Women's and queer space under attack

September 28, 2008

University of Queensland (UQ) women's collective members discovered racist, sexist and homophobic messages covering the Women's Room on the morning of September 17.

The messages, scrawled over the wall and posters, included: "I hate queers, Asians, Negroes and abos and women"; "I like cock" and "I love the patriarchy".

On Sorry Day and Close the Gap posters, "black" was written across images of Aboriginal children. Across photos of previous women's officers and campaigns the words "fat bitch" and "dyke" were written. The vandalism also included crossing out a statement on the wall that read "Thank-you Women's room for being my home".

An official complaint has been made to UQ Human Resources, UQ Security, and the police.

However, only the president of the UQ Student Union, the Young Liberals' Joshua Young, can press charges. At the time of writing, charges had not been pressed, despite suggestions that up to 20 people witnessed the incident.

Kelly Davies, from the women's collective, expressed concerns over the president's attitude to the Women's Room in general. "Josh Young has stated that the Women's Room is not important, asking at a recent student forum 'what has the Women's Room done for students?'", Davies told Green Left Weekly. "The Student Union has also slashed the budget for the Women's and Queer Rooms."

The women's collective is also concerned at plans for the women's officer and two queer sexuality officers to be replaced with one position — the vice president of gender and sexuality rights — which, unlike the women's and queer officer positions, would be elected by the entire student population.

"We are concerned that this gives straight men a say in determining positions meant to represent women and queers, and indeed a straight man could actually be a representative of queer and women's rights on campus", Davies explained.

The attack on the Women's Room came days after a cupboard containing queer health and sexuality information was smeared with a used sanitary pad. The two young women who discovered the attack were extremely distressed. Cleaners told members of the women's and queer collectives that the vandalism was so frequent, the cupboard should be moved.

The women's collective is running a petition campaign. It is calling for Young to press charges against those who defaced the Women's Room, or at the very least ensure an official, public apology is made. It is also calling for the women's and queer sexuality officers positions to be retained.

The campaign is also aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of sexism, racism and homophobia, noting that gay youth are six times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth.

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