again most of the UK is white and Successful universities have more middle class students for obvious reasons.

    I am sure you are treated better in York and given more opportunities than in China.

    Thanks

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  5. @ S S

    I’m not going to response any more posts about MY OWN experience and perception while I’m living here. I’m not trying to ‘play’ anything just exposing my view on the motion. Next time, concentrate yourself on the issue at hand: the motion, instead of going into assumptions about MY OWN persona and life by doing personal attacks. Good Day!

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  6. @ Alieen

    You may had a bad experience but does does not mean university of York is a racist place as a whole.
    The British are one of the most tolerant people in the world.

    And sticking to the motion…..Just because you see more men holding positions does not mean men’s issues are always addressed.

    I am a male, fee paying student and I demand equal representation on male issues.

    What part of equality don’t you understand?

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  7. @ SS
    ‘Just because you see more men holding positions does not mean men’s issues are always addressed. I am a male, fee paying student and I demand equal representation on male issues’

    Why don’t you set up a men’s committee? The opportunity is there and just needs somebody to involve themselves and work with YUSU to organise it.

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  8. 28 Nov ’11 at 6:28 pm

    Matt Ravenhall

    “Why don’t you set up a men’s committee? The opportunity is there and just needs somebody to involve themselves and work with YUSU to organise it.”

    A men’s committee would also be inherently sexist, this is about facing issues of gender discrimination as students. You can’t oppose sexism by creating a sexist organisation.

    The common sense solution is a Gender Equalities committee.

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  9. “The common sense solution is a Gender Equalities committee.”

    Or alternatively, allow women’s and men’s (sub)committees to do whatever work they see fit, but then occasionally collaborate with events and discuss things under the banner of a Gender Equalities committee.

    That way you can allow there to be a focus on issues that either affect predominantly women or men, as well as allowing room to collaborate on issues relating to gender that are relevant to both.

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  10. 28 Nov ’11 at 9:15 pm

    Matt Ravenhall

    You can’t fight sexism if you divide people up by sex into groups which focus on different sexes.

    You fight it by having a group where people of whatever sex can fight together.

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  11. Surely there is a real issue here that is underlying all the petty politics; that you cannot, in reality, purport yourself to be anti-sexist if you propose the continued exclusion of a men’s officer, when we currently have a women’s officer and also an officer that includes the representation of those who are transgender.

    Granted, the proposal is not perfect – clearly, there must be two gender equality officers, 1 of each gender -, and the replacement of the women’s network with a gender equality network is somewhat iffy, given that women have historically (and still have) been discriminated against by men.

    The proposal might also transcend the binary and include a third gender officer for those who see themselves as neither male nor female, but then that could create confusion regarding an overlap with the role of the LGBT officer.

    It’s a shame that the motion has been so poorly put together, because in reality it’s an issue that needs addressing, and for the anti-motion group to oppose this simply because two gender equality officers supposedly mean “there will also be a man stipulating the terms and conditions of women’s liberation” is simply infantile.

    Whilst we should acknowledge that women are the primary victims of gender, we should not use this as an excuse to close off a potential support network for the male gender. Democracy and individual liberty should not be placed at odds with one another.

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  12. 28 Nov ’11 at 9:31 pm

    Sharon Taborda

    WORLD TOUR

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  13. “The common sense solution is a Gender Equalities committee”

    It is interesting that you cite common sense.

    As the great Indian philosopher Śaṅkarācārya observed, what is perceived through ‘common sense’ is not necessarily to be trusted: a coil of rope on the floor can be mistaken for a snake.

    To me your argument seems all about snakes (the power of the trousered variety), while actually being a rope to lasso in and bind female self-directed emancipation. My point being, that while it may appear as though a gender equalities committee is less sexist (and is, I agree, in terms of the committee itself), that does not automatically entail that that new committee will result in greater real gender equality in the university outside of the committee. So, to me at any rate, your solution might be sensible, but it isn’t ideal.

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  14. Champagne: “Failing that, rolling it back come the next referendum would be an idea.”

