Run a student group? Want to challenge victim-blaming and slut-shaming? Here are 20 tips on how to effectively run a sex-positive, anti-rape feminist society:
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Run for sabbatical positions! We need more feminist student unions. You can make that happen.
- 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 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.
- 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!
- Circulate information about practical help, like the Women Against Rape’s self-help guide available free at: www.womenagainstrape.net/resource/self-help-guide-survivors-rape-and-sexual-assault (or order a paper copy), or make your own.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Send us details of your upcoming events! We’ll share them online with fellow SMSU supporters.
- 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!
- 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
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Donate to SlutWalk London 2012! We still need over £2,000 for a PA system, permits, stage etc.
A film against rape We are making a self-help film about rape which educates us instead of telling us to be ashamed.
SlutWalk London 2012!
Sheila Farmer's prosecution dropped
Photos: Tom Radenz and Claire Butler
Why SlutWalk London?
"I am walking because I was raped. I am walking because two thirds of people who answered a survey would say I am to blame for my rape. The only person to blame is the man who raped me.I am so angry with the lack of justice, the hundreds and thousands of rapists who walk away. I am angry because the survivors of rape are victimised again and again. If we report it (I did) we are forced to re-live it in horrendous detail several times over. We feel violated again when the CPS decides not to prosecute after all and he simply walks away. We are not victims. We were victims, for a moment in time. Now, we are survivors."
- Emily Jacob