Why You Should Vote ‘Yes’ In The ‘Blurred Lines’ Referendum

On Thursday 7th November, Union Council voted to hold a referendum on whether to ban ‘Blurred Lines’ from being played in Union premises. I am the Union of UEA Students’ Women’s Officer and I made the decision to propose a ban on the song for many reasons, but mainly because women students, my constituents whose welfare I am constitutionally bound to protect, had come to me and told me that the song made them feel unsafe. You can read the full details of the motion I proposed to Council on the Union’s website (ueastudent.com). This is the speech I gave to Council explaining why the song should be banned. I urge you to read it and vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum on this issue. Because women students have the right to feel safe in Union venues and, as Women’s Officer, I will do everything in my power to protect that right.

“As a Students’ Union, I am proud of our values on the need for sexual consent, and I’m proud of the work we do to create a safe environment for our students. We have the right to choose what we play in our venues, based on its reflection on our values. We are not stopping students from purchasing Robin Thicke’s record, or listening to it elsewhere. We simply choose not to play it in the LCR or student-run media. Following the recent successful motion to play Livewire in Union premises, this policy will make it easier to control what is played in our Union premises.

This song contributes to rape culture and its normalisation on our campus. What is rape culture, you may ask? Rape culture is the condoning and normalising of physical, emotional, and sexual violence against women and girls and marginalized subjects. It is the production and maintenance of an environment where sexual assault is so normative that people ultimately believe that rape is inevitable. 1 in 7 women students have been the victim of serious physical or sexual violence. 1 in 4 women students who have been assaulted said it had a negative impact on their studies. The rape conviction rate in England is 6%, which is only for the rapes that are reported – which are in a minority. Still today when women are raped, the first thing they are asked if what they were wearing or what they were drinking. That is rape culture. We live in a rape culture.

There are no ‘blurred lines’ about consent. Let’s be clear, Council, the lyrics of this song trivialise the need for consent and promote the normalisation of themes of sexual violence against women. The language used in the song mirrors that of sexual predators and rapists, and has been documented by rape survivors as being the exact words their rapist used. This Union upholds the need for sexual consent and the need for a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment, and would look like a hypocrite if it continued to actively support this song’s message through playing it in our venues. The right of people to use the language of rapists should not take precedence over the right of our students to feel safe in our venues. We are a Students’ Union that recognises that ‘no’ means ‘no’, victim-blaming is never okay, and that rape is not ‘blurry’.

The first Student Union to choose not to play ‘Blurred Lines’ was Edinburgh, followed by Derby, University of West Scotland, University of London – the largest Student Union in the country, and Leeds, among others. This shows that it is has been recognised as a wider problem right across the UK. This is the student movement collectively saying that rape culture and the trivialisation of consent is not acceptable and that we can do better.

The question of whether this motion will create a ‘slippery slope’ has been mentioned to me. Of course other songs are problematic. These do not go unchallenged either by the media or feminist organisations across the world. But this song was the fastest selling record of the summer, reaching Number 1 in 14 countries worldwide, and also created international controversy around its content. If you are concerned about other songs being problematic, that is a separate debate – these things must all be decided on their individual merit. We are not out to ban all songs we disagree with – this individual song is symbolically and politically important.

Disagreements are okay in politics and ideology but I ask you, Council, is rape okay? Is promoting the trivialisation of consent okay? I say no. No, it’s not. I’m sure you as Council say no, it’s not okay and if you don’t think that it’s okay, then I hope you’ll join me in voting for this motion.”

Rachel Knott (UEA Women’s Officer, Vice-President of UEAFS)

union.womens@uea.ac.uk

So what the hell is a Feminist Society?

So, you’ve heard of the UEA Feminism Society and you’re a bit confused. What does a Feminism Society even do? What’s the point? Is it just a bunch of women getting together to moan about men? Are you wondering if we’re going to hate you if you can’t reel off a complete history of feminism?

Who Needs Feminism 2 Basically, feminism societies act as informal spaces for feminists (and those who maybe aren’t sure if they’re feminists but really want to find out more) to meet and talk about feminism. They can often act as a space to vent – universities tend to be a hotbed for laddish banter and it can be incredibly frustrating to be surrounded by people that just don’t think the way you do. Just like with any university society or club, it exists as a place for you to meet people with similar interests. That’s what is so great about the society system that exists at university; you go into it knowing that you have at least one thing in common with everyone else in the room, and when you’re just settling into university that can be incredibly comforting. For me, joining the Feminism Society in my second semester of first year was a great way to meet people who don’t laugh at rape jokes. Getting drunk with feminists is probably in my top ten favourite activities.Read More »

FEMINISM 101

Whose Wave Is It Anyway?

FIRST WAVE

WHEN: Early 20th Century (and everything before it, though there wasn’t much!)

