Emma Davies was born in London, grew up in Toowoomba and completed her undergraduate degrees in Brisbane. She slightly favours cats over dogs, drinks black coffee and almond milk mochas, and loves electronic music, Latin dancing and going to farmer’s markets.
She is a PhD student at ANU whose research focusses on environmental ethics and feminist philosophy. She describes her initial relationship with feminism as a feminist becoming – at a young age she began to identify gendered discrimination in her daily life and developed an interest in gender equity and social justice from there.
Fast-forward five years and she hopes to be researching and teaching as a feminist philosopher at an Australian university. To her, feminism is a commitment to gender equity with the recognition that there has historically been and continues to be gendered oppression against women.
Emma is one of the two candidates running for PARSA Women’s Officer in the upcoming election. We asked her a bunch of questions so you could get to know her a little better.
Why did you decide to run on the PROGRESS for PARSA ticket?
I decided to run on the PROGESS ticket because I believe our team has the requisite experience and expertise to make meaningful change. We are the most diverse ticket and the strongest on the issue of gender equity.
As a feminist philosopher I have extensive knowledge of the issues at stake in gender equity at our university as well as experience in advocacy and activism in this space. I am the current PARSA Environmental Officer and former PARSA Women’s Week Director. I have in-depth knowledge of the postgraduate experience – I have presented at international conferences and spent time abroad at other institutions, as well as having lectured and tutored across disciplines.
I am running for Women’s Officer because I’m passionate about social justice and believe I have a lot to offer in this space. I also enjoy making a more tangible contribution to offset the more theoretical engagement with these issues in my research.
It is fundamentally important to critically analyse the work of predecessors, to further build on their strengths and to pay special attention to any weaknesses. In your opinion, what were the strengths and weaknesses of the 2017 PARSA Women’s portfolio?
The PARSA Women’s portfolio delivered very strongly on Women’s Week, the response to the Human Rights Commission Survey and in advocacy and activism in the space of gender equity throughout the year.
The portfolio is a huge job for any one person and greater engagement with our community will enable us to do more. I think building connections between communities and creating stronger mechanisms through which to engage a broader range of perspectives will enable us to make greater progress. The Postgraduate Women’s Space on Facebook that we established this year is a great starting point for this, and I would love to see more postgraduates involved in the dialogue here.
How will you ensure you adequately represent women-identifying and TISGD postgraduates with disabilities, sexualities, romantic attractions, gender identities, heritages, ethnicities and countries of origin which differ from your own?
I have firsthand experience identifying with a number of the more vulnerable groups mentioned, but it’s important to recognise that membership to a group or personal self-identification doesn’t qualify you to speak for or presume to know another’s experience. As a feminist theorist, I have a strong knowledge of the issues and approaches to intersectionality in theory and practise.
I am deeply committed to inclusivity in the feminist movement. I think the best way to adequately represent a diverse community is through strong representation and consultation. It’s about listening, valuing and taking on board other perspectives and respecting the lived experiences of others. If successful in my role, I will make it a priority to ensure a diverse range of voices are heard, represented and advocated for.
What are your opinions of the recommendations made by PARSA and ANUSA in response to the results of the Human Rights Commission’s survey into sexual assault on university campuses? Do you support these recommendations? How will you act to ensure they are agreed to and implemented by the university?
I was part of the team that put together the CAPA recommendations on which some of the ANUSA and PARSA recommendations were based. I believe they outline a strong platform for a meaningful short and medium term responses, as well as long term change. If elected I will use my influence as Women’s Officer, contacts in this space, and knowledge of the issues at stake and the functioning of the university administration to ensure they are implemented.
What do you think is the biggest issue currently facing women-identifying and TISGD postgraduates on campus? As Women’s Officer, what action would you take to combat this?
Gender discrimination is the biggest issue these students face. Discrimination can come in many forms, such as direct, indirect, conscious, unconscious, individual, institutional and structural. Some of the most perverse cases of discrimination manifest in assault and harassment.
Instituting the recommendations of ANUSA, PARSA and CAPA on sexual assault and harassment is key, as is building a supportive informed community committed to diversity and equity. As Women’s Officer I will work with the university to see the recommendations realised and continue community building in this space. As a priority, I want to see the implementation of a stand-alone sexual assault and sexual harassment policy, mandatory training for all members of our community – where they will receive information on sexual assault, harassment, consent, services, how to identify inappropriate behaviour, how to be an active bystander, etc. – and increased support for victims and survivors.
What kind of involvement do you think postgraduates should have in the ANU Women’s Department? Do you think fostering interaction between women-identifying and TISGD postgraduate and undergraduates is important?
The collaborative work undertaken by PARSA and the ANUSA Women’s Department is testament to the progress that can be made by working together. Women’s Week, Sex and Consent Week and the Month of Strength and Solidarity have been great successes. Some of the issues faced by postgraduate and undergraduate students are different, but some are the same, related, and informed by wider power structures that bring them about.
I believe collaboration and connection between these groups is pivotal to providing opportunities for friendship, support, mentorship and united action on issues that affect us all.
Do you think activism is important? Why?
I think activism is extremely important in bringing about positive social change and educating a community on issues that they might not have otherwise considered.
Why do you think you are the best candidate for this position?
My work in the space of feminist philosophy gives me a unique perspective on women’s issues. I am abreast with the ideological and structural issues at stake in gender equity.
During my time as a philosophy PhD student I have witnessed gendered discrimination in a range of postgraduate environments – as a student in one of the least gender diverse academic disciplines, as a lecturer and tutor, as a researcher presenting at conferences and as an international student visiting other institutions. I understand the issues at play firsthand, and I have the theoretical background to unpack the various inherited ideas, structures and incentives that allow discrimination, harassment and assault to fester at universities.
I have proven track record of advocacy in this space and have been deeply politically engaged in fighting sexual assault and harassment at our university this year. As the PARSA Women’s Week Director I worked with the Women’s Officer to deliver a host of community building events and advocacy platforms. I have vast knowledge of networks and a wide range of contacts working in this space. At the national level, this year I attended the Council of Postgraduate Students of Associations SCM where I worked with the other attendees and the CAPA Women’s Officer on 19 specific recommendations in response to the sexual assault and harassment survey.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your ideas or campaign?
I believe I’m the best candidate for PARSA Women’s Officer for the reasons outlined above, but progress requires a united front. The PROGRESS ticket as a whole is a much stronger ticket on the issue of gender equity. We are also the most diverse ticket with 11 nationalities represented.
We have expertise, experience and representation.
We are running a strong feminist, Alyssa Shaw, for President and Postgraduate Council Member – the most influential and high leverage positions. Alyssa has a proven track record of delivering results, she is the current PARSA President and CAPA Women’s Officer, and former inaugural PARSA Women’s Officer.
With the combined experience and expertise of our team we are best place to make PROGRESS.