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TUU By-election: Northern Womens Officer - Resignation

I, James Ritchie officially resign from my democratically and constitutionally elected

position of Northern Womens Officer in the Tasmania University Union. Contrary to what
people may say, I do this with a heavy heart and believe there are no winners from this

I am genuinely saddened that some people can spend so much time and effort arguing
about who should hold a certain position, yet fail to recognise the ability of that person to break
down barriers and use solidarity to enact positive change.

I wonder how many of those signing the petition asking for my resignation also took the
time to sign the petitions to spare the life of 26 year old Iranian woman Reyhaneh Jabbari who
was hung without a fair trial for defending herself against a man who tried to sexually assault

I wonder how many signed the petition supporting Malala Yousafzais quest for no child
to be left without education or schooling in 2015, after she herself was shot in the head by the
Taliban for insisting on attending school. Or the petition to save the 219 Nigerian girls who
were kidnapped by terrorists and reportedly sold as slaves, some of whom are now feared
This is where the real condemnation should be and these are the unacceptable injustices we as
a society need to address.

I was asked to apologise, but my only apology is for the discrimination that these
women have experienced. Furthermore, I apologise that without this platform, my capacity
is now limited to address issues such as womens safety on campus and greater female
participation. The awareness campaigns I intended to run surrounding domestic violence,
sexual violence and particularly the #HeForShe campaign would now be similarly problematic.

It breaks my heart to see the bitterness and unwillingness to engage in mature and
rational debate about womens issues. This is no joke and for the people that have portrayed
this as a joke, quite frankly I think it is unacceptable. I may not be a woman, but I am under no
illusions as to the challenges women face.

Actual consultation and engagement with women on campus has only reinforced for
me the challenges women face and ignited my desire to help address them. The key to being
approachable is building trust and trust is built by respect.

I think it is disturbing that in 2015, a male student has been ridiculed for wanting to
stand up for these issues and many more. I really am speechless at the hatred that has been
directed at me. How can we live in a world which still has societies depriving women of the
most basic rights, yet when this happens and a man is willing to step out and condemn this, as
well as advocate for other important issues, he is the one condemned? I believe the only thing
necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

All my female friends who live overseas and whom I have spoken too are genuinely
shocked that people could actually be calling for my resignation. In their opinion there
is nothing better than a man willing to speak out against the norms and condemn female
inequalities, discrimination and injustice. This has been further supported by women I have
spoken to around campus who agree men need to speak out more.

Only recently, Emma Watson, United Nations Womens Goodwill Ambassador

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emphasised that division is not the answer. We must as a society face womens issues with
solidarity. How can you expect real results with only one gender supporting the cause? Emma
Watson called for male leadership in addressing womens issues and furthermore expressed that
men are not the problem but rather the solution. What kind of example and precedent does this
set for other men interested and eager to speak out against female discrimination and injustice?
My values have been questioned but I cannot help but question the values of people who act in a
disrespectful manner before even taking the time to speak with me.

How can we as a society expect our men to stand up for women if they are mocked and
insulted for trying to help the cause? I wonder how many women in countries such as Iran, Somalia
or in North Korea would hurl insults at men who are willing to stand up for women. If anything they
would applaud this. Of course we need female leaders and female representation but if men are
unwilling to show leadership and support women in the challenges they face, how can we really
expect to address these issues holistically.

The reason for my resignation is not bowing to public pressure but rather a reflection of
my willingness to handle situations in an appropriate, mature and rational manner. Unfortunately I
feel my election has been more of a distraction to the real issues that need addressing right now.
The personal attacks have taken their toll on my family and me. The fact that I have been ridiculed
for trying to serve the women of this campus and our community more broadly is extremely
disappointing. I hope the new officer for this position is as committed to real and positive action as
I am. I know in my heart it is far more important to fight for what is right than to fight for the sake of

I ask one sincere question of my critics: What has this all achieved? All I feel is saddened
at the lack of willingness to engage and find feasible solutions. My sincere hope is that at the very
least some good can come out of this through the awareness I have raised regarding the issues I
believe are critical to removing discrimination and giving women every opportunity that men have.

Ultimately I believe this will enhance our society. I challenge all those that have ridiculed
me and asked me to resign, what are you going to do now? How are you going to ensure as a
community we work to eradicate discrimination and injustice for women? This still takes place daily
around the world. Surely a starting point cannot be hating those who are wanting to do good.
James Ritchie


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