Women in Sport: Celebrating Our Bodies and Demanding Change

Last night a small rag-tag group of keen Women of Keele Educate members gathered to listen to three fantastic members of the Keele Sports Center.

Woke women in sport

Presenting for us were:

  • Mel Piper – Student Experience and Engagement Officer and self-confessed Quidditch obsessive
  • Naomi Parton, Active Lifestyles Officer and life-long Netball player
  • Nina Walker, Keele’s Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach who also competes and takes part in CrossFit.

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We started with a talk about the numbers involved around women being active and involved in sport.

We found out that only 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport (UNESCO)

And that only 58% of women are meeting national aerobic guidelines compared to 68% of men (NHS, 2016)

But it’s not all doom and gloom!

Change is happening and continues to happen. We watched two inspirational videos:

 

And

 

We learned about the very different journey into sports careers that Mel, Naomi and Nina took, and realized that it is never too late to find that activity that becomes your passion.

The room opened up about their own experiences in sport and the barriers that can be faced.

We talked about mental health.

We talked about periods and the taboos that still surround them. You wouldn’t judge an athlete for pulling a muscle but why can’t athletes say that their periods are giving them an off day in sport?

We spoke about the positive impacts of team sports as well as the potential negative sides (like drinking cultures). We talked about sport being more than ‘traditional’ sports offerings and all the things you could do if you are just not into being a team sports player.

We spoke about the impact of ‘lad-culture’ and cat-calling / shouting when women are exercising. Sharing the frustration that when you get out the house to get active you have to overcome yet another social barrier.

We talked about the impact of others speaking out and normalizing women’s experiences.

We spoke out against body shaming and framing exercise as only good for weight loss or a way of reaching some idealized version of a female body.

Sport is so much more than this. It is an opportunity to invest in your entire well-being.

Whether you do yoga, weight-lift, run, go to classes, swim, or take part in team sports.

It is all a great way to celebrate yourself.

Women’s bodies are fantastic and we wanted to celebrate ourselves in all forms,

Finally, we fan-girled over our sports heroes and decided that this talk was an essential one to have again next semester as part of our freshers offering.

If you want to get involved in sports at Keele:

https://www.keele.ac.uk/activekeele/

Or follow their Facebook page by searching for Sport Keele.

 

Join us for the next WOKE events soon!

 

 

My First Time

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   “The personal is political” – Audre Lorde, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House –

I came to Keele to get my degree and go back to London.

I never imagined being engaged with student life and politics.

However, as I now know all too well, things don’t work out how you think they will.

After having so many unforeseen roadblocks in my academic journey, I decided to get more out of my time at Keele and become the change I wanted to see.

I met Sophia (WOKE co-founder) after looking for a opportunity for women of colour at Keele.

After getting to know the aims of WOKE, even though we’ve not been active for long, I felt empowered to do move forward with my ideas.

Decisions, Decisions

After seeing so many tired faces among the Students Union Officers, I avoided taking part in student politics (other than voting).

But who knew, just being asked by Sophia was all the encouragement I needed to think about changes I wanted to make so that people like me felt more represented at Keele.

I eventually decided to run because I knew that I could make changes, with the support of WOKE, and students who agreed with my stance on free periods, etc.

My decision to run for NUS Delegate was mostly because the NUS had already been doing progressive work i.e. Tampon Tax, the Attainment Gap of Disabled Black Students.

The Process

It was straightforward to nominate myself via KeeleSU website.

After going to the initial meeting with other candidates, where we were informed on the rules and regulations, I knew my campaign ideas would be restricted (though the regulations made campaigning fair for all of us).

I had big ideas and a small budget, so I had to consider how to approach voters, and prove why I am a good candidate for NUS Delegate.

After designing my campaign posters, stickers, and writing my manifesto, I had to decide where I was going to display them.

I had to consider where people are the most like the Students’ Union, toilet’s, lecture buildings.

