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Sexism on campus

(32 Posts)
fishdishwish Wed 04-Jun-14 19:33:22

It's 16 years this year since I graduated from uni, but I've been genuinely shocked by some of the stuff I've heard or read about recently concerning sexist behaviour. This kind of stuff wouldn't have been even remotely acceptable back in the mid 1990s, even at the height of 'ironic' lad culture, and it feels like we've taken a step backwards in terms of gender politics. As someone who was proactively involved in campaigning around gender issues back then, I feel really disheartened, and wonder if we should have fought a lot harder than we did.

So I'm just curious how those of you who are current students, or who have sons/daughters at uni, feel about the way things are now? Is there a reason why things have got to this state of affairs? And are there any real solutions?

Minnieisthedevilmouse Wed 04-Jun-14 19:40:32

Well I think that's a bit rose tinted tbh. I was at uni in mid 90s. Tbh it sounds the bloody same but people notice, comment, report, do something.

I heard rape jokes too incase you think I meant just 'normal' sexism. It's good. Much like racism being noticed and acted on because it's reported more. The more it's discussed the more knowledgeable we are the more it can be confronted.

Minnieisthedevilmouse Wed 04-Jun-14 19:43:42

And the notion of ladette to me was sexist. Aw look at da pwetty girlie dwinking dat weally big mans beer.. Pwhoar sexy girl.

But hey coz it was Cool Britannia and spice girls were singing zig a zig ah we believed a lot of codswallop.

AskBasil Wed 04-Jun-14 21:12:06

I was at uni in the 80's.

It just wasn't like that. Sexism was just not cool, it was for thickies.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 04-Jun-14 21:45:03

I've been a student for the past ten years (ouch). I think it is bad now and it was bad ten years ago. However, I think as a society we are far more conscious of it than we were ten years ago. In a class of 30, now, I would expect maybe four or five students to raise explicitly feminist points of view without me prompting it. In my classes back then, it would have been maybe one or two.

I think the internet is a big part of it. I know the net was around ten years ago and we all used it, but there weren't social networks that brought together all students - facebook was just starting up back then. These days lots of them know things like what happened to the women's debate team, or whether LSE is still fielding sexist shites as student journalists, almost as soon as it happens.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 04-Jun-14 21:47:21

Oh, sorry, I missed out what we should do.

Well, the problem is the third wave and the rise of 'gender performance' and 'sex-positive feminism,' both of which in the context of university women mean 'anything I do that looks like misogyny, is ironic and therefore beyond critique' and 'you must not be other than sexually available,' respectively.

So we should get rid of those and start doing proper feminism in academia.

MoominAndMiniMoom Wed 04-Jun-14 22:12:14

At my uni it isn't too bad... there's a bit of a 'lad' culture, but not particularly outrageous. Then again, we've had a fantastic women's officer in the students guild... she's just graduated so I'm hoping to run in October and carry on her excellent work in tackling sexism before it starts.

For really outrageous examples of sexism among students, I direct you to TheStudentRoom. The majority are either examples of 'Lad' culture, obsessed with being regarded as 'alpha' and convinced that they are god's gift to women - or young men who seem to lack social skills and respect for women, but believe women should automatically respect them, and that women owe them dates and sex. It's disgusting and one of the reasons why I rarely go on the forums any more, as the admins and moderators do very little to combat it.

Are you fed up of being disrespected by women?
Five reasons we need feminism (some of the replies are awful)
This one is just ridiculous
Lad culture is a good thing

The worst thing is, many of these members aren't trolls - they genuinely feel this way, and they are students. There are plenty of other threads in a similar vein. Honestly the worst ones aren't the 'lad culture' ones - they're the young men who genuinely feel so entitled to respect and sex from women, and blame women for the fact that they aren't having sex. sad

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 04-Jun-14 22:18:22

Oh, TSR is awful. It's also monumentally badly informed (and they don't seem to realize we can go on there, so moaning about your evil teacher or smirking about how you bunked off is really pretty obvious).

I think the saddest thing I saw on there was a thread about what was 'fat' in a girl. It was sincerely agreed anything over size 10 was really very unhealthy and could never be attractive.

AskBasil Wed 04-Jun-14 22:27:17

When I look at lad culture I fervently hope that DD will be a lesbian.

But she's 12 now and she hasn't mentioned it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 04-Jun-14 22:29:23

Give her time, basil, this heterosexuality may well be just a phase.

<pats basil soothingly>

Does she lack strong lesbian role models? sad

CaptChaos Wed 04-Jun-14 22:30:52

Wow! That is some serious through the looking glass stuff.

And these are supposed to be our brightest and best?

God help us all!

AskBasil Thu 05-Jun-14 08:01:50

Arf. No I think she's got at least one, LRD, possibly more. grin

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 05-Jun-14 09:14:06

I was an undergraduate in the early 90s and the lad culture thing was just getting going - I think that was the turning point. There was lots of that 'feminism has already won!' stuff being written (Naomi Wolf, I'm looking at you) and lads' mags were starting up.

In the late 80s it had seemed likely that Page 3 would get banned, then by 1994 boys at college were openly reading it in the common room, which I don't think they'd have done a decade earlier.

whatdoesittake48 Thu 05-Jun-14 10:27:56

I was also at uni during the early 90's and I think that we were still at that time under the cloud of HIV and AIDS. it might be a left of field opinion, but I think that the whole 80's safe sex thing impacted positively on sexual conduct.

