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Is An All-Women Expedition Sexist??

Posted on 4th December 2016

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This BBC story got me thinking about sexism: about how it is no longer acceptable to be sexist about/to women, but still OK to be sexist about/to men.

Don't get me wrong: I think it is, in some sense, great that there is an all-women expedition to Antarctica. It is just that, by its very nature, it excludes men. I feel fairly confident that, if a man applied to to join the expedition, he would be refused on the entirely logical grounds that it is an all-woman expedition; it seems fair and sensible. If the situation were reversed, however, and a woman was refused when trying to join an all-men expedition (or an all-male golf club, or an elite combat team in the armed forces of some countries) there would be outrage at the sexism: there would be a social media campaign against the sexists, and a climb-down could be expected. I don't say this based on supposition; there are plenty of recorded cases to prove the point, in the press and in court records.

So, why is it OK for women to exclude men, but not OK for men to exclude women? If I even tried to organise an all-men event of some kind, I would probably be swamped with complaints and bad publicity.

I believe in the equality of the sexes, but today it is just pie-in-the-sky, and we all need to try harder. Women's representation in government, the civil service, and the senior levels of business are far from equal, and the same goes for their salaries. On the other hand, we tolerate the exclusion of men by women, but not vice versa.

Battle Of The Sexes?

Posted on 4th December 2016

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I am not encouraged by some of the messages and assumptions in this piece on the BBC Magazine (part of a series featuring 100 Women).

The first thing that struck me was that the novel thing for Kathy Murray was the idea that she should treat her husband with respect; that his opinions and preferences were just as valid as hers, and that she should therefore stop trying to control him. Is it really such a novel idea that you treat your partner with respect? If so, no wonder there are so many failed marriages, and so many people struggling on in their relationships while so being unhappy. Why would you even marry someone whom you don't respect?

The other message that felt so wrong to me was that relationships are a battle, and that Kathy Murray fixed her marriage by "surrendering". As far as I am concerned, relationships are based on partnership and support. If you have to continue fighting the same kind of battles at home, as you fight at work and elsewhere in the world, you will be exhausted and on-edge the whole time.

The idea that someone in a relationship is trying to control their partner fits with the American concept of the "fixer-Upper". Women have been known to settle for someone (i.e. to marry them) despite known flaws, with the idea that the man can bed fixed-up through training and control. The more I think about this, the more people I realise that I know whose relationships are built on this shaky foundation.