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Saturday, 24 March 2012

Official statement from SURHUL Feminism Society concerning the proposed formation of SURHUL MANsoc – 23/3/2012

This statement is being released in response to the proposed formation of a new society, the Man Society (“MANsoc”) at the Students’ Union, Royal Holloway, University of London, (SURHUL).

 On Wednesday 21st March 2012, members of the SURHUL Feminism Society (Fem Soc) became aware of the Facebook group for the proposed new SURHUL society, MANsoc. The MANsoc Facebook group is a closed group, but with the description viewable to all. Thus, it needs to be made clear from the start that this statement can only take into account the content of the description and not what is posted in the group by its members.

The member of the Feminism Society who first raised awareness in Fem Soc of the proposed new ManSoc took screencaps of the ManSoc Facebook group’s description (shown below). These screencaps were taken shortly after Fem Soc was first made aware of MANsoc on the 21st March.

The description of MANsoc as shown above raised numerous concerns amongst several Fem Soc members. They are as follows:

1)      There is a clear attempt at intimidating Fem Soc through the use of a lie in the description. “We have a society on campus who have attempted to legislate a ban on MEN from their ranks” is a reference to a discussion that took place in the Fem Soc Facebook group about whether the role of Fem Soc President should be constitutionally reserved for women, and/or whether there should be a constitutional reservation of a majority of committee positions for women (i.e. for the academic year 2012/2013, 3 out of 5 committee positions). The general view was that, as feminism serves primarily to liberate women, the movement should be led by women. However,  people believed that it would be unnecessary to have formal reservation of the role of President for women as it would be highly unlikely that person who does not identify as a woman (i.e. a man or person of a non-binary gender) would run for the position if they are truly a feminist, and that it would be unnecessary to have formal quotas for women on the society’s committee, as again, it would be highly unlikely that there would be more non-women than women running for committee positions in any given year. Furthermore, there was absolutely no mention of men being banned from running for committee positions- feminism is concerned with eliminating all gender-based oppression, regardless of who is affected, and so it was unanimously agreed that men should be able to run for committee positions if they want to. Indeed, we have some brilliant feminist men in the society who would make excellent committee members. It needs to be made clear that this was just a discussion. There was no vote, and certainly not any attempts at creating legislation on this issue.
     During this discussion, the President of the Feminism Society was asked by another Fem Soc member to email SURHUL’s Vice-President of Student Activities (VPSA) about whether reserving particular committee positions or a certain number of committee positions for women could be allowed. In the interests of transparency and countering the falsehood in the MANsoc group’s description, I am including the text of the email asking about this issue that was sent to the VPSA. I hope the wording of the email makes it clear that it was merely an enquiry, not an attempt at legislation. Please note that the enquiry was about whether we could ensure that the committee had a majority of women members, not about whether or not the committee should be exclusively women. There is absolutely no mention of banning men from the committee.

"Hi Jake,

Here is the updated constitution. Something else that a couple of people have asked about is whether, given the nature of the society, it would be possible to reserve the role of President for women and/or ensure that the committee always has a majority of women members. It may be unlikely that we might have non-women run for President or that we would end up with a committee that has a majority of men, but some of our members feel that it should be enshrined in the constitution, just in case. Would this be possible, given the specific nature of the society?


2) Following on from the above point, this is a clear attempt to antagonise and directly oppose the Feminism Society, and to upset Fem Soc members. Thus, as feminism exists to strive for gender equality, primarily through the liberation of women, such opposition to Fem Soc inevitably means that the description on the MANsoc Facebook group is sexist and misogynistic. This is a direct attempt to counteract the growing recognition of the need for a women’s liberation campaign on campus and the work that Fem Soc does to contribute to the fight for women’s liberation.

3) The description, whilst claiming that MANsoc wants to promote the rights of men, actually suggests that MANsoc would do the opposite if ratified by the Students’ Union. The description features a number of gender stereotypes affecting men, all of which serve to place men in a box, where there is a very narrow definition of what it means to be a man. The emphasis on “lad culture” plays on harmful stereotypes such as the promotion of “banter” and the promotion of patronising views of women (as demonstrated by saying that to act like a man, a man must have “a desire to find a mate who enjoys cooking”), and is exclusionary to men who do not want to be considered “lads”. Focusing on such harmful stereotypes and on such a narrow view of masculinity will only serve to do the opposite of liberating men, and so would go against MANsoc’s alleged aims.

