In conversation with: The Feminist Collective
By Chloe Hatton
This week we’re supporting the Misogyny Is Hate campaign, which aims to make misogyny recognisable as a hate crime in Manchester – meaning that rape, domestic violence, aggressive stalking, and groping could all be treated as hate crimes.
So, who better to speak to about the campaign and all things feminism than a feminist society? I spoke to Safiyya El Diwany, a third year Pharmacy student and the chair of the Feminist Collective, about the work that the Collective are doing this year.
They’re an intersectional society who campaign for an inclusive campus for self-defining women, holding socials and running campaigns to better the lives of students. When I ask Safiyya why students should get involved she laughs a little.
“I always find this question really difficult to answer. It’s more a question of ‘why wouldn’t you get involved?’ Feminism is such a hot topic in the media at the moment, especially with the rise of #MeToo and with the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. I think people are really starting to realise just how necessary feminism is.
“It’s my duty not only as a woman, but as a human being, to make sure society is a safe place for trans women, lesbian women, women of colour, Muslim women, non-binary people, and everyone else.”
However, it’s not just women that will feel the effects of feminism. Safiyya says that men will also feel the benefits. Feminism is a tool for dismantling the patriarchy, and whilst this undoubtedly has benefits for women, men will also be able to reap the rewards. In a feminist society, she explains, many of the issues that face men, including things like toxic masculinity, will begin to disappear.
As for the Misogyny Is Hate campaign, Safiyya thinks it’s a brilliant idea.
“It’s about time. There have been lots of misconceptions about the campaign, but men won’t go to prison for things like complimenting a woman. However, misogyny is an act of aggression, and making it a hate crime will put more weight behind convictions. It’ll also empower more women to stand up for themselves and report things if they know it will also be treated as such. Women tend to minimise their experiences; being groped on buses at the age of 14, saying ‘this is just what happens to all women, it’s normal.’ It’s not – it is a hate crime. We absolutely do not want to negate the suffering of men who have also experienced sexual abuse, but women are more likely to be harassed than boys, and this is happening because we are women.”
Men can also help the feminist cause and help to empower women. The Feminist Collective is open to all genders and anyone can join. However, Safiyya says that sometimes men need to allow spaces for women to speak and put forward their experiences.
“We held a documentary screening recently about labiaplasty in the UK, with a discussion afterwards. There was one man there, and whilst we are open to everyone joining us, men also need to recognise that they need to allow women to speak rather than directing the conversation towards them. There were women in this screening who didn’t feel comfortable enough to speak up, and so it’s so important for men to understand that some spaces are for women to speak, and not for men to monopolise the conversation.”
When I ask Safiyya about the need for women-only spaces on campus, such as the Women’s Theatre Society, she says that it really depends on the space. There definitely is a place for women-only spaces, but that the Collective themselves really want to try and engage with more men and work together in tackling the patriarchy.
The Feminist Collective have a whole host of events coming up you can get involved in. On the 12th of November, they’ll be hosting an Angry Feminist event session, which is a space for women to come together and express their frustrations without judgement. Each session is themed, and this time round, the theme is body hair. This theme also stands for an exhibition that the Collective are doing in the Students’ Union on the 28th of November, so if you need a place to express your anxieties and grievances with the support of other women, head on down.
November is also Islamophobia Awareness Month, and so the Collective want to look at how feminism can sometimes be weaponised as a tool of Islamophobia, and look beyond a good/bad binary. They’re running a workshop on decolonising feminism on 29th November, led by the spoken word poet Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan, which will look at feminism through a different lens.
As well as all this, they’re also partnering up with various campaigns to work together on issues that face Manchester. One of these is the Speak Up Stand Up campaign, running a workshop on being an active bystander, giving you the opportunity to learn how to help in situations involving harassment. You will learn how to recognise the warning signs, how to intervene, and how to support any victims.
They’re also teaming up with Sister Supporter – a group of people who are a counter presence to anti-abortion protesters. When protesters gather outside clinics and try to harass staff or women who are attending these clinics, Sister Supporter are on hand to take evidence and support patients if this is needed or wanted. They’re currently trying to lobby Manchester City Council to create buffer zones around abortion clinics. If you want to support this cause, there will be a stall outside the SU where you can sign the petition to make this a reality.
“If you want to join the Feminist Collective, please do! You can be involved as much or as little as you want, there’s no joining fee, and all of our events are free. We’ve also got a Facebook page that you can like to keep up-to-date with all of our news and events”.
“We’re just trying to make society a better place for everyone.”