Category Archives: sexual politics

Love Parade catastrophe was preventable

Did the organizers stop at nothing for profits?

20 people died in the horrific stampede at the July 24 Love Parade festival in the German city of Duisburg, 500 were injured and, for a time, over 1 000 people were officially listed as missing. The revellers panicked at a tunnel entrance. But, already in the build up to the parade many thought there was a risk of mass panic developing.

By Jan Röder and Sebastian Förster, CWI Germany
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The Real Miss UCD!

Elisa O’Donovan, Dublin Socialist Youth

UCD Socialist Youth last week set up the Students Against Sexism campaign to protest against the Miss UCD beauty pageant sponsored by UCD Students Union. This beauty pageant is part of the Miss University competition and apart from being sexist, it bans mothers, wives and women under 5ft4 from entering!

The protest held was enormously successful with over 70 students and staff showing their support, along with messages of solidarity from other universities where the pageant had taken place.

The protest began with a speaker from the UCD equality department, highlighting the huge effects beauty pageants have on young women with regards to body image. Second speaker, Ailbhe Smyth, spoke of how acceptable sexism has become in society and how Miss World encourages this as it allows women to be viewed as just objects. The Socialist Youth representative spoke of how the union’s role was to fight for women’s rights on campus, particularly highlighting the lack of decent child care facilities and health facilities on campus. Each speaker was met with a rousing response from the large crowd of students.

Following the speakers there was the Real Miss UCD pageant. All contestants were immediately disqualified as one was too short, the other had two children and the other was too masculine! Eventually a sheep was crowned the real Miss UCD to signify the union following the flock and not standing up for women rights on campus. “There was a great feel about UCD today, students were standing up against discrimination. It was empowering and shows how successful direct action can be” said Sophie Grenham after the demo.

UCD Socialist Youth will now continue its campaign against sexism in UCD and continue the fight to ensure equality for all on campus.

Say NO to the Miss UCD pagent

BY ELISA O’DONOVAN – UCD Students Against Sexism

This year see’s the first (and hopefully last!) Miss UCD beauty pageant, sponsored by UCDSU ,alongside trashy tabloids The sun and News of the world. The first Miss UCD takes place on Thursday 17th April. The winner of the ‘competition’ will win automatic entry to Miss Ireland as well as winning beauty makeovers , clothes and a gym membership. Miss Ireland and hence Miss UCD bans all mothers, wives and women under 5’4 from entering.These sexist competitions have no place in Ireland and particularly in UCD. These types of competitions are demeaning and are an excuse for putting sexism on parade They encourage the idea that women should be seen as sex objects to be judged by men, as well as making women believe that to be desirable they have to conform to unrealistic types of ‘beauty’.

The Miss university pageant is doing the rounds in third level colleges throughout Ireland and already a Miss DIT,Miss Portebello,Miss NCI,Miss RCSI,Miss St Pats and Miss Tallaght IT have been ‘crowned’ with extensive positive media coverage. Miss Ireland and Miss world seems to have become an acceptable form of ‘entertainment’ in Ireland despite thats its a competiton that is grossly offensive to both men and women. 

Why oppose it?

It has become normal for young women to be irrationally critical of their bodies. As young women we are bombarded with on average 600 ads/day each telling us how to look .Every week there’s a new part of our body we have to change and look better in order to be accepted and respected by society. The young women most celebrated in Irish media are Katy French, Rossana Davidson ,those that are ‘ beautiful’ and successful with Miss Ireland being the most pictured young women in Irish media. The effect that this has on
women cannot be overstated. In Ireland alone 6000 women suffer from eating disorders compared to 400 men. Self esteem in young Irish females has never been so low. This is because as women we are constantly barraged with how we should and must look. This stereotype of youth, clear skin, sparkling teeth, tanned and toned is a stereotype which is completely reinforced by the Miss Ireland and Miss World franchise. And who does this stereotype benefit? Does it benefit us women? Of course not it directly benefits’s the pockets of the Miss Ireland franchise!

