Rachel Cummings, OUSU Vice President for women, has been strongly criticised following her refusal to condemn the invitation to Larry Flynt to speak at the Oxford Union.
Cummings would not comment on Flynt’s invitation to speak in 6th Week, citing OUSU’s co-operation with the Union regarding women’s issues as her reason.
Flynt, the porn tycoon responsible for ‘Hustler’ and ‘Barely Legal’, has had his magazines described as “somewhere between gynaecology and butchery” while the noted feminist Diana Russell has accused him of being “responsible for an immeasurable amount of sexual violence against women.”
Hannah Gascoyne, a first year student at Jesus College was critical of Cummings’ refusal to speak out against Flynt, “by running for her position in OUSU she volunteered herself to serve as a voice for the women of the university. If her work with the Union is silencing her on important issues, then there’s clearly a problem” she said.
Another female student, who wished to remain anonymous, wondered whether Cummings was “a fair-weather feminist” and called the Union’s decision to invite Mr. Flynt “backward and pathetic”.
Cummings defended her refusal to speak out saying, “OUSU has a good working relationship with lots of societies, as is only correct. Sometimes talking to the press isn’t the most effective way of creating change.”
In the past she has publicly criticised the Kukui nightclub for promoting a show featuring dancers wrestling naked in KY Jelly, calling it “unacceptable” and urging club organisers “not to use women in this way.” She has also attacked the Oxford University Conservative Association for using allegedly sexist publicity material.
Lewis Iwu, OUSU President, defended his organisation’s association with the members-only Oxford Union. He said that Rachel is “doing her job by having these close links with the Union. She’s representing the female population by making sure that she has a good relationship with the Union.
“I don’t think it’s a case of hating our enemies and not criticising our friends. We think there are several ways of getting change and gaining influence. She explained to me why she didn’t want to comment and I agreed.”
Cummings has been working with the Oxford Union on increasing female participation in the society. Union President Charlie Holt said this involved “ensuring that events in the Union are not just focused on our male members, and that efforts are made to represent women and men equally in debates.”
She was a member of the panel that appointed Kirini Kopcke as the first Oxford Union Women’s Officer, a role tasked with attracting women to debates and involving them with the running of the organisation.
Lewis Iwu said, “the Union acknowledges the fact that they don’t have enough women running for positions and that’s something that needs to be changed. They acknowledge that in previous terms there haven’t been enough female speakers invited.”
When asked whether the addition of Mr. Flynt to the termcard was likely to encourage female participation in the union, the OUSU President refused to comment.