In the wake of NUI Maynooth’s recent stripper incident, Pádraig McCarrick talks about what it means for 3rd level institutions as safe spaces.
There was an extra special case of irony around the most recent furor of sexist allegations against some at NUI Maynooth insofar as that the story broke just after International Women’s Day. This highlighted that for all the successes in increased gender equality that have been achieved, the culture of casual sexism exemplified by the lad culture seen on campuses across the country is attacking the concept that universities and other public places are to be seen as safe spaces for all.
This particular incident, which took place last Monday involved an event in which a current Students’ Union Exec Officer was having a mock stag night before a charity wedding later on in the week. In good stereotypical fashion exotic dancers/strippers (which apparently have no connection with the Ex. O in question despite his name being attributed to the event) were produced and the story ended up being picked up by the Sunday World. If you want more on the story, here’s an article from Trinity News.
Now you can see where this is going, I won’t go any further into the details of the event as it’s there for you to read and be appropriately disgusted at your leisure. The point of this post isn’t even really to discuss why having strippers at a student event is totally inappropriate. Already there has been much discussion by people far more able to eloquently (and angrily) explain what agency, objectification is etc. is all about while it’s sexist defenders dismiss it as banter and those complaining are nothing but a fringe group of feminists who are polarised to come across as a cliched hybrid of Andrea Dworkin, Tipper Gore and multiplied by internet access and a Macbook to hate on anything remotely sexual. No this post is about how once again, colleges and universities are revealing a culture of misogyny among a certain demographic that in turn is proving detrimental to third level institutions being a safe space for all, while S.U’s, U.S.I and college administrations have really done sweet fuck all to curtail it.
It’s been seven years since I first was a student at Maynooth and during my time there, I never really saw any real attempt to tackle sexism and the idea of lad banter on campus. As a student, I wrote an article highlighting the issue of ‘lad banter’ and how to tackle the issue of sexual assault on campuses and while it was well received, nothing was really done about it. In the two years since that article was written I’d argue that the situation of sexism on campus and the prevalence of lad banter have got progressively worse.
Societies such as Lad Soc (which for some pathetic and idiotic reason see themselves as a counterpart to feminist societies), Facebook pages such as “Insert your college acronym here bird of the day” and now the most recent incident involving strippers in the college bar highlight an increased normalisation of casual misogyny on campus. As a result, those who don’t subscribe to this laddish form of masculinity, feminists who speak out against it or anyone for that matter who doesn’t participate in or encourage this form of behavior are either ridiculed or feel they cannot speak out or participate in college life fully. This type of exclusion should not happen anywhere, especially a university.
Whether something will be actively done about this is anyone’s guess but if we want to stamp this kind of inequality out of third level institutions there is an urgent need for policies that tackle things like sexism and sexual assault in a meaningful way. Campaigns already in existence like Don’t Be That Guy Galway have been great but need to be expanded and a Women’s Officer needs to be elected to Union Execs so these issues have a representative to campaign against them. The current job being done by Health and Equality Officers clearly isn’t working. Furthermore, those who have been known to have engaged in such sexist behavior need to be reprimanded. You can be a lad, drink cans with the boys and play FIFA but for fuck sake, just respect women as equals without the idea that if they tell you something is bang out of order they are a femonutter.
College should allow students to study, relax and fully express themselves without the fear of being made uncomfortable, unwelcome or unsafe because of their sex, race, ethnicity gender identity and sexual orientation to name but a few. For many of the males at university myself included, that’s a pretty easy thing to accomplish. It’s well past due that universities become a place where everyone can enjoy third level free from the laddish sexism that Monday night’s stag exhibited so plainly for us.
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