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  1. Don’t alienate, educate. Not everyone identifies as a feminist, or actively tackles sexism. Many people don’t know what feminism really is. If you feel people at your university/college don’t understand feminism, don’t allow yourself to become a clique – hold discussions, organise meetings, and make sure the message is out there: ‘if you don’t like sexism, you’re welcome here’.
  2. Be inclusive, anti-racist and pro-sex workers’ rights. Be public in this stance, and actively seek out any organisations local to you which deal with racism and discrimination against sex workers. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
  3. Invite speakers from local organisations, or from further afield. For example, Black Women’s Rape Action Project, the English Collective of Prostitutes and Women Against Rape, who helped to organise Slutwalk London and spoke at the event (rather brilliantly, I must say), would be glad to speak – as long as you can cover their travel they’ll be there. If you find there are differences among organisations, ask them to speak at a public debate, so people can make up their own minds.
  4. Organise a speak out, where individuals can speak out about their experiences of rape and other violence. The NUS has found that a shocking amount of students have experienced some form of sexual assault, and that only a tiny percentage tell anyone or see a doctor. Events like these can help change that. (Click here to read the NUS report).
  5. Root your demands for change in women’s experiences, and target the authorities who have the resources and power to change things. Slutwalk London publicised the dismal UK conviction rate for reported rape of 6.5%. Thousands of rape and sexual assault survivors used the occasion to speak about what happened to them – not just their fury at their attacker but at how the authorities (the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts, local authorities, medical staff, housing officials . . .) were dismissive, hostile, blamed them and sabotaged their efforts to get their attacker brought to justice. Look at what demands and campaigns can come from those experiences to challenge and hold the authorities to account.
  6. As far as we at SMSU are concerned, feminist and gender-equality groups should welcome everyone. Including men. Women-only groups/meetings have a time and a place, and that should be respected, but men should not think that this is a ‘women’s issue’ that has nothing to do with them. Patriarchy affects us all, and if we want real change, we need everyone on board.
  7. Some feminist groups are also cis-women only. Don’t be one of those groups. Just. Don’t be. It is hateful, pure and simple. And hating minorities is not what feminism should be about.
  8. Make sure that feminist issues are top of your SU’s agenda. Give ‘em hell. If the lighting is poor on campus, protest. Make it policy that students are given free rape alarms. Push for the NUS’s campaign against sexual harassment. Challenge sexism in SU publications, and investigate your union’s sponsors (Dominoes has a particularly troubling track-record – Exeter I’m looking at you). Get your union to affiliate with pro-sex worker, anti-racism and anti-sexism groups. You could even get them to affiliate to us!
  9. Go to the NUS women’s conference – learn from the other women, but also call them out on racism and anti-sex worker sentiment when you see it.
  10. Run for sabbatical positions! We need more feminist student unions. You can make that happen.
  11. Join the anti-cuts movement. At the moment it’s visibly white, male & not very feminist. Remind groups that women are the first to suffer under this government, and that Black, immigrant and other groups facing racism and other prejudice are the hardest hit, while being ignored when they/we campaign. Support your local rape crisis centre and/or sexual assault referral centre when local cuts come around. Make the economic connections clear – (student) poverty makes women more vulnerable to sexual violence.
  12. Fundraise. Organise a gig, have a raffle, go down the oh-so-traditional and yet oh-so-delicious route of the bake sale. Raise money for yourself and other organisations, here in the UK and abroad. Fundraise for the next Slutwalk London – we’ll need around three grand to pull off another one, and there’s certainly a lot of people keen to come again!
  13. Circulate information about practical help, like the Women Against Rape’s self-help guide available free at: (or order a paper copy), or make your own.
  14. Keep your members updated on what’s going on in the world. Write a regular newsletter. Set up a feminist zine and get your fellow students to contribute. Who knows, it could be the next Bitch!
  15. Set up anti-rape groups, self-help groups, support groups for victims of racist and sexist abuse, and make sure that all the local and university-based support services are widely publicised.
  16. Organise your own Slutwalk, and/or a Reclaim the Night march. The great thing about events like these is you can make them specific to your local community as well as to the international issue of victim-blaming. Is your local council openly anti-women? Are your street lights being switched off? Incorporate it into your march and bring it to the attention of the locals in an inventive and exciting way.
  17. Encourage students to write to the local papers – they will print them if you make a good argument and/or write from personal experience. This can help shape public debate and make your demands for change visible.
  18. Send us details of your upcoming events! We’ll share them online with fellow SMSU supporters.
  19. Make sure that you record your events – film them, take pics and write reports to publicise what you have achieved (respecting participants who want to remain anonymous). Let us know what you’re up to, too, and we’ll share it with followers of SMSU. Publicise anything you achieve – we’re all used to bad news, make sure your good news travels!
  20. Most importantly, stand up for what you believe in, never back down when you know you’re right but admit it when you’re wrong & be proud of your achievements. Go out there and shake things up. Goodness knows the feminist movement needs it.

