Review: Feminist Forum & Pecs Showcase at the Union

Lily Rosengard 9 May 2014

The Feminist Forum, chaired by CUSU women’s officer Lauren Steele was a huge success. Accompanying Lauren in the discussion about sexual harassment was Dr Catherine White, Forensic Physician and Clinical Director at the St May’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, and Chris Green, the director of White Ribbon Campaign UK.

Lauren Steele began the evening by asking the two speakers about their opinions on some recent sexual harassment findings. She started with the recent statement by Rashida Manjoo, a human rights expert who investigated sexual bullying and harassment in different countries for the UN Human Rights Council, that we have a ‘boy’s club sexist culture’ that is more ‘pervasive’ than any other country she has visited.

Dr White similarly discussed the detrimental effect of ‘lad mags’ asserting that they normalise the ingrained sexism she believes present in our society. This subsequently led to a general discussion from members of the audience about the dangers of the UK’s ‘lad culture’. Dr White however reminded us of the fact that sexual harassment does not occur more in the UK than anywhere else. Instead, we have a culture which encourages reporting of rape, and open sexist remarks. She backed this assertion with the example that only 2 rapes were reported last year in Palestine, in comparison to 85,000 in the England and Wales. This cultural aspect of sexism was a very interesting and, on a personal level, new light in which to consider this topic.

Other points raised included the need for both men and women to work together to prevent such awful crimes from being committed. Both White and Green reminded us that since men constitute half of the population, you cannot win a battle with only half an army. Furthermore, the importance of sex education was addressed. Dr White poignantly recalling to the audience of the question she is asked by young girls at the rape crisis centre she works at; "oh, so what Daddy does to me isn't normal?" This statement was certainly illustrative of the utmost importance of teaching children sex education in schools.

Despite the inherently upsetting topic of the forum, sexual harassment, the evening was positive in that so many people seemed to agree with the need to tackle this important issue head on. The lively discussion certainly left audience members, including myself, with something far more substantial than just their revision to chew on that night.

Later in the day, I also attended the Pec’s showcase which I found to hilariously satirical, intelligent and witty. Indeed, I have no idea why I haven’t been watching more all-female drag in my spare time.

Five women, including CUSU Women’s Officer Lauren Steele, took the clever and enlightening approach of asking the fundamental questions about feminism, yet in a lighthearted and satirical way. This enabled them to really dig deeper beneath the subversive patriarchy and misogyny that is so ingrained into our society, and uncover them in series of hilarious ways for the audience to intellectually consume. This was a remarkable juxtaposition to the far more serious feminist forum held in the exact same space just a couple of hours earlier. Nonetheless, this humorous approach, including stripping, mime, and some genuinely impressive singing of the Bee Gees classic ‘To Love Somebody', was most certainly welcomed by all its audience members.

If you’re a man and want an end to sexual violence against women, pledge to the White Ribbon Campaign here: