Why Are You Reducing Me to a Sexual Object?: One Candidate’s Experience of Elections


If you think this article is a response to the Soton Tab ‘Fit Candidate’ article, you’re wrong. This is much worse. The response from students to that article gave me the confidence to publish this as I now believe that the vast majority want to face the minority that continue to try to see women as objects.

I knew campaigning would be tough, but I thought all of this was worth it for the opportunity of being Union President and getting to make the changes to SUSU that as a student I have always wanted for everyone. When I knew that I was the only female candidate for president I knew that gender would be a topic that would be discussed. I am sure that my gender is why some of the people who encouraged me to run did so, so that there would be at least one woman. I didn’t plan on making a big deal of it. In my eyes I am a candidate and I think that I would be the best person for the job of Union President. I didn’t make a fuss of all the questions being asked about why there was only one female candidate – by the way, it is not because women need to be encouraged by men to ‘want’ to run.

A number of candidates were out last night campaigning. I thought that a night out would be a good opportunity for me to meet and talk to a number of students: I didn’t think the reception would always be positive, but I expected to be treated equally. I met some really lovely people on my night and had loads of fun but there are some things that I want to point out that on reflection really weren’t right.

To the men that looked at my breasts not my face when I was talking – yes, I had writing on my t-shirt, but once you had read that my name was Laura there was no need to stare anymore. You weren’t doing it to the male candidates that spoke to you.

To those that asked what was better, my breasts or my manifesto: they aren’t two things that should ever be compared. You didn’t ask the male candidates if their cock or manifesto was best.

To the men that said that they would vote for me if they could motorboat me, I was so confused and shocked by these comments I think I ran away. No male candidates will have been asked to perform sexual favours for votes – maybe to buy a few drinks, but nothing on the same level.

To the man that actually placed his face in my breasts, I should have reported you: that was my one mistake of the evening. Instead, I shied away to the dancefloor where it was safer than talking to men about my presidential campaign.

I did not show offense to any of these activities. In fact, I was probably still smiling at you. But if you watched the CCTV back, you would see the smile on my face fade away as I realised that I had been reduced from a candidate to a sexual object.

If you have disagreed with the content of this article, you need to have a long hard look at yourself and think about the kind of person you are. If you believe that the sexual harassment of women is acceptable, then don’t vote for me, because I don’t want your vote.

Change needs to happen before I would allow another female to go through this kind of campaigning.


Discussion34 Comments

  1. avatar

    Is it a bad thing that to a certain extent, I’m really not surprised that people would do that? It is truly horrible that you have had to experience this Laura, and anyone that tries to justify that kind of behaviour by those individuals is just as bad as the individuals committing these acts. I’m not saying at all that you should expect that there is a risk of it at all either. No-one should expect that kind of treatment in a nightclub (let alone anywhere), candidate for elections or not. But at the same time, it really does not surprise me.

    I admire your bravery to express this though. I think its a taboo subject that needs to be brought to the attention of the wider public more.

    I have already voted (and sealed), but if I had the opportunity to change that I would certainly put you as my number one. SUSU needs a real person as a President and someone who is willing to raise the subjects that few others would. Not just someone with fancy promises and fancy words.

  2. avatar

    It is a really brave thing to call people out on this kind of behaviour and I think it will provide inspiration to those who have had similar experiences. Credit to the WS for being a platform where this kind of thing can be discussed. I understand that this article is about broader issues of being female on campus and not centred on THAT soton tab piece but can we all have a conversation about it? I’d be interested to see how the smug kids at the soton tab would react if we put them under such close personal scrutiny. Support from a fellow student and a proud member of the real world, where behaviour described above should never be tolerated.

  3. avatar

    Thank you for this. I really think us females (and of course other groups of people who have this kind of abuse) have a long way to go before we’re actually seen as complete equals, but statements like this certainly help. It’s all about double standards really. I do not understand why there are a (very loud) minority of men who believe it’s ok to do this sort of thing.

