Students battle sexism at Swinburne


By Cherie Marion
and Tasha Coleman

MELBOURNE — The feminist Belladonna Collective is campaigning for the establishment of a women's director position on the Swinburne University Students Union, but misogynist student politicians have been whipping up a vitriolic backlash.

In the 1993 Orientation Handbook, SSU president Simon Rayward proclaimed that his one wish was to "kick back in Germany with 10 fraulines [sic]", that his notion of a romantic evening involved "10 slabs, 1 ounce and 15 women" and that he intended to "rule with an iron licorice stick", rhyming slang for "dick".

The student newspaper, aptly named Swine, carries continual attacks on women's rights.

"In this land of equal opportunity I am ashamed to be at Swinburne on International Women's Day. Because I have balls I cannot get a free breakfast. This is sexism. We want equality, not female domination", complained one student in a letter to the Swine.

"Dear satisfied Female: if you had your bulges up top where real women should perhaps I'd take you seriously. P.S. I do fuck", wrote another.

"An acronym for International Women's Day may suggest — Incestuously Worshipped Dogma or Indigestible Worthless Drug — all that's left are these incestuous, sister-calling, man-hating dinosaurs — prancing around like an ugly man with tits or rejects from She Devils on Wheels", was another recent contribution to the campus paper.

Sexual harassment is rife on campus, according to the collective. Students have reported that car stickers bearing feminist slogans have been defaced, and one student had sanitary napkins stuck to her number plate. Other women have been called derogatory names based on their choice of clothing.

More insidious, but equally common, is the marking down of assignments which incorporate feminist theory, and the alienation and intimidation of women students who express feminist viewpoints inside or outside the classroom.

Swinburne students can create a women's director position with a two-thirds majority vote for constitutional change at a special general meeting. An SGM was held earlier this year but failed to attract the required quorum of 300 students and was cancelled at the last minute. However, an indication of the success of the collective's campaign was that a large majority of the students present at the meeting supported the creation of the women's director position. Another SGM will be held soon.

The Belladonna Collective is seeking support from feminist, progressive and leftist groups and individuals. Write to: The Belladonna Collective, c/-Student Union Contact Centre, Swinburne University, PO Box 390, Hawthorn 3122.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.