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Is it impossible for men to really understand sexism?

A link to a recent Guardian article about the everyday sexism professional women face popped up on my Facebook timeline today – it’s a good article and sadly most of the examples are ones I can entirely relate to

Predictably a chap had commented on the link saying that these aren’t really examples of sexism and anyway it’s just because women are going into traditionally male industries and understandably it is taking the men a little while to get used to having the lovely ladies around…

After I had stopped fuming, it struck me that perhaps it is impossible for men to understand about sexism

Yes there are a few men out there struggling to make their way in traditionally female dominated industries but for the majority of men the world they live in is a mainly male one – sexism is not something that they directly encounter in their lives

Plenty of them must have to deal with the fall out from what happens to the women in their lives but it is one thing to hear about your wife being asked to make the tea for the team despite being the most experienced team member, to hear about clients assuming that the 20-something man must be the team leader rather than the sole lady, to hear about yet another evening of ‘banter’ comparing the PA’s boob sizes and quite another to have actually had to deal with that sort of thing on a daily basis

So not only do we have women struggling to find equality in the workplace but also to find the men in their lives being able to understand

I guess from the male standpoint each little act of sexism doesn’t sound like a great deal – after all what is the odd misunderstanding, slight, feeling of being excluded?

The trouble is that for most women there is a drip drip drip effect – water will eventually make holes in rock – in the same way I see women leaving my male dominated industry because there comes a point when you just are sick of it all

I don’t know what the answer is

I just really really wish I did – I wish I could make the average man understand why this is an issue, why it does upset us and why, if only one woman is pushed out of a job, it is a big bloody deal


A friend sent me a link to this film which switches gender in a really powerful way – what do you think?  Required watching for men or something that continues the chasm of un-understanding?

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4 comments to Is it impossible for men to really understand sexism?

  • I think even women don’t always see the everday sexism, because it’s so constant and it’s the norm. Have you heard of the ban bossy campaign? I’ve used that word a lot in the past, and never realised how sexist it is, as it’s only used for girls, and implies girls are meant to be nice and quiet and gentle from a very young age. The examples in the article are blatant, but there’s a lot more subtle stuff going on. E.g. my offer that a team I’m supporting can always get in touch with me by text/email if they need me being joked at by a male member of the team as if I’d exchanged numbers for a future date. It was meant as a joke, but I really object to such innuendo when in a professional capacity. And this happened in a mainly female environment (men are quite rare in my line of work, but strangely, they tend to occupy the majority of the senior management positions).

  • I blogged about this a while back – http://putupwithrain.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/you-dont-get-it.html – and I actually shocked myself when I detailed a lot of the sexism I’ve put up with. Once you start thinking about it, it’s shocking. Like you say, it’s just the relentless drip drip drip of it that makes it almost background noise to the extent that you don’t always notice – same as cartside says about the ‘ban bossy’ campaign.

  • I agree with the comment above the women also often don’t recognise sexism. Also, when men face obstacles in the traditionally female professions (like nursing for eg) it’s often still because of patriarchy. Patriarchy harms both men and women. That video is REALLY interesting though I do think it would be better if it portrayed some of the subtler forms of sexism and I’m uncomfortable with the hijab reference. I felt that was dealt with quite one-dimensionally.

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