– Caitlin & The Crossroads Women’s Centre

Cross-posted from Slut Means Speak Up


I performed this at the Exeter Reclaim the Night and was asked to make a copy of it. This was therefore recorded at the end of the night, and is probably a bit rubbish as I was KNACKERED from organising everything. Still, here it is.

Short Fuse:
Let me ask you this.
If I bend down, can you see my pants?
Now what makes you think you stand a chance
just cos my skirt is short?
Well so is my fuse
Anger my muse in this tiny town of
Where if you shout fire people run to your aid
But if you shout rape the price is paid
in fame
and shame
and blame
Where your name is driven into the dust
along with your trust in the moment that thrust the light out of your eyes
Your demise won’t be mentioned in the local news
Because you choose to keep breathing
A hundred deaths in every breath and all they can say is
‘How short was your skirt?’
Like they can measure the hurt in a plunging neckline
or how much wine you were drinking.
‘Girl, what were you thinking?
Were you walking alone?
Well next time stay at home, like you did before with those other men…
how many was it again?’
And they’ll reel them off
Memories tainted
and recall how you fainted that night in the station,
drunk no doubt,
chicks these days, huh?
No, I’m talking about DICKS these days
and the power to choose how you use your body
so if I bend down now what do you see?
My choice, my right, my liberty
To act and to speak and to dress as I please
So keep your sleaze, your thoughtless shout
Cos I have NO doubt that a change must come
and as I stand on your stage
and speak my rage
I can see it’s already

On Sunday 13th March, Exeter is holding a Reclaim the Night march. It will commence at 7pm in Bedford Square, and will culminate in music and speeches in the Exeter Phoenix. Everyone is welcome.

In Britain, Reclaim the Night Marches began on 12th November 1977, in Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, London and many other cities.  Women walked in their hundreds through the city streets at night to highlight that they should be able to walk anywhere and that they should not be blamed or restricted because of male violence. Over the years the marches evolved to focus on rape and male violence generally, giving women one night when they could feel safe to walk the streets of their own towns and cities. One key focus is now the shockingly low national rape conviction rate.

Exeter’s march will also challenge local cuts to ‘Against Domestic Violence and Abuse’ (ADVA) and to street lighting.

Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, the President of Exeter University’s Gender Equality Society, said “We are marching in Exeter because this is still relevant, and important. Women are still blamed for rape and male violence. The national rape conviction rate is one of the lowest in Europe. Women still don’t feel safe at night, in the town and on campus.” She also highlighted the fact that now, more than ever, women need to be standing up for themselves, saying “It has been shown that the Government’s cuts are disproportionately affecting women. In Exeter this has certainly been the case with the Council’s 42% cut to ADVA. We need to challenge this, and the mentality throughout the country that women’s safety is less important than saving money.”

It is a proud moment for Exeter to join the long tradition of Reclaim the Night marches in this country. That the march is open to everyone is also significant, as many such events are women-only. It is the belief of the Exeter Gender Equality Society that the fight for women’s safety is something that everyone should engage with, regardless of gender.

via Small Town Gay Blog

A Florida judge awarded custody of a 1-year-old boy to the foster family he’d been living with, saying the boy was “happy and thriving.”