  4. avatar

    It is appalling that you have had to deal with this behaviour. It disgusts me that, in this day and age, boys at this university still do that! I am president of an academic society with a prodominantly male committee and today I definitely felt the effects of the lad-ish culture I thought I had left at senior school. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I can’t do the job – I’ll be damned if they thought they were more committed! Good on you for speaking out about it and good luck with the campaign.

  5. avatar

    Absolutely disgraceful that you had to put up with this sort of behaviour. What’s even more disturbing is that there will be numerous students who read this article and don’t understand why any issue is being raised over the ‘jokes’ made at the expense of you and your fellow women.

    Guys who condemn this sort of behaviour are looked down on in today’s student society as the odd ones out, when they’re simply, moral principled people, and women who stand up for their rights are labelled as ‘stuck up’. It’s exactly this kind of behaviour that’s made me feel so alien at university these past few years.

    Someone needs to start raising the question as to why young, so called ‘educated’ people are behaving in this way because the sad truth is, this isn’t an isolated incident, merely one publicised by a brave and strong woman.

    Our sixth forms are spitting out overgrown kids who come to university with no real sense of maturity or responsibility, and they’re coming out after three years with little more.

  6. avatar

    Thank you for writing this. The amount of times I have been groped in nightclubs is atrocious. When I reacted with anger that someone had grabbed my bum (which happened frequently) or even put a hand down my shirt I was treated as though I was the one being a kill-joy, as though I was not acting in the spirit of “going out”. Some of my friends were apathetic towards it, and some outright said that they thought I was overreacting. If its sexual assault when it happens on the street, why an earth does it make it any different if I am drinking/ dancing/ chatting at Jesters? Its a real shame because nights out at places that I really love have been ruined because of this.
    I’m very thankful that (so far) this article has been commented on with those who are offering support to you Laura. I am absolutely sick of the comments on places like the Soton Tab which shows that the same people who think it is okay to grope people are proud to air their mysogynistic and victim-blaming views. These comments are symptomatic of such a rotten attitude in both men and women at this University.Hopefully articles such as your will held battle these views (and, even though you specifically say you do not write in response to the Tab’s article), act against this mysogynic, “Uni Lad”eque views which the Tab and the University students who write such foul comments seem to revel in supporting.

  7. avatar
    Unimpressed student

    Anyone who falls for this deserves a slap.

    In the last day of voting, one of the weakest non-joke candidates, suddenly wants to say something passionate about the trendy topic of the election.

    She really is almost as bad as the people she talks about in this article. She jumps on a bandwagon, probably at the request of Chloe Green she previously hasn’t given a crap about, to create the most sensational, shareable article to try and revive her failing campaign.

    The editors here really must brush up on their impartiality, and, in my opinion, it’s time for her to withdraw. She is taking a serious issue that ruins many lives, and twisting it to detract from the serious politics of her rivals.

    Utterly despicable.

    • avatar
      Another unimpressed student

      I’m unimpressed with your unfounded accusation that this candidate has used her gender (and the problems of sexual harassment and assault associated with it) to make up a story for votes.

      You’re right: this is a serious issue, but so is victim-blaming.

      • avatar
        Unimpressed student

        You’re correct in stating that my accusation is made without any evidence, but so are the long list of accusations she makes in this article. She provides no evidence, she states her opinion, which is what I am doing.

        I would have had a huge amount of respect for her if she had posted this 48 hours later, when there was no danger of it looking like electioneering, OR if she had posted it prior to announcing that she would be running (obviously, this wouldn’t be possible when it refers to events this week).

        Unfortunately, this looks like a cry for sympathy from the electorate in the full day of voting, and that isn’t the right way to run for any sort of office.

        • avatar

          Anyone standing up for themselves in such a toxic environment deserves respect. You’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. In this University women are not respected, those who dare to stick their head up and run for a leadership position are ridiculed year after year and objectified through accusations of using their gender as an election tool.

