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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Why “casual” misogyny shuts women out of Student Unions

  by Megan Down
We've all seen, and been disgusted by, the “lad”-style banter bandied around on websites such as UniLad, and for the most part, these have been universal condemned. But something much more subtle, much more insidious, and potentially just as dangerous is happening in our Student Unions.

Jokes which demean and disempower women, lewd and inappropriate remarks and in some cases blatant sexual harassment are all too often being left completely unchallenged in Student Unions. Let's be clear – this “casual” sexism isn't casual at all – it is insipid, it makes anyone other than cis males feel uncomfortable about actively participating in Student Union activities, and it stifles important voices for change. A woman's place is in her Union, and she deserves not to have to feel demeaned in any way because of her gender, however “light hearted” that demeaning comment or action was (or was intended to be).

Anyone who dares to stand up against this culture of accepted sexism is immediately beaten down as not being able to take a joke, or as taking out a personal vendetta against someone who was just making an “innocent” joke. Even if that joke, that lewd remark, that action, was “innocent” in the sense that it wasn't intended to cause harm, it is always right to challenge it. The only way we will make our Student Unions safe spaces where everyone can participate is to challenge all instances of this kind of behaviour. We must empower ourselves in every way we can to stand up against behaviour which perpetuates a misogynistic environment, and applaud those who do.

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