Gender Studies vs. Men on Hard Chairs: The Tom Martin Case
All-round cool dude and laid-back lad Tom Martin wrote an article for The Guardian back in September 2011 about suing the LSE for being too mean about men on his Gender Studies course, but according to The New Statesman this week, it’s still going on. In a sensationally named article ‘Is Feminism Sexist?’, New Statesman contributor Nichi Hodgson considers whether misandry really has crept into the syllabus at LSE, and whether a man who chose to pursue a bit of a personally disappointing Masters course through the courts might actually have a leg to stand on (no phallic joke intended.)
But let’s go back to that Guardian article and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. Tom the Laugh, as I’m sure his friends must call him, catalogues some extremely conveniently chosen studies that claim that misandry is voiced ‘four times more often’ by women than misogyny is by men, and that women are ‘more likely to initiate domestic violence.’ None of this has enlightened me to any of Tom’s reasoning behind suing his university. In fact, it sounds like a perverse competition for victimhood.
Whether these studies represent true facts or not - and considering the sheer amount of studies into domestic violence and gendered language, not to mention the reporting controversies that surround violent and sexual issues within the home, these waters are likely to always be muddy - is immaterial to the argument at stake. It’s a cheeky little jab at women from, let’s face it, a bit of a publicity whore. I’m sure Tom’s reading this, because I just know he has a Google Alert set up for his name, so can I just say: welcome, Tom. Come in to the Vagenda. It’s a safe place for you here.
Sexism is still a little too up-for-grabs nowadays, and it irks me, Tom, it really does. Because you must know that at LSE, there’s another Masters programme called the MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies. Somehow I can’t see you banking on as much supportive publicity if you’d quit that one halfway through because there wasn’t enough of a concentration on white people in the curriculum. Now, racism and sexism are two very different things, but they’re both forms of discrimination that have managed to last us, at the very least, hundreds of years. Back in the 1980s, Tom, in Britain, my friend’s mother had to have her husband sign a permission slip for her to own a credit card. You may have heard of this on your Gender Studies course, if you weren’t busy vomiting bile, but women weren’t allowed the vote in your very own country until 1928 - my grandparents’ time. And I’m in my twenties.
I hate all forms of prejudice, and I don’t see the existence of the NAACP or the Young Black Women’s Society as prejudicial against white people like me. Ongoing sociocultural attitudes make these organisations necessary, and they are found to be positive forces by the people who want to access them. The MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Postcolonial Studies at a London-based university has a heightened focus on non-white peoples, and that’s because they’ve had to do more shit for the same rights as white people here in Europe. ‘The black civil rights movement’ as a subject matter doesn’t imply black superiority, just as ‘feminism’ doesn’t imply misandry. They’re named after the people who protested, Tom. Simple as.
Misandry and misogyny don’t come from different places, and it’s worth pointing out that wherever some form of gender discrimination rears its ugly head, the other - or at least some gross stereotype - is usually close behind. As has been pointed out by previous blogs similar to ourselves, a serious case of this mix-up happens in the family courts, where mothers are usually given priority in child custody battles. What is this based on? Well, mainly, the idea that childcare is the woman’s realm, and to disturb this natural course of events would be wrong. This outward discrimination against men comes about because of a stereotyped foundation: society agrees that women are still basically responsible for childcare in a relationship most of the time, and are loath to subvert this expectation, even when men are actively pursuing the responsibility for and care of their much-loved children. As with all instances of prejudice, ultimately, we all lose.
But back to Tom. Tom’s claim against LSE’s Gender Studies department was rejected in court two days ago - he represented himself, and one of his pieces of ‘evidence of discrimination’ was an especially ‘hard’ chair that he said made it difficult for men to sit on - after a judge ruled that he would have ‘absolutely no chance of success at all’ if he chose to pursue the case further. Still, you’ve kickstarted your career in journalism, haven’t you, Tommy Boy?
Dr Julia Jones, of the LSE Gender Studies department, commented: ‘We must take deadly seriously the claim that LSE invested hundreds of pounds in chairs that were just hard enough to make men feel discriminated against while learning about Gender Studies. In truth, this was an underhanded attempt to give men a taste of their own medicine and, until now, a successful psychological undermining of their ingrained beliefs in the patriarchy. Now that Tom has found us out, we will be substituting extra-comfy armchairs for all hard seats, but replacing this subtