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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.