By Amy Cornett
It was perhaps naïve for me to believe university would be a space free of sexism – after all, we are all part of the same course, with the same motivation and qualifications to be there. However, now as a third-year student, I’ve had my first experience with sexism at a place where forward thinking is expected – as well as a mutual respect for classmates no matter their gender, race or sexuality.
I wanted to write this piece because during my time at university, sexism has never been discussed or even mentioned by faculty – whether in regard to what constitutes as inappropriate behaviour or support for those experiencing it. Though I cannot fault my tutors for the way they handled my complaint, it is still an issue which I was uncertain about addressing due to this lack of discussion. For this reason, it could be true that others have experienced sexism and never thought of it as serious enough to report.
Like with anything, it is easy to doubt your own feelings on the basis of how those around you would respond – I often ask myself, is it that deep? Am I making this a bigger deal than it actually is? The answer, ladies, is no. If you have ever felt undermined by a man for no specific reason other than being a woman, you’re not being sensitive, they’re being sexist.
For me, sexism was thrown at me through passing comments which undermined myself and my friend’s role in the group – often referred to as the ‘coffee girl’ because I apparently had no other skills to contribute. It also took form in sexual comments which made it really difficult for my friend and I to want to join the Zoom calls and on the whole made us feel objectified. Though you may be thinking things like this are a joke, or perhaps you’ve even taken a sentence and made it about sex before and thought it was just a laugh, but to be on the receiving end of it, when in fact you have no relationship with this person whatsoever, it makes women feel undervalued and a means of comic relief.
This is unacceptable in any situation. I’m just really disappointed it happened during my studies by somebody my own age. Not only was working as a group becoming frustrating. It was isolating in that myself and my friend – the only two women in the group – were excluded from decisions and conversations regarding our assignment, while overall our work was ignored. Again, this is an issue which is often brushed aside. Part of the reason I felt apprehensive to talk to my tutor about this experience was the overwhelming feeling that people would tell me that life’s not fair and to get over it. You should never feel like this, ever! Sexism is a real issue and thankfully the University reassured me of this while making my experience feel validated.
As a Politics student, I’m surrounded by a lot of strong-minded people (if you know me, you know I am too), so sometimes it is difficult to really get your point across. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to debate and hear the perspective of others you may not have considered before, but when you’re blatantly shunned or disrespected based on being a woman, it’s clear that a lot of work needs to be done.
I don’t consider myself lucky to not have experienced sexism at university up until now, but it did at first creep into my mind. This isn’t because I praise men around me for doing the bare minimum and treating me as an equal, but because it is so common and present even in 2021 that I was quite shocked. In this way, it’s important to continue to challenge those who treat you as less important, intelligent or simply different to how they’d treat a man. Sexism shouldn’t be a taboo subject and it certainly shouldn’t be ignored.
If you ever feel as though you’re experiencing this, reach out to someone who can help address it and make sure to stand your ground. Strong, empowered women are all around you and whether you feel it or not, YOU ARE TOO. I felt it was important to share this because you might have experienced this too and told yourself not to be annoyed about it or just to ignore it. Sexism takes form in a variety of ways – direct discrimination, sexual harassment, stereotyping, under representation (cough, House of Commons) and misogynistic attitudes taught through objectification, to name a few.
I’d just like to re-emphasise this – you’re not being sensitive, they’re being sexist. Stand up for yourself and those around you. Educate people where you can and do not allow anybody to make you feel inferior. Speak up about your experience and lean on your friends for support. As always, be proud to be a woman.
If you have been subjected to hate crime or any other form of bullying, harassment, or assault on campus/ while studying at Strathclyde, the ‘Report and Support’ service can be used to report this. All reports are kept private and confidential and the option to report anonymously exists.
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