Tag Archives: respect

Safe Events Respectful Clubs and Societies

If you look in the ‘Upcoming NUS Events’ tab of the NUS Women’s page you’ll see there’s a new section on the most recent project of the department. Safe Events Respectful Clubs and Societies (SERCS) is a project born out of a number of public, and less public, incidents at events run by student organisations and clubs and societies on and off campus.

This project is not directed at one particular campus, or one particular student organisation, the project is directed at every student organisation in the country, even those who might think they’re always doing the right thing. There is not a single campus that finds itself free from these issues in one form or another.

The project does not have any interest in the demonizing or blaming of any student organisations or clubs and societies. Active, engaged and interesting student organisations are the lifeblood of campus life.

When they do the right thing, student organisations are capable of setting the tone of what sort of community we want our universities to have. In this same vein, student organisations and clubs and societies that treat women as less, or run events which are unsafe and unwelcoming for women, have the ability to set that as a community on campus.

When I first went to university I did so from a high school that did not send many people to be a part of the largely privileged cohort of Melbourne University. My first weeks at university were very lonely; I didn’t know many people and everyone seemed to know everyone else. This is a feeling often repeated to me by students from public schools, or small and regional communities, where a ready made ‘old tie’ network was not available. Getting involved with clubs and societies and then the student union, allowed me to have a feeling of belonging, of being a part of a community where one did not exist before.

This ability to belong to a community, particularly one which had similar values to me, was a powerful part of me feeling like I would be able to ‘do uni’ in the way that I knew I wanted to. The yearning for a sense of community, a friendship group, is something that many people find fulfilled by getting involved with a club or society.

In my four years involved in women’s activism and student unionism I’ve seen the best of what a community of equals can look like. I’ve also encountered some of the worst of what a university community can look like when those controlling clubs and societies abuse their power. There needs to be a greater recognition of the fine line that club executives walk regarding being both peers and leaders, particularly at events like o-camps and other club trips.

In SERCS student organisations and activists are being given a tool to assist in creating an environment and community that accepts men and women as being equal and having an equal opportunity to engage with campus culture.

Stay tuned for more information on SERCS and the launch on the 11th of July

I’d encourage all activists and organisations that might be interested to get into contact and come along to Education Conference (4th-6th of July in Sydney) and/or NOWSA (9th-13th of July in Canberra Women identifying only) to do the training or get into contact with me on womens@nus.asn.au there’s more info available in the ‘upcoming events’ tab. 

An Open Letter to Ladies from the loving butch at the end of the bar

By Alex West,

Let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room:

I am Gay.

So Gay.

As Gay as a handbag full of rainbows.

No really, that gay.

A big, fat, leather boot wearing, liberal, dyke on a bike.

I am ok with that.

My mum is ok with that.

But, there is something I wanted to ask: why are YOU not ok with that?

I ask this question with much love and appreciation for my sisters. But there is something that I have noticed: the queerer I look, the more androgynous my bowtie; the less I am able find acceptance from my feminist sisters in some social contexts. Here is a secret that I desperately want you to know:

My having fancies and lust for those of the lady variety does not make me a misogynist.

I do not don bowties or oxfords to conform to the patriarchy, which has been suggested to me of late. I just appreciate the feeling of a stiff collar and dapper wear. There exists in the lady community a misunderstanding. My gender identity and sexuality are not things that I choose or use to my advantage.

After reading Dee’s blog, I have reflected on some women’s reaction to noticeably queer or butch women. We are perceived as objectifying and preying on women in the same way some men do in seedy bars that play, “I’m sexy and I know it!” while wearing square toed fake leather shoes. This perception exists whether I have acted inappropriately or come on too strong. Like most women, I dislike rejection, and try to use my “gaydar” to ensure that women of the same persuasion receive my attentions. My clothes do not make me a man that touched your arse in the corner of the silent train carriage.

Don’t get me wrong, like women.

I love girls with tattooed décolletage, high heels and lipstick. I like to make you laugh and buy you red wine, open the door, pull out your chair and basically just Mr Darcy the fuck out of you. I do all this not to get into your pants, objectify or trick you; but to show appreciation. And because my mumma raise me to be a gentlewoman.

I love ladies, but I also love myself.

By Alex West.

The loving butch at the end of the bar

Alex is the Tasmanian State Branch President of the National Union of Students. Tasmanian University Union Sexuality Officer and Producer of Edge n Bacon and Tom, Dick and Harriet on Edge Radio. She is also apparently gay and when she was 7 wanted to be Marry Poppins. You can friend the show here