This week saw UN Inspector Rashida Manjoo state that the United Kingdom has more “in your face” sexism than any other country she had visited. Why is sexism so rife in this country?
This week saw UN Inspector Rashida Manjoo state that the United Kingdom has more “in your face” sexism than any other country she had visited. Why is sexism so rife in this country? And, if it is as big a problem as Manjoo believes, is it really just limited to female sexism?
Whilst investigating violence against women, both in the United Kingdom and Worldwide, Rashida Manjoo expressed concern at the sexual bullying that takes place in this countries schools, and the “negative and over-sexualised” portrayal of women in the media. To add to this, Manjoo stated that the sexism that she witnessed in this country was far more “in your face” than any other country she had visited.
We all accept that sexism happens in this country, yet why have Manjoo’s statements come as such a shock to some people? As a woman who is tasked with observing violence against women, it is perhaps surprising to some that she pinpoints the United Kingdom as having a problem with open sexism. What is worse, is that she is not wrong in her observations.
Then why isn’t anything being done?
The Everyday Sexism Project is a perfect example of how rife sexism is. After suffering herself from sexist remarks, Laura Bates set up the project in 2012 in an attempt to get individuals to document any account of sexism that they experienced in their daily lives. The project, which has been a massive success, is incredibly revealing and honest about the sexist culture that resides in this country.
Its success is further demonstrated by the release of Bates’ book Everyday Sexism this month. Within the book, Bates documents different individual’s experiences of sexism. They range from university students, to women who have stayed quiet about abuse, and finally to men who have also experienced sexism.
That brings us to an important question: is the focus of sexism always on women? The answer is no. Recently a group of men announced that they would be suing their employers for sex discrimination. The men, who work for University of Wales Trinity Saint David, claim that they have been paid significantly less than their fellow female employees. Since 2007, they believe that they have been paid £4,000 a year less than female employees for doing the same job.
Not just women
In the past, allegations of sex discrimination against employers are usually claimed by women, not by men. This marks a change of the female only sexism stereotype that seems to have become apparent within society. Not only do women regularly feel the unwelcome pinch of sexism, but now men do too.
However, these men are not the only ones who feel discriminated against. In a recent article journalist Peter Lloyd discusses the gender inequality being practised at his local gym, Kentish Town Sports Centre. Throughout an average year men are banned from 442 hours of gym-time simply because they are male. Not only this, but they are expected to pay the same membership fee as women despite the lack of free hours available.
Lloyd put a fair proposal to the gym suggesting that they either implement an equal “men’s hour,” keep “women’s hour” but reduce fees for men, or remove single sex gym sessions altogether. Surprisingly he was greeted with a decline from the gym and a statement informing him that the reason they have women only hours is due to the fact that 26 per cent of women “hate the way they look when they exercise.”
Why is okay to be sexist against men, but not against women?
There is no denying that a culture of sexism exists within the United Kingdom and, as Rashida Manjoo puts it, it is a culture of “in your face” sexism that dominates us. However, it is wrong to assume that it is only women that are the focus of sexism. Men are starting to experience what it feels like to be discriminated against.
In light of Manjoo’s analysis and Bates’ release of Everyday Sexism, one simple question has to be asked—If sexual discrimination is as rife as it is in this country, why is nothing being done?
What do you think? What can be done to reduce sexism completely? Have your say in the comments section below.
Image: ctrouper / Flickr