PULP GOSS: Interesting That Almost Universally Cancelled White Ribbon Was Invited to SRC Welfare Week
By Pulp Goss
UPDATE: We previously reported that some OBs say they were not informed of the event until as late as last week, but we have since been reliably informed that all OBs were emailed an invitation to be involved on the 17th of last month, as well as details of the planning for Welfare Week being included in council reports in May, June and July. Perhaps our esteemed student representatives and office bearers should be checking their emails more often?
2019 has been an fun year for women’s rights in the USyd SRC: openly pro-life views aired at council, the Women’s Collective losing its traditionally pre-selected office bearer position (and with it a substantial chunk of its budget) and a right-wing majority making all the big decisions. The latest from our Great Feminist Student Council? Inviting White Ribbon, an organisation that has been criticised for many things from many spheres of Australian politics and feminism, to their annual Welfare Week.
Welfare Week is an otherwise inoffensive initiative that promotes a range of services to students through stalls on Eastern Avenue. Unions NSW, NUS, SUMSA and a number of university and SRC services and collectives are in attendance, with White Ribbon set up smack bang in the middle.
For those of you that are not up to speed on the many and varied controversies involving White Ribbon, here’s an abridged list to get you up to speed: dubious financial practices, including taking money related to the gambling industry, a tenuous position on reproductive rights that was until recently dependent on the whims of their stakeholders, issues around its leadership and executives, the questionable public actions of a number of its ambassadors, and its relationship with the NRL, including a former player and White Ribbon ambassador that was charged with domestic assault against his wife. Aside from the scandal and controversy that White Ribbon attracts, there are also broad criticisms of the organisation as something that does more to make men feel better about themselves than address the very real issue of gendered violence in Australia. Criticisms which have been publicly articulated through Op-Eds by feminists and academics for Junkee, The Guardian and the SMH, amongst other publications, and echo the sentiments of community groups and organisations that work in gendered and domestic violence.
This is all to say that the criticisms and controversy surrounding White Ribbon are highly public and accessible, and that someone, literally anyone, especially from an organisation that has both Sexual Harassment and Women’s Officers, should have identified the problem of inviting White Ribbon to an event billed as promoting and providing services relating to student welfare. Advertising for the event is minimal, save for a brief write up in the back SRC pages of Honi Soit, and some OBs say they were not contacted about the event until as late as last week. Perhaps this year’s council needs to work on its communication skills?