Spoiler alert: “It fucking sucked.”
University College London (UCL) has painted itself into a not so pretty corner. A few months ago, scientist, university professor, and 2001 Nobel Prize winner Tim Hunt was forced to resign over sexist comments made at a global conference in Seoul. Hunt uttered this unfortunate phrase: “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry.”
Hunt, 72, had previously admitted to his reputation of being a chauvinist. This is hardly surprising; he is of a generation in which this flippant attitude towards women is entrenched. There was more than likely no malice behind this comment; Hunt stated afterwards that he was “very nervous” and “went mad up there.” But come on, you can’t be saying those things in 2015 and not expect a media (social and otherwise) storm. Understandably, the response was immediate and catastrophic.
What a social media storm it was! Hunt was described on Twitter as “a clueless, sexist jerk”; “a misogynist dude scientist”; and one tweet demanded that the Royal Society “kick him out.” Another tweet read: “Maybe if less male scientists were such chauvinist pigs there would be more women in science and technology Tim Hunt?” My personal favourite: “Why are the British so embarrassing abroad?”
Although many have said, including female scientists, that Hunt’s treatment at the hands of the university was unfair and histrionic, it is nonetheless expected. Generational or not; there is no way a man can escape very public consequences when making such comments, especially as the conference was for women in science. Of course UCL wanted to make an example of him; the last thing a nearly 200-year-old predominantly male British institution needs is a reputation for chauvinism.
The example would have been well and truly made, had claims not recently come to light that UCL actually pays female staff less than male staff at the Qatari campus. This claim was revealed after a string of emails in which a female staff member complained that married women were given a lower living allowance than married men. In addition to this, Qatari has actually admitted that the women on staff receive a lower salary. Female academics are reportedly earning up to 15 per cent less than their male compatriots. Top female academics earn about $4,800AUD less. On average, female university professors earn about $11,000AUD less than male professors.
UCL has admitted the mistake and sought to correct it. A spokesperson for UCL stated: “Clearly, this was never intended as an intentional policy and as soon as the anomaly came to light we took steps to rectify it. The policy change was backdated so that staff were not disadvantaged.” In other words, UCL is estimated to owe hundreds of thousands of pounds to its female employees, and if it wants to maintain the image of equal opportunity, it must honour this pledge.
Look, it’s fabulous that UCL is naming and shaming itself for this mess. However, the question that needs to be asked is how the HELL this payment policy managed to go unseen for such a period of time. I mean, really?! Academia is already a boys club; surely every educational facility in the world is on high alert for such policy discrepancies. To me, this is a case of two steps forward, one step backwards. I am a great believer in academia, at a tertiary level especially. But holy moly; if UCL, one of the most respected and (hopefully) progressive universities in the world has managed to sidestep this sexist policy for so long, then we still have A LOT of work to do.
Image via Stuff.co.nz
The term ‘chauvinism’ is thrown around a lot these days. It justifiably refers to anything from demeaning, gender focussed comments, to the pay gap, to sexual harassment. However, as modern feminism has evolved, other forms of conduct have crept into the definition. Things like a man giving up his seat for a woman on the train. Or opening doors for her. Or paying for her meal. Pre-1970, this behaviour would have been classed as chivalry (or even good manners). Nowadays, women consider it chauvinistic.
The argument in favour of including this behaviour under the chauvinism umbrella is sound. In an age where women are still trying to assert their financial independence, of course we might bristle if a man wants to pay for us. Of course the little voice in our heads screams “patriarchy!” when a man opens a door for us, or gives up his seat. Aren’t our own abilities sufficient? This all seems like a no-brainer – at least on the surface.
Here’s the thing: when I am standing on the train, I get irritated if a guy doesn’t at least offer me his seat, especially if he’s younger than me. When I’m in the company of male friends, I expect them to open doors for me (which, invariably, they do, because my guy friends are awesome). And if a guy has asked me out (I realise I may be shooting myself in the foot here), I get very offended if he doesn’t pay for my meal, coffee, movie ticket, fro-yo, whatever.
