As featured in Wom*news #11: Women In Public
Trigger warning as this piece references experiences of sexual harassment.
I got involved in student politics because people I vaguely knew asked me to do a favour by campaigning, and because I thought it would be fun and a good way to make some new buddies. I did not expect what would happen next.
The first day I was campaigning, I was at the bus stop with two other female campaigners when a male opposition campaigner called us ugly. Straight up, to our faces. From that moment it was personal. I had heard and witnessed tales of our opposition’s awful behaviour and the first taste I received of it was enough to get me fired up and angry. I campaigned my little heart out for the next week and a half, enduring constant verbal and physical intimidation. I was called every name under the sun. I was threatened. I began to feel unsafe on campus. I tried to go to Campus Security and the police, but all I got back was victim blaming. Then the first round of elections was cancelled, and I knew I would have to go through it all again.
I didn’t want to, but there was no way I could let those scumbags win.
Round Two began and it was even worse than I could ever imagine. By the end of the two weeks I was hanging on by a thread. I was taking Valium to stave off panic attacks. At one point I spent time locked in the women’s room, scared for my physical safety. I was shoved, pushed against railings, crushed between two large male opposition campaigners and once again verbally abused. By 4 pm Friday I was wracked with exhaustion and worry: what if it had all been for nothing, the extra-ordinary shit me and my fellow campaigners had put ourselves through? I scrutineered that night and the more votes we counted, the more I knew we were going to ruin the incumbent party.
That night as we drank from the keg of glory, we got a stern talking about our safety walking home. It was unreal. Campus politics has always been a dirty game – most people are familiar with the tales of our new PM and his antics which included punching the wall next to a woman’s head. This campaign experience has done nothing but further reinforce the notions of patriarchy and misogyny in our society.
Ladies hoping for careers in politics, in activism, in public life, we need to smash this. We need to Destroy the Joint.