A while after the above screencaps of the MANsoc’s Facebook group’s description were taken, the following text was added to the description:

But on a seious (sic) note:
•80% of all suicides of people between 14-25 are MEN according to World Health Orginization  (sic)
•UCAS enrolment is down 7.8% for MEN and 5.6% for woman (sic)
•MEN between 22 and 29 earn 3.6% less than women (Office of National Statistics)
•British Crime Survey shows male victims of domestic abuse are twice as likely to suffer in silence
•27% of the people who get testicular cancer are between the ages of 15-24 (NHS)
•According to BMA, med-schools accept only 44% males and 56% females
•"We lead on issues relating to women, sexual orientation and transgender equality matters." Tag line for Home Office Equalities page, note nothing about MEN.

 It should be made clear now that this statement does not aim to suggest that there is no need for discussion on issues around notions of masculinity and gender stereotypes affecting men in society. There are definitely issues concerning men as a gender, such as the idea that men must be tough and unemotional to assert one’s masculinity. This idea can mean that some men feel unable to talk about their problems, potentially affecting their mental health and possibly contributing to an explanation of why more men die from suicide than women.
The updated description raises important issues concerning subjects such as men’s health, and the Feminism Society appreciates this move towards a desire to tackle serious issues from what was originally just a promotion of misogynistic “lad culture”. However, we feel that forming MANsoc is unnecessary to tackle these issues. For example, with regards to the issues raised about mental health, the Students’ Union is planning a term-long mental health awareness campaign in this year’s summer term, and such issues could be tackled through that. Again, the issue of domestic violence is extremely important and the description raises a valid point about suffering in silence, but this is something that could be worked on with the SU through their campaign structures.

The issues that have been raised in the updated description, whilst valid and important, are individual issues that can be tackled by existing structures on campus; these issues are not part of institutional discrimination on the grounds of gender. Sexism against women, however, is indicative of institutional discrimination on the grounds of gender. This is why we need a Feminism Society, but not MANsoc. Furthermore, “men’s rights issues” are feminist issues. Feminism aims for gender equality, and women cannot be fully liberated without liberating all other genders as well. For example, with regards to feeling able to get help for mental health problems, in order to get to a point at which all men feel able to get help if they need to, we need to breakdown the stereotype that showing emotion and talking about one’s problems are feminine, i.e. weak, traits. We therefore need to be able to liberate women from the negative connotations of behaviour that is seen as stereotypically feminine, such as talking about one’s emotions, so that such behaviour is no longer seen as weak and inferior and so that men are no longer afraid to express such behaviours. If we break down these stereotypes, we can liberate both women and men, but we can’t liberate one without liberating the other.

Therefore, rather than setting up MANsoc, the Feminism Society invites those interested in masculinity, men’s rights issues and gender equality to work with our society on these issues, as we exist to campaign on such issues.
In conclusion, the Feminism Society is against the formation of MANsoc, but recognises that we share some similar aims and is open to working on the issues raised by MANsoc.

*Apologies for an under-recognition of non-binary genders in this statement.


  1. This is an excellent analysis of the problems with such a Man Soc. It's also interesting to note that they don't seem to take into account the fact that men can be affected by 'sexual orientation and transgender equality matters'.

    I would have taken them much more seriously had the update been posted originally without the talk of poker/banter etc.

  2. If certain men within the student body wish to create a society that celebrates certain activities historically carried out, stereotypically by men, then I believe it is their business to do so, as long as it is not attacking or obstructing any other society. This is clearly a group based solely on the satirical notion that men are a minority group within the university and not a direct attack on women. The certain stereotypes of men being 'ladish' and so on are issues that some men may feel uncomfortable with, and I am sure if such a society was to be set up then issues like this could be discussed by those men who are effected. Just as I am sure issues effecting women such as unfair stereotypes are discussed within the Femsoc.I am certain that if there was to be this level of opposition towards the Femsoc in its days of formation then there would have been quite the uproar.


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