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Wednesday, 30 May 2012


On the 29th of May 2012, the Students' Union Annual General Meeting at RHUL voted to introduce four liberation officers onto our executive committee: a Disabled Students Officer, Black & Ethnic Minority Students Officer, LGBT+ Officer and Women & Marginalised Genders Officer. To many at other universities, this won't seem like a big achievement – many Students' Unions already have these officer positions, and to those with any interest at all in liberation, the necessity of their existence is obvious. However, the successful passing of this motion was the result of a sustained campaign to convince students of the importance of putting liberation at the heart of what SURHUL does. SURHUL has traditionally been a very inward-facing union, with a focus on student activities and internal politics rather than on campaigning, and the introduction of these officers is a massive step forward.

The introduction of these officer positions, and particularly of the WMG officer, has been a major aim of RHUL Feminism Society this year. Our members have attended NUS Women's Conference, as well as many feminist events where they have spoken with other students, and have often been faced with dropped jaws when they told others that SURHUL was entirely without a Women's Officer – especially considering the rich feminist histories of Royal Holloway and Bedford College! Whilst the creation of the Feminism Society in the last academic year was fantastic, we were aware that it was not enough for us to run Women's Campaigns from inside our society, and that in order to truly “liberate SURHUL” we needed someone to represent the interests of women at the heart of the Union. The creation of the WMG Officer will allow NUS Women's Campaigns to be co-ordinated from within the Union, as well as ensuring that issues of gender equality are taken into account in every decision the executive committee makes. In a Union where, over the last few years, we have had bitter arguments over the introduction of women's officers, women-only votes for NUS Women's conference delegates and the introduction of gender-neutral toilets and the use of gender neutral pronouns in General Meetings, this truly represents a massive step forward.

An incredible amount of work went into the campaign to introduce liberation officers. Meetings and working groups were held over several months with interested groups in order to produce the motion that was taken to the AGM. It is probably not a controversial statement to say that this was probably the most campaigned upon motion that a SURHUL GM has ever seen, and the fact that such effort was expended in trying to convince students of the value of liberation shows how important this motion was to the people involved.

When it came down to it, the main arguments raised against the motion were administrative and bureaucratic: that, for example, the introduction of new officers would make the executive committee too large. In the end, however, the 100+ students present at the meeting decided that liberation is much more important than issues of bureaucracy, and the victory was by a landslide majority. The fact that an amendment to make the officer positions non-voting was voted down shows that the students in the room had genuinely been convinced of the importance of liberation groups having a genuine say at the heart of Union affairs.

There is still much work to be done to truly “liberate SURHUL”. The new positions will not come into effect until the academic year 2013/4, and in the next year, the Equality and Liberation Officer who currently sits on the executive committee, as well as all liberation activists on campus, will need to work hard to build energy and awareness around the liberation campaigns in order to build towards a position where these roles can elected next year. Royal Holloway Feminism Society will continue to be involved in building awareness around women's issues, and also – importantly – of issues of intersectionality. We are proud to have been a part of passing an historic motion for SURHUL, but we know that the fight does not stop here.

RHUL Feminism Society would like to thank everybody who was involved in the creation and success of this motion. We'd also like to thank the fabulous Kelley Temple, NUS Women's Officer Elect, who came along to lend her invaluable support to the motion.


  1. Hi there, I was thinking about the conflicts between genders and gender societies experienced on college campuses at present, and I came up with an idea. Since there is hardly a middle ground in society/and on campus regarding the issue of men's and women's rights, i.e. it is generalised that you are either pro-men or pro-feminism. Which in reality isn't true. Because of this generalisation, what are everyone's opinions on the formation of an Egalitarian/Equalism Soc? There would be no need to abolish the FemSoc and ManSoc that already exist, as they both bring good things to the table, but it would be useful to have a place in the middle where our overlapping views can be represented.

    1. Hi, if this group only discussed gender equality issues wouldn't it be easier to suggest that gender equality representative on the Inclusion and representation senate (whoever runs for that place) set up a forum for Egalitarian discussion and work towards fighting discrimination for people of all genders? You have an interesting idea, just pointing out that theres a set up already within the SU which this idea could exist without going through society ratification.

  2. Well, egalitarian is such a broad term, gender studies would only be a part of it. I just checked the SU website, there is an Amnesty International society, which does focus on egalitarian issues. However, I don't want to be associated with a charity that is responsible for a cover-up of human rights offences against men and children in Sweden.

    Since the People and Planet society is a joint venture with Amnesty International, for me the argument at the website above rules out participation in both these societies. Now I'm not saying that the students that support these societies are bad people, nor their cause invalid, indeed the complete opposite. I praise them for their nobility and kindness for supporting a cause like equal human rights. However, I think you have to read really deep into a charity or companies aims and policies and actions before pledging your support to it. For me, supporting a charity that covers up human rights violations in an MEDC which supposedly is at the forefront of gender equality, is not an image I want to carry.

    Good thinking about the gender equality representative setting up an egalitarian discussion, I'll look into it. However I think that a fully fledged egalitarian society is not off the table.

    1. Thats a co-incidence - I've being just discussing promoting equal sharing of domestic and caring responsibilities. There is a huge possibility of reforming People and Planet society as it had so little presence last year, I just know how many have struggled through the ratification process. Will pass on this idea to the committee and I hope you keep us up to date with your progress in the new term.

    2. I thought some more about my previous post realised that it was wrong to dismiss Amnesty straight because of course it does contain good people carrying out good work. (Sorry if I rant a bit here, just getting my thoughts out lol). I then asked myself; can the bad actions of an organisation be exonerated because it contains good people? My first thought was no, of course not. For example, a couple of years ago you might remember the US army, bombing a shelter full of civilians with a laser guided missile, killing 216 - everyone inside died.

