Feminism Friday: Sexism and students

Laura Bates, founder of Everyday Sexism, is getting a lot of press coverage for her site at the moment. It’s great that more people are speaking out about the sexist comments and actions which are experienced by many women every day, but it’s also extremely saddening that it still happens. Comments like “that’s pretty good… for a girl” and “that’s a sexy outfit – I bet you have lots of boyfriends” have no place in the workplace, but women who call people on this kind of bullshit often get accused of being humourless because it was “just a joke”.

Sadly, it looks like today’s female students are now being groomed for a lifetime of sexist comments and attention being thrust in their direction. “Slag’n’Drag”, “Geeks and Sluts”, “CEOs and Corporate Hoes”, “Pimps and Hoes” are all apparently all names of Freshers’ Week club nights where male students are pretty much encouraged to get women drunk in order to sleep with them. On reading articles about this in The Independent and The Guardian, I have to admit that it all sounds rather sinister. I remember the jokes about “Fuck a Fresher Week” when I was in my second and third years at university – back in the mid-90s – but this was never used by non-students as a way to promote club nights and applied equally across genders. It could be predatory, but was mostly just teenagers being horny. These types of stories make it sound like university students’ unions these days are fully endorsed by Nuts, Zoo and Unilad! Laura Bates had this to say, in The Independent, about Dundee University Students’ Union’s CEOs and Corporate Hoes night and the effect this culture has:

“Perhaps the intention is light-hearted. But it is sobering to consider that these fresh cohorts of new students, perhaps amongst them the CEOs of the future, both male and female, are being sent the message by their own universities that men are CEOs, Pros and Geeks – powerful, talented, intelligent, whilst women are condemned to derisive sexual valuation alone […] One woman wrote to tell us that the sexual pursuit of female freshers was nicknamed “seal-clubbing” at her university, effectively highlighting the worrying dynamic of vulnerability added by the fact that many students are experiencing their first week away from home. Pressure to take part in sexual situations and ‘make a joke’ of serious issues impacts male students too…”

I won’t quote the comment that followed as it was so vile that I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I wanted to unleash the full force of my feminist rage against this, but I’m so shocked that I can’t seem to muster any. I can’t even begin to understand how frightening it must be for 18-year-old girls to leave home and go to university these days. I didn’t find feminism and its relevance to my life until my mid-20s, but I’m now wondering if that was because I had nothing to fight against. Nothing was bad about my life and so I had no reason to look and see if other people were pissed off about the same stuff. Hopefully the current crop of students at UK universities will experience their fair share of outrage and start to look for other like-minded souls on the internet. Put us all together and we can shout pretty damn loud in the faces of the perpetrators of this kind of bullshit.

Image via Lynn Friedman‘s Flickr photostream.

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