May 13, 2008

Union Council Takes On The Women's Committee Question

Writing about web page http://www.sunion.warwick.ac.uk/council/Union%20Council%20(papers)/2007-08/T3W4/New%20Policy/Womens%20Committee/Womens%20Committee1.pdf

This has been rattling around in my brain all night and all day today (making a change from the vague Shakespeare plots that I sometimes remember), and in an effort to resolve the unease that I can't help but feel regarding the Union Council meeting, I've finally bitten the bullet and set up some kind of ego-friendly blog-type internet thing. The theory is, that by charting my progress (or disintegration) as Women's Campaigns Officer next academic year, I won't just be some rando ranting on about women's issues, but there'll actually be a bit of background - maybe even some thought - behind the campaigns that I'll be attempting to coordinate and hopefully lead successfully.

So yeah, this blog is a little early for that. But it's due date got moved forward, as I suddenly and breathlessly got involved with the political side of the job, without wanting to, for the entire duration of last week, culminating in the all-important Union Council meeting last night. The last time I went to Union Council was in my first year, where everything meant nothing, I was just there to vote. Now, politicised through my leap into gender stuff, I was back again. Argh.

Ok, maybe I'm jumping between time frames needlessly. The main things you need to know (to set the scene if you will) are embedded within the reason why I was going to Council again. I didn't even know it was on, until a good friend of mine alerted me that there was a proposal to get a Women's Committee going. Instantly I was on guard. It had been proposed by another good friend who had been running for Women's Campaigns Officer too. Paranoia flooded me. The policy seemed vague, and where exactly was my role as elected Woman going to fit in - would I merely be working "with" the Committee, on my own campaigns, alone? What? I saw the whole thing as a bit of an attack on the position I would be fulfilling next year, the Committee effectively doing my job for me... The worst worst worst thing was that I hadn't known ANYTHING about it - nada - which made it seem even more suspicious. Gross - like Othello (see what I did there - revision and politics multi-task), I was seeing jealousy and daggers (that's Macbeth by the way) everywhere.

The rest of the week fell into a broken montage - constantly walking around campus, pinballing from Union Office to Union Office, trying to gather my thoughts on what to do, what to say, because I was definitely going to Union Council on the Monday, something that was instilled within me without ever needing to be said. Suddenly the 'big bad world' of union politics was something to be dealt with on a very immediate level. I was going to have to say something. In front of people. Lots of people. Who all knew how the machine worked about a million times better than I did.

I asked advice. I wrote down key phrases. I cobbled together a semi-speech. I was still upset that all of this could have been avoided by some kind of communication. I gathered Harriet who would come with me to give me moral/ethical/political/social support. And then, there I was, doddling into Maths and Stats lecture theatre 1, knowing that I was going to make a good friend and obvious ally into something a bit more dangerous. It was horrible.

Minutes before the meeting started, the proposer of the policy came up to me with some excuses, but I still couldn't see any reason why even AFTER the policy had been written and submitted, I hadn't been told. Surely with something like a Women's Committee, the Women's Campaigns Officer is kind of involved? At some level perhaps? Maybe?

Then there was that painful twisting-the-knife gut feeling - What do I do now? Do I say my piece, explaining how the development of this (almost secret) policy was incongruous with the 'unity' part of the Union, how I was fully intending to form an informal Committee to do the campaigns next year (as has been the trend over previous years), and how maybe (with more communication and collaboration) a better policy could be written? Do I sit quiet and let the scene play out? Or back up the cause itself which is yet another part of the ongoing equality/awareness of Women's issues that I have been working for through WASS over the past year?

Oh I take the petty road.

I do my (now bullet-pointed) speech, horribly, my throat virtually erupting from under my tongue. I hate public speaking. I hate public speaking in an arena where I am horrifically intimidated by political things, people, nuances. I can't think, I can't react, I am just so pleased to have dragged my erupting vocal system through such an ordeal. With added horror, I hear my words being used against a Women's Committee. This seems to prove to me that I have used the wrong words. Have I become the Women's Campaigns Officer who opposes a Women's Committee???? WHAT???? Weirdly, several people on the Council were lovely about me, expressing faith in how well I'd do my 'job' (arghhhh no pressure or nothing), and there was definitely something else going on whilst I was recovering, a bunch of people kept looking at me. The best I could manage was a face of amiability alternated with disgust at democracy. I had no idea of how I should be reacting. Was I against the motion or the way it was proposed?

Well, obviously the latter. I was just swept away by the notions and emotions (notably my reason against getting into politics) and the personal safety aspects. Seriously, Union Council is dangerous. You've got to know exactly what you think and stick to it. Making the most of inflexibility I guess.

The issue is currently unresolved in my own mind (hence the rattling around thing). I wonder if a non-elected committee, now policy (harken to the news), will be any more effective than the grassroots stylee group that I had planned to rope in at Fresher's Fair. I wonder where my place will be in the new shiny Women's Committee. I'll be there of course, but it still feels a little bit like the persian rug under my feet has been pulled swiftly away.


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