Words by Smiley Team
After last year’s rise in drink spikings, three-quarters of which were experienced by women, students at the University of Bristol came together this International Women’s Day to say ‘no more’. The university’s Intersectional Feminist Society organised a series of events to address gendered violence which included a self-defence class and discussions.
On 5 March, students enjoyed learning mixed martial arts as well as self-defence skills, which brought them together, giving them a chance to socialise as well as address shared concerns. After the class, they sat down to discuss issues and share experiences.
“It's definitely good to have a safe space where members can voice their concerns and share what's happened to them,” Shamar Gunning, the Feminist Society’s co-President, tells Smiley News.
“We wanted to offer something that feels like a practical solution in the face of so much fear,” she adds.
The society organised the events series to address the problems faced by many students on campus and around the city.
“A lot of first years were coming to speak to us about this, and I think generally, students’ apprehension is rocketing up over gendered violence because everyone has heard at least one story of a woman who has faced difficulty,” says Shamar.
For students settling into a new city, street harassment and assault is a particular challenge and Shamar feels that better lighting around campuses as well as education would offer part of a solution.
“I think that really, university is too late to start having these conversations with men,” she says. “Instead, young men and boys should be taught about issues around consent and coercion much earlier on in their lives.”
In addition to the self-defence class and discussions, the society organised a panel discussion on LGBT+ identity, a virtual workshop on sex workers’ rights, and a drive to distribute period products to homeless women - all to mark International Women’s Day.
As an intersectional feminist group, the Bristol University Intersectional Feminist Society recognises gender as a fluid concept meaning that to be a woman can mean multiple different things.
They understand the importance of linking gender equality to race, class and other social factors and they aim to create a safe space for anyone who identifies as a woman to build confidence, overcome barriers and challenge inequality.
DONATE: To help victims of rape, assault or domestic abuse, donate to Victim Support.
TAKE ACTION: To read about what you can do to tackle drink spiking visit victimsupport.org.uk.