Will the real Women’s Collective please stand up?

When it comes to WoCo, there’s only one genuine article — and no one can say otherwise

L-R: Arabella Wauchope, Stella Salvemini, Rebecca Etienne. Credit: Sarah Reed and The Advertiser, 12th September 2020.

When I was younger, much like most siblings, my brother and I would fall into the tiring, sometimes endless cycle that is the copy-cat game.

I would complain to my mother who would all-too predictably recite the common, diplomatic, maternal phrase: “Imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

This frustrated me to no end as a child, until one day, in my late-teens, I came across an expanded version:

“Imitation might be the highest form of flattery, but it reflects the lowest level of intelligence and imagination…”

Excuse this author if she thinks of this beautifully crafted phrase when she casts her mind to the mockery that is the NEWUofA Women’s Collective (New WoCo).

For those of you dear readers, who are just joining the debacle that is the fight of the UofA Women’s Collective, let this author catch you up to speed.

Once Upon a Time in September of 2019, a group of proud, strong women decided that they could fill a much-needed gap at UofA. These women gathered for the first time above the Fix Student Lounge to hold their first AGM. Positions were appointed, notes were taken, ideas were brewed, and consequently, the Original UofA Women’s Collective (OG WoCo) was founded on sisterhood, commitment and a common drive. By golly, an energetic tornado of pure feminist advocacy was about to land on the University of Adelaide campus. The members were motivated, their supporters were waiting with anticipation, all that was needed was to be approved as a club. Sigh.

Alas, this club was denied from the get-go, apparently:

Celebrating women is not unique or necessary” and there is “no need for this club”.

Rest assured, dear reader, our heroines did not go down without a fight!

Appeals were thrown, only to be met with rejection or flat-out disregard. The AUU Board put up its walls and their allies started firing political accusations at a club who’s only ambition was to advocate for equality, educate, and provide a much-needed safe space.

Amidst this battle, the OG WoCo did not sit idle. Their reputation on campus grew with charity events, social meet-ups, organised protests, and the refurbishing of the Women’s Room, all the while they were still self-funded.

Clockwise: O’Week, Feb 2021. Patriarchy Succs Event, Sep 2020. International Women’s Day March, March 2020. Wheat-bag Workshop, October 2020. RALLY for Survivors, August 2020. Clubsland, Feb 2020

Soon, multiple news outlets recognised the injustice our heroines had been dealt and began to share their story across the land. Hear Ye, Hear Ye:

Credit: Celeste Villani and The Advertiser, 6th March 2020.

March 2020 offered a potential resolution for our heroines. Appealing to a tentative ally, the OG WoCo sought affiliation with the SRC. But, as we all know by now, everything comes at a price. In exchange for this affiliation, the OG WoCo had to hand-down the autonomy to choose their own club president. They had to allow the SRC to forcefully give the title to the presiding Women’s Officer, who, at the time, was ally, supporter, and advocator, iron-clad Rebecca Etienne. However, in the gracious eyes of Miss Etienne, and the rest of the WoCo community, “former president” Stella Salvemini still wore the crown.

Despite friction with the AUU Board and SRC, and constant sweeps of arrows dragging politics into discussions like a piece of roadkill, the OG WoCo still found the means to make things work, calling on their allies for collaborative projects, and using their growing platform to call-out the misogynistic acts of the resisting patriarchy on campus.

2021 brought upheaval. With a newly elected SRC Women’s Officer, the OG WoCo did not know how things might proceed. Who was this new face and how might she use her role to support or diminish the long-standing work of our heroines?

There were many efforts made to make contact with their new leader, and the hope that they might be met with the same enthusiasm for women’s rights that the club was now known for. Unfortunately, dear reader, this author is sad to report that these efforts were not met… at all. Currently none of the messages sent from a number of our heroines to the new SRC Women’s Officer have been addressed.

All silence ceased yesterday, however, with a post from the new SRC Women’s Officer herself announcing the creation of a NEW Women’s Collective.

Dear reader, this author’s hair did split!

How could anyone show such disregard for the amazing work already put forward by our heroines, and to lack even the slightest originality to come up with a fresh name? Does this new SRC Women’s Officer hope to piggy-back of the work and reputation already associated with the UofA Women’s Collective?

Quickly, however, this author was pleasantly delighted as she scrolled through the comments of this new post only to find memes that tickled the funny bone, and an overwhelming amount of support for our heroines who carry the OG WoCo with grit, imagination and literal tears.

No shorter, sweeter or more powerful words were expressed than that which formed the OG WoCo’s response:

However, this author cannot praise all the comments made in response to the new SRC Women’s Officer’s post. Dear reader, while the OG WoCo and New WoCo may not see eye to eye (to put things mild and simple) they both advocate the message that there is never a cause of action that requires a sexist attack on anyone, and, well, as was pointed out by the new SRC Women’s Officer this morning, this situation has teetered across that line.

With gusto, the new SRC Women’s Officer did call out her attackers and assured her followers that she would not be stopped. While there were some aspects of her post that did not float so well with our heroines and their supporters, there was one line that offered a small flicker of hope:

“Hopefully one day in the future, despite this awful treatment, opportunities for collaboration will be possible.”

Dear reader, this author would personally love to see our heroines fully accepted and supported and collaborating with the new SRC Women’s Officer, but we shall have to wait and see as the pages continue to turn.

One cannot watch this play out and not think on that age-old question which has been on the lips of every member and supporter of the OG WoCo since the early days:

“Why were they not affiliated?”

After many, many months of dwelling on this predicament, this author has personally come to her own conclusion. Based on the medieval mindset of their adversaries, much like those persecutors in the time of King James I of England, this author can only assume that they fear that these women are “collecting” themselves to perform the only plausible thing women might gather for: witchcraft.

And so, in keeping with the characters that they so beautifully cast our heroines in, this author would hear-by like to formally curse any and all who would stand in the way of our group of heroines… a collective of like-minded women who gather to dance naked under the fall moon, hex their spiteful neighbours, advocate for the rights of women on campus, and who call themselves the OG Women’s Collective.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Grace Atta, Habibah Jaghoori, Jenny Jung & Chanel Trezise. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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On Dit Magazine

On Dit Magazine

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Grace Atta, Habibah Jaghoori, Jenny Jung & Chanel Trezise. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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