Combatting sexism on college campuses

The University and College Union (UCU) in Scotland has responded to the report by Rashida Manjoo, a United Nations human rights expert and rapporteur, who says Britain's sexist culture is more 'pervasive' and 'in your face' than any other country she has visited, by getting the backing of unions across Scotland for action on campuses.

Their proposals came in a resolution to the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) in Dundee in 16 April 2014, seconded by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ). As seconder, I declared: “This motion is about enshrining equality, diversity, dignity and safety for all in post-16 educational institutions in Scotland.

“As part of its purpose it seeks the removal from university and college retail outlets of magazines that perpetuate the idea that sexualised aggression and ridicule is ‘a bit of a laugh’.

“Make no mistake, the NUJ believes passionately in media freedom – but not in the unfettered ability of publications to go on trading on degrading stereotypes, the objectication of women, the acceptability of sexism, and the normalisation of male violence.

“My union is a professional body. The NUJ’s Code of Conduct has set out the main principles of journalism in these islands since 1936. It explicitly rules out “discrimination on the grounds of a person’s … gender”. We are co-sponsors, along with Rape Crisis and others, of the Campaign Against Violence Against Women (CAVAW).

“So-called ‘lads mags’ are bad news for both women and men – and they don’t do any favours for lads, either!

“Instead they often legitimise the kind of discriminatory attitudes which all trade unionists are committed to struggling against. They can contribute to an intimidating environment for students and workers alike. They also form the basis of a number of individual cases which the NUJ, along with other unions, seeks to take up and win.

“Let’s take another small but necessary step towards making sexism history.”

* UCU: http://www.ucu.org.uk/

* STUC: http://www.stuc.org.uk

* Documenting experiences of sexism, harassment and assault to show how bad the problem is and to create solidarity: http://everydaysexism.com On Twitter: @EverydaySexism

* ‘UN: Britain's sexism more 'pervasive' than any other country’, by Radhika Sanghani: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10767784/UN-Britains-se...

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© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia. He was a delegate from the National Union of Journalists in Scotland to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) annual conference in Dundee, 14-16 April 2014.

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