Sexism on campus: How one voice can make a change

Illustration of a faceless woman raising her hand. CREDIT: CREATIVEDESIGNART
If nothing had been brought up about the sexism one person was facing, the greater issue at hand would have been harder to solve or even notice.

The entertainment industry has been known for its sexism for decades. However, college entertainment programs show this too. There is a significantly lower number of women in my program than men. This makes pursuing a career in the desired entertainment industry very discouraging for women. Not only this, but even tasks like speaking out in class can be very daunting for some women. This is not aided by the attitude of the male counterparts in the program.

A fellow classmate of mine had begun making micro-aggressions towards me and other women fairly early into the beginning of the year. These included thanking men for a woman’s idea instead of the woman and referring to women by “what’s-her-face” to others instead of their names. After seeing no change in his attitude over time and that he did not treat our male counterparts this way, I decided to have a conversation with him. I confronted him, upset, as he had done this to me as well as made other sexist remarks to me and others in the past. He denied his sexism and his friends all backed up his behaviour.

Unsatisfied with this outcome, I brought forward the altercation I had with my peer to a group of girls in my program about how the sexism in the program was getting out of hand. I was met with warm and supportive responses to this. However, following this, we all began to tell stories of things we had experienced since the beginning of the year from our male peers. Nearly every girl in the program had a story highlighting the negative behaviours of our male peers. We took forward all of our issues with the men of our program to our department head who was super supportive of us and wanted to take action. The department head then began speaking with the women in our program and holding meetings in order to address the sexism that had become so prevalent. He met with us, discussed options we would like, and empathized with us. Additionally, we were able to discuss the issues we had with security, sexual violence prevention and other safety concerns. From there, we were able to create the idea to have a presentation to our whole program about there being no tolerance for sexism. Although a presentation does not solve sexism, we thought that this would help explain the issue to our program. A presentation was held by Fanshawe’s Sexual Violence Prevention Advisor, Leah Marshall which all of the teachers of our program attended. The male students were seemingly fairly receptive to these conversations, although some of them still didn’t understand why they were wrong.

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Though at the time of discussing my issue with one peer, I had thought I was complaining over a minor issue, it revealed that there was a greater underlying issue. If nothing had been brought up about the sexism one person was facing, the greater issue at hand would have been harder to solve or even notice. The issue with our program was noticed after one incident was discussed. All it takes is one open discussion to make a change. Never discredit your own experiences or be afraid to speak up and do not underestimate the power that speaking up has.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.