Presidential Candidate James Carney, one of seven students running for the position of YUSU President, has been criticised by current YUSU Part-time Officers following his controversial addition to the University of York Memes Facebook page.
Carney posted an image of a female with the caption: “I’m fighting for women everywhere… by trolling internet memes.” Below the image, Carney had added: “Wom.Com. Fighting the good fight.”
The caption referred to three different images that had been taken down from the site, upon requests from the Women’s Officers and other students. Gillian Love, Women’s Committee Press and Publicity Officer, has said the images that had been removed made jokes involving rape. A total of 112 comments were exchanged below the image on Facebook. Many of the contributors criticised Carney for the reference he had made.
Love commented on Facebook: “Trolling equals telling people rape isn’t a great basis for a joke? No, mate.”
Cat Wayland, YUSU Women’s Officer, added: “Don’t assume that anything WomCom does is petty or worthless just because it happens to lie outside of what you see as a worthwhile cause.”
Carney responded to the criticisms on Facebook, stating: “Feminism equals getting excited over internet memes? No, mate.” He added later: “My issue with WomCom, whilst I appreciate its existence and support, is that it claims to be representing women, hence the name, however what it truly represents is the opinions of a small fraction of the female population.”
Carney explained he had seen messages exchanged on the Women’s Committee Facebook page following the removal of the photos.
“I wanted to raise the point that these individuals were not partaking in any activism with a realistically positive outcome.”
He emphasised that: “The meme is not meant to be derogatory, I just used it to highlight the point that I don’t believe complaining about certain memes made in order to entertain, could be in any way considered activism on behalf of WomCom.”
But Carney did not think this would harm his election bid. “I would like to think the majority of people are mature enough to realise the reasons behind my actions.”
However Ophelia Groth, Secretary of the Women’s Committee, said: “James Carney is wrong for the fundamental reason that offensive memes and jokes are not harmless: They are a clear manifestation of negative societal attitudes toward certain groups. ‘Jokes’ about rape are a symptom of a victim-blaming culture that trivialises the experience of rape survivors and play[s] them off as ‘jokes’. Further, such ‘jokes’ are directly hurtful towards survivors of sexual abuse or non-cisgendered people.”