This isn’t because I’m old fashioned, or because I expect men to take care of me. It’s certainly not because I have a superiority complex. It’s because men have a wonderful primal instinct to protect and to provide. I’ve observed it many times. According to author, actor, and television host Steve Harvey in his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man: “Remember what drives a man; real men do what they have to do to make sure their people are taken care of, clothed, housed, and reasonably satisfied, and if they’re doing anything less than that, they’re not men.” This statement may seem a little extreme, but Harvey has a point. Men who care for you will act on this primal instinct; men who don’t, won’t.
I have a huge amount of faith in the male species. I thrive in the company of men. I would not be the person I am today were it not for all the wonderful men in my life. I see the way they act around women. If they want to impress a girl, they’re always helping her with her coat, or buying her things, or opening the car door for her; anything to make her existence that little bit more pleasant. It’s not because they’re manipulating her, or don’t think she can do all those things for herself. It’s because, well – that’s just what they do. They wouldn’t consider doing anything else. They are surrendering to their base mentality; to protect and to provide.
This is not to say that women should expect men to bend over backwards for their every need. However, if you’re out with a guy and he is INSISTING on doing all those old-school chivalrous things, let him. He’ll get a kick out of it. It’s a sign that he’s trying really, really, REALLY hard. Don’t cut him down or make him feel stupid for offering. Don’t insist that you’re an independent woman who can pay her own damn way. Let’s set chauvinism aside and consider chivalry a sign of care, rather than an insult.
Image via Executivestyle.com.au
If you’ve ever felt like your man is indeed from another planet – nay galaxy far, far away – you’re not alone, sister.
Just recently, a best friend and I bemoaned the fact that our husbands were, at times, frustratingly highly skilled at offering unsolicited advice, but were far less capable listeners. Why can’t men just shut the f*** up and listen? Why do they have to offer solutions when you’ve never sought them? It’s an age-old relationship problem psychologists have long counselled couples about. So, why are men’s and women’s relationship needs so different?
Relationship experts say generally speaking, when we women have a problem, we usually want to sit down with a friend or their partner and talk about the issues, mull it over, express our feelings about the problem and receive empathy and encouragement. Above all, we just want to feel listened to and heard. Only after we’ve received this support do we want to move into problem solving, receiving advice and discussing solutions.
So, we women often become really frustrated and annoyed with our male partners when we try to talk with them about a problem, because men just seem to want to jump straight in with solutions and unsolicited advice. How many times has your loved one, bless him, said something like: “If you just do it like this…” or “You should have just done what I told you…” Gah!
However, clinical psychologists do concede many men are also bad listeners, cutting straight to problem solving when you just want to talk and feel listened to. And some men feel compelled to offer unsolicited advice for no reason; when you are actually more than capable of dealing with the situation by yourself. So, why do they do this?
For some, it may be a form of chauvinism, with the underlying belief that you as a woman can’t cope without their help and guidance. Grrr! Others may be well-meaning and genuinely want to help, jumping in with solutions and advice too quickly. Which category does your man fit into?
Another part of the puzzle is that relationship experts say men are genetically programmed to be problem solvers; and problem-solving behaviour rather than exploring feelings and motivations is encouraged in the majority of boys as they grow up.
The solution? They say to try encouraging our partners to be better listeners by explaining to them we’d really just like to talk about our problem and have him pay attention to us and really understand before he comes up with solutions. What’s more, we may have to gently remind him of this each time we want to talk about a problem. Sigh.
But if this doesn’t work, and if the man in your life continues to jump in too soon with solutions and unsolicited advice, you could try:
a) Punching him in the arm (er, just kidding) or
b) Talking to the women in your life for the empathy and understanding that you need, then…
c) When you’re ready to address the problem, talk to the man in your life for solutions to your problem.
Intimate relationships sure aren’t easy at times, but hopefully the bargaining will pay off. What do you think? Why don’t men listen to women and offer unsolicited advice?
Images via listcult.com, kikiandtea.com, huffingtonpost.com, someecards.com