FemSoc receives nationwide support

Feminist Societies from universities across the country in addition to a number of political societies have spoken out in support of FemSoc after its application for ratification was rejected by YUSU

Feminist Societies from universities across the country, in addition to a number of political societies, have spoken out in support of FemSoc after its application for ratification was rejected by YUSU.

Feminist Societies from UEA, Bristol, LSE, Royal Holloway and Essex have all spoken out against YUSU’s decision.

Co-President of Bristol University Feminist Society, Laura Ho, expressed fear that FemSoc’s “rejection is a result of a misunderstanding of feminism.”

Sally Bonsall, a member of LSE’s feminist society, said: “We acknowledge that YUSU has limited resources, but we also acknowledge that if members within that union express the desire for a space to discuss and promote feminist issues, then it is vital that YUSU Feminist Society is ratified.”

FemSoc also counts the support of political societies on campus, including the UoY Green Party and UoY Socialist Society. The campaigning website ‘National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts’ and ‘National Student’ website have also spoken against YUSU’s decision.

In a statement the University of York Socialist Society said: “The University of York Student Socialist Society are hugely disappointed by YUSU’s decision not to ratify the Feminist Society, and are appalled at how the matter has been handled.”

Although the York Tories do not currently have an official stance on the issue, society chair, Dan Hawkridge said: “My own personal opinion is fully in support of Femsoc but on the condition of a reformation of Womcom to be more inclusive. I do however see the issues YUSU have taken with the ratification of the society; to me it seems very unfortunate that in the referendum a while back people did not more fully support changing Womcom to a Genders equality officer.

“If that would have happened I could not see how YUSU could find any issues with the ratification of Femsoc. A more niche example exists in GAP (Gender Accessible Politics). They used to be called LIPS (Ladies in Political Societies) but had to change their name to conform to Union rules. This for all intents and purposes is an even more specific feminist society and yet easily got ratified. I somewhat suspect this has more to do with YUSU not receiving an increase in society funding from the University for 3 to 4 years even though student numbers have increased greatly.”

The petition to get FemSoc YUSU ratified currently has nearly 700 signatures, with the campaign gaining attention from national newspaper The Independent’s website.

One of YUSU’s reasons for denying ratification was that the existence of the Women’s Committee meant that there was not a unique need for a feminist society. The UEA Feminist Society issued a statement saying: “We feel that having a separate feminist society alongside the women’s committee allows a wider group of students to become involved in and learn about feminism.”

Helena Horton, who is spearheading the ratification campaign, told Nouse: “I really hope that all of this support makes YUSU sit up and listen. Our petition has nearly 700 signatures now so to carry on ignoring the needs of students is ridiculous.”

Student Activities Officer, Chris West, said: “Firstly, I would like to say that we do always welcome comments, suggestions and opinions from groups at other universities. However, it is important to note that no two universities or Student Unions in the country have the same set-up or structure.

“With this specific example, the two panels that have reviewed the Fem Soc application have both came to the decision that potentially a more suitable route would be to incorporate the passion and ideas of the proposers and supporters of the Feminist Society into the development of the existing Women’s Network. I am looking forward to meeting with both the Women’s Officers and the proposers of Feminist Society tomorrow [Friday] to discuss how we can take this forward.”

The Student Activities Officer’s full quote was not included in the original article, this has now been amended.


  1. Quite why Chris West gives such a pointlessly vague quote, I can’t understand. Give a reason goddammit and be done with it. Not enough money, splitting the feminist campaign, whatever. But say something – this kind of stance is wimpish.

    As for the quotes from feminist societies around the country, surprise surprise. It seems that the Tory has the best solution. Ratify FemSoc (it’s not as though it’s going to require a huge amount of funding) and reform WomCom which is so wildly unpopular around campus that it couldn’t possibly hope to shift perceptions and opinions (although perhaps with Horton at the head FemSoc wouldn’t be much different).

    Above all, however, it is the wet fish Chris West who comes off worst from this.

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  2. Can we have a Men’s Committee and a Masculism Society?

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  3. 9 May ’13 at 10:18 pm

    Nearly 700 sexists can't be wrong!