    Motions which directly contradict Union Policy cannot be brought for a year following the passing of the relevant policy, so that is not possible.

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  15. 30 Nov ’11 at 1:40 pm

    Gender unequality

    Womens officer is a position for outspoken ‘feminists’ who dont know the original meaning of the word to platform their views. Feminists claim that they want equal rights and yet would stand on a mans testicles just for the laugh.

    By creating a position that covers the equality of both males, females, transgener (pre and post op) it is giving more equality not taking it away from a small group of women who have false illusions of power.

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  16. @Gender unequality (sic)

    Please, enlighten us, what is the ‘original meaning’ of feminism that we’ve missed?

    The position created by a GECom does NOT cover trans people. It was amended to one woman and one man, thereby excluding trans and non-gender binary identifiers. That’s been covered already, not sure how you missed it.

    Lots of love,
    A testicle-squashing ‘feminist’. Oh, wait, no! I quite like testicles. I don’t want to squash them.

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  17. “Womens officer is a position for outspoken ‘feminists’ who dont know the original meaning of the word to platform their views. Feminists claim that they want equal rights and yet would stand on a mans testicles just for the laugh.”

    What an ignorant statement. I normally try not to feed the trolls but honestly, what is this?! Also lol at all the ‘poor oppressed men’ type comments. Gender equality is important, part of that is the necessity of Women’s officers to confront the inequality that women still face.

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  18. @Gillian Love
    I’ve been told being a feminist means believing in equal rights for women, which seems to be a contradiction in terms. Surely, the fair thing to believe in is equal rights, which would more of an “equalitist.”
    And how does having a women’s committee cover the views of people who don’t identify as male of female? The way I see it, women’s committee represents gender views of 56% of the campus population, whereas a Gender Equality Committee would represent the views of ~99.9% of the population and therefore would be fairer. It’d be great to get 100%, but at least this is a step forward, instead of living with the archaic notion that women are oppressed and men have it easy.

    @pheminist
    And who’s there to confront the inequality that men face? A Gender Equality Committee would do both.

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  19. @Daniel Corne, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the inequalities facing women are more significant and commonplace than those faced by men. A gender equality committee may not be focused enough on women’s issues and will have to spread its time/resources too thinly. However as suggested in another comment, a happy compromise may be a men’s committee and women’s committee that could work together when necessary under the banner of a Gender equality committee (that word has lost all meaning).

    This is obviously not the only problem with this proposal, by demanding candidates identify as men or women they are excluding those who identify as neither. Something yusu obviously haven’t considered.

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  20. 1 Dec ’11 at 1:17 pm

    Gillian Love

    @Daniel Corne

    “I’ve been told being a feminist means believing in equal rights for women, which seems to be a contradiction in terms.”

    Well I’ll correct you. Being a feminist means many things. One of those things is that gender equality is an imperative for a better world. Another thing feminists believe is that one way of working towards that goal is addressing women’s rights, where they are not equal to men’s. Note: one way. There are masculists who concentrate on men’s rights, because that is where their experience lies, or their interest. Both work towards the same goal, though perhaps by different means.

    But Women’s Committee isn’t a feminist group, per say. Not everyone who comes to the meetings and does the campaigns identify as feminists.

    “And how does having a women’s committee cover the views of people who don’t identify as male of female?”

    Well, it doesn’t claim to represent any other groups than women. But there is a committee position for a trans rep, and a men’s rep position was discussed, but no men involved in womcom wanted it. So, womcom claim to represent women only; GEcom claims to represent ALL genders and ALL issues pertaining to gender equality.

    “the archaic notion that women are oppressed and men have it easy.”

    No one at womcom, and no feminist that I hold in any respect, claims this. I suspect you’ve simply listened to stereotypes and taken them for truth.

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  21. “Alleges the false premise that men and women are equally affected by gender inequality, when in fact women as a power minority have been and remain systematically disadvantaged compared to their male counterparts.”

    Huh? What? How?