All the time women are struggling with self esteem and self worth while big business is making billions of our insecurities. Miss Ireland helps accelerate these insecurities by allowing wealthy businessmen on the judging panel to choose what society should see as desirable or not. Miss Ireland is not run for fun or for creating opportunities for women as it often proclaims, its sole purpose is to make as much money for the organisers. Millionaire businessman and owner of the Miss Ireland franchise, Krish Naidoa, recently stated in a daily mail article that ‘we ( the miss Ireland organisers) are all in it to make money.’ Like the beauty and diet industrys constantly advertising a new diet trend or latest must have product which as a result doesn’t boost our self esteem it only boosts the enormous profits of the diet/ beauty industry. Last year alone L’oreal made a massive €1.86 billion in profits!

Miss UCD will also contain the famous swimsuit portion. This is where women don bathing suits purely so there bodies can be judged to see if they conform to what is desirable for society I.e. lacking wrinkles, celluite, flab and every other normal constituent of a women’s body. This is a pervasive force not only in shaping our body ideals but also in creating stereotypes on how women should act and be. The female body has become a commodity that can be sold. From playboy bunnies to Miss world women are seen for a sexual use other than as a person with the capacity for independent action and thought. Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize women and girls affect greatly how women conceptualise feminity and sexuality. It leads them to accept more constrained and stereotypical notions about gender roles and sexual roles. Miss world is part of an industry based on portraying women as sexual objects, available to be “consumed” by a male customer. Women’s sexuality is reduced to pleasing men.

What about Student Union involvment? 

Our SU is there to represent us, the students. Its role ,like all students union is to empower and reach out to all students whatever their sex. Students need a strong union to fight for students rights and to campaign,educate and inform students on all issues.

However, this year UCDSU has completely ignored women’s issues on campus. The women’s officer, an active member of fianna fail, has held only one event all year. Women have never been more isolated from the union which can be seen in the fact that we once again have an all male sabbatical team to represent us next year. Considering women are a majority on this campus their issues whether health, social or political should be represented yet they are being completely ignored by UCDSU.

The union justified their reasons for holding the Miss UCD pageantby running it as a charity event for the primary immunodeficiency association; a charity that helps mothers and fathers cope with raising a child with a incurable paediatric condition. It is ironic that in order to raise money to help struggling families the union has to resort to using a competition that bans mothers and wives from entering!

The union should not be holding beauty pageants, they should be fighting to ensure equality for ALL on campus by fighting for; decent child care facilities for mothers and fathers on campus, free smear testing and proper health care facilities for women, fighting for workplace rights,including maternity leave and equal pay; and to speak out against all other forms of discrimination in Belfield.

To oppose union involvement in Miss UCD, UCD students against sexism are holding a mock Miss UCD beauty pageant where the REAL Miss UCD will be crowned. At the event,which will be held Thurs 17th April at 1 outside the arts block, we will be distributing leaflets to highlight some of the challenges facing women in modern Ireland. There will also be speakers present from the Equality department, the Socialist Party and more.

We ask all students and staff from all univeristys who oppose sexism to get involved.Come along on the day,show your support and say NO to sexism! 

Miss Ireland rules:
Miss afterdark rules:


UCD Students’ Union sponsors Miss UCD competition

Elisa O’Donovan, Dublin Socialist Youth

“Want to be the hottest girl on campus?” This was the slogan used to advertise the first Miss UCD beauty pageant, a competiton sponsored by the UCD Students’ Union in conjunction with the Sun and the News of the World.

UCD Students’ Union, like all student unions, should be vehemently opposed to all forms of sexism and be promoting a positive view of women. Beauty pageants are demeaning to women and are an excuse for putting sexism on parade. They encourage the idea that women should be seen as sex objects to be judged by men, as well as making women believe that to be desirable they have to conform to unrealistic types of “beauty”.

Socialist Party members demanded the immediate withdrawal of support for this so-called competition by the Students’ Union. In response the student union officials justified holding this sexist pageant by running it as a charity event for the primary immunodeficiency association; a charity that helps mothers and fathers cope with raising a child with an incurable paediatric condition.

It is ironic that in order to raise money to help struggling families, UCD Students’ Union has to resort to using a competition that bans mothers and wives from entering! Along with this the competiton banned all women under 5’4”!

