Hello Ciara [O’Rourke, Chair of the society], thank you very much for doing this! What is Gender Equality Society?
We do a variety of events, and the general idea behind them is, of course, to promote gender equality; all people are equal and should be treated equally well regardless of gender. We try to promote equality in a variety of ways, because feminism – equality for men and women – doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. So we’re trying to create a space to promote certain things that are important, without imposing on people in a way that’s repulsively didactic. We’re just trying to get people together to appreciate the importance of these issues.
To start the conversation.
Right, but it doesn’t have to stop at a conversation. If you’re having conversations that can then spur you on to go off and do your own thing: write an article for [Rant & Rave!], or participate in something later on you might not have otherwise.
Gender equality is a hot topic at the moment on the interweb and so on. What do you think of the current feminist movement, and the word feminism?
It’s been used by lots of different people in different ways. I think it’s a fine word. When you’re talking about gender equality, it just has been the case that, even though men have suffered because of the way we have gender roles in society, in the aggregate, women are worse off than men are. Gender discrimination hits them harder. So having a word that emphasises this fact is a good thing, I think. Especially when you look at where it was coming from, when people were starting to use the word feminism. It makes perfect sense to call it feminism.
So you think the historical baggage that the word has is a good thing?
Yes. Every movement has its crazy people, and things have been done in the name of feminism that you wouldn’t want to be associated with, but it’s not like you have to sign a document saying you agree with every single other feminist that there has ever been. I think there may be a problem in how people perceive feminism. It can be associated with ‘man hating,’ or being very judgemental about the choices women make – demanding that women should never wear make up, for example – or that feminists are all hairy lesbians who don’t shave their legs. And that’s then a problem because it’s not true, and then when you say ‘That’s not true,’ you don’t want to say that there’s something wrong with being a lesbian, or being hairy. You don’t want to say all women shouldn’t shave their legs, or, vice versa, that all women should tailor their appearance to match up to patriarchal standards of beauty… At a certain point, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters what you do.
A big factor in how people conceive gender is through culture, especially in advertising and books and films and things… This was my very unsubtle segue to start talking about literature! Gender Equality Society have a book club, what have you been reading this year?
Most recently, we read Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. We try to read feminist books, or just ones with interesting portrayals of gender – even if they portray women in a terrible way, so that we can complain about it! I guess there’s no reason why there would be an overlap between people who like books and people who like gender equality, but there were a lot of people who wanted to do a book club so we, of course, accommodated that. It gives people a chance to talk about gender equality without having the awkward thing of ‘Let’s go into a room and talk about gender equality now!’ It’s a starting point.
What would be some of your favourite books?
I read for pleasure a lot less now that I’m in college, but I really like Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I joined DU Amnesty because of Sci-Fi books! They’re all about saving the world, and doing something for other people. It seems natural to want to change the world for the better after reading those books.
Any particular books that come to mind?
I really like Lord of the Rings, though it’s a shame there are so few women in it!
Do you have any events coming up that you would like to plug?
We’re involved with the Women in Science event this week [link below]. Every day this week we’re having women from different disciplines talking about what it’s like to be a woman in that area. We’re putting it on with Maths Soc and Physics Soc, and there’ll be a coffee morning and possibly a reception in The Global Room if we can fabricate a link to Women, Science and… global things?
I think women are more or less global.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure there are women in most places!
All righty, so finally, why should people join Gender Equality Society?
I would really like it if people felt they could use Gender Equality Society to meet people who are interested in similar things, to start talking about sexism, and start changing things – even in small ways. There are so many ways that we can change things for the better. There is no overpowering ‘them,’ some unspeakable power that is maintaining this inequality. It’s us, and we have the power to change it.
If you like the sound of Gender Equality Society – I mean, I’d be very happy not to not be defined by my genitals, they’re kind of weird – befriend them on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dugender.equality
Also, go to this: https://www.facebook.com/events/1494250470845148/
And, as always, please email us your things: firstname.lastname@example.org