By Laura Pitel
UNION President Luke Tryl has been forced to apologise for a “preposterous” publicity campaign that has been accused of discriminating against women.
The series of posters, found in the entrance to the main Union building and put up in college JCRs, includes photographs of Jeremy Clarkson, Michael Howard, Trevor McDonald, Boris Johnson, Pierce Brosnan and Winston Churchill, but not a single female speaker.
The posters have been condemned by women and womens’ groups across the University. Maegan Chadwick-Dobson, PR Officer for Oxford Women in Politics (Oxwip) said, “Oxwip are dissapointed that the Union has decided to advertise itself in this way.
“As a society that was set up in 2004, partly in response to the Union’s lack of female speakers, we feel that these advertisements both neglect the women who have addressed the Union over the years and, furthermore, dissuade a new cohort of female talent from making their contribution to the Society.”
OUSU Vice President (Women) Hannah Roe criticised one of the posters that advertised “world statesmen from only £99”. She said, “Benazir Bhutto (twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan) was actually a Union President, so there should be more awareness that women are heads of state too.
“Many organisations put special provisions in place to ensure that their diversity is part of their practices and old-fashioned cultures are changed, from the ‘Women’s networks’ of the ABC companies to the Ministers for Women in different governments.
“At the very least, I imagine the Union will now write some kind of guidelines for their advertising,” she added.
Third-year Wadham student Naomi Hirst tore down the poster she found in her JCR. “It’s a preposterous image, giving a false image of not only the Union but, by extension, the University. It’s irritating that this is the image of the University that freshers are presented with,” she said.
Hirst is not a member of the Union herself and said that she felt “vindicated” after seeing the posters. “This justifies every reason why I didn’t join,” she said.
Union President Luke Tryl described the incident as “a mishap and an oversight”. He said, “It certainly doesn’t represent any kind of institutional bias within the Union.
“I apologise for the oversight: it was organised by a junior officer, not myself, and we will be putting it right in future poster campaigns. I’m very keen that the Union is open and accessible. Three of our officers are women and we have equal numbers of male and female members.”
President Elect Emily Partington also defended the Union, saying, “These days people don’t have to worry about feeling subjugated. If you look at the termcard you can see that there are a lot of women involved in the Union.”
She claimed that being a woman had not impeded her rise within the Society in any way. “I’ve had incredible support from of a lot the men and women involved in the Union,” she said.
The Michaelmas termcard details 14 male and 14 female speakers due to speak.
Prominent women who have spoken at the Union in the past include Mother Theresa, Cherie Booth and Judi Dench.
By Laura Pitel