The adoptive parents, however, happen to be gay.

And that didn’t sit well with the Florida Family Policy Council of Orlando, who sent out an alert to its members about the judge’s “arrogant judicial activism.”

On the left is the picture that the Policy Council used to illustrate the gay couple that was awarded custody. On the right is the actual couple.

(from The Orlando Sentinel)

I completely agree with the majority of the sentiment in the Orlando Sentinel, especially this section:

That judge’s ruling — which focused solely on the child’s well-being — enraged some on the religious right.
Why? Because the little boy’s adoptive parents are gay.
So now those who profit from division are pouncing.
They aren’t the people who have cared for this little boy, who have nursed his wounds and tucked him in at night. In fact, they haven’t done a thing for him.
They haven’t consulted the experts — everyone from a child psychologist to a Guardian ad Litem — who say the parents provide precisely the loving environment that this child needs.
All these critics know is that they don’t want gay people to have the same rights as straight people.

HOWEVER their attitude towards the other photo is distressing. I don’t agree with using that photo to represent a completely different couple. But I also don’t agree with the judgement that the first couple would be bad adoptive parents based solely on what they look like. It was this that worried me:

The couple look so odd (you literally can’t tell whether they are male or female) that one might wonder how any judge could place a young child with such a disturbing-looking duo.

That androgyny is still scary is sad. That, just because this couple don’t look like ‘normal’ people, it is okay to assume that a judge would deem them bad parents is sad.

An otherwise very accurate and well-meaning article thus manages to contradict it’s main point (that, regardless of who you are, as long as you love the child you are raising you shouldn’t have that right taken away from you) by saying that actually, that’s only true if you look “more like J.Crew models: all-American with catalogue clothes and smiles.”

Yes, it was a sly move on the part of the batshit crazy folk trying to spread intolerance. They knew that a lot of people are scared of difference. But articles renouncing their claims should be ashamed to conform to their frame of mind when it comes to judging people, declaring them a ‘caricature’, rather than seeing that this couple, too, is being discriminated against.

The last 2 emails of the correspondence:



Yes of course a lot of men want to support Feminism, and of course women’s rights are human rights, so they are issues for us all, both men and women.


I am fortunate enough not to have been involved in prostitution, but I still campaign on this issue – so I think that answers your question about whether I would campaign on these issues if it was men who are affected. Indeed I think men are affected by patriarchy – look at the numbers of young men in prison, look at the high rates of suicide for young men and the great numbers of men affected by violence and homicide from other young men. However, no one person can do everything, I don’t have time to campaign on issues that used to take a lot of my time – animal rights and against child abuse – however, this is only because we can’t all do everything, so we pick our battles. So at the moment I’m committed to women’s rights, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about things that affect men, and it doesn’t mean I’m not involved in lots of wider mixed political campaigns, such as against the war on terror, and against racism.


We involve men through having a mixed rally at the end. As I said, last year we held a men’s vigil along the route of the march so they could be involved actively that way too. However, this year the young man that organised that has moved and doesn’t have time and we don’t have time to organise it either as we have far too much to do organising the march!


I think women’s space is important, and women’s action as a political class is important. I think pro-feminist men should understand and respect that. I was at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival a few years ago, they have a specific and seperate Womyn Of Colour tent and area within the festival grounds, I did not find this exclusionary, it did not offend me, I fully understood the need and desire for such a space and in fact am glad to see the self-organisation and self empowerment of poltitical groups defining themselves by their own terms – that is their right.


As you say, we could go on and on about this!

Yes, this is me Finn – thanks for your kind words! Really glad you enjoyed the conference on Saturday, the women organising it did a fabulous job.

Thanks for your support,



My reply:

Hi Finn,

I appreciate your views, and accept that this is something that we will clearly differ on. I wonder whether, in future years, it could be put to some kind of vote to decide whether the march is mixed?




