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Men and women in the 21st century

Friday 21 November 2014 Student journalists

Men and women both are establishing their roles within the twenty-first century society and there are many men who demonstrate just how far the male-female relationship has developed, explores NUS Journalist Sara West.

When a person hears the word sexism they often think of women; the discussions are centred around them and their experiences of it, with men only pictured as the enemy. We act amazed when we find a sweet man in our lives, friend or boyfriend. In fact, we’re so used to being surprised that we often forget how many times we’ve actually met a man who knows how to treat women right. And it’s those men who need to help change attitudes to women.

We live in a strange society where women can be praised for their independence in one news story, and reminded of the gender inequality in the next. I’m proud to be a female academic, but I still see sexism present in every day acts. From unpleasant comments in a pub, to off-hand comments made by male students walking home, sometimes it seems like men’s attitudes to women haven’t changed since the 60s.

Whilst sitting on a train I was dragged into a bizarre conversation with a complete stranger, which ended with him calling me ‘mental’ because I didn’t want his phone number. It sounds crazy, and it was - I had barely even looked at him! On the same day I witnessed a drunk man harassing his ex-girlfriend and her seven week old baby. A good twenty minutes passed, with him insulting her and swearing, whilst everyone in the carriage kept silent. I was appalled by the lack of action, my own included.

These are extreme examples but it happens regularly on a smaller scale. The everyday sexism project website features hundreds of stories of sexism happening on a daily basis – some quite shocking. In my own experience I walked home in front of a group of guys discussing their female friend as though she were an object; rating her face as ugly but her behind as the best going. It makes me wonder: would you say that to your mother? Or your sister? Would you let someone speak to them like that?

Sometimes it can be disheartening to think of the male-female relationship and the inequalities that still exist in society; at other times it’s easy to pretend that women are triumphing because they’ve made a place for themselves in the business world, and proved their successful independence. Sometimes men still seem like the enemy. But we need to embrace the men who say no, they would not let someone talk to a woman in their life like that – any woman.

We should be asking that they extend this to strangers, and celebrating it when they do. We need to remind ourselves that there are respectful men in this world, and appreciate them for it, but we also need to work together to combat negative attitudes towards women. We need them to help challenge abusive behaviours; too many are shy, or feel as though they’re in the minority. We need to shout about them, and together build a culture of zero tolerance towards sexism, and celebration of equality.

The roles of women are still developing and changing, depending on need, circumstance and personal choice. Men and women both are establishing their roles within the twenty-first century society. And there are many men who demonstrate just how far the male-female relationship has developed and how it can work and be equal. Whether you believe a relationship is based on love or friendship, romance or companionship or a combination of the two, there are many modern relationships that demonstrate mutual respect, care and faithfulness.

We need to create a culture that not only speaks out against sexism, but celebrates those who stand against it, and encourages a mutually respectful, supportive relationship between all men and women. This might seem daunting but we can do it on a small scale – by publicly challenging sexist comments, if only on a bus or at the bar.

My name is Sara West and I hail from the South-West: land of beaches and cider! I study English and American Literature and History at the University of Kent and spent a year studying in Finland as part of my degree. My interests lie with writing, playing my guitar and anything outdoors.

I wanted to write for the ‘student lifestyle’ section because I love being a student, I like to keep on top of current (and sometimes unusual) trends and I love trying new things! I’m keen to experience as much as I can and expand my horizons, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.

Writing for NUS is an excellent opportunity to get my voice heard and to learn from others. What could be better than being part of a national network of like-minded people? While the academic aspect of my degree is fantastic, my experience at university would not have been the same without the lifestyle that has come with it.