Emma Wright spoke with Esme Allman, Edinburgh University Students’ Association Women’s Liberation Officer, to discuss the role, her plans, and how the Robbie Travers incident inspired her to pursue change.
What, in particular, motivated you to run for the position of Women’s Officer?
I was BME Convener back when there were convener roles a couple of years ago, and I had a really good time kind of working within activism and raising awareness of race activism on campus. I thought it would be more enjoyable because there’s now more of a connection with the community. In particular, raising awareness of gender-based issues on campus was something I wanted to do, and to do so with some understanding that [being a woman] wasn’t separate from my racial identity, and that I navigate this space not only as somebody who is black, but also as someone who is a woman. [Liberation Officers] are really important because, as a group, we represent the most marginalised students on campus.
Do you feel that becoming the Women’s Officer was particularly important to you after the Robbie Travers incident last year and the poor handling of your complaint by the University of Edinburgh?
Absolutely. I think that when I ran for this role it was also a way, from a personal perspective, to say I’m not going to be quiet about the issues that I know are important here and that I know need to be tackled on campus. If anything, it brought to light how much there is to do and how far there is to go with working with the student body, and then the university as an institution, because there just is not the support that should be there for marginalised students.
Why is it so important to you that your time in office focuses strongly on intersectional feminism and recognising that different women have different struggles?
For somebody who comes from an intersection of identities that are marginalised – so being black, being a person who identifies as a woman, and being queer – it’s important that people like me are represented. Then also being able to have discussions surrounding privilege. So, having an intersectional campaign is important so that we can have the conversations about how we are all different, and how we come from a variety of backgrounds that are kind of banded under the umbrella ‘women.’ This also includes people who are non-binary.
You’ve had a Women’s Brunch already this semester, will events like these be regular throughout the year to allow people to connect with others?
Absolutely – I am super keen on creating a kind of followed community of people in spaces that aren’t necessarily politicised, which means we can talk and we can bond over the campaigns that we are running, but also, we can exist outside of this. I want people to understand that liberation isn’t just the kind of tireless activism that it is portrayed to be. I want to create a community and a network of people who are just doing wonderful things.
What is the thing you are most hopeful about achieving before you finish your tenure in office?
Shaking up shit at this university. I’m ready for this institution to really take seriously the work that Liberation Officers do, and how important it is that they are also engaging in these conversations as well, because it has not been good enough thus far, honestly. I think that kind of, broadly speaking, by the end of this role I want, for whoever takes it on next, the university to have a real sense of the hard work that goes into creating these campaigns.
Image: Edinburgh University Students’ Association