So I ran out of steam on this somewhat as I felt I was fighting a losing battle. Perhaps this is something that needs to be changed from the bottom up? Finn is clearly unshifting in her views, but if the majority of march attendees were to complain then I think she’d have to make a change. I’d be interested to hear what others think of this!

This is something I read on tumblr, and responded to there. I thought I’d share it here because a) it’s relevant and b) I haven’t posted in an AGE.

Interesting responses found online:

“As to why feminism requires a distinct agenda within the equalist movements? The special and distinct problem of misogyny both oppressing and directly harming women, pure and simple. Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough.”

“Frankly I agree with everything you said; there are ways in which individual feminists – or groups of feminists – can go very wrong, and you clearly gave some examples how.

I still don’t believe, however, that those things explain away the need for feminism. While there is no possible way for all of feminism to suddenly agree on everything, and do everything correctly, there is still a need for feminists to highlight women’s issues (and even trivial things like a 13yo girl winning a spelling bee) because often, no one else will.

More importantly, I quoted the portion of the answer that I did because I do believe the whole feminism vs. equalism vs. humanism argument in the answer is a bit flawed, and you essentially explained why (and davenj touched on below as well.) It kind of seems like that debate is one that has run itself in circles: it inevitably starts because someone finds out that textbook feminism isn’t about women being better than men but rather equal to them, so the newly enlightened person helpfully suggests a term which *more accurately* describes what feminism is. Except that feminism can’t be synonymous with humanism or equalism – there is no possible way that one movement can include everything and everyone! So to me, frankly, that whole debate is kind of a red herring. “Humanism” and “equalism” are NOT more accurate terms to describe what feminism is about, which is why I think the true answer to the question was revealed in the quoted portion.

And granted, that statement itself is certainly open for agreement or disagreement, which is why I would like to officially re-iterate that I’m not trying to state anything as factual – I’m just trying to offer my interpretation of the argument presented in that answer. 🙂 I think that portion of the answer is the threatening part to a lot of people – the humanism bit softens the blow by saying “We can be humanists! We’re not man haters! Being a humanist means we love everybody!” But saying that feminism is important because …Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough…. gets to the crux of the issue for me. We need to call it feminism because there are women’s issues which are sidelined in the media and in society, just as every marginalized group has issues that they think are important. If all of these groups can work together to bring more awareness about those issues, then collectively we move closer to *equalism.*” (mandoir on

“Being a male and also being somewhat of a feminist I can see this from both side of the fence.However…How many of you would like to participate in or support something termed “Masculinism?” Gender equality, equalism, humanism, are all gender-unbiased terms that can mean (depending on the person) pretty much the same thing as what Feminism means today.” (sh0ck on

“Because of its history. It’s always been called “feminism”. I’m not bothered about being equal with men – I am worried about women being treated as second class citizens.” (Emily Hobhouse on Yahoo Answers)

What are your thoughts? Is Feminism as a word still relevant? Does it exist as a word just to distinguish what kind of oppression we’re talking about, or its history and meaning deeper?

I find this one really difficult. Not because of how I feel about the term, but because of the necessity of finding a suitable language to embrace the desire for gender equality. Language is so powerful, it can change things. The way people are perceived, the way they perceive, so much of it comes down to the words that we use. But as well as using terms that work for us, as far as a political movement goes we need terms that work for everyone.

Personally, I call myself a feminist. I talk about the feminist movement, I look back on the feminists before me, and the term ‘equalist’ doesn’t seem to hack it. Because while feminism means, in effect, a belief in equality, it is not as straight forward as that. There has to be a focus upon those who are ‘less equal’, to bring them up to a level playing field, and that minority is women.

Calling it equalism feels like dismissing women-specific issues, denying the difference between how the genders are viewed socially. I would be the first person to argue that feminism is an issue for everyone, yes. I would say that men’s issues are a part of feminism, and that everyone on the gender spectrum can benefit from feminism. But I think that our society, and people all over the world, need to acknowledge that there is a real problem with the way that women are treated. To side-step such an issue with terms like ‘equalism’ is to deny the fact that the issue is gendered, to deny the fact that it is women who are the subjugated minority.