    Must Horton constantly demonstrate herself as being unable to realise that FemSoc and WomCom are literally the same thing?

    I wish she’d apply herself to something more constructive than calling in the feminists hordes; gender equality perhaps?

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  4. Look, all around this comment. Scum. Reason enough for a FemSoc.

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  5. From the way West’s quote is phrased, it’s quite obvious that it’s come from a larger thing which has been cut down to a little rebuttal at the end of the article – using the word “firstly” implies it’s one of many points he probably makes in whatever he sent to Nouse.

    West has stated many times the reasoning behind not ratifying FemSoc in other articles – there is reasoning behind it, though this is not reflected in the quote Nouse have chosen for this article.

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  6. “rejection is a result of a misunderstanding of feminism.”
    well that’s perhaps because there’s barely any intelligent communication about what it is the society does and why it’s needed (in addition to the existing societies). it’s pretty apparent from this recent (relatively big) campaign that even its supporters use it as a blanket term to rally against real as well as imagined instances of injustice… there’s a big distinction between raising awareness of self-proclaimed FEMINISTS, as opposed to actual FEMINISM.
    in fact it would seem that yusu rejecting them was the greatest thing that could’ve befallen the society as it provides an easy justification for their existence… if these indignant individuals realised how they’re actually hurting the very cause they claim to champion by trivialising it they might use their time more productively in bettering womcom etc.

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  7. “if these indignant individuals realised how they’re actually hurting the very cause they claim to champion by trivialising it they might use their time more productively in bettering womcom etc.” I have to say I agree with rant, I’ve been looking at the posts and “discussion” on the FemSoc facebook group, and have come to the conclusion I would never EVER discuss feminism with any of the people involved in organising FemSoc. They are constantly abusive to anyone who disagrees with them, ban people who dare to have divergent opinions and use aggressive and abusive language towards those asking questions they don’t like. The Women’s Network on the other hand I’ve been very impressed by with their recent “We Need Feminism” campaign. I feel like I could actually go and ask them questions about feminism without being worried I’d get yelled at, or have my boobs chopped off for being a “bad feminist”.

    This is all coming from a female, self-identifying feminist by the way.

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  8. West makes a very valid point – the thoughts of any student or group at another University are completely irrelevant.

    YUSU is accountable to its members, and as a charity its purpose is to represent and provide activities for students at the University of York.

    The opinions of these student groups from across the country are irrelevant and just a case of Horton and co trying to whip up a storm and put pressure on YUSU to fold rather than actively engage with the appeals process. They’re using force, anger and hyperbole rather than doing what most societies who are successful in the appeals process do and buckle down and try to fit in with the system in place.

    Whilst personally I feel there is definitely place for a Feminist Society, it’s difficult to see where the Societies Committee have acted incorrectly.

    Furthermore, the actions of Horton and co (predictably including Brownbill) in relentlessly pestering the full time officers on their personal social media accounts is really quite depressing.

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  9. Or alternatively-in response to several of the the above-maybe the issue here is this:

    In the FemSoc corner we have a small group of students, many in their first year, who’ve never campaigned or protested about anything before, are struggling to get a decent response from their students’ union a body that most of them don’t really understand and which seems to actively avoid putting out information about how it works. They have received quite a lot of abuse, quite a lot of and it and the worst stuff not on their group because a lot of the worst is not from York students, thankfully. As such whilst some reactions by them have been poor and doubtless alienating to many they are perfectly understandable.

    by contrast in the YUSU corner, we have a large well funded (despite their current troubles) organisation, which employs a large cadre of professional staff who instruct the officers-some of whom have been at this University since 2008-how to act in these situations and who also coordinate responses and make resourcing decisions. YUSU, as the creator of the society ratification system and all of the information on how it works-which is chooses not to publish-has all the cards here. It is Kafkaesque and would be enough to make anyone bang their head against the wall: if anything its a wonder FemSoc have been so restrained.

    I therefore take issue with the people who seem to claim that “FemSoc” are somehow bullying YUSU-when as members they are YUSU. That Helena Horton is somehow oppressing an organisation of YUSU’s size and scale is actually quite funny. Au contraie some might say!

