The Two Sides of Sexism

If I said the word ‘sexism’ in a word association game, what instantly comes to mind? Is it women or men? That may depend a lot on the type of person you are, but I suspect that most people might say women. Historically, women have been subject to horrendous sexism and only recently has that been turning around. We’ve come a long way and with feminist movements helping to push through some tough times, women are more empowered than ever to stand on their own two feet.

Have we come so far that the tides are turning? Are men now being discriminated against to make way for giving opportunities to women?

I would say yes and I have a prime example to share with you that flared me up and provoked this blog post.

My friend is an engineer, and like the majority of engineers, he is male. There are many campaigns providing a gateway for women into engineering; I was part of the Women In Science and Engineering Society and worked hard to provide opportunities for our members who might not feel as comfortable being a woman in this field as others.

My friend is part of the university’s Formula Student team, most of which are male. There was an external careers event for which the society were able to nominate three members to attend. Jenson Button was making an appearance at this event and so the stakes were high. The team has two female members, both of who expressed that they were uninterested in the event and so naturally, three male members were nominated.

The university didn’t like that though. In the interests of keeping up the appearance of diverse participation, sending three guys to represent the university at such a high- profile event just wasn’t acceptable. Because of this, the two girls who expressed their disinterest in the event were picked to go with one boy and thus upholding the university’s values.

How is this fair? Why should two guys who really wanted to go and would have benefitted from the event be excluded just because they were male? Yes, the girls were given a great opportunity but it was one that they didn’t want and meant that two boys missed out on going to the event in the name of keeping up appearances. This is sexism.

Based on this, and I know there are more events like this out there, are we moving into an era where women are given more opportunities than men just because people feel like we should? I sometimes feel like men are inadvertently made to feel bad about being a man in certain professions and then made to feel like they don’t have a say in issues surrounding feminism. I’m afraid that people are often over sensitive and increasingly narrow-minded with regards to gender issues. Saying this, I’ve noticed an increasing amount of instances where people have commented on something with ‘if this had happened to the other gender it wouldn’t be ok’.

I know women in less developed countries have a lot still to fight for – Saudi Arabia only allowed women to drive in June this year! For many others, feminism is still a valid way to fight those injustices that they encounter every day because of their gender. To me, feminism is about using my power as a woman to stand up for everyone regardless of their gender and supporting men and women through this whole minefield that I think we’ve got ourselves into.

We’re in a time now where people are seeing themselves as genderless and so I think we’ve grown out of feminism as a phrase to be used in some cases. I consider myself an equalist in an equalism movement that strives for equality despite gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality.

If you want to read more about sexism against men, an interesting read might be The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys by David Benatar. It caught my eye when I was researching things for this post.

I understand that not everyone holds the same views that I do about this so please share yours if you would like to!

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