The University of Edinburgh students association has become the first in the UK to become “officially feminist”, after a motion to adopt the position was almost unanimously passed.
The motion to “pronounce that EUSA is a pro-feminist organisation” was put forward by EUSA Vice-President of Services Kirsty Haigh, and passed following a debate at Thursday night’s student council meeting.
Kirsty, 20, who completed her second year studying International Relations before taking a year out to concentrate on her position in the student council, said the vote formalised already existing policies amongst the association.
“EUSA already has a lot of policies to do with women’s issues and liberation and when explaining this previously I wanted to say that we were a pro-feminist organisation,” she said. “Making it official seemed like the next logical step. Our students have consistently voted for candidates and policies that support feminism, and this motion was equally well-supported, with only three or four votes against and one abstention.”
Ms Haigh says she hopes the new official stance will allow EUSA to promote a greater understanding of feminism throughout the student body.
“As I said in my speech, feminism doesn’t just benefit women. The idea that a society where half the population faces oppression is more productive, useful or happy than a population where everyone is fully empowered baffles me. Challenging the negative connotations surrounding feminism and opening up the discussion and discourse amongst our students is vital for achieving the liberation which will benefit the whole of society.” A spokeswoman for the Edinburgh University Feminist Society said they welcomed the motion.
President Cat Moody said: “Sexism is pervasive in society, and the university is not excluded from that. An NUS report, called Hidden Marks, found that one in seven female students had experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student. This is unacceptable. EUSA needs to set a precedent so that marginalised groups can be put first in its policy, as was seen in the banning of Blurred Lines on campus.”
University Rector Peter McColl said he hoped the move would help female students feel more supported on campus.
He said: “The question is what it will mean going forward. If this means that female students in the university feel safer and more supported then that can only be a good thing. I agree that feminism is important for everyone in society – inequality harms men too and it’s important that we look at the way gender roles allow this inequality to continue.
“While I feel that the feminist movement should be led by women, I would certainly describe myself as an ally.”