These were key locations to display posters and stickers as they linked to my campaign aims around Sex and Relationship Education, Free Feminine Hygiene Products, and Extended Freshers Week.

eleAnother key location was in the centre of campus.

I had a campaign stall with the intentions of giving out self-care packs including sanitary towels, condoms, sweets, and information on my campaign.

Since I buy in bulk and I hadn’t menstruated all year due to unknown reasons (shocking), I thought about other women who are financially challenged (as i am) and wanted to do something to help lessen their worries about the costs for something that should be FREE.

However, this was against the election regulations, so I could only give out information about the election.

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Overall, the stall was really engaging and fun.

I found many women coming to me and mentioning seeing my stickers in toilets, others engaged with the points on interest I had written on the table.

A post-it saying “Are Men Trash?” received the most attention; everyone who noticed it said yes, even the men.

This was my first time in student politics and it was great.

I’ll admit I felt slightly disappointed knowing that there results led to Keele’s NUS Delegates being 100% white.

Though, coming so close to getting a position convinced me that students at Keele really want to see change.

As it was a great opportunity for me to network with different sections of Keele as a community, I am proud to say that I have been working with such great people since the election to achieve my aims.

Disclaimer

The only thing about this experience that wasn’t exciting was the lack of election awareness from the SU and students.

As voting is such an important part of democracy, I think all universities should promote voting and election information constantly.

In a time of such political heat in UK Government, it’s absolutely necessary that we pay attention to who’s in charge of taking care of us.

Thanks to Tia, Ade, and Sophia for your close support.
Written and Edited by Raveena and Ade

Global Fair Stall

We are planning an event next semester during International Women’s week to celebrate and create a discourse about our cultures individually and together as People of Colour.

The information will be updated here

We will have a panel discussion which will include topics such as colourism, gender roles and sexuality.

As some of you may know Keele has a annual global fair which celebrates diversity and the contributions of others.

We had the opportunity to promote Cultural Affairs at the annual Global Fair launch.

The main idea surrounding the event is creating discussions on important topics that are not discussed enough.

When planning the stall we decided the best way to start a conversation around culture was to ask people what they loved and celebrated about their culture and what they would change.

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As one of the topics will be discussing is on colourism, we decided to bring this subject to the stall to understand what other peoples perceptions on the topic.

We discussed the issue of negative connotations associated with dark skin especially with women and how colourism has impacted our experiences growing up.

It was a great opportunity to engage with people that had so much to say on the subject.

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We also asked people to self-identity and write where they are from as a way of showing that there are people from ethnic backgrounds that are part of LGBT and identity-based communities.

The stall gave us the opportunity to have meaningful conversations that confirmed these are the topics we need to be talking about among peers.

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We welcome everyone to attend Cultural Affairs and become part of a big step towards a cultural shift at Keele.

For more information feel free to contact me (Ade) or Raveena.

Ade (w6j55) + Raveena (w6h50)

or get in touch at the woke email using the below form:

Time to Do Better

A quick Saturday morning of research has thrown up some interesting facts and figures:

2016

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2016 there were 47 candidates total.

Of that total 78.7 % identified their ethnicity as white. When you compare that to Keele’s statistics on all students, the student body, was 65.8% white.

So in percentage terms, the white student populace is over-represented in running for positions of power on campus.

I also found that whilst 61.7% of candidates in the SU elections identified themselves as male, the campus wide demographic showed that only 41% of all students on campus were male.

(Head to here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year)

2017

When looking at the data from the KeeleSU Elections in 2017 there were 43 candidates in total.

70.45% of candidates that ran identified themselves as white compared to a campus demographic of 64.8% white students.

61.3% of candidates that ran, identified themselves as male, but campus wide the demographic data meant that 41.4% of all students were male.

Head here to see the full report on the student demographic at Keele that year

There is a disproportionate number of men running for and holding positions of power on campus.

It is not representative of the student body.

I don’t currently have access to the data to do the same work for KPA positions, but it is significantly worse if you consider the number of male postgraduates that have held the KPA positions versus the number of female postgraduates we have in total.

