13 February 2011


There was a lot of clucking recently about some off the cuff and off-camera remarks recently. Clearly, sexism lives on, perhaps it’s not universal, but in some places, some organisations, it almost seems to be the norm.
I’d hazard a guess that the organisations and cultures where this happens are those traditionally seen as ‘male-only’, for I’m thinking of sexism as male abuse directed towards women. Women are thus fairly recent entrants to these organisations.
I’ve mentioned the rise of the professional woman previously; the days of the woman as a housewife-type appendage are largely over now. Many couples these days need two incomes to live at a more than subsistence level, to pay the mortgage.
Many if not most of our social and emotional constructs seem to be imbedded by early childhood influences, nurture wins over nature in the home. Even at primary school it can be difficult to avoid stereotypes, unless you are very careful. If the primary school kids are being nurses and doctors, it’s all to easy to make the boys doctors, and the girls nurses. I’ve seen it done, not so long ago. Or, if teacher needs a table or two moving, she shouldn’t ask for ‘a strong boy’ to assist her. I say her deliberately, for I understand that only women may teach the most junior classes.
There are still single sex schools. Girls do better academically at all-girls schools. However, they do have a civilising effect on boys in mixed schools, and I feel that this socialisation is one trade-off that is well worth while for both sexes. I was surprised to discover that English studies at universities began as a sop to women; they were designed to be suitable for women with their supposedly inferior, feeble  brains. Now, I’m not getting into a froth about which subjects ‘suit’ girls or boys better, I’m just going to ignore it. There are too many other variables to make this anyway easy.
Sexism can be seen at work, after work, almost anywhere. I see it as a power problem; women in the traditional male role. It’s as if men have an inbuilt inferiority complex about this — some women are clearly ‘better’ than men at times in some roles. It’s almost like the men feel that they are being emasculated, castrated. There may well be some women who feel and act towards men like this; but again it may be a reflection of the culture in which they have been brought up, or in which they find themselves.
If we agree that sexism is ‘a bad thing’ how then do we eradicate it? For those with fixed ideas, it may well be very difficult, if not impossible. Training may help, but this may be only a temporary change, unless reinforced.
Otherwise, it’s a societal change, a paradigm change, and for this we have to wait until the dinosaurs are extinct. Care in the home — be careful with the colours you choose, and remember that boys wear pink in France, where girls wear blue. Awareness in schools — mixed schools, secular schools. And patience.

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