WHAT:  First wave feminism focused primarily on obtaining Women’s Suffrage (ie their right to vote). They didn’t yet describe themselves as feminists, but also fought for marriage, divorce and property rights for women.  In 1918, the UK government enfranchised women over the age of 30 who were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register (8.4 million)… this having been achieved, feminist activity in the UK diminished for several years.

WHO:
Mary Woolstonecraft:
1792, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, seen as the grandmother of British Feminism.
Emmeline Pankhurst: one of the leaders of the suffragette movement.
Virginia Woolf:
wrote “A Room of One’s Own”, and supported the suffrage movement.Read More »

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY AT UEA

International Women’s Day is coming to UEA and it’s going to be big. Perhaps you’ve seen our flyers or posters around campus, or been invited to our event on facebook but you’re still wondering what it’s all about, and why you should get involved.

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s and is now an official holiday in 27 countries worldwide and celebrated unofficially in many other countries. It is a day for celebration of women’s achievements and of the many improvements that have been made to women’s lives throughout the years, as well as looking to the future and the ways we can further improve women’s lives globally. International Women’s Day at UEA will be on March 7th, a day early to avoid clashing with other events throughout the city.

Our daytime event will take place in the LCR. It runs between 12 and 5, and is structured as a drop-in event. We will have a series of speakers throughout the day and invite you to come to whichever talks you are interested in, from the following:

12:15 Nitya Rao (DEV) – Gender Justice and Violence – Why is International Women’s Day important?
12:45 Helen Warner (PSI) – Women in Sport
13:15 Eylem Atakav (FTV) – Women, Islam and the Media
13:45 Vicki McDermott (PSY) – Violence in Intimate Teenage Relationships
14:15 Sarah Monks (ART) – Women and Art
14:45 Liz McKinnell (PHI) – Body Positivity and Street Harassment
15:15 Tori Cann (PSI) – Girlhood
15:45 Sanna Inthorn (PSI) – “I’m fit, I’m flirty and I’ve got double Fs.” – Women and sexuality on TV
16:15 Tessa Gilder Smith – Q&A with the newly elected Women’s Officer

There will also be clubs and societies running tables for you to visit and fun badges for sale.

At 5pm Adrienne Jolly from the careers service will be running an empowerment workshop in Arts 2.03. This is certain to be a load of fun, so we really recommend it.

The facebook event for the day is here.

Our evening’s activities kick off at 7:30pm in the Blue Bar. This will be an all-female variety performance and we’ve got some great acts lined up for you guys:

Our stellar lineup features poetry from:

Hattie Grunewald
Jenni Grey
Molly Naylor
Hannah Walker

Comedy from:

Charlie Tarran
Sarah Arnold

Music from:

Damsel
Beverley Kills

and a special performance from the cast of UEA’s Vagina Monologues.

The facebook event for the evening is here.

All the events are free and open to everyone, men and women. We really hope to see you there!

Our Weekly Summary: 31/01/13

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Here at the blog we like to roundup the best posts made on our discussion board every week because sometimes it they get buried under piles of even more great debate.

Our most discussed post this week was an anecdotal post made by Jon Bent after hearing the heartbreaking confession of a year 8 pupil who, after being labelled a slut, sket and slag, felt pressured to change her behaviours, her appearance and even self harm. The discussion that ensued shed some light on the appalling treatment of young girls both by their contemporaries and the schooling system itself. Rachel Knott recalled that a vicar:

“recently came into my younger sister’s high school and gave the girls in her year a speech on dressing modestly to avoid gaining a reputation. They were told to be careful of acting ‘tarty’ and that it is unattractive for young women to be too confident.”

Similarly Tilly Wood remembered attending several victim-blaming “uniform talks about how we were basically inviting year sevens to look up our skirts if they were too short and not to distract them…”

In an environment like this it’s no wonder that young kids become the vindictive, misogynists little shits that plague so many schools.

What followed was an eloquent, level headed debate between students and teachers about the limits and uses of dress-codes, it’s definitely worth a read.

As a budding alcoholic and a life-long advocate of £1.50 pints, I can often be found propping up the union bar. I was there this week when, with my bleary eyes, I spotted the consent advert pictured below. Thanks to Sam Clark for posting after finding it on our discussion group. Add this to the current LGBT+ campaign that’s plastering famous faces from Steven Fry to Lana Wachowski around campus and UEA is looking particularly progressive this month.

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Elsewhere Hywel Wilkie linked to a Channel 4 documentary about the different forms of legalised prostitution around the world. It’s a thought provoking watch and links nicely with this week’s theme of “Raunch Culture”.

Another documentary about the international struggles of women is Duma (Dolls), which chronicles the stories of five women who dare to reveal the sexual abuse they endured in their close circle of family and friends in Palestine. UEA’s own Dr. Eylem Atakav is introducing a screening of the film at Cinema City next month, which will be followed by a Q/A with her and the film’s director, Abeer Zeibak Haddad. I’m going, tickets are available here.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this week’s discussion, I hope to see at our meeting today in Arts 2.03 at 5pm.

 

Ollie Balaam