// 7 March 2008

Students at the University of Sheffield last night successfully defended our Union’s Women’s Officer position. A motion had been put forward to referenda to change the officer positions, getting rid of the Women’s Officer position and replacing it with an Equality officer, who would also represent LGBT, disabled and Black students. While this may sound good in theory, the position would be unworkable as the Women’s Officer is already a full time job, and these groups deserve full representation rather than having to compete for one person’s time and resources.

Having defended the Women’s Officer, we want to go on and campaign for officer positions to support these other liberation campaigns, and the establishment of an Equality Officer would give those who oppose liberation campaigns and politicised, representative Unions justification for opposing separate full time liberation officers. Self representation is essential for all these groups and this would not be guaranteed by an Equality Officer, who would have to be a disabled, Black lesbian in order to represent all the groups in the position’s remit.

Last night’s victory was an important one for the NUS women’s campaign, which has been faced with sustained attacks on women’s officers over the past few years, and we’re all happy happy beans, if a little the worse for wear after a night of celebrations! Big congratulations to everyone who was involved in the campaign, particularly to our current Women’s Officer, Bryony Shanks, who is a political genius!

Vamos feministas!

Image by Eva the Weaver, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Roxanne // Posted 7 March 2008 at 4:48 pm

Unfortunately it appears that we will have to fight this battle again in Welsh NUS as the new President of Aberystwyth Union ran on a campaign promise to replace the women’s officer with a welsh language officer.

Not that the welsh language doesn’t deserve representation indeed the have a non-sab member already. But they face less discrimination especially in Wales than women do. We fought this battle at the Winter Council last Nov and won and now we’ll have to do it again due to how powerful Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Nationalists are in my uni.

Laura // Posted 7 March 2008 at 5:22 pm

That’s terrible, Roxanne, how incredibly frustrating that you have to fight this all over again. I hate how the different yet all important representative officers are pitted against each other, instead of making room for the existence of a number of different representative officers. Best of luck with your campaign.

Michelle // Posted 7 March 2008 at 5:43 pm

Yay, great news! I completely agree that each ‘group’ should have their own officer to represent them. Not only does the move to Equality Officer water down the feminist politics, but the funding for women’s campaigns is also cut as a result.

Charlotte // Posted 7 March 2008 at 9:22 pm

Yet there is in no student union, as far as I know, a man’s officer. They are the only group that don’t have somebody to represent them specifically – how is that not discriminatory? I don’t argue there shouldn’t be a woman’s or EM officer (and at Manchester there is also an EM women officer), but that there should be a man’s officer as well.

Liz Ely // Posted 7 March 2008 at 9:38 pm

In my student union at Edinburgh there is no Women’s officer, or a man’s officer – but this year every single person standing for election as president was male, and glancing over the list of pervious presidents it averages out probably one woman every 5/7 years. Less than half the number of women stand for positions in our Union, which I think is just one good example of why a women’s officer is vital. Men already have representation because they have more than half the positions of power within the union – and in the world at large.

Laura // Posted 7 March 2008 at 9:43 pm

(White, straight, able bodied) men enjoy a privileged position in society and, while they do of course face challenges and difficulties, these are not a result of institutionalised discrimination against their gender. The women’s, Black, LGBT and disabled students’ officers and campaigns are referred to as liberation campaigns because these groups are oppressed precisely because they are women, Black, LGBT or disabled within a society that is dominated by men, white people, straight people and able bodied people. As such, men, white people, straight people and able bodied people do not need a specific representative officer: their rights are already recognised and protected by society.

The Women’s Officer fights campaigns to achieve equal pay for women, secure women’s control over their own bodies, help women who are victims of violence and abuse because of their gender and ensure they are able to fully participate in University life by providing servcies such as the women’s safety bus which enables those women who do not feel safe alone at night to get home without distress, in some cases to leave their homes at all.

What would a men’s officer do? What campaigns would he fight that are based around specifically male problems?

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that men are already over represented in politics – liberation officers guarantee minority groups a voice; the male voice is already being heard loud and clear.

Sam // Posted 8 March 2008 at 3:52 pm

Laura, I guess one reason that their ought to be a men’s officer relates to your qualification that it is “white, straight, able-bodied” men who are represented. It’s not really possible for “liberation officers” to represent the views of all the ignored groups that they should, partly because their remits are so enormous. Why should LGB issues have anything to do with T issues? Trans or genderqueer students often feel out of place at LGBT meetings, and I have often heard gay LGBT reps admit that they rarely meet openly trans students and do not really understand the situation that people who do not fit into traditional gender norms are in. Similarly, it is very difficult for any officer to represent a broad range of ethnicities.

You might say, well, the issue here isn’t to have a men’s officer as much as to have more positions to represent marginalised groups. And that certainly would be a step forward. But what is the harm in having an extra officer, for men who do not feel that they are represented, even if you might feel that “men” as some sort of homogenous group are?

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