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Widdecombe defends 'sexist' OUCA poster

OUCA has sparked outrage after allegations that the society used sexist publicity material.
Lewis Goodall on Thursday 16th October 2008
Photograph: Catch 21 Productions

OUCA has sparked outrage after allegations that the society used sexist publicity material.

The controversy erupted after a poster prominently displayed around the OUCA stall at the OUSU Freshers' Fair pictured an attractive young woman above the caption "Life is better under a Conservative."

The image immediately attracted attention, with one flabbergasted student even confronting OUCA officers manning the stall.

Rachel Cummings, OUSU's Vice-President for Women, was unimpressed with the apparent use of sexuality for political purposes.

"It's disappointing that OUCA use female sexuality to publicise themselves," she said. "It undermines the significant impact women have had on the Conservative movement and politics more widely; because of their intelligence and competence, not their attractiveness.

"In a country where the number of female MPs stands at a shockingly low 19%, I think it's time for political groups to stop using women as models and start promoting them as role models."

Her comments were echoed by Henny Ziai, Treasurer of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats, who said that she was totally disgusted with the poster and astonished that it had been used.

"I was shocked that OUCA, as supposed representatives of David Cameron's new and progressive Conservative Party, would attempt to use sex to sell conservatism and, in doing so, would so unashamedly promote and help perpetuate the sexual objectification of women.

"I was under the impression that as far as party politics is concerned such blatant cultural sexism was a thing of the past - apparently not for the Conservative Party."
This was not the opinion of former Shadow Home Secretary and current Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe however, who played down the dispute.

"What a load of politically correct nonsense," she said when asked for her reaction.

"I might find the joke coarse, but I don't find it sexist."
The poster itself was officially commissioned by the Young Britons' Foundation - an educational and research organisation with close but unofficial links to the Conservative Party.

According to the Conservative Association's President Ernest Bell, copies of the poster were sent to them from Conservative Central Office

When approached for his reaction , Bell was unrepentant and denied that the poster was at all offensive.

"The poster is not sexist in any way," said the Mansfield College student. "In the course of the Freshers' Fair, we received no complaints about the poster.

"The only complaint we did have came while we were clearing up afterwards, and that was from the Liberal Democrats in the stall opposite.

"Why is it always political activists who take politics (and consequently themselves) so seriously? In OUCA, we admit to occasional irreverence."

 

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