          When out in nightclubs women are regularly harrassed, with any attempt to challenge it being seen as just not playing along, because how dare women have some sort of say over their own bodies.

          This is a place where the feminist society is ridiculed in anonomous blogs as being “fun sponges” or representing a minority when trying to stand up for womens rights.

          You suggest an external influence, referencing Chloe Green, yet she is a perfect example of how anti women this student community can be, suffering years of bullying and derision fuelled but articles and comments in the Soton Tab, at a time where the blog was dominated by male contributors.

          As the only woman in the President race (and one of few running) the pressure to represent all women will be immense. So is the intensity of simply running for elections without the harrassment, so its no surprise to me that she has decided to do so, with both style and grace. This article is not point scoring or electioneering, but its standing up for herself at the time, and not wishing she’d done so weeks down the line.

          The eyes of much of the student community are on these elections now, and so far what they’ve seen has at times been shameful. In a few weeks time the gaze will be gone, so now is the right time to say to women who may run in the future (and men who have a part to play in fixing this) that things are not at all ok right now, but we need to fix it regardless of the result.

          I have no idea what you’ll take from that, as you clearly feel uncomfortable about a women expressing these issues, but perhaps your reaction is something you may like to reflect on.

          I for one am extremely impressed.

          • avatar

            Well unfortunately she released the statement in a politically charged climate, and while that climate is nowhere near the level of that seen in actual world politics it does still exist to some degree.
            That you would resort to attacking the character of someone who, rightly might I add, is raising a question about the validity of this article reduces discussion to knee-jerk reactionism and Ad Hominems, and that is no discussion at all. The poster even said that were it not for the elections they would agree completely!
            Try to employ a little critical thinking in future, you’ll find it doesn’t turn you into a woman hating beast but instead someone who is perhaps a little less driven by groupthink and blind trust.

          • avatar

            You say ‘the pressure to represent all women will be immense’.

            That’s not her job. When I take on a role, it’s not to represent all men. It’s not to represent all ‘straight’ people. Or to represent all ‘Asians’. It’s to represent everyone who needs to be represented under my role.

            You talk about equality, but by raising that point, your being inequal surely?

    • avatar

      With reference to the text, by giving a personal account, how does she do this at all, having specifically said the opposite to your claims?

      Go troll on the tab, that’s what its their for.

      • avatar
        Unimpressed student

        I accept your point, but I’m really not trolling

        I support the fact she wants to speak publicly about this, but doing so, directly addressing the electorate on the hot topic of the moment, she uses her gender to try and “one up” the other candidates, and turns the focused decision making that students should exercise when choosing a president into a pity party.

        People saying they wish they could change their votes bemuse me. The candidates haven’t changed, nor have their positions, one of them has simply mentioned something happened to them.

        And, finally, to address your point that she “specifically said the opposite”, I say the sky is green, that most certainly doesn’t make it true.

        People are not so quick to trust mainstream politicians, so why should this be any different.

        She quite blatantly wants sympathy votes, if she didn’t, she would have seen the sense in waiting two days before making a post like this.

        • avatar

          I get your point – people like that are out there, but you can’t tarnish all folk with the same brush.

          In the debate, laura didn’t make a big deal of the issue, and having seen past candidates like Chloe Richardson, Alex tanfield, and many others get abused online and offline for their appearance, its highly likely that these things did happen.

          Plus why would she lie, and why would hundreds agree and voice their support if it wasn’t true. Its clearly not election marketing, shed have referenced it more and written it in a less angry style. That raw passion is why people are liking it though, and translating that into something they might want to vote for.

          As for why not wait – you mean wait until everyone’s talking about results, dissertations and holidays? Its a topical issue now, so needs the comment now, and more broadly, this is a trend that needs to change, which is best done with as much publicity as possible, rather than the tens who would read a similar article after elections from a seen-to-be bitter candidate if she lost.