    By the same logic, LGBT alleges that L, G, B and T people are all equally affected by oppression/stereotypes/whatever.

    “The No Campaign has also argued that the amendment is transphobic as it restricts anyone who self-defines outside of the gender binary.”

    Again, what?! Pot kettle black?

    Right now we have women’s committee which by definition mainly addresses women’s issues, and not men’s or non-male/female issues. My guess is that you’ll say this is fine as we have LGBT. Fair enough. But then how can you say that a gender equality committee would be worse: it is equally inclusive of non-male/female issues, but MORE inclusive of male issues.

    And I thought one of our Women’s Officers had taken ‘Reason & Argument’ in her 1st year of PPE and would see through the fallacies in her own arguments…

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  22. @Aileen

    I understand if you’re not still reading these comments. What SS has been saying to you constitutes harrassment and if you wanted to pursue a complaint against him via either the Union or the University you would be able to do so.

    York is more full of racism than where I came from which is one of those places in Lancashire that gets into the news for “racial tensions”. There may not be overt white against black violence here (excepting of course the people who keep setting fire to Tang Hall mosque) but there is a definite and insidious undertone of racism and you’re not alone in having seen it.

    As for Motion 2, I voted NO and expect that many other people will have the sense to do the same.

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  23. 1 Dec ’11 at 5:59 pm

    Daniel Corne

    @pheminist
    “I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the inequalities facing women are more significant and commonplace than those faced by men.”
    So that makes their problems more important that those faced by men? This kind of attitude makes me want an impartial Gender Equality Committee.

    “A gender equality committee may not be focused enough on women’s issues and will have to spread its time/resources too thinly.”
    A Gender Equality Committee would obviously focus on women’s issues more because, as you say, they are more commonplace. This doesn’t mean that other gender issues should be ignored though.

    “However as suggested in another comment, a happy compromise may be a men’s committee and women’s committee that could work together when necessary under the banner of a Gender equality committee (that word has lost all meaning).”
    Which word?
    And how is that different to a Gender Equality Committee, apart from fragmenting decisions? It would also alienate those that don’t identify as male or females even more…

    @Gillian Love
    “Being a feminist means many things. One of those things is that gender equality is an imperative for a better world. ”
    I agree.

    ” Another thing feminists believe is that one way of working towards that goal is addressing women’s rights, where they are not equal to men’s. Note: one way. There are masculists who concentrate on men’s rights, because that is where their experience lies, or their interest. Both work towards the same goal, though perhaps by different means.”
    I can’t see how that’s efficient at all, why not have a group of people from any gender who care about the issues work together?

    “But Women’s Committee isn’t a feminist group, per say. Not everyone who comes to the meetings and does the campaigns identify as feminists.”
    Agreed, there was a side-discussion about feminism which I was responding to.

    “Well, it doesn’t claim to represent any other groups than women. But there is a committee position for a trans rep, and a men’s rep position was discussed, but no men involved in womcom wanted it. So, womcom claim to represent women only; GEcom claims to represent ALL genders and ALL issues pertaining to gender equality.”
    So, due to the amendment, it’s not going to fulfill what it claims to do. regardless of whether it’s fairer than a one-sided committee? Something tells me this “it leaves out people who don’t identify their gender as male or female” argument is a complaint for the sake of complaint…

    “No one at womcom, and no feminist that I hold in any respect, claims this. I suspect you’ve simply listened to stereotypes and taken them for truth.”
    I don’t suspect any feminists or any of Women’s Committee of this view, but it’s certainly the line I’m hearing the most in defence of keeping WomCom.

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  24. 1 Dec ’11 at 6:15 pm

    Rebecca Jones

    Would someone please detail for me what these repeatedly eluded to ‘men’s issues’ are that some of the male student body feel need more coverage? (That is a genuine question, not sarcasm)

    I merely ask because neither my male friends, nor any of the men that attended Women’s Committee during my participation, have ever to my knowledge raised a men’s issue that they feel to be unaddressed. If there is infact a large number of ‘men’s issues’ left untackled then there should indeed be a twin operation of a ‘Men’s Committee’ and a ‘Women’s Committee’.

