Ed Reckless: He Hit A Woman and it Matters

Over 3500 people have signed a petition calling for Ed Reckless to stand down as Loughborough’s new Student’s Union President. These people have signed because Reckless hit a woman and was banned from his own SU after doing so. It is simply laughable that he was even able to run for the position of President. Conversely, it is terrifying that he was actually elected.

There are varying responses to this campaign demanding his resignation. Aside from the mass of supporters, who amazingly think that hitting a woman should not be rewarded, there are two other main reactions. The first is easily the most abhorrent. This is the voice of the proud Reckless voters: who knew he had committed an act of violence against a woman yet voted for him anyway. These voters should be hanging their heads in shame yet they brandish their knowledge of his offence like a badge of honour. Need I produce anymore evidence that universities are harbouring sexist attitudes other than this? Men and women students alike are defiant in their decision to vote in a man who hit a woman and this attitude needs to be addressed.

Unsurprisingly, Ed Reckless is a white man: he is, by definition, in possession of a degree of privilege that women of all ethnicities and men of minority ethnicities cannot attain. Would his staunch defenders be so vocal if it was a woman in the same position? The second common response relates closely to the aforementioned question of gender: these are the people who agree that Reckless should resign but on the grounds that violence towards ANYONE is enough to warrant his dismissal. I agree with this response entirely and would support the petition regardless of the gender of the person he hit. However I personally find the ‘it doesn’t matter that she was a woman’ stance quite derailing.

Ed Reckless hit a woman. Notice how radical I’m being by omitting the word ‘allegedly’. If the Loughborough Student’s Union saw fit to ban him due to his offence then we can be quite sure the offence took place. Furthermore he has never denied committing this offence – rather he assured potential voters that it ‘allowed (him) to learn and move on from (his) mistakes’. Brilliant. In one sentence he deems the woman he hit as his ‘mistake’ and also as a learning curve for him. The slap to the face she received only existed to aid Ed Reckless’s personal development. This rhetoric supports a wider culture of stripping women of their agency: a culture where we exist as stepping stones for men’s personal and professional improvement.

Here’s why it matters that he hit a woman:

1) Violence Against Women is happening epidemically across universities The NUS ‘Hidden Marks’ survey conducted in 2014 found that 1 in 7 women students had been the victim of violence or sexual assault. Not only has Ed Reckless committed an act of violence against a woman student he is now in the position of REPRESENTING women students at Loughborough University. Violence against women is a specific problem that Student Unions should be combatting not rewarding. By allowing this man to run for election, Loughborough Students Union has sent out the message that violence against women will not be taken seriously. What kind of message is that for students who may be experiencing domestic violence/ the victims of male violence on campus?

2) The perpetrators of violence against women are rarely punished

Ed Reckless is a rarity in that he is one of the few who have actually been punished for committing an act of violence against a woman. Loughborough Students Union had the opportunity to take a real stance against violence towards women yet they let it pass them by. They had the chance to make a real example of Ed: Here’s what happens if you hit a woman – you get banned from the union and have a career prospect denied from you. A pretty meagre punishment really, but enough to send out a strong message. It is a situation which bears resemblance to the sickening case of Ched Evans. Both are men who have been found guilty of committing a crime and both are men who are defended by people refusing to accept their punishment. Just as signing Evans to your club perpetrates rape culture: allowing Reckless to be President perpetrates a culture where violence against women is trivialised and, in this case, rewarded.

3) The vitriolic misogyny unleashed in defence of Ed

The internet has long been a breeding ground for violent misogyny and the case of Ed Reckless is no exception. Indeed the Epinal Tab wasted no time in declaring anyone who supported the petition a ‘feminazi’. Ah yes, because wanting gender equality is comparable to, you know, genocide right? The fact that the Woman’s Officer at Loughborough (who I absolutely adore) is even having to defend the petition is a striking indicator of the sexism that is rampant and accepted as part of university life.

I’m going to finish by reflecting on the various lessons learnt from this debacle. Ed Reckless has seen his violent behaviour rewarded through his right to campaign and due to the fact he was elected: his behaviour has been validated. He learnt that hitting a woman is not actually the end of the world and his career prospects were not (originally) marred by his violent behaviour. Students at Loughborough and across the UK learnt that even if you hit a woman, your institution will still grant you privileges. We have seen a culture of violence against women and sexism on campus be reinforced.

