President of the Phil recalls history of society women for International Women’s Week

Paper addressed structural difficulties in college societies for women

Fionn McGorry

 Staff Writer

Billed as one of the headline events of International Women’s Week, Rosalind Ní Shúilleabháin, President of the Phil, presented a paper to the Bram Stoker Club last Wednesday on the topic of women in the society. Ní Shúilleabháin was one of the women featured in the Equality Office’s “Inspiring Change” poster series for International Women’s Week, and is only the fourth female President of the Phil since women were admitted in 1968.

The paper, entitled “The Morning After Phil”, addressed structural difficulties in college societies for women, as well as the constraints of perceived tradition, and was followed by an open discussion on the topic, which allowed members the opportunity to air their concerns and experiences related to sexism in society activities and competitive debates.

Ní Shúilleabháin discussed her own experience of sexism in debating, such as being advised to stand for election to a role deemed suitable for women, due to a perceived masculinity in the office of Secretary which she eventually won last year. She also discussed methods of overcoming the traditional lack of female representation in debating with audience members, with the recent efforts of the Historical Society in setting quotas on speakers in debates and establishing the position of Equity Officer being declared at the very least interesting.

Ní Shúilleabháin went on to examine the history of Elizabethan Society, which existed until 1982 as a women only debating society, and one of the biggest campus societies before women were admitted to the GMB societies in the 60s and it merged with the Phil in 1982. The highest ranking female officer of the Phil, Ní Shúilleabháin herself, is designated the Auditrix of The Eliz.

Discussion then digressed into recent events in other societies, and how to deal with guests of the society. Lord Monckton’s request for Hist Pro-Librarian Dee Courtney’s mobile number during a debate, and the use of highly gendered terminology to refer to one’s opponents in a debate, were both criticised by the audience. The sexism present at intervarsity competitions was a topic of clear concern on the part of many present. The advisability of attacking such behaviour head-on was counselled, and the meeting adjourned with a strong sense of the importance of the topic for a college where 60% of undergraduates are women.