By Kerry Baker
HOBART — Last September, the University of Tasmania student union held a referendum on whether or not to create a "men's officer" position on the Student Representative Council (SRC).
Because of the way the proposal was phrased, the referendum was ruled unconstitutional and the result was declared invalid. However, another referendum is likely to be held in September.
A men's officer position is being proposed by right-wing students under the guise of re-balancing gender relations. They claim that a men's officer would introduce "equality" because women have a women's officer on campus.
The concept of a men's officer is anti-feminist. It promotes the myth that both men and women suffer gender oppression and/or the idea that feminism has "gone too far" and has led to men being oppressed by women.
Obscuring the fact that women are oppressed by a social system which institutionalises men's advantage over women undermines efforts to increase people's understanding of how and why women's oppression is a central pillar of this society, and of what is needed to achieve gender equality. This undermining is reactionary, especially at a time when governments worldwide are rolling back the rights that women have won (to child-care services, abortion access, equal pay, etc.).
A big factor in the large vote last year in favour of the men's officer proposal was the lack of a campaign against it. It is crucial that the left actively campaign against the creation of a men's officer. It is also important that the campaign be used to help raise feminist consciousness more generally.
The left could obstruct the referendum by voting against it on the SRC, thereby forcing the right-wing students to collect signatures in order to be able to call a referendum. But Resistance believes that this would be counterproductive, enabling the right to label the left "undemocratic".
This sort of obstruction seems like the easiest way to stop a men's officer from being created, but it is only through a strong, open campaign that convinces students of the need to oppose reactionary, sexist proposals such as the men's officer that any lasting gains can be made.
Resistance believes that such a campaign, drawing on and increasing feminist consciousness, has a good chance of defeating the proposal for a men's officer.