This week has been one of outcry against the ongoing sexism that exists at LSE, calling out men in the LSE Athletics Union for making many “strong, ambitious, intelligent women in the AU feel insecure and worthless”. In an open letter to “LSE Men’s AU Clubs and Members”, the women of LSESU AU addressed the “unpunished misogynistic behaviour” within the AU.
This letter was posted on Facebook by the Athletics Union and was also emailed to all members of the AU.
The letter details a misogynistic chant sung by Men’s Rugby about assaulting a woman in a vegetative state and says how it is “astonishing how you do not find these words disrespectful to women”. However, this letter is aimed at all men in the AU, not simply Men’s Rugby. It has been stressed that readers find the nuance and recognise the systemic problem rather than targeting one club.
Jemma Stewart, Women’s Rugby social secretary, comments: “I think it’s good we are drawing attention to this super important issue. But I think it’s unfair they specifically mention Men’s Rugby and not the other men’s clubs when I know Football and Hockey have all done stuff to upset girls this year. It’s not just Men’s Rugby and if you were to just scan the letter that’s all you would see because of the quote. I feel if you’re going to call out one club who is guilty of it you have to call them all out.”
Indeed, there have been allegations across the board by multiple clubs and which have been mentioned in the letter and the articles about incidents of sexual, verbal and physical assault against women in the AU. These allegations are currently under investigation by The Beaver.
David Gordon, Outreach Officer for Men’s Rugby and incoming C&W officer commented: “I think the letter hits on a really serious and real problem with men’s sport at LSE. It is clear that the culture needs to change; clubs need to reflect on their behaviour and how they’ve managed it so far. I’m confident that change will come, I’m hopeful that it will be meaningful. People are working to make sure that it is.”
A formal response was issued shortly after by the Student Union on Facebook. Within their response they say: “We will campaign to bring in a zero-tolerance policy that students can look to. Through having clear and firm sanctions that address discriminatory behaviour, we will work tirelessly to support LSE students to build an inclusive community.”
Incoming AU President, Harry Barber, shared the post with a comment: “To those who have acted flagrantly and flaunted basic respect for the Women of LSE’s Athletics Union, we condemn you. To those who have made themselves heard both today and on an ongoing basis, thank you. Your bravery is an inspiration.
“There is no place for disrespect, misogyny or sexual violence of any manner or form in our Union. These issues are my central concern for the coming year and I am both determined and eager to work diligently on these issues to provide the Women of the AU with the Union they deserve.”
Two other articles about sexism within the AU were submitted to The Beaver this week as the same time as the letter. One details sexist behaviour and remarks during LSE’s rugby varsity. The second article addresses the ongoing problems with misogyny between men’s and women’s football.
A point raised in the letter was a feeling of lack of support from men’s clubs when women raise issues of misogyny within the AU. This sentiment is reflected by Marion Lieutaud and Eponine Howarth in an article they wrote about football and sexism. They talk about when a Facebook post was created saying that pitch bookings at Berrylands prioritised men’s teams. A “striking amount of men who rallied to ‘like’ the Men’s captain’s comments (underneath the post) and did not react to the post itself or to any of the women’s comments; this came off as a strange display of force. This show of male solidarity, of course, has potent powers of intimidation.”
The open letter has been shared 68 times on Facebook by AU clubs including Netball and Women’s Rugby, and by incoming AU executive committee. Outgoing Women’s Rugby coach commented on their post: ‘The standard you walk past… is the standard you accept.” There’s no place for this in the Game, nor more importantly, in Society & Life.’
This is the sentiment carried by the open letter, as it is aimed at perpetrators and ‘bystanders who do not speak out’.
The SU and the AU both have stressed that they are working to eliminate the problem and to develop strategies to tackle the issues and hold people accountable. But with three public articles written within a week targeting the systemic problem, many wonder whether these issues should have been dealt with a long time ago.
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