(This data is from 2015/16 as it was available it is unlikely that there are  huge fluctuations in gender balance year on year):

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It’s time to do better.

After just a few months of work Women of Keele Educate have ensured a higher number of women and non-binary people at Keele have nominated themselves in the upcoming by-elections.

Take the time to read the manifestos of some fantastic candidates when you see them appear in the next few weeks.

Take the time to vote.

Take the time to ensure that you are accurately represented.

If you need any help or would like to join us get in contact

W.O.K.E Launch: Inspiring the Next Superwomen

Read on for a write-up by Laura, a first year PhD Student, Postgraduate Decolonise Rep and WOKE Champion. 

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Yesterday, Thursday 11th October 2018, my alarm went off at 5:55 am and I’m sure I had all the thoughts a tired postgraduate mum could have,

‘do I need an education?’,

‘can I home-school my kid?’,

‘I need more sleep!’,

I piled my son into the car and dropped him off at his school’s breakfast club, just so I could sit in traffic for 40 minutes to (hopefully) get a parking space at Keele.

After working through the whole day, attending the postgraduate coffee morning (so that I can at least feel like I’m staying in the ‘postgraduate loop’), rushing home to collect my son from school and quickly throwing together a meal that was nutritional but required minimum effort, I piled my son back into the car and met my partner on the Keele car park to hand him over so that I could attend the official launch event of the Women of Keele Educate initiative (W.O.K.E).

By this point I was feeling the strain…

But, as I walked into the W.O.K.E launch event I was immediately surrounded by energy.

Roxy and Sophia, who have spent months making this initiative and launch possible (along with Ele and some WOKE Champions), were stood right at the front of the room greeting each attendee with the exact enthusiasm that has gone into making an initiative like this possible.

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Woke Launch 11.10.18

Students and staff alike were seated, chatting amongst themselves, sharing ideas and just generally catching up. In this sea of quietly charged excitement I spotted a familiar face and decided to sit behind her for the event. We had a minute to chat and I explained about my busy day, I remember saying that ‘postgraduate life whilst parenting is like hitting the ground running except you’re sprinting the entire time’ to which she agreed and offered me some really great advice.

I wasn’t the only one… I wasn’t pretending to be something I’m not. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve got a good grip on this postgraduate life after all!

Roxy and Sophia both began the event by explaining a little bit about what W.O.K.E is and the amazing speakers we have coming up, internally from Keele and externally from other places (more details of these can be found on the W.O.K.E website soon).

It was then time to introduce the first ever W.O.K.E speaker; Anne Loweth. I must admit, I had no idea who Anne was at this point – she’s a senior lecturer in Biochemistry, an Athena SWAN Champion, and Keele’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for students, so you know… a big deal!

Anne’s talk last night was amazing, the perfect combination of academic achievement and work-life balance. I wanted to share with you the parts of Anne’s talk that resonated so much with me.

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Woke Launch 11.10.18 Dr Anne Loweth

Anne began her talk by explaining that she had stood in this very same room, 29 years before the W.O.K.E launch, to deliver a talk to undergrad students about being a mature student. As a mature student myself, she had me interested from the word ‘go’!

Anne did not take the traditional route into education, instead after her A-levels she went into the world or work for practical reasons. She talked about working at Crewe Hall for a company which produced liquid pharmaceuticals like creams and medicines.

Looking back at her position in this company she can understand now how she was working in a very male, ‘macho’ environment and how some of the behaviours that were deemed as ‘normal’ would not be permitted today.

This triggered my own memories and I thought back to my experience of working in ‘macho’ environments.

Like Anne, I did not follow the traditional path to university and sought work after college. At the time, I lived on army barracks in Salisbury and worked for the RAF on an airbase just down the road. Not only was I one of the few females in my team, I was also a lot younger than many of the staff by at least 20 years.

