**International Women’s Week (IWW) took place from Monday 5 March until Friday 9 March with a variety of student-led talks and events around campus.**
Warwick Anti-sexism Society (WASS) played a large part in the week’s events across campus. The society put together a short magazine which they sold during the week, and were involved with a documentary on attitudes to rape which was screened on Friday.
WASS also highlighted the importance of enthusiastic sexual consent with a poster and postcard campaign, and organised a production of The Vagina Monologues with some of the proceeds of the ticket sales going towards the Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASC).
President of WASS Sophie Rees emphasised the importance of IWW on campus. She said: “It’s an important event because it’s a way of getting people at university engaging with gender issues, which for the rest of the year are often brushed aside. It’s an opportunity to bombard people with ideas around feminism and what that actually means.
“Feminism has become a dirty word because of years of anti-feminist campaigning on the part of various aspects of society, but I think it’s experiencing a resurgence. We’re claiming the word back and using it to proudly define ourselves. Women’s Week is an opportunity to stand up and say “I am a feminist and this is why”.”
Women’s officer Alys Cooke, who oversaw the organisation and coordination of the week, ensured the campus was a hub of activity with posters, flyers and banners highlighting different issues. A banner hanging on the piazza read “Feminist: Someone who believes men and women are equal. Feminist: Probably you.”.
Ms Cooke also designed and distributed flyers on the Friday combating victim-blaming rape culture. There were also display boards with quotes from the EverydaySexism Project, an online catalogue of sexism experienced by women during their day to day lives every day in the atrium. There was space for students to anonymously add contributions, which were then added to the boards at the end of each day.
One of the more engaging activities Ms Cooke organised was an “I need feminism because…” campaign, based on the one seen at Oxford University recently. She and a small team walked round campus during the week, with whiteboards that read “I am a feminist because…”, inviting students to write on the boards with their reasons for supporting feminism.
Ms Cooke said of the week: “I’m really pleased how Women’s Week went, it was so positive to see so many different societies and groups talking about such important and relevant topics. Hopefully we have sparked some discussion about the issues raised and can have a more gender equal campus as a result!”
One of the first events of Women’s Week was a talk on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which included speakers Saria Khalifa, the director of Forward’s Youth Programme, a charity working to help victims of FGM, and Alison Byrne, a midwife at Birmingham hospital, who performs ‘reconstructive’ surgery on women who have experienced FGM.
Tom Wright, a second-year student who attended the talk said: “I found the FGM talk a seriously interesting but also really challenging experience. Although I arrived at the talk with what I thought was a reasonably good understanding of the practice, I had no idea of its prevalence amongst immigrants to the U.K., nor of the lack of funding or other services offered on the NHS.”
“As a white British man I was, although in no doubt as to the severity of the practice, at first unclear as to how I personally might be able to effect an issue so culturally and geographically distant. However, I left with a firm belief that through greater public awareness of the issue we might be able to provide tangible support to those suffering, both in and outside of the U.K.”
WASS also organised a talk from Lucy Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 (NMP3) campaign. Anjeli Shah, WASS’ publicity officer, felt that the NMP3 talk was important in highlighting the negative way in which women are portrayed in the media.
She said: “No More Page 3 represents the fight against the sexual objectification of women in the media. Lucy suggests it can be effective to target one specific institution and I agree. Sexism is systemic in almost every institution of our society, so it can be hard to pin down and protest against.”
The Warwick Globalist also organised events during IWW, including their launch event on “The Politics of Sex”, with speakers such as Lucy Holmes and professors from University departments.
They also participated in the Women for Women’s International Forum with an hour slot on “The Politics of Sex” in the Atrium. This showcased student writers for the magazine, and included talks from students on the sexualisation of children, queer culture, and a critique of the NMP3 campaign.
Second-year Film and Literature student Becky Long who attended the forum said it was “a fantastic debate on a range of important issues.”
Rosina Andreou, a final-year English Literature student attended several events on campus during IWW. She said: “I thought it was a massive success. I particularly enjoyed the NMP3 talk and the screening of the documentary that I’d been working on.
“There were a number of people at both events who I’m sure didn’t arrive feminists but left better educated in the scope of sexism in our society. That said it would have been nice to see more faculty and male students involve themselves in the week.”