800px-Parkinson_Building,_Leeds_University,_England-12Sept2010

Liam McNeily,

Correspondent (Our World)

 

Whether or not university life is becoming more sexist, is a very broad question to ask and one that requires the consideration of numerous different areas. University life itself is difficult to define and that is only within the realms of the United Kingdom. It becomes even more so when you take in to account studying abroad. However, there are certain aspects of university life in this country that continue to encourage sexist attitudes.

It’s difficult to argue that aspects of life that are exclusive to university are becoming more sexist. For example, women were once excluded and then discouraged from attending university. In comparison, it seems from my experience that more women are enrolling on courses that could be seen as stereotypically male and vice-versa.

In terms of my own personal experience, I was very pleased recently to be informed that Cardiff Students Union has a policy banning ‘Lads Mags’ from its shops, in addition to the numerous posters and flyers, making clear the absolute zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment.

But whilst this is the case, it isn’t necessarily the case for the social aspect of university. This certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as social life is undoubtedly a huge part of anyone’s time at university, despite it not contributing to the degree.

The emergence of ‘lad culture’ in recent years could certainly be held accountable for a rise in sexism outside of the lecture theatre. Having been adopted by online magazines such as Uni Lad, so called ‘laddish’ behaviour is well known for embracing sexism.

Earlier in 2012, the online magazine was forced to remove an article that appeared to condone rape. It read:

 

If the girl you’ve taken for a drink… won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported.”

“That seems to be fairly good odds.”

“Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying ‘surprise’.”

 

The sort of attitude promoted by websites like this is something that reflects in certain factions of the student community. Just last week, whilst drinking in a student pub, misogynistic and homophobic chants were enthusiastically sung by large numbers of the men’s University football team. These included lines such as “Girls aren’t people”.

I would like to think that the majority of these players would oppose the suggestion that their chants were born out of deep lying sexist views but it would certainly suggest that sexism is free to go unchallenged by a significant number of people.

There are other areas of student life that promote similar attitudes. Britain’s most popular student event, Carnage recently drew enormous criticism on the grounds of sexism. The notorious bar crawl adopted the theme of ‘Pimps and Hoes’, essentially encouraging women to dress as prostitutes. Understandably, many saw this as extremely misogynistic and lodged a petition against it.

The response from Carnage organizers to this criticism is perhaps makes the most telling point. Neither  ‘lad culture’ nor ‘Pimps and Hoes’ fancy dress themes are exclusive to university life. They are common throughout British society as a whole. This isn’t to condone them but it does make the point that the sexism seen in university to life is parallel to wider society.

What is more upsetting is that whilst men and women are both participating and paying the same course fees for all manner of degrees, the average female graduating with the same degree as a male continues to be paid less. This is a real problem; one of institutional sexism and one that is unlikely to be addressed while casual sexist attitudes go unchecked, both in university and outside.

Image Courtesy: © Tim Green from Bradford, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license | Wikimedia Commons

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