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Riot girls or thinking women?

The day after the mass student walkout on 24 November, the Daily Mail ran the headline, “The Rage of the Girl Rioters”, supposedly exposing a new generation of mindless female thugs.

Although the Mail described the images as “disturbing”, I think it was an inspiration to see so many young women protesting. Ninety years on from the Suffragettes, it seems parts of the establishment are still not happy for women to have a political voice. The thousands of schoolgirls who have protested over the last few weeks do not fit their image of women as passive and uninterested in politics.

We have a lot to protest about. In education, the cutting of state funding to arts and humanities will disproportionately affect female students. The huge debt burden will take longer for women graduates to pay off, as we continue to earn 17 per cent less than men – with a bigger gap for part-timers.

A study by the House of Commons Library revealed that women will shoulder nearly three-quarters of the cuts. One of the first things to be slashed was child benefit – an attack on women’s financial independence. Furthermore, the public sector employs a high proportion of women, so the pay freeze and 600,000 job cuts will force more women into poverty and unemployment.

Over the last few weeks a whole generation of young women have been politicised. Being radical and militant is not something “masculine”. We have a proud history of struggle.

In the student occupations across the country, women have taken a leading role, with female activists often becoming “spokesmen” of the movement. Camden school student Sophie Burge wiped the floor with Lib Dem MP, Norman Baxter in a Channel 4 News interview. We are proving that young women have better grasp of politics and what is at stake than the politicians themselves.

So, if images of radical young women on the streets makes Daily Mail journalists uncomfortable – then tough, we are here to stay!

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