Women’s Week: This Is What You Need To Know

Cara Darroch recounts the events held by the Feminist Society during Women’s Week.

Women’s Week is always a busy time for the Feminist Society here at Essex, and this year was no different. For those who missed it, or for anyone interested in the events of Women’s Week, here’s a recap of everything we did.

On Monday, we hosted our ‘Women In Academia’ panel. The society were delighted to welcome Vanja Pederson (MA Human Right and Cultural Diversity), Sarah Wagner (PhD Government), and Alex Andrayas (PhD Biosocial Research), all moderated by our President Bryony Rickard. During our discussion, we explored the challenges that they face as academic women, and how their status as a woman has changed their path through academia from undergraduate to postgraduate. These wonderful women opened up about the lack of representation in significant academic positions and course content, and how they feel pressured to adopt masculine attributes to fit in with the ‘boys club’. We later discussed what the University and others could do to help support aspiring academic women, including erasing the culture of women refusing to help other women to succeed, and being aware of the unconscious bias against the authority of female voices in the classroom. We have to say a massive thank you not only to our panel participants, but to everyone who came along – the discussion was engaging and very enlightening.

Professional England rugby player, World Cup Champion and Olympian Daniella Waterman joined us on campus on Tuesday for the Women’s Network event ‘Moving The Advantage Line’. Alongside by Rosie Kay (President of the Essex Women’s Rugby Team) and Tinneisha Ridgeon (President of the Essex Netball Team), the panel was hosted by Emily Chalk from the Women’s Network. FemSoc came along to show our support and solidarity for our female athletes, who talked openly about the physical hurdles women have to entering sport. While it is evident to see that women’s games do not receive anywhere near as much coverage or commentator presence, the pay disparity and equipment/uniform provision differences show how much further women in sport can be undermined. It was wonderful to have such an influential figure as Waterman on campus to discuss the issues that women face in the industry, and we highly encourage aspiring sportswomen to look to people like her as role models and inspiration to keep pushing for recognition in sport.

Wednesday brought with it the infamous Pay Gap Bake Sale. We didn’t quite hit international headlines this time (probably for the best), but we did have some excellent discussions and raise a total of £75 for CARA (the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse, not our Vice President Cara). Our time was cut a little short by the circumstances of Wednesday afternoon as we were evacuated from the squares with everyone else, but overall we garnered plenty of attention as we listed a suggested donation of 82p for women and non-binary people, and £1 for men. We were pleased by the positive conversations we had with feminists and non-feminists alike, and all of the money raised will go directly to charity.

In the second panel we hosted of the week, Thursday saw Britny Albert, Rhian Dalrymple, and Velma Loh from the Christian Union society join FemSoc for a panel on Women in Religion. Unfortunately, last minute cancellations meant were unable to have representatives of the Islamic and Jewish faiths on the panel. In order to keep up with the spirit of creating an educational space and to give voice to other perspectives, some of the FemSoc exec gave presentations about prominent female figures in each religion. President Bryony Rickard once again hosted the panel, discussing topics like being a religious feminist, how we can change perceptions of women in different religions, and how we can support women in both religious institutions and feminist spaces to be present, safe, and able to freely discuss the problems that they face.

International Women’s Day came around by Friday, when we hosted a celebratory Book Fair. We believe that whether you’re a seasoned warrior or new to the feminist movement, there’s always so much you can learn. We collected a reading list of various feminist literature for everyone to enjoy, celebrating feminist concepts and women authors. We even included a handy guide in which you could find applicable books in the library. FemSoc recommends these texts to everyone, feminist or not, in order to learn about some of the ideas and experiences of our feminist peers.

Women’s Week seemed to fly by here on Colchester Campus, but we managed to have some very productive conversations, spread our message, and ultimately raise money for an excellent cause in the process. Feminism does not begin and end with Women’s Week, Women’s History Month, or International Women’s Day. FemSoc runs events nearly every week of term, and causes like CARA are always looking for donations and volunteers. There are so many ways you can get involved, so if you’d like to find out more about FemSoc, find us on www.essexstudent.com/society/essexfeministsociety/or our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/essexfemsoc/. If you’d like to find out more about how you can help CARA, head on over to their website at https://caraessex.org.uk/.

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