It was the norm to hear comments about my skirt, my legs, to have a senior staff member place his arm on the small of my back, to be spoken to in a condescending manner.

Even though this was only just over a decade ago, this behaviour was just ‘normal’.

I even remember a member of my team telling me my ‘bum has the right amount of jiggly’… ‘normal’, right?

Anne’s words reminded me of how much change has happened in such a short space of time. I can now look back and see that this behaviour is not normal, and I now know that I do not have to stand for it.

When Anne was on maternity leave, she made the decision to not go back to work and instead, when the time was right, decided on going to university instead.

Again, my path has mirrored Anne’s.

She explained that when she came back to education as a mature student, she suffered many anxieties that I have also felt; would she be any good? How would she be able to juggle studies whilst parenting two small children?

But Anne found that she could complete a degree with two toddlers at home, and felt that not only could she complete it, but she was quite good at it. She remembered a time in the lab when the group were asked to complete an experiment that had a lot of different components, the other students (who were not juggling studying and parenting) were having a hard job with the amount of different things to do, and Anne thought to herself ‘this is easy compared to looking after two toddlers!’

Anne excelled in her studies and went on to complete a PhD at Keele university. She explained that the completion of this degree brought about new anxieties, post docs were meant to be flexible, relocate, perhaps even do a stint abroad.

But Anne said that in every decision she has ever made she has always put her family first, admitting that this may have had a knock-on effect on her career, but she was determined to keep a work-life balance that both her and her family were happy with.

Anne secured grant funding that allowed her to continue researching at Keele for a further three years, when this came to an end she knew she had to find a more permanent role.

As there were no contracts available at Keele at the time Anne managed to secure a lecturing role in Liverpool John Moores University.

This role did have its draw-backs though, there were no research hours included in the contract and Anne now faced a 100-mile commute taking her further away from her family each day.

Nevertheless, she made it work for five years.

In this role Anne was a personal tutor to many students, and this is where she learned to provide pastoral support to students, something that she brings to Keele in her current role on a much larger scale.

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Woke Launch 11.10.18 Dr Anne Loweth

When a position became available at Keele in 2003, Anne jumped at the chance to come ‘home’ to a university she loves.

During this time, she has taken on the leadership of the undergraduate program in Biomedical Science, been appointed Head of School of Life Sciences, led the School of Life Sciences to its first Equality Challenge unit Athena SWAN award, been the interim Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, co-chaired the University’s Athena SWAN committee, and is now Pro-Vice Chancellor for Students (Keele, 2018).

And she has done all of this while raising her family… #superwoman!

After hearing Anne’s story, I felt so inspired that I wanted to talk to this amazing woman.

As the session came to an end and we were invited to partake in the refreshments available, I plucked up the courage to speak to Anne.

I can’t remember the exact words that I said but it was something along the lines of how amazing her talk was, and how much I had related to it.

We discussed imposter syndrome, something that Anne had mentioned in her talk. This is something that I feel has followed me around during my university experience, always feeling as though I had to keep up with younger students and trying to balance the academic and social sides of university at the same time as raising my son, always feeling not quite good enough.

Anne’s words were really encouraging, she told me of a time when her children were in their teens and she would be cooking their dinner before even taking her coat off after getting in from work.

She reminded me to take time for myself, to set myself ‘working’ hours and family hours and that even though I would be tempted to continue working into the evening, to always make time to relax with my family at the end of each day.

On a day when I was really feeling the strain, Anne reminded me that I am good enough, that I can do this and that having a family does not mean that you can’t have a career.

As I looked around the room and spied my supervisor who had brought her young son along to this talk, juggling her work-life balance (just as Anne, myself, and countless others in the room were), I realized that this journey does not have to be about making a choice between work and life.

Initiatives like W.O.K.E and many more are allowing a more inclusive working and studying environment for everyone who identifies as a woman, or is non-binary.

This is exactly why I wanted to jump on board.

One day I hope that I can stand in Anne’s position and inspire somebody the way that Anne has inspired me and many more people in the room last night.