    Further, how is it unreasonable to contact officers via social media? I highly doubt this was a case of harassment, however, defined. After all when you chose to take a job that pays nearly 18grand a year, a job (pretty good going when you consider how long most York students spend in internships, training, or doing further research after graduation) where the JD in so far as there is one, makes you responsible for communicating with and listening to students, then that kind of means you should? Or maybe I’m just old fashioned…

    Also what YUSU policy documents there are available, YUSU case law (anyone else remember this: http://www.nouse.co.uk/2011/10/14/yusu-officer-resigns-over-anti-semitic-allegations/?) and even the friggin’ bye-laws, suggest that whilst in office YUSU official’s social media accounts aren’t entirely their own.

    So take a different view, who really is being shabbily treated here?

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  10. 10 May ’13 at 2:53 pm

    Indignant, Heslington

    As many people have stated here, FemSoc would perhaps be more likely to achieve ratification if they – let alone anybody else – knew what the society was for.

    Personally I don’t think its current leadership should be allowed to be in any sort of position of authority, let alone in a society which is supposedly there to deal with such an important issue as feminism. The way they’ve treated people who disagree with them (which it is fine to do, by the way – as Thomas Byrne pointed out in a post on the Facebook page, feminism is not a revealed scripture and just because Alex Wilson says x is right or y is wrong does not mean that they are) is abhorrent.

    They’re full of their own self-importance, and frankly I’d rather see Women’s Network expanded to include some sort of space for the discussion FemSoc seem to want. YUSU Women’s Officers actually seem to be reasonable, unlike the (tiny but loud minority of the) People’s Champions Horton & co.

    Also, they capitalise the word “feminism” all the time on their Facebook page, which is stupid.

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  11. Just a quick technical note – the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts aren’t a campaigning website, but the largest student anti-cuts group in the country, with a growing membership. They were behind many of the anti-tuition fee protests back in the day…

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  12. The NCAFC is also made up of people with no grasp of the real world, who resort to shouting, bullying and aggressive tactics to achieve nothing.

    Just a quick, technical note there…

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  13. To Helena Horton:

    Helena, I am sure you mean well with all these campaigns you are heading. However, please consider the following:

    a) The response to your campaigns is overwhelmingly negative – as seen in these comments & the results at the referenda. True, you have 700 signatures on your petition – but I bet that more than 90% of these came from people who hardly read the petition – they just heard ‘feminism’ and signed on the spot.

    b) Linked to this, you have not actually convinced anyone of your opinions. The people who agree with you are the ones who agreed before. You can shout all you want that the rest of us do not understand feminism or your points of view. But a failure in communication is rarely the fault of one party. It is the job of the person who initiatives the communication to clarify their position and express it well.

    c) Given that most people at York are quite smart, I think we can exclude the option that everyone who does not agree with you is an idiot for not understanding you. This leaves two options either you are really, really bad at explaining your thoughts, or the vast majority of students do not agree with them. If it’s the first, maybe you should realise that instead of antagonising everyone, you should engage in dialogue. Take a step back from the campaigns, engage with students through societies etc. If the latter, maybe you should drop your campaigns period.

    d) Regarding your views themselves: it is sad that in today’s world, many women choose to renounce the term ‘feminism’ exactly because of people like you. The kind of feminist who takes issue with the Sun and wastes time campaigning for a Femsoc, whose mission is not clear, is actually damaging to your cause. Personally, I get really annoyed whenever I hear of ‘womens rights’. There are no women’s rights; there are human rights. Instead of focusing on the disadvantages of being a woman, focus on gender equality, noticing that both genders suffer from inequality in different forms.

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  14. How many members do you have exactly?

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  15. 21 May ’13 at 12:16 pm

    Notroh Aneleh

    Horton’s main cause seems as time progresses to be less and less about advancing the admittedly worthy cause of feminism (which she is, to be honest, a very poor ambassador for in the first place) and more and more about getting her face into whatever paper can’t find a better story to run. Once again, she has succeeded. She’s playing us all, and we keep giving her what she wants.

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