When I was applying to Peterhouse, my History teacher told me not to do it, remembering horror stories that a former pupil of his had related about her time at the college. ‘Women weren’t treated like people,’ he said. I chose to assume that his advice was outdated – and I’m glad to be able to say after two years of study here, that my experience has proven me right. This isn’t to say that sexism doesn’t exist at Peterhouse, or Cambridge; of course it does. But I think that Peterhouse right now is a really good place to be a feminist. Whether you’re already a keen activist or you’re someone who hasn’t had time to think about this sort of thing yet, there are feminist spaces waiting for you here… for example:
- Consent Workshops
This is the second year of consent workshops running at Peterhouse and across Cambridge colleges, after a campaign led by last year’s CUSU Women’s Officer, Amelia Horgan. These won’t be a series of lectures about assault, but will aim to involve everyone in an interesting discussion of what consent means, with the aim of tackling the culture behind sexual violence. But I’ll be emailing you about these soon enough!
- The Beard Society
The Beard Society is Peterhouse’s resident feminist discussion group, founded in 2013. Current committee members are Eloise Davies, Naomi Obeng, Shanti Daffern, Stevie Hertz and myself; we decide speakers and organize the events between us. The popularity of The Beard Society was one of the aspects of Peterhouse which I found most encouraging when I arrived here as a fresher, so I hope many of you will feel the same! Events are attended by undergraduates, fellows and staff of all genders and from across the university. Speakers have ranged from activists from the group Focus E15, whose campaigns focus on the housing crisis, to academic guests like Professor Rae Langton, a fellow at Newnham, who spoke on pornography and Kant. No spoilers yet – but this year’s programme is just as broad. (Like our page here: https://www.facebook.com/TheBeardSociety?fref=ts and follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheBeardSociety)
- Other Peterhouse Discussion Groups
Not going to The Beard Society won’t save you from being at a feminist event in Peterhouse – the Perne Society and Politics Society both have a strong record on inviting feminist speakers, such as the famous feminist art historian Griselda Pollock, who spoke at the Perne Society the year before last.
- Peterhouse Women’s Dinner
2015 marks the 30th anniversary of women undergraduates being admitted to Peterhouse, and to celebrate, Maggie Polk (your JCR vice-president) and myself are organizing a Women’s Dinner for current women and non-binary students and alumnae. Why shouldn’t men be invited? I hear you ask. Well, every dinner before 1985 was a men’s only dinner, so I believe that reserving some spaces like this for women is not only legitimate but important in reclaiming Peterhouse from its dreary misogynist past. More details to come!
- University feminism
There are plenty of university-wide feminist groups in Cambridge; I’ll only mention a few of the best. The CUSU Women’s Campaign has a large programme of events (see their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/CUSUWomen?fref=ts), as well as the fortnightly Women’s Forum. This is open to women and non-binary people only; if this applies to you and you are keen to get involved in University
campaigning, I do recommend it – it is a good way to meet other like minded people and have your say in the way the CUSU Women’s Campaign runs itself. I will be going regularly and am happy to chaperone anyone who wants to come. Fly is Cambridge’s network and forum specifically for women of colour (here is a link to their fantastic blog: http://flygirlsofcambridge.com/). And finally, St John’s Women’s Society holds lots of popular talks and socials (https://www.facebook.com/johnswomensoc?fref=nf).
- This blog…
I started the Women of Peterhouse blog last year when I realised that googling ‘women + Peterhouse’ brought up Roger Scruton. I would love to have submissions from freshers! People of gender are welcome to contribute. As a third year, I will also be looking for someone (or multiple people) to co-edit the blog, with a view to handing it on completely later this year. If you are interested in getting involved, let me know!
Please feel free to message me with any questions – and welcome to Peterhouse!
Ellie Myerson (Women’s Officer)