Find more information about Anne here.

Find more information about the Athena SWAN award here.

Find more information about W.O.K.E by looking at the rest of the website

Ask Her To Stand

On Wednesday 18th July 2018, Sophia, Roxy and Kiran got a train into London to go and attend a conference put on by the Fawcett Society and 50:50Parliament, working on getting more women into Parliament by asking women to stand.

The Conference aimed to support women to run for political positions and work across party lines to tackle inequality.

The evening offered panel sessions and workshops giving practical advice to all those who self-defined as women and wanted to get into politics and public life.

Between the three of us we covered all 4 workshops, networked and bagged a bit of swag to give to Ele when we got back!

We sat near the front ready for the opening session and as we looked around we saw a huge room, full of women.

Representing every section of intersectionality.

Representing multiple layers of oppressions and privileges and united together, demanding change, wanting a different state of affairs.

We were so inspired and we were definitely in the right place.

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From L-R: Sophia, Roxy, Kiran

Plenary Session

This opening session was incredible. Chaired by Sam Smethers – Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society.

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We sat and listened to some amazing women:

Lib Dem: Baroness Sal Brinton

SNP: Alison Thewliss MP

Labour: Dawn Butler

WEP: Sophie Walker

Conservative, WESC: Maria Miller

Green: Amelia Womack

 

The audience asked questions and the panel gave us all some insight. The women of parliament collaborate a lot to work towards shared goals even when their politics disagree.

One audience member stood up, asking a problematic question. She wanted to know if the room and the panel would be happy if 50 percent of parliament was trans women to the 50 percent men.

To our relief the entire room replied yes.

Then each panel member spoke up, reaffirmed that transwomen are women.

One panel member pointed out that we are yet to even have one trans MP.

We were so happy that we were truly in an intersectional feminist space. We hope the audience member reviews her own prejudices now.

The panel continued to discuss the issues and solutions that they thought would help get equality for women.

Amelia Womack spoke about the need for job sharing options for MPs. It is the only job that does not allow this. Job sharing would ensure accessibility for anyone that had caring responsibilities. Sophie Walker passionately asked the room, “Are you honestly telling me that the world is run by white men because they are better than, for example, black women?! Are you kidding me?It’s about time we see all women’s lives reflecting on EVERY page of manifestos”.

Dawn Butler spoke about the standards we expect women to have to compete with men. She said she wanted to champion mediocre women. “I’ll be the champion of mediocre women, I want to see mediocre women in politics.” She went on to say that other women must help women to succeed. If you get up the ladder, lay foundations for an elevator. Help women behind you get up quicker. Support them.

 

We learned that a lot of the parties were using all women shortlists for roles, and that the Green Party extended nomination times if no women were put forward by another 2 weeks.

These are things we are going to keep in mind for the smaller project at Keele.

This panel session was beyond inspiring, just the room full of women with multiple experiences, the room was diverse and just as an intersectional movement would be.

It was truly amazing to be surrounded by so many women.

We felt really moved.

Summary of Workshops:

Why Stand? What difference do women make? (50:50 Parliament)

This workshop started with a presentation (that we are bringing back to Keele) to tell us the statistics that underlie the under-representation of women in politics. We then heard from three women. Two who had recently won their seats in 2017 Labour and Conservative MPs, and one lady who was heading up the #AskHerToStand campaign, offering support for any women that wanted to get into the Lib Dems.

We learned about what inspired them to stand, and found out it was a rather ordinary small action that led them to have an extraordinary change of career: Someone asked them to.

This simple task, a second human telling them, ‘You know, you’d make a good MP, have you considered running?’. It reassured us that the journey we want W.o.K.E to take is on the right path. We are so keen to empower everyone on campus, and remind them of how awesome they already are.

The second common point they shared was that they had looked around and realised, some of their male counterparts were truly awful at their jobs! They then realised they could do a much better job.

