I have just sat down on the 2nd train of the morning…
Yes, that's correct. Morning. Vom.
…and I am beginning to think about the day ahead. I am worrying that it will be similar to the not to brilliant conference I attended by the Public Policy Exchange. It felt as though the student voice was stifled, our voice. Which actually, at an event that discussed topics of Sexual Assault and Rape for STUDENTS is a pretty ridiculous notion. Susuana, the NUS Women’s Officer for 2015/16, was there however she had to leave quite shortly after her introduction that morning so it didn’t particularly help our efforts- that’s not a critical comment but I feel that it would have been different had she been a part of the conversation that afternoon.
Anyway, I know it’s not going to be like that because firstly, it’s an NUS event which means that everyone’s opinions are heard. So there’s that. However, there is the factor that were ONCE AGAIN in London. I’m up at the crack of arsing 4am because NUS London strikes again.
Why the freaking heckers wasn’t it in Yorkshire?
Nothing ever is in Yorkshire. It would have been GRAND. COULD HAVE HAD A GOOD CUP OF TEA. We do exist up north.
But instead, my makeup is bad (applied in half asleep mode), my eyes are tired and my sense of apprehension thickens.
Also, I fear that I am not going to get the answers I’m looking for.
At Edge Hill/EHSU, we don’t actually have a Sexual Harassment policy. It’s dealt with through Accommodation and is treated like a disciplinary process because it falls under the bullying and harassment policy. This is, I feel, is wrong.
It does however mean that I/we are in a super good position as we’re starting with an, ever clichéd, ‘blank slate’. It means we don’t have to consider the ‘Zellick’ guidelines or are forced into a corner – we can shape it to how it best suits and cares for our students.
Something I was considering would be to contact Rape Crisis to ask their opinion on how things should work, but also maybe research into organisations that deal with men who get raped and even same sex sexual assault etc. These situations are frequently overlooked. Particularly, the fact that a female may sexually assault a male…
This is where the whole discussion around “exactly what is lad culture” comes into play.
For me, Lad Culture isn’t specific or accusatory to a gender. “Laddishness” is something that I feel over time has evolved. It is behavioral.
In a study conducted by NUS called “That’s what she said” (I already have problems with this!) stated…
“‘Lad culture’ was defined by our participants as a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption, and ‘banter’ which was often sexist, misogynist and homophobic.”
This I feel describes the whole culture of University nowadays… This is how people behave on nights out on our Social Wednesday nights. Boistress. Assertive. Drunk. Messy. Male. Female. Everyone.
I feel that we no longer can say, as Wikipedia does, (ye olde faithful, eh?) that Lad Culture is the culture of anti-feminism. That being a lad was a rebellion against the conforms of futures as a good husband, as someone who sympathises and supports feminism, who is part of a nuclear family. This is the past. It is our history. We must look to the future.
BY THE BLOODY WAY- Why in the name of all things sensible is Wikipedia the first thing we see when we type it into google?!
Tackling lad culture is not about telling boys to behave sensibly and not touch girls bottoms on nights out. No. It needs to be so much more.
Our entire youth needs educating on behavior and respect.
I don’t want to stamp out or BAN Lad culture. I don’t think there isn’t anything wrong with going on a night out, being boisterous (See Figure 1)…
Most of us are loud after a drink. And pack mentality? I’m not so sure about that. I think it’s amazing that people can identify as something together, and feel able to openly be part of that. (Providing of course they are being respectful and not using their group sizing to intimidate)
It would be foolish to try and stop this.
Our job is to change the stigma.
Our job is to change the attitudes of many who think that boys just go on nights out to have sex with someone whether they’re willing or not.*
Our job is to make sure that people know where the line is.
Our job is to educate not to stifle.
Im sure there will be people who disagree with me. But today is about hearing that and working together to find resolution and s way forward. Unity is key.
Lets see how the day goes, eh?
*SIDENOTE?!. (Removing the harassment and assault angle from this) I’m pretty damn miffed that people think that it’s men who go on nights out just to pull. I’m telling you that women do it too. Women go out with the intention of having a good consensual shag just as much as a man may go out and think the same. I’m fed up of people painting pictures of women to be delicate flowers- girls can want consensual sex with a random stranger too. But this is a different topic all together.
After arriving at the venue a solid 2 HOURS before the event started- I did a little catching up with some fellow Sabbs and Pals to begin at 10am…
We firstly heard from Vanita from the University of York who is conducting a study on tackling everyday sexism through education in collaborations with numerous Universities across the UK and with the EU. She discussed how it’s not just a student issue, it is a University community issue too. Staff should be included in it and the onus should be on the university to become part of the efforts towards tackling lad culture.
I found this super interesting as it’s something that I think is really important. We have taken great leaps by delivering our Consent Workshops to all incoming first years but I would argue that all our University Staff should be trained too. It’s establishing a culture on campus and staff are a part of that…
Btw… I’m going to write all my thoughts that I have in hindsight in italics… okay- cool.