    The reason I object to a re-name is, not because sexism should be a women only battle, but because ‘Gender Equality Committee’ does not accurately encompass the work that Women’s Committee actually do – and to think that Women’s Committee is only about feminism, and therefore excluding men from the battle for gender equality, only demonstrates poor research and ignorance.

    During my time holding a position within Women’s Committee we tackled a large number of ‘women’s issues’ that did not directly relate to equality at all.

    For example, helping Survive become a RAG charity is clearly dealing with the issue of rape. Rape is an issue that is undoubtedly largely a women’s issue; however, despite the fact that proportionally most rape victims are women, the committee still strived to recognise and address the possibility of male rape and consulted male attendees for advice on how to best approach that aspect of the campaign.

    Further to issues such as rape and female genital mutilation, the committee dealt with on campus ‘women’s issues’ such as better lighting to promote a feeling of safety amongst the female student body. I am yet to talk to a man who before the lighting campaign complained that he felt uneasy walking back after dark.

    These issues do not address equality, they are purely ‘women’s issues’ – not in a sexist way, just in a way that denotes that they are issues that mainly effect women. For this reason, I would like to understand what ‘men’s issues’ the people supporting this motion feel need to be addressed and suggest that if these problems do infact exist outside of the current committee structure then it would be approriate for a men’s committee to be created.

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  25. 1 Dec ’11 at 7:05 pm

    The spirit of OJH's upper lip

    @Rebecca Jones
    Health:
    Higher rates of alcohol use/abuse.
    High suicide rates.
    Shorter life span, mainly due to poor health decisions.
    Reluctance to go to a GP.
    There’s a longer list here on the beautiful Movember page http://uk.movember.com/mens-health/

    For general issues:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masculism#Masculist_concerns

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  26. 1 Dec ’11 at 11:00 pm

    Rebecca Jones

    @The spirit of OJH’s upper lip

    Thank you. I think they would be great topics for a committee to work on; however, they don’t really come under the proposed umbrella of ‘Gender Equality’. If you see my point?

    The right to have a men’s committee may be seen as a gender equality issue, but issues dealt with by women’s or men’s committees do not necessarily relate to equality at all. Therefore to rename Women’s Committee as ‘Gender Equality Committee’ is misleading to the work such a group does.

    If the men’s issues you have suggested are important to the student body, then I suggest that a second separate ‘Men’s Committee’ would be more appropriate. Such a committee could work alongside/ together with Women’s Committee on equality issues or in fact any issues that concern both groups. I do not suggest that all of either committee members should be limited to one sex, just that those of any gender interested in women’s or men’s issues could then attend an appropriate forum – as there are men who have attended women’s committee previously.

    The trouble with this is that not as many men are proactive about being involved with such a group, as there are not as many ‘masculists’ as ‘feminists’ due to the way oppression and liberation has panned out historically.

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  27. @Daniel Corne
    At no point did i say women’s issues were automatically more important than mens issues. Merely that they are more commonplace. As has already been addressed, there is a mens officer position currently going unfulfilled in womcom, as you feel so strongly about mens issues perhaps you could fill it?

    Also I just meant that committee had lost all meaning as I had written it so many time.

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  28. I agree with @Rebecca Jones.

    I would prefer men, who feel their issues are being under-represented, to start their own committee, rather than co-opting wom-com, which was established by women to represent their own issues. I would actually be in favour of the establishment of a male-committee, i think it is a bit unfair that the stereotypical ‘white male’ on campus has no specific representation, but i just think it would be more appropriate and easier to run, if male and female committees were separate. Women’s issues are very different to men’s and could do with separate representation.

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  29. 2 Dec ’11 at 6:37 pm

    Gender unequality

    LGBT are women, men as well they need equality.
    Why is it equality FOR women?
    It should be equality.

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  30. @pheminist

    why should men have to go to a women’s committee to talk about men’s issues?

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