6 Sue Bennett discusses why Oxford WiP remained a women-only group in the 80s, 90s and beyond
Why did you come down on the side of a women only group?
I think mostly because of my experiences, you know that actually, you know, working somewhere as paternalistic as OUP, where the men got on through this boy’s network of being at an Oxford College, running the Empire, propositioning women in the corridors and so forth. I just felt that we needed our own environment in which to support each other and discuss the things that were important to us. And I can remember, distinctly remember the conversation and I remember I said, well, I hope in five years time, if we have this conversation again that we’ll decide that actually our job is done. That we actually feel that we are able to stand side by side, and that we’ll have common cause. And we’ll all see things in a similar way, but I rather suspect we won’t.
But we, and we did revisit it, five years in. I promised that we would and we did revisit. So in the, sort of, late ’80s we did say, right well OK where do we stand on the male/female thing and actually it was really clear that we said no, no, no we’ll stay as a women’s only group .
Why was that?
Because things hadn’t moved on but also because we’d found that we were a very good support group to each other. We’d found that there was strength in the women only aspect and we wanted to retain that strength. We did acknowledge that actually we could be seen as divisive and the awkward squad and so forth but we felt that actually the strength we got outweighed the disadvantage of being seen as separatists.