The victim learnt that being punched in the face wasn’t enough to stop her attacker achieving success and that her Students Union didn’t care enough about her to stop him from campaigning. However, thanks to the efforts of the Loughborough Women’s Officer, she will have also learnt that she has over 3500 supporters who are whole-heartedley on her side and believe that violence against women must never, ever be accepted in NUS institutions.

To show your support please sign the petition: https://www.change.org/p/loughborough-students-union-reckless-is-as-reckless-does-a-call-for-ed-reckless-to-stand-down-as-loughborough-students-union-president


The Real Reason #cut4zayn is Not Okay

Teenage girls declaring war in the only way they know how – against themselves. For many young girls, Zayn Malik’s departure from One Direction has marked the end of the world as they know it. Predictably, twitter has become a cesspool of the same kind of tortured heart break that poured from 90s fangirls when Robbie left Take That. Less predictable was the highly triggering and disturbing trend #cut4zayn, which saw countless young girls slashing their wrists then uploading the picture online in order to prove their misery.

There is no doubt that these teenage girls are trivialising a serious symptom/resulting behaviour of mental illness. My initial reaction was of disgust yet it has mellowed out into pity.

There has long been an indie-inspired disapproval of bands like One Direction rooted in musical snobbery. A key element of this snobbery is the fact that in popular culture, a self-identified female following equates to a loss of credibility. Why is it that when young girls like something, that thing becomes uncool? Okay, so 1D’s existence is credited to a commercial cumstain of class exploitation known as The X Factor. They’re achingly aware of their good looks and their songs are upbeat cliches lain over old hits from the Grease soundtrack. However, I still would argue it is the fangirl’s incessant and, let’s face it, blind adoration of bands such as One Direction that incites the most disgust from hipster hunnies such as myself.

Fangirls are the epitome of female weakness. They are shrill, emotional, mentally unstable, obsessive, infatuated, frenzied bags of nerves. It is this stereotype that perpetrates snide remarks about Taylor Swift and her ability to drive men away with her emotions, that causes us to laugh at ‘crazy eyes’ jokes on How I Met Your Mother, that instills into the masses the belief that women cannot be leaders because they are TOO EMOTIONAL FFS.

Rather than rushing to condemn these girls we should be asking the question: ’Why is it that the only weapon these young women have is their mental wellbeing?’

Indeed when I was trying to cope with a miserable mood disorder I coped through the infliction of harm upon myself. When I was trying to understand why I kept getting abused by men I navigated my understanding though the application of a razor to my skin. I believed I had no other channel to express myself. I have since realised that there are other options. What are the options for angry girls on the internet?

When men get threatened/angry online they offer rape threats, promises of violence, scorn, hatred to others. When young women get angry online, they cut their own skin and take a picture. Look at how much pain I’m in! Please stop me hurting myself! Neither is acceptable, yet both contribute to a larger tragedy surrounding gendered expressions of anger online.

Self harm is the behaviour of those with nothing left, no other strings to pull. As Susanna Kaysen points out in Girl, Interrupted, ‘You hurt yourself on the outside to try and kill the thing on the inside’. It becomes a way of control when everything else is turning to shit. Whether you have a mood disorder that makes you feel like a stranger in your own head or there are environmental factors around you that make you feel like a stranger in your own life: self harm is about control and coping. And it is the behaviour of the desperate. As Mark points out in an early episode of Peep Show: ‘I’m not actually cutting myself, I just need to convince Sophie I’m desperate and obviously I need some evidence’. This is clearly the mentality of the fan girls participating in #cut4zayn; they’re not actually depressed or anything, they just need some evidence to show him they’re upset.

When you ridicule someone’s voice to the point where she and everything she stands for becomes a universal pillar of mockery (as we have done to fangirls), it is only a matter of time before she stops using her voice and resorts to more shocking, physical means. The wailings of fangirls have lost the ability to shock us, the herd of voices screaming about how they’re going to ‘marry Harry’ have long been drowned out by the sound of NME reader’s derisive laughter.

Oh and while we’re at it, let’s not tarnish all fangirls with the same #cut4zayn brush. I’m sure the majority are just as disgusted as the rest of us – more ammunition is being fed into the cannon that blasts all fangirls as frenzied psychos when in reality they’re just teenage girls who love a band?

The solution is clear – we need to let fangirls have a voice. In the grand scheme of things there are far worse things your younger sister could be than a One Direction fan. I would argue it’s actually healthy for young women to experience emotions relating to romance and rejection vicariously through bands like 1D and may give them valuable life experience for future relationships.