We had it rammed down our throats (bad turn of phrase...sorry) that sex meant condoms, that we (as women) should insist on our partners wearing them. it made us sexually confident and able to express what we wanted. men also felt the need to protect themselves. There was just more respect in general. Many people chose not to have sex at all.

I was a member of my university's Women's Group. We had regularly weekly meetings and organised protests. the worst it got was protesting about a pin ball machine which featured a woman reclining in her underwear on it. The university removed it.

Then as said above...Lad culture kicked in and it all went to shit. the backlash happened.

Actually that reminds me - Susan Faludi, the writer of Backlash came to our Uni (in little old NZ) and I attended her speech. She was awesome and I think quite prophetic.

I am hoping that the examples given above are just about young men who just don't know any better. Hopefully they grow up. Although, my son is 15 and would think these views are disgusting and treats his girlfriend beautifully. He is already past the interest in porn stage - a point these men/boys should bear in mind. they are not 12...

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 05-Jun-14 10:41:59

Just seen this:

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 05-Jun-14 10:45:01

Did you notice that of the 5 students quoted, the 2 boys both think it's a bad idea and the 3 girls all think it's good?

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 05-Jun-14 11:02:48

I was more struck by how incoherent the men's explanations were (assuming they've not been stupidly shortened). 'I think empowering women is the way forward. It should become embarrassing if a man is known to have slept with a girl when she's too drunk and she hasn't given consent."'

Right, so, er, empowering women will give them the power to make men embarrassed ... but not the power to make men not rape? That sounds useful. hmm

The language there is something that I think is pretty common, and a problem. A lot of students seem to be really good at speaking a kind of shorthand, post-feminist jargon full of words like 'banter' and 'empowered' and they don't actually think about what the words mean. They just know these are the sorts of things you say to demonstrate you understand there are Women Things but you're not going to discuss them too deeply.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 05-Jun-14 11:39:14

Oh yes, so true, re the language....

EBearhug Thu 05-Jun-14 22:35:46

I was also at uni during the early 90's and I think that we were still at that time under the cloud of HIV and AIDS. it might be a left of field opinion, but I think that the whole 80's safe sex thing impacted positively on sexual conduct.

I agree with this - AIDS was just coming into the news as we hit puberty and had sex ed classes, and IME, people just expected to use condoms - not that there were as any choices back then, implants and injections weren't yet available, I don't think. There might have been minor grumbles about condoms, but no real objections. There were still celebrities making the news because they died of AIDS-related illnesses. (Freddie Mercury died at the start of my second year - I still remember feeling shocked, as he'd only announced he had AIDS the day before.) There were free condoms all over the place. Also, some of our mature students were second wave feminists, camped at Greenham Common and so on. And we all drank in the Mandela Bar.

From what I see and hear about universities these days, I think it has gone backwards. It was never perfect, but porn wasn't as widespread - it was still just top-shelf magazines, and not everyone had video players, let alone DVDs. I agree that lad culture did make a difference. And there was more respect.

God, I feel old now. grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 05-Jun-14 22:42:14

I guess it must partly go back to what Kirsty Wark's documentary says - it's partly the internet?

fishdishwish Thu 05-Jun-14 23:23:01

I think the internet is a part of it, LRD, but I don't think it's the whole story. Back in the 1990s, there were definitely a proportion of laddish types at my uni (mostly linked to the sports teams), but most people treated them with a fair amount of disdain and regarded them as idiots. Added to which, they never seemed quite as aggressively sexist as some of the groups I've heard about recently.

Popular culture seems to encourage this whole 'banter' mentality as well - and I'm not sure that someone like the Keith Lemon character helps either.

Sadly, I get the impression that that mentality is far more prevalent, and in some ways more tolerated, now than it was back then.

The consent classes piece rather depressed me, although in some ways I think they might be a good idea.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 05-Jun-14 23:28:21

Oh, absolutely. I don't think it is the whole story either.

I think other factors are, firstly, the sense that we're 'post-feminist' (which includes women feeling they can't talk about sexism, and men feeling they're victimised by feminism, and everything in between), and secondly, as you say, 'banter'. Which is basically postmodernism. hmm angry

SantanaLopez Thu 05-Jun-14 23:34:23

Oh this is interesting. I'm a Glasgow University girl and the sexism there (especially in one of the unions) made headlines just about Christmastime I think.

Do you think that you can really segregate campuses from society as a whole?

TheSameBoat Thu 05-Jun-14 23:36:57

I think it's partly internet facilitated ease of access combined with a backlash with the force of a hurricane.

An unapologetic backlash. Like "lads" aren't gonna take all that namby-pamby equality nonsense anymore. They're not gonna apologise for seeing women as sexual objects.

I miss the early 90s. Times were so hopeful then, but already on the turn.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 05-Jun-14 23:43:34

sant - yes, I think I saw.

I think you absolutely can't separate campuses from society. IMO that is the issue - I have heard the suggestion that people at university sometimes imagine they're somehow beyond the law, that this is not 'real life' they're living. But it is, obviously! confused

thesame - I wonder, though ... is the backlash partly because we're getting stronger? I can't tell if I was just naive, but I think ten years ago, feminism didn't have the popular profile it does now. I think now, although we might complain about versions of 'feminism' that seem a bit trite, there is also a rise in quite hard-core feminism?

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