Features In Focus

King's not immune to institutional misogyny

One thing the recent Dalhousie Dentistry scandal has shown is however progressive and liberal universities may be, rape culture is alive and rampant.
The University of King’s College itself has a student body that is actively engaged in combating sexism on campus. King’s offers a number of courses focusing on gender roles, such as “Rewriting Gender” in the Contemporary Studies department and “Women and the Documentary Tradition” in the Journalism school.
The Feminist Collective is a society which meets to discuss feminist issues weekly.
Topics of discussion range from intersectionality within feminist movements, to the role of misogyny in a political hierarchy. The Feminist Collective is open to all genders.
The King’s PRIDE Society provides a safe space for LGBTQ+ students to gather and discuss common experience, as well as create awareness surrounding homophobia and transphobia.
Anti-oppression and feminism are frequent discussion topics in the meal hall and in the Wardroom. Katie Douglas, second-year Kings student says it is “a luxury being in an environment which is vocally supportive of issues like this.”
In response to the lack of female representation on the walls of the university itself, a group of students organized by Meghan Shields and including support from several student societies teamed up to celebrate female accomplishment throughout the history of King’s. The result was the installation of a literal “Wall of Women” in the Wardroom, which featured pictures of prominent female students and faculty members.

Meg Shields and Clara McCaughey peruse images for the Wall of Women project. (Photo: Ashley Corbett)

However, while King’s is generally forward-minded about these issues, misogyny is deeply rooted in the patriarchal organization of universities.
Caleb Langille, FYP tutor and teaching fellow remarks, “We’re working within a sexist system, after all, an educational environment where the positions of authority are overwhelmingly occupied by men, so we all need to be particularly attentive to the ways that society enforces certain behaviours.”
In a study put out by Columbia University regarding gender issues within the college classroom, female students are shown to participate less than their male counterparts. On average, female students are interrupted more frequently in discussion based settings. In addition, a larger number of female students were shown to be hesitant in presenting statements, and more apologetic while participating in discussion.
Overall female enrolment in post-secondary institutions is at its all-time high, as approximately half of the student are women. However, certain liberal arts faculties still experience a high gender imbalance. McMaster University recently released a report focused on their female faculty, and found there is a disproportionate number of female professors on tenure in comparison to males.
“Philosophy is notorious for having low female enrolment.” said Suzanne Taylor, teaching fellow and tutor in the Foundation Year Programme.
“Our society socializes boys and young men to be less considerate of their place in a conversation than young women. In my experience, men feel entitled to take up a disproportionate amount of conversational, physical and intellectual space. We socialize boys and men to be more combative and women to be more polite and conciliatory. As a result, men are generally much more willing to interrupt and directly challenge other speakers in a tutorial or academic conversation, while women tend to wait their turn and contribute in a more cooperative way.” says Langille.
Taylor remarks “as a student at McGill I didn’t speak at all in classes, pretty much my entire undergraduate career. That was partly because I felt intimidated, but there’s not just gender imbalance in the classroom. There’s also class and race, and these things don’t always become apparent.”
South House, which is a resource centre funded by students that functions as a safe space for students dealing with oppression, primarily related to gender and sexuality.
Volunteer Coordinator Carmella Farahbakhsh says  “I think that it’s really important when speaking about misogyny to recognize that it stems from other forms of oppression. Misogyny isn’t in a vacuum of sexism. When someone is being super classist or racist within the colonial space that is university, that also warrants the same kind of understanding that this all participates rape culture, and it’s all connected.”
While spaces like South House exist, a large percentage of those who use the space and attend anti-oppression workshops are those who are already involved with in the dialogue surrounding gender norms and misogyny.
Farahbakhsh proposes a solution to institutional misogyny, by making participation in discussion mandatory for university students. “A lot of people who participate actively in misogyny avoid spaces where you talk about misogyny and how people actively participate in that part of culture, so we need to make those spaces mandatory in attendance.” says Farahbakhsh.
Douglas personally takes a strong stance against rape-related humour, saying “You don’t make rape jokes around me. I don’t put up with it.”
[box type=”info”] The author would like to note that while she chose to refer to faculty in a gender binary, she is sensitive to the inclusion of transmen and transwomen within the terms male and female. [/box]

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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