Secondly, we heard from David Brockway from ‘The Great Man Initiative’. This is a company what works with boys from ages 12-18 about lad culture and the society that we live in. He stated that it’s all well and good teaching people when they get to university but we need to be teaching this from a younger age. The more you invite conversation the more you’re going to get out of it.
This is something I entirely agree with and found incredibly interesting. I am not suggesting for a second that we teach children about willies and how to have sex. Fundamentally, our youth should be getting taught about respect. It’s as David said, the society we live in needs framing so that our youth can paint themselves in without feeling that they have to stifle any of their colours. (SUCH POETRY)
Then we heard from Sarah Learmonth from Coventry Rape Crisis Centre (CRASAC). She gave us some chilling statistics such as, “Full-time students are at higher risk of being a victim of a sexual offence than any other group in the UK (Overview of Sexual Offending, 2013) and “85% of women under 25 have been sexually harassed” (EVAW, 2013). She also read a speech from a victim of sexual violence which was very moving. She stated how there seems to be a lack of understanding from staff- when a case is reported to an institution it gets bounced around and often lost. There is no care for the student who has reported it and she stated how this cannot continue. She went on to note how in publications from the police and other bodies use language which instigates ‘Victim Blaming’.
For example, if the police used the phrase ‘Keep yourself safe’- it automatically insinuates that if something were to happen, then it would be YOUR fault because YOU didn’t keep YOURSELF safe. It posed interesting questions.
Lastly, we heard from Dr. Rachel Fenton who came to talk to us about ‘The Bystander Theory. This is actually super interesting. In America there has been research conducted around the cognitive processes behind the ears, as it were, when witnessing an event.
Firstly, we; So for example, when seeing someone drop some litter on the floor it would go something like this,Now that example is very loose… you may not be even the slightest bit bothered about the litter- but hopefully it’s helped.
However, it’s slightly more difficult when you apply it to witnessing Sexual Assault or Harassment. Would you interpret it as problematic if you saw someone in a nightclub grabbing another person’s bum? Would you know how to deal with it?
Dr. Fenton suggests that we should start with stage 2 (the green blob) – getting people to understand what is right and what is wrong and then empowering/equipping them with the necessary skills to safely dismantle a situation.
But easier said than done I guess. We’re talking about a cultural shift not just a workshop. There are already several universities involved but we didn’t really hear about HOW they do it…
Dr Fenton is one of the people who at the Public Policy Exchange, I butted heads with. We were discussing around a table what we thought ‘Lad culture’ was. Myself and 2 other sabbatical officers from Teeside discussed this and felt that it wasn’t something that belonged to a gender- we agreed that it was behavioural and you see people of all genders behaving inappropriately/being drunk/boisterous/disorderly as well as anyone whose anyone grabbing each other’s bums and boobs and such like. We shared our thoughts with the table and Dr Fenton was adamant that this wasn’t true and that it was indeed a male issue. Stating that it’s men who go out with the intention to get a girl drunk, follow her home and assault her. We went on to discuss how women can rape and assault women/men can rape and assault men and this too was dismissed as a ‘rape myth’. We reasoned and debated but it wasn’t heard. Although we agreed that this does happen we wanted to make our voices heard and say this happens to many people not just men attacking/assaulting women and we see it on our campus. However, it wasn’t just Dr Fenton- there were many in the room who felt the same. In fact- I recall a man speaking up about how men rape men and the conversation was quickly shut down and the conference moved on.
This I feel is the problem. It can’t even be decided what ‘Lad Culture’ actually is- so how can we tackle it?
The day went on and we went to a variance of workshops delivered by students from universities across the country. Samayya from Bradford delivered a workshop on ‘Local strategies’ and how effective having a whole community can be when conducting campaigns etc. Then I attended a workshop delivered by delegates from Oxford and Warwick about their consent training. Although it was insightful I felt really disappointed.
After sharing our success with NUS about OUR success with the Consent Campaign, I was really disheartened not to have been asked to talk at the event. I felt that having a smaller- non “red brick” Union speak about the huge success would have been brilliant but once again- EHSU were ignored. This isn’t to disparage the work that any of the other unions involved have done- but NUS needs to stretch its look towards alternative unions and as US what we have been doing and what we think.
Finally, we attended a workshop run by a Kings college Delegate which was probably the most useful thing of the day. She discussed how at Kings they have implemented ‘Care Pathways’. This is the route by which a student disclosure is taken upon receiving it. It ensures that the student is, indeed, cared for and their situation dealt with accordingly. I will be looking into it closely and seeing if we can apply it to us here at EHSU.
I really feel that something like this would benefit us hugely.
All in all- it was a good event and I learned a fair bit. I will certainly take in all that I have found and apply it to us. In fact, I have already contacted Broekn rainbow, Survivours UK, The Brook and Rape Crisis asking them for their advice and opinions on how it should work institutionally. A swell as contacting Vanita from York University about her research into Sexual assault on campus so that we can be involved.
We already have research ongoing about the efficacy of, specifically our, Consent workshops within an insitituition and maybe we have something exciting that can be added to the conversation…
I even got to see Sherlock’s Gaff on the way home…