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KUSU women candidates fight against stereotypes

By River Reporter Mar 8, 2013

Two students are on the run to become the first KUSU woman president.

Two female KU students are challenging gender stereotypes by running for SU president after 12 years of males winning the vote.

Anna Stayduhar and Romina Rovira

Denza Gonsalves, 21, a third-year biochemistry student and KUSU president candidate says that she sees no discrimination between the male and female sex but that females haven’t put themselves forward for the role of president.

Not enough competition

Ms Gonsalves said: “Males always seem to be winning because not enough female candidates are running to give them fair competition. I think that KU’s Student Union has operated in this certain male dominated way for so long now that students perceive it to always be that way.”

She argues that female students are not putting themselves forward for this position due to male dominance as leaders and that the diverse student body is not being fully represented, as no KUSU presidents have been from the Asian community in the last 12 years either.

Manning fights back

Francesca Manning, 24-year-old third-year politics students and also running, has a stronger stance on the issue. She feels that the lack of representation is a result of the damage a sexist culture does to the confidence of female students, a culture that can be found in crude jokes and casual sexism at Kingston.

Ms Manning said: “I’m a committed feminist, and I see that one of the aims of a Student Union is to challenge prejudice on campus. We have to find exciting ways of fighting back against sexist ideas through campaigning on campus.”

For the past few years she has been striving to encourage students to do just that. She is part of the KU Feminist Society, has protested in favour of women’s right to choose and is planning to campaign against the opening of a strip club in town.

Low vote turnout

Gonsalves explained that the number of students who actually vote in the elections is very low. From 24,000 only 700 of students voted last year, which means that not only are female students not putting themselves forward but they are not voting for others either.

“Chance to develop as leaders”

For the past 12 years the position has been filled by male students with an Afro Caribbean or white ethnicity, with the exception of one Asian president.

Manning said that she: “would like to see spaces on campus where women can have the chance to develop themselves as leaders inside the student body,” which could potentially be a solution for this issue.

Voting is currently taking place online at My Kingston and will close on March 15 2013.

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