South: Contraception – Why isn’t it free?

By Cian Prendiville, Limerick Socialist Youth

In January’s Finance Bill VAT on condoms was lowered from 21% to 13.5%. Any reduction should be welcomed, the crucial question is why, given the problems with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), is there VAT on condoms, or indeed why are they not free?

The VAT cut got some mixed reactions. As could be expected the Catholic Church was up in arms against it. The Union of Students in Ireland simply welcomed the reduction and called for the VAT to be reduced to 5%, unfortunately accepting the logic that there must be VAT and a price tag on safer sex.

This is at a time when according to one survey, 40% of students didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex. This is particularly worrying given the growing problems of STIs such as Chlamydia, gonorrhea  and HIV. Between 1998 and 2003 the reported number of STIs increased by almost 400%.

Yet despite this condoms are more expensive in Ireland than most other parts of the EU, with companies such as Durex and Mates making billions. It is the height of hypocrisy that the government can claim to be trying to tackle the spread of STIs and yet allow this profiteering to take place.

As well as this there is a shocking lack of decent, non-judgmental sex education for young people. In report after report there are stories of teenagers not using condoms correctly or following myths such as “you can’t get pregnant if its her first time”. In order to tackle STIs and unplanned pregnancies, sex education, free contraception, STI tests and treatment must be provided without stigma or judgment to all.

South: Birth control rip-off

By Ann-Katrin Orr, Limerick Socialist Youth

According to a survey, 32% of women said that the price of the contraceptive pill discourages them from using it. At a time when there are high levels of crisis pregnancies, particularly amongst young women, this is a frightening statistic.

There’s a vital need for sex education but also the provision of free and easily accessible contraception.

The cost of the first 6 months taking the pill can easily come to ?200. This is because of the costs of GP visits, the pill itself and related charges such as the cost for smear tests and nurses’ consultation. Whilst in the South third level students may have access to free or reduced cost health care through their college, most have to pay the full costs involved. This is disgraceful, especially when compared to the North where young people can get the pill free of charge.

On top of the financial burden women are also often confronted with the social taboo attached with getting contraception. They can feel intimidated and judged by their GPs, especially family GPs, some of whom actually refuse point blank to prescribe the pill. It should be the right of each and every woman to choose if she wants to use the pill as a contraceptive.

Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford… Desperate students turn to prostitution

By Elisa O’Donovan

Students across Ireland are having to resort to prostitution in order to pay their way through college.

“19 year old Waterford student, tall attractive, badly in need of a few quid”; “Open minded, young sociology student looking for fun”.

Adverts such as these are now common among the booming business of escort agencies in Ireland – a business that is thriving on the financial insecurities of young female and male students.

It is becoming increasingly more expensive for students to further their education in Ireland. With many students unable to afford decent accommodation or even books for their course, and with agencies such as Escort Ireland network offering students ?135 an hour it is not difficult to see why students are being reduced to selling their bodies in order to afford a decent standard of living. One agency, D4 escort agency, even boasts “many of our ladies are students or recent graduates”.

The lack of any decent affordable accommodation for students reached crisis point this summer with some students having to resort to sleeping on the streets . The maximum higher education grant stands at ?3,420 yet students living in Dublin can expect to pay ?500 a month on accommodation costs alone. With the maximum grant hardly covering living expenses let alone money for food, books, lab equipment etc. students are forced to work low paid inflexible jobs which badly affect their studies. The governments inaction on students plight has only pushed students to desperate measures such as prostitution to see them through their course. The student support bill which was to offer a definite schedule for reform of the grants system is now 6 months overdue.

There is no doubt that the gradual glamorisation of the so-called “sex industry” has had an impact on the attitudes of some students towards prostitution. Escort agencies promise glamour by showing pictures of models in luxury hotels with expensive underwear however the reality is very different. A large majority of prostitutes experience violence including rape, at the hands of men who pay for sex.

When asked about the increasing number of students having to turn to prostitution to pay their way through college, Education Minister, Mary Hannafin ,said she was “appalled” at the situation.

But the government is responsible for this scandal. USI should take on the government and mobilise students nationally in a campaign for a living grant for all students.