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Feminism on campus: how to engage with feminism at the University of Edinburgh  

ByOlivia Morelli

Nov 26, 2017

Since 2013, the idea of feminism has been completely redefined and reasserted in society. Largely aided by public sexism and misogynism by influential, powerful people (Donald Trump being the obvious case and point), feminism has been a hot topic within the public consciousness and the media.

With celebrities such as Beyonce, Emma Watson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, John Legend, Lena Dunham, David Schwimmer, and Ryan Gosling publicly identifying themselves as feminists, the movement is rapidly gaining momentum and influence.

Throughout universities in the UK, the new generation of young feminists have flourished in the form of societies, refining the concept of feminism, moving away from and educating against the megalith of negativity and inherent anti-male preconceptions associated with the word.

Unfortunately, despite the increasing popularity and support for gender and non-binary rights and a higher understanding and appreciation of what feminism truly is in the UK, there still remains a large number of inequalities faced by women at universities today.

A global estimate published by the World Health Organisation indicates the one in three women worldwide have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. In an investigation done by The Guardian in the past year looking at gender inequalities within UK universities, it concludes that the ‘sexual harassment, misconduct, and gender violence by university staff’ is at ‘epidemic levels in the UK’.

The statistics from the investigation show that out of 120 universities, at least 169 allegations were made over the course of three school years. On top of this, the study showed that a huge number of victims were “dissuaded from making official complaints”, or convinced to “settle for an informal resolution”, fearing the “impact on their education or careers.”

These studies clearly illustrate the inherent gendered and sexual violence issues women both in their lifetimes and specifically within universities.

Feminist university societies aim to tackle, challenge and solve existing inequalities within university circles, focusing on current and tangible issues. At The University of Edinburgh, there are lots of opportunities to get involved with these societies both on and off campus.

Through involvement in societies, campaigns, marches, and raising awareness, students attempt to reduce inequalities that exist at universities and provide a safer, happier student experience. Listed below are just a few of these amazing societies on Edinburgh campus.

Edinburgh University Feminist Society is a group of people interested in discussing feminist issues and campaigning for the liberation of self-defining women and non-binary people. Membership is free, and the society’s activities include discussions, film screenings, fundraising, campaigns, and Speak, the Feminist Society’s zine.

Sexpression Edinburgh is the university’s branch of the national organisation. The society offers judgement-free sex and relationships education and workshops to secondary groups and youth groups, as well as sexual health campaigns on campus. The free membership also allows you to collaborate with other nationwide branches and attend conferences.

Edinburgh University Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) was founded last year, and is a society aiming to inspire and encourage female STEM students through sharing stories of successful women in the scientific field and empowering women to break gender roles in the science industry.

The Edinburgh University Student Association Liberation Campaigns comprise of four separate movements: Black Minority Ethnic (BME); Disabled Students; LGBT+; and Women. These campaigns recognise the structural oppression some groups in society experience and are disadvantaged by daily, and seek to create a safe space to discuss these issues and campaign to improve student experience.

Saturday 25 November is an exciting example of one of the successful Liberation Campaigns acts. The ‘Fight for the Night’ is a march against street harassment, sexual assault, domestic abuse, rape, and all forms of gender-based violence against women and non-binary people.

In 2015/16, 1,692 rapes were reported to Police Scotland. According to the Scottish government’s statistics of recorded crime in Scotland, sexual crimes are now at their highest level, with the number of sexual crimes recorded by the Scottish police increasing by 7 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16. One in ten women in Scotland is a survivor of rape, and one in five have experienced attempted rape. The march coincides with the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and is open to all.



image: Rhysara via Pixabay

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