York University FemSoc is not the first, and unfortunately may not be the the last feminist society to be rejected ratification by their students union for "being too similar to the women's network" (if that's the excuse the SU decides gives them). Another situation which also isn't exclusive to York SU - Last year, there was an attempt to replace the women's officers of York SU with "gender equality officers" via refferendum, though this failed, this attempt highlights the failure to understand the under-representation and institutionalised discrimination of women in social structures. While York FemSoc appears to be flourishing with a large Facebook group with diverse discussions, York SU appears to be continuing its attitude against feminist ideas.
To the York SU's Activities Officer, (and any other Student's union activities Officers who think that Feminist societies are too similar to Women's Networks to be allowed to be affiliated to the SU) we have a few things to say. Firstly, not every woman is a feminist and not every feminist is a woman. Women's networks at universities exist to facilitate women's discussion and campaigns to improve things for women on campuses. Feminist societies are able branch out into other spaces to cover a range different issues, hold sessions and events on feminist and gender studies and organise feminist activism off-campus, reaching out to people of all genders. At RHUL we've oganised events that have included discussions on Victorian gender roles, Intersectionality, the diet industry and feminism in theatre. We've invited feminists from across the political spectrum to come and debate and have worked with lecturers and PHD students at our university to deliver sessions on gender studies. We won the best campaign at the NUS Women's Conference.
There are feminist societies in London who have previously run under their women's officers when they were unaffiliated to their SU. This has had a negative effect - it increases the Women's officer's responsibility and workload while they try to ensure their own manifesto is fulfilled and get on with their own degrees. Some Student activities representatives do not take the time to try and understand the aims and objectives of feminist societies; luckily, at RHUL we have representatives who understand what we do and also respect autonomous liberation campaigns. We wish more universities would adopt this attitude, as student feminist activists have a habit of refusing to back down. Royal Holloway Feminism Society stand in solidarity with York University Feminist Society.
Royal Holloway Feminism Society