That said, the term feminism scares people. They are scared of the stigma, they are scared of the implications of such a label. These may be people who believe women should be treated better. They may be people who benefit from the toils of feminists of generations past. They may be people who genuinely want to improve things. But they are scared of this word. If one word is all that stands between these people and activism, between silence and making a stand, then perhaps using the term equalism isn’t such a bad thing after all.

An example – I set up a feminist society at my university with a group of friends (don’t get me started on the fact that there wasn’t one already…) and we spent a great deal of time working on the name. I fought for The Feminist Society. Straight forward, does exactly what it says on the tin, attracts people who give a shit. And then The Gender Equality Society was suggested, and I felt that to choose that name was to disregard the ‘feminist’ movement. It felt like giving in somehow, especially with arguments like ‘cos feminism is a dirty word’ and ‘would you really want President of the Feminist Society on your CV?”. But I was out-voted, and I am glad of it. Because we have a group of people who are interested in what we’re doing, people who give a shit, many of whom found the term feminism intimidating. Of course, when they come to the society they meet me, so they get the ‘feminist perspective’, and a lot of people seem to understand the term better than before. But they would never have come to the society had it not had a name that made them all feel included, women and men alike. And we get to have ‘Hit the G Soc’ as our slogan…

So really, I don’t know. I don’t think feminism should be renamed equalism because it feels like a betrayal, and a defeat. It seems to deny the very nature of the philosophy of feminism. And yet, I think feminism should be named whatever the hell people want to name it, as long as the job gets done. While words are powerful, sometimes to disregard the necessity for a term in favour of action is the most powerful thing of all. Call feminism jealousy, call it lesbianism, call itequalism, call it brilliance, call it anything, just as long as women and men can rise above that term and fight for what is right. That’s what it comes down to in the end, and that transcends every word, in every language.

I just wanted to say thank you to Shakesville. I don’t know what I would do without them. Especially without Melissa. I would feel so lost. They give me faith, give me reason to go on every time I get close to giving up.

Melissa has just posted a very inspiring piece, here. Check it out.


Eradicating any kind of bigotry is, by definition, an unreasonable expectation—because institutional bigotry is deeply entrenched. Prejudice is ancient. Only a fool would imagine it can be overcome.

Except, of course, that it can be. Bit by bit. Particle by particle. Teaspoon by teaspoon. Person by person. Prejudice is ancient, but it dies with its every carrier and must be taught again. And it can be unlearned. Bit by bit. Particle by particle. Teaspoon by teaspoon. Person by person. “

“Thus, every time someone asks me, greets my bellicose display of unreasonable expectations with, the exceedingly un-progressive question, “What do you expect?” I will answer the same as I always do: I expect more.”

So, to jump the mighty bandwagon that is hopefully trampling this film into the ground, to add my voice to the chorus that is hopefully already drowning out the sounds of the cast and crew of this film protesting ‘but it’s hilarious irony’, I just wanted to say that I will also be boycotting Observe and Report. Any film that suggests that rape is funny, or that it is ‘not actual rape’, is not okay.

And it amazes me that anyone can see it any other way. Surely, a man having sex with a drugged, drunk, unconscious woman is rape? Surely that’s not funny?

But according to the poll over at Huffington Post, 36.74% of voters think

“It’s a JOKE people. Get upset about more important things.”

So instead of simply repeating what has been said hundreds and hundreds of times, I’ll link you all up.

For the advert, and a response that involves quotes from the cast, check Jezabel

For responses to arguments for seeing the film, see The Pursuit of Harpyness

For a video response to Seth Rogan, check Feministing’s video

But if you’re only going to read one of these, READ THIS ONE. It is very powerful, and really gets across the issue here.

I mean, it would make sense, if you’d been raped. But what happened to you wasn’t really rape: it was just that time when a guy fucked you and you didn’t want him to. Rape only happens between strangers; rape only happens when you say no; rape only happens when you say no enough; rape is what happens when you physically fight back, and give him a chance to physically beat the shit out of you or kill you in addition to raping you. Rape only ever happens these ways, we tell ourselves, because that’s how we are able to tell ourselves that rape hardly ever happens.

