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