Being a woman isn’t always easy, and University can throw up even more complexities. Most Student Unions will have some sort of support especially for women, so in today’s post I’ll be finding out what that support involves, and what it’s like to commit to being on a Student Union council. A couple of months ago my gal Nora was elected as Women’s Officer for the Guild of Students at the University of Birmingham, so I dragged her out for a cooked breakfast and a chin wag on the life and opinions of a Women’s officer:
So Nora, firstly, what does the role of ‘Women’s Officer’ involve?
My job is to try and make life safer for women and non-binary people on campus by working closely with the university’s Women’s Association and other liberation officers in the union. We tackle things such as sexual harassment on campus and ‘Lad Culture’ and we raise awareness for women’s issues in general. Though I don’t claim to be a representative for all women, I like to think that women at the uni would be able to talk to me about any issues or concerns they have.
Other than tearing your hair out, what is your response when people ask why there isn’t a men’s officer?
I don’t have another response! Haha, no – I just ask them why men would need an officer? Men have been represented for 100’s of years and in practically all areas of life – let us women have this one thing; we need it!
In a few words (Nora and I could spend whole days on this subject!), why is feminism still important?
Because when 1 in 7 women are sexually assaulted during their time at University, when men hold the majority of political positions, when men are often paid more than their female counterparts, when two women a week are killed at the hands of their partners and when half of young girls would undergo surgery to alter their appearance, it’s naive to believe that men and women are equal. Viva la Feminism!
How do you balance the demands of University life with your role as Women’s Officer?
It is quite difficult to balance, especially as I’ve only really just come into the role. It would be quite easy to let the WO role take over and for my work and social life to suffer, so it’s all about timetabling to make sure I’m paying enough attention to everything – which is why my planner is so important!
What is the most challenging aspect of the job?
Not being able to do everything I want to do as soon as I want to do it. I’ve got lots of ideas and plans to make life better for women at the uni, and I’m the kind of person who likes to get things done, so it’s easy to become disheartened if things don’t get underway as quickly as I’d like them to.
Do you see your role as opening potential for your future career?
I’m deeply passionate about women’s issues, so working within a women’s organisation is something I’d definitely be interested in pursuing. At the moment however it’s just about helping and giving a voice to women at uni. Women’s rights have always been really important to me, I had my feminist awakening fairly early on in high school, so I just wanted to share my passion of basic human rights and make a difference, and the WO role allows me to do this.
What are your thoughts on the level of social and political awareness among students?
I suppose because of the sort of people I socialise with I can sometimes get a false impression of the levels of awareness. My friends are maybe more socially aware than your average student, so it’s easy to forget, and comes as a shock to me, that many students don’t engage with such important issues. I think a lot of people find it easy to simply say that they believe in ‘equality’ and leave it at that, without recognising that social injustice is still very much a part of our society and that something needs to be done – we don’t live in a post racial, post sexist nation yet.
Thanks to the lovely Nora for letting me interview her and spread the feminist goodness! If you go to UoB then head over to the Women’s Association Facebook group and follow the offical Women’s Officer account on Twitter if you want to get involved and be kept updated!