And when you’re done reading/watching, join the Facebook group but more importantly actually boycott this film. Do not give financial and moral support to people who believe that we ‘should get upset about more important things’ than normalising date rape. People who think that raping a woman is funny. People who think that they can get away with joking about rape. People who, by doing so, help rapists get away with it.

They do not deserve your time, your respect or your money.

Tumblr seems to be taking over any of the time I spend not doing Philosophy and Gender Equality society and actual uni work…so obviously I’m doing the sensible thing and signing up for twitter too.

Fun times.

We went to a meeting last week to help out with the organisation of the International Women’s Day Exeter event. It’s a big un. There’s to be a march, and then lots of stalls and poets and music and activities! The women organising it are brilliant, and we ‘networked’ with most of them after the meeting. Who knew that the uni has an Equality and Diversity officer? Well, apparently we do and she’s lovely! Also met the head of the Exeter WI among other equally awesome women, so that was super exciting! It’s given me a bit more faith in the town and also something to look forward to next weekend!!

So I haven’t blogged here properly in a while. I’m at that point at the moment where everything seems to be kicking off and so I’m struggling to find the time to write here. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped caring – far from it! I’ve just started to try to be more active in reality as well as the oh-so-wonderful cyberspace, and it’s eating up my time!

The society I mentioned is coming together. We have about 50 people interested on Facebook (within a week), but at the moment it doesn’t look like that many will actually attend meetings. We settled for the name ‘G Soc’ (I was convinced by my friends’ superior persuasion tactics) and I can’t wait to get publicising 🙂 But we still have to get official society status first, which we’re getting close to now.

We’re having meetings every Wednesday, which are like little discussion groups. It’s fun and really interesting to get different views on things that I have quite a strong stance on. We’re aiming to forge links with Fawcett Devon as well, which should be fun. Aaaand if we get society FUNDING, we’re going to organise trips to Bristol and kick feminist ASS over there 🙂

Which is what I’m doing this Friday, by the way. It’s the Bristol Reclaim the Night march, and I’m heading over with my one of my best mates to get involved. It’s very exciting! Check it out 🙂

What else do I have to say? Oh yeah this weekend I’ll have had this blog for ONE YEAR. Crazy. I looked through some of the archives earlier and it was so interesting to see how much I’ve changed and learnt just in the space of a year. Thanks to everyone who has stuck with me! And especially to Derek, who really inspired me to get blogging and get involved generally.

On a less positive note, a London Student survey on attitudes about rape is simultaneously upsetting and depressingly inevitable – link – and the number of women raped in the uk annually really shocked me:

The survey also showed a lack of awareness of rape figures – 50 per cent of students did not know how many women are raped in the UK on average in a year, and 15 per cent thought the figure was under 500. […] The actual figure – according to the Fawcett society, who campaign for equality between men and women – is over 47,000. The Home Office recorded 11,648 incidents of ‘rape of a female’ in 2007//08.

And, to end on something good, have any of you checked out the new Lily Allen album? DO. It’s brilliant and feminist and witty. As you can probably tell, I’ve become a big fan 🙂 ’22’ stands out quite a lot, as does ‘F**k You’ – listen and enjoy, my dears!

When she was 22 the future looked bright
But she’s nearly 30 now and she’s out every night
I see that look in her face she’s got that look in her eye
She’s thinking how did I get here and wondering why

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

She’s got an alright job but it’s not a career
Wherever she thinks about it, it brings her to tears
Cause all she wants is a boyfriend
She gets one-night stands
[ Lily Allen Lyrics are found on ]
She’s thinking how did I get here
I’m doing all that I can

It’s sad but it’s true how society says
Her life is already over
There’s nothing to do and there’s nothing to say
Til the man of her dreams comes along picks her up and puts her over his shoulder
It seems so unlikely in this day and age

And on that note – adieu…

Flickr Photos