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Dismantling stereotypes with Clay: An insight into women led societies in St Andrews. 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

We are all aware of the more than 50 sports clubs at St Andrews, particularly, we are all aware of the stereotypes that surround them. Horror stories of initiations gone wrong, irresponsible partying and misogynistic traditions are all present in our minds when we think about certain sports clubs. But I am here to tell you that presently, there is little truth to all these stories, and this is partly due to an increasingly female presence in these traditionally male societies. 

One of the societies which has undergone this transformation is the Clay Pigeon Shooting Society. A traditionally male club, with a rumoured history of lad culture and snobbish exclusivity, which is now an equitable society, led by a mostly female committee, which has found the balance between humour and safety. 

But why is this? Have the changes this club has witnessed come from the female leadership?  Are women better suited for roles of leadership?

Women in Leadership:

In an interview this past week, I asked president Amber Harcus what being president of Clay actually entailed. She explained that like in every other society it simply required being able “to manage people,” however, what truly struck me was the emphasis she made on the need to be “approachable and accessible.”

Clay has been previously described as a snobbish society, yet, the focus made by the president on the accessibility of clay as a club hints otherwise. What is more, Clay is actually one of the least expensive sports clubs when looking at membership prices, and actually allows students to try Clay Pigeon Shooting at a lower price than other universities. 

Moreover, Amber confessed that she has seen a transformation in the way in which clay behaves in a social setting since the first female president was elected. “When the first female president was elected, lad culture was still very much there but this has eased away over the past two years by having women in this position.”

The changes that female leadership in the Clay Pigeon Shooting Society has made demonstrates that by having women in leadership positions, St Andrews sports clubs are able to move away from gender stereotypes with the aim of becoming more accessible to all. Nonetheless, this does not mean that female only committees are the only answer. 

Having both male and female representation is important.As argued by the marketing officer, Mathilda Singer, the role of the captains’ is probably the most important and it is precisely due to the presence of both a female and a male voice. 

As a sport which divides competitions along gender lines it is unavoidable to have gendered captains. But in clay having a women’s and men’s captain goes beyond these lines.

Women’s captain Victoria Ramsay explained that all decisions made regarding both the women’s and men’s teams are made by both captains, meaning that choosing the teams, organising weekly shoots, communicating with ground owners and instructors and the organisation of competitions are all an equal team effort. 

Victoria also emphasised that having a male and female perspective allows Clay to be truly accessible as the technical concerns of both genders are being taken care of. For instance, women and men usually use different cartridges, and because Clay has both a female and male captain, beignners know who to ask for advice on deciding which size they need. 

Hence, despite the initial division created by the use of gender terms, both captains are actually “a cohesive unit,” Victoria Ramsay. 

Capturing the essence of Clay:  

It is only until fairly recently that Clay has started to truly take care of its image. A concern which coincides with the increasing inclusivity of women in the committee. For example, the role of marketing officer has only been incorporated this year and is undertaken by yet another woman, Mathilda Singer. 

During our interview Mathilda explained that she first joined clay thanks to the male members of the committee who made the society look incredibly fun and continued to encourage her to become a member of the committee. And it is precisely this image of a fun yet professional society that she wants to emphasise on social media. 

Her focus when creating content for Clay’s socials is on the small details that “are the ones that truly influence the image people have of Clay,” for instance, the fragile balance between humour and safety that is needed in a sport like Clay. 

In fact, it is this idea of balance that has really altered the way in which Clay presents itself. It does not wish to rid itself of its unique traditions like drinking out of a welly boot but rather make them accessible to everyone who wishes to participate in a way that is both fun and safe. 

What is more, Mathilda confessed that having a woman undertake the role of marketing officer made sense due to the notion that women are more cautious about the small details which allows clay to maintain a balanced image without losing its playful side. 

Is the St Andrews sports community becoming female dominated? 

One cannot go as far as saying that the St Andrews sports community is female dominated but the question is actually, do we want it to be? 

Having women in sports club committees has definitely allowed more women to feel more drawn towards traditional male sports, as stated by Victoria Ramsay, “seeing that there was also female representation on the committee made me feel less intimidated about joining a sports club by myself”, but this does not mean that having men deters women from joining. In fact, Mathilda’s account shows the opposite. 

The lesson we should take from Clay is that having an equitable committee is the most beneficial combination. Of course, it does not suffice with simply having an equal ratio of men to women but actually ensuring that the people undertaking committee roles are treated with respect and included equally in all discussions as shown by the relationship between both team captains. 

All in all, St Andrews is definitely moving in the right direction by including more women in positions of leadership and the Clay Pigeon Shooting Society is a clear example of how small changes can actually make a huge difference in the way we perceive certain clubs. 

So don’t be scared to speak up and take on positions of leadership, we definitely have it in us!

Vera Fortun Marco

St. Andrews '26

Vera Fortun is a second-year English and IR student at the University of St Andrews. Apart from writing for Her Campus, she enjoys writing fiction prose and playing around with poetry. When she is not writing you can find her nose in a book, searching for new pieces to add to her wardrobe or seeking out new coffee shops around town.