Words || Angela Heathcote
When did you first decide you were a feminist?
It was during high school; I always knew I believed in equality, and that I could see women were at a significant disadvantage in society, so I feel like as soon as I stumbled across the term ‘feminist’ it just fit really well. I was privileged enough to go to a school that encouraged female empowerment, and to be surrounded by people who were all also having a feminist awakening at pretty much the exact same time as me.
Who’s your feminist icon?
It honestly changes day to day, but one of my consistent icons has been Caitlyn Stasey. She was one of the first pop culture ‘feminist icons’ that I really looked up to, and really shaped my own feminism. She’s an unapologetically political queer woman, and platforms she’s created like herself.com are so incredibly important in breaking down the stigma and shame associated with the female body. The fact she also uses her place of privilege to amplify the voices of marginalised women- in relation to Black Lives Matter, NoDapl etc- is incredible.
What’s your favourite feminist book?
Hands down ‘Sister Outsider’ by Audre Lorde. It was the first piece of feminist literature that really introduced me to the concept of intersectionality, and Audre Lorde is a constant inspiration to me.
How do you believe the Women’s Collective can contribute to the wider feminist discussion?
I believe the best way to do this is to focus on engagement within the Collective; if as a collective we are well-informed and provide accurate, educational information to our members, those members will then go on to become more engaged with wider discussions. It’s really important to remember that for a lot of young students, their first introduction to feminism is through WoCo. By empowering those women who may not have had access to education about feminism to learn about and engage with feminism, including concepts like intersectionality and allyship, the Women’s Collective can create a whole new generation of feminists ready to engage in the wider feminist discussion.
What do you think are the most potent issues for women on campus?
Far too many women simply do not feel safe enough on campus. Reporting mechanisms for sexual assault and harassment are confusing and inaccessible, meaning women have nowhere to go to safely and comfortably report any instances of harassment- and those that do report are often sidelined or completely ignored by the Uni. So many women have made complaints about feeling unsafe on campus after dark, due to a range of factors such as poor lighting.
We’ve also got women, particularly in STEM fields, who don’t feel like they are taken seriously or given enough credit by male classmates and staff within their faculty. The continued ingrained sexism is far too evident in a lot of faculties, and this is a serious problem.
What will be your focus as president?
As the Collective is still in its early stages as an affiliated collective, my main focus will be on creating a greater engagement on campus, hopefully increasing people’s awareness as to the existence of WoCo and spaces like the Women’s Room.
I will also be focusing on increasing the activism of WoCo, and working in collaboration with other Women’s Collectives to be more involved in rallies and feminist events in the wider community.
What will be your very first action as president?
The first action is to condemn Macquarie University’s inaction on sexual assault, harassment and female safety on campus, on behalf of the Collective and female students. We’ve had multiple situations over the past year where the safety of the Women’s Room has been compromised, and I have been personally made aware of multiple situations in which the Uni has chosen to ignore complaints of sexual harassment. This is unacceptable, and it is our job as the Women’s Collective Executive to work with other groups and the SRC to speak up, to ensure Macquarie is safe and inclusive for ALL students.
What do you think is missing from the collective?
MEN. (That’s not a bad thing though, is it?)
Really though, the biggest thing the Collective is missing right now is momentum. We’re essentially building a collective from the ground up, which does run the risk of falling into an outdated style of feminism focused solely on ‘girl power’. It’s great to see that in the few months we’ve been active engagement has increased so much, however there’s so much potential for this group to be an incredible, diverse, empowering activist collective. I want WoCo to be more than just a facebook group and a room women hang out in, and instead move towards the engaged, and intersectional Collective it should be.
How do you intend on bringing more women into the collective?
Increasing the visibility of the Collective is the first step; so many people on campus just don’t realise that we even exist. The exec team are planning so many events, and want to increase our collaboration with other societies and groups across campus. Keep your eyes peeled for WoCo newsletters and updates!
What kind of events will we be seeing this year from the women’s collective?
As always, we’ll be running the usual events for International Women’s Day and the like. The Exec team will be running themed discussion weeks throughout the semester on a whole range of feminist (and wider) issues like gendered violence, women in the workplace, and sex and consent education; on that particular topic I’m also really hoping to run a Sex and Consent Week this year. This will tie in with other events for the Respect.Now.Always campaign, and other events we’ll host in the lead up to the release of the AHRC Sexual Assault survey results.
What would you say to prospective members?
Don’t be intimidated by what people say about the Women’s Collective. The stereotype that WoCo members are all just ‘angry special snowflakes’ is so incredibly tired and outdated; we’re a group of empowered women who are engaged with and aware of the ongoing fight for women’s rights, and frankly that’s a really great group of people to surround yourself with.
Full 2017 election results:
President: Jasmine Noud
Vice President: Eliza Versegi
Secretary: Jasmine Reyes
Treasurer: Priya Capper
If you’re enjoying Grapeshot Online, come meet us irl February 27, at the launch party of our next issue, Daddy! It’s at Ubar at 4:30pm, and there will be drink vouchers, temporary tats, and bangers.