        • avatar

          “People are not so quick to trust mainstream politicians”

          Seriously, she’s a student, and student who’s looking to run the Union on behalf of students not a career MP with 30 years of experience in government.

          This is also neither house of cards or the west wing.

          You’re also quick to cast her in the image of the “politician” rather than the Student. People spend their time saying that candidates should not take themselves so seriously, when often its the people around them that build them up into these fallible public figures.

    • avatar

      I’m glad you feel in a position to express your thoughts about how Laura hasn’t ‘given a crap’ about this issue in the past – you must know her very well.

      I am of course joking, and you sir, are utterly wrong.

      • avatar
        Unimpressed student

        I do know her very well. I think I’m more than qualified to comment on what she has told me in the past.

        We have discussed issues that are important to both of us, and nothing like that ever came up.

        I must reiterate though, I have no problem with the article, or it’s content, my sole issue is with the timing. If this was posted minutes after voting closed, I’d be very proud of her. The timing, however, is unacceptable.

  8. avatar

    I won’t offer my sympathies because from the way you write, you’re obviously one tough, brave lass. I will, however, ask this: where did you meet those so-called students for your campaigning? Perhaps you just happened to be in the bad part of town (I’m guessing Jesters). Next time go somewhere more civilised, where your potential voters are more sensible, well-mannered and responsible.

  9. avatar
    You don't have my vote.

    Reducing women to sexual objects is a serious issue but I feel you have addressed your experience of this problem from the wrong angle. Take for instance the man that placed his face in your breasts – yes you should have reported him. Why didn’t you? I’m sure you were somewhat shocked by the spectacle but would it not be more productive to confront the guilty individual then and there rather than writing a piece about it the morning after? To let bad behavior slip at the time and complain later is not the way to rectify social problems. Those people that objectified you yesterday will probably not read this article (thinking of the number of students and how far soton tab circulates). You want to take on a leadership role at SUSU – a multi-million pound organization but you cannot confront wrongs when they are right in front of your face. I would not say this piece was written with a political agenda to gain any sort of sympathy vote. And quite rightly because I do not know how you could take on a position like president if you are not comfortable directly speaking out against inappropriate behavior – if you are not at ease with asserting yourself.

  10. avatar

    Sexual harassment is not okay in any form. But the best way to stop sexism? Stop talking about it. It’s tiring reading articles about homosexuality, racism, and and sexism. Writing this article just makes your sexuality stand out more.

    My personal opinion is that no-one gives a shit whether your a guy or a girl. Quite frankly, that may have something to do with no-one giving a shit about elections, but it’s because no-one notices gender in elections until people like you bring it up.

    If you want equality, don’t write an article about it, cos all it’s going to do is spark up another dispute that will not get solved.

    • avatar

      That approach certainly worked for ghandi, Martin Luther king, churchill, brave heart, and anyone who has vocalized opinion on any issue to highlight the issues. Silence breeds acceptance and under the rug sweeping.

      • avatar

        I’m not asking for silence. If you want to spark up about it, do so where equality for women is 100% your motive. Her motive is to become SU president and represent everyone. Not just women.

    • avatar

      It’s tiring reading articles about homosexuality, racism, and and sexism.

      It’s tiring reading articles about homosexuality, racism, and and sexism.

      It’s tiring reading articles about homosexuality, racism, and and sexism.

      It’s tiring reading articles about homosexuality, racism, and and sexism.

  11. avatar
    End the Meathead Tyranny

    Meatheads are like dogs. They will keep humping your leg until you teach them that there are consequences. All these guys have is their laddish pride, wound that and they’ll think twice about coming back. So throw an insult in their face; tell them their breath smells or they’re boobs are bigger than yours. Just embarrass them in front of their friends and they’ll go away with their tail between their legs.

    For god’s sake, don’t just keep smiling.

  12. avatar
    The only sane female here

    Either you were wearing a very low cut top or you just have a phenomenal rack, because no one gets this many boob comments in one night.

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