      Now, how can you excuse the US Army of this action by saying that the pilot of the plane, and the commander/intel who gave the go ahead, are good people, have families, pay their taxes etc. This doesn't change the fact that 216 civilians are now dead because of one man's order and another's complicity with it. It is in breach of the Geneva Convention and human rights laws. Now, of course, this is an extreme example given that only a few people are dying as a result of biased family court laws - suicides by fathers sticken with grief from not being allowed to see their children - compared to 216 in warfare. The father in the video featured in the article above implies contemplating suicide "the hope that I can see my daughter again through appealing the courts decision, is the only thing keeping me going".

      But then I realised that the good people within an organisation are not to blame, just the people with bad intentions. I then refined and took another view on this by asking; how do you safeguard the majority of good people and their work within a good organisation, from the bad actions and intentions of a few bad people within that organisation, albeit they say their intentions are for the common good?

      I know this has little to do with gender issues, philosophical more than anything, but I think it is a prevalent human rights issue.

  3. Thank you, it would be great to hear what the committee thinks of it! I will do, I suspect I am going to be extremely busy though! Moving on, you can't dismiss the topic of my post as a coincidence, when there's so much evidence to back it up. You read the entire article I trust? Plus if you trawl the internet you'll find many articles of this type, highlighting the inequalities and misinformation in court systems in European countries, not to mention MEDCs around the world.

    On the topic of misinformation, a common piece of information I hear regarding domestic violence, is 'the majority of perpetrators and instigators of violence and abuse are men'. I'd like to hear your own opinions on this matter, given the findings of a study by Professor Martin S. Fiebert from California State University. The findings of the study can be seen at the link below:

    1. I wasn't dismissing the article or saying it wasn't true, I was just saying I had been talking about similar things elsewhere at the time. We are involved in a domestic violence campaign (violence against all genders) with the SURHUL Campaigns Officer, maybe you'd like to wait for our reports on that when him and our campaigns officer start the campaign hopefully with the aid of our support advisory services at uni. I think the report and campaign materials we'll be helping to form, based on national research and reports from a mix of refuges may be more constructive than spending the evening responding of huddled findings on a clearly anti-feminist site. There may be post on here (or on the our anti-cuts campaign blog) on domestic, if not - I'm not sure when reports will be up but feel free to contact the campaigns officer from september. Or email us, as blogspot comments are usually only to moderate (and easily overlooked) and since we have many moderators opinons are not representative of the whole society.

      Good Night

    2. I think the key thing about the men's rights movement is that it wouldn't exist if there were no bad side effects of feminism. As the saying goes, don't hate the player, hate the game. The majority of feminists are good people. It is the ideology of modern day feminism that MRA's oppose. Just because the majority of MRA websites are anti-feminism, doesn't mean that it is anti-women or anti-feminist. Indeed the opposite, I've read all of the studies on that article and there are studies which show men are the most violent, its 50/50 or there are no significant findings to suggest it is a one sided issue. Hardly a biased study is it? The men's rights movement is about women's rights issues just as much as it is about men's rights issues. Of course there will be misogynists in the men's movement, just as there are misandrists (my spell check didn't even know that word existed!) in the feminist movement. At least that is what I believe the men's movement to be about and what I stand for.

      On your 'About FemSoc' page on this blog, it seems there are two key issues you are targeting, austerity cuts and sexism.

      One is unavoidable since it is being used to get the economy moving again and reduce public/government debt (in the eyes of the government, I don't particularly agree with cuts, or the government on the whole, but they have to be made). Men are suffering just as much as women are because of these cuts. Although the 72% statistic that's quoted would be quite disturbing if it is actually true, I've emailed the Fawcett Society asking for a detailed breakdown of how they arrived at that figure, I'm looking forward to it). Even though in the dictionary the definition of feminism is equality for both genders, there's little to no mention of the inequalities men face or discrimination against men on this website. It seems very pro-women's issues at the moment.

      The other issue being sexism, a matter which I condemn as all genders suffer from it, and I completely agree with all the points you have put forward on this matter.

      Good night to you too.

    3. Hello,

      Like I said before we dont usually spend to much time replying to comments so I'll try and reach all your points.

      Firstly, we put on this "blog" (we don't call it our site as we may have ne in the future) what our members send to us, its a space where they can share their views on things, we do have some posts on men and by men (not all of them are tagged men). Our most popular being We write very few blogposts ourselves as a society. The views with in each post dont automatically reflect the the view as a society. Sometimes someone may write a post and we may never hear from them again and someone else will start a huge debate thinking that they are debating with the society.

      We do acutually have a lot of men in our society, along with people other genders that do not define them selves as women. We are really happy when we reach equal numbers at our meetings, we happened quite allot lately. As men who regarded them selves as feminist (or allies) understood a how patriarchy effected all genders and wanted to come along to have discussions and campaign, but we cant force people to write up on it. Our blogs is known to all our members, we get an email, we read it, we put it up. We have other media outlets, to deal with too.

      If you like to know more about gender inequality and the cuts we have a whole site on it It was one of the reasons we launch our better learn to care campaign, after finding out that the cuts would effect single (mostly working class) mothers the most. You can find allot of info on the site plus the research we did at uni. Our anti - cuts campaign was voted to become a society campaign by members of all genders. Even though our study only got feed back for women we continue to make sure that things improve for parents and carers of all genders ofcourse.

      The About fems soc page, and you can see at the bottom was written quite a while ago for another publication. It has yet to be updated from the handover like allot of this blog. Sorry go to go, please try and come to one of our meets if you want to have a chat, - that would be best! I this is readable, just came back from work and half asleep - have a nice day :)


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