Something we learned all throughout the sessions is that representation shapes policy. Having women in the room and a diverse representation of women, ensures that policies that represent them are made and put forward.

This is what we want to achieve. Let’s get ourselves at the events, in the rooms and in the roles that will make a difference at Keele.

What’s Stopping You? Overcoming the barriers to getting into politics (Parliament Project)

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This was an energetic and awesome workshop with breakout groups of 3-5 women supported by a facilitator. There were flip-charts and marker pens and loud noises! We talked about the barriers to participation and split them into categories

Despite the breakout groups being small when we all fed back what was discussed there was so many common threads. All the women spoke about a lack of confidence, a feeling they weren’t knowledgeable enough and a worry that they wouldn’t be able to do the roles.

These women were strong, talented people and yet we all shared this imposter syndrome.

Building Your Political CV: How to build the relevant experience

This workshop focussed on helping women make the most out of the experience they already had. Focussing on the transferable skills and boosting the confidence of the women in the room. We already have the skills to do these roles, it is about realising it!

Political Careers: Working in and around politics

This workshop gave women practical advice and allowed women to talk to those who already had political careers.

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We came back energised and inspired and determined to take more Keele women to conferences.

The shared learning and the empowerment was fantastic.

The event was live streamed and recorded so follow this link to learn more:

Ask Her to Stand 2018 Video of Conference

We hope you join us on a conference soon.

If you find something you think others would enjoy going to let us know!

For upcoming events click here

 

 

 

W.o.K.E Two Weeks (ish) In

Read on for a blog post by Sophia Hayat Taha, co-founder of W.o.K.E

Just over two weeks ago we started the wheels in motion for the W.o.K.E project. 

We have speakers lined up, T-shirts available, a fabulous website (if I do say so myself), direction for writers, writers coming forward, a visible presence on social media which is growing quickly, and people talking about us, coming forward to work together.  Basically we are about to get some amazing changes at Keele actively happening.

It is awesome. It is scary. It is empowering. Clearly we all want change.

What we don’t have yet is our full collection of champions, we are sorely missing more people of colour, trans voices and non-binary voices.

We are lucky enough to have some champions for our mental health based volunteer roles and some faith W.o.K.E champions in the pipeline too (watch this space!).

The missing champion roles scare me, and yes I know we are in the middle of summer, and only two weeks in, but patience has never been a strong point of mine.

I am in a bit of a cycle of wondering what I can do to make the roles more appealing and keep people safe and supported. Please do get in touch with concerns or suggestions.

We want to empower everyone who is usually ignored and kept down by multiple structural oppressions.

After London Pride being hijacked by a problematic group of anti-trans voices we posted our support for our trans sisters and brothers on Instagram and twitter.

We lost a few followers,  had to report and delete comments, and block someone. We will continue to do this every time we see bigotry. We have our safe space rules and we will continue to update and improve on them so that everyone can participate.

W.o.K.E is an intersectional movement. If that troubles you, we have reading lists that will be live soon, we suggest you educate yourself.

Challenge your privileges and have a long think about why you think you can oppress someone else. 

We have many opportunities to learn over the next year, with workshops coming to Keele, external workshops being signposted and travel arranged for groups that want to go (watch this space), conferences, reading lists, activities in informal settings, and more formal speaker sessions.

This is a long journey that we all need to take. None of us is free from our own privileges. A few of mine are that I am a cis, white-passing, straight-passing woman. We all have our own oppressions and struggles. We can all learn. We can all do better.

Over the year we have workshops challenging white feminism and the white supremacy underlying white tears. We have workshops that are specifically for men to learn about intersectional feminism. We have workshops tackling how to be a better feminist in practice instead of just in words. We have practical help for those that want to put themselves forward when nominations open for elected positions on campus. We have well-being activities, collaborations with the careers services coming up and cooperation with Keele’s decolonise the curriculum project.

This year is going to be incredible.

I am so excited. I am so scared, but I hope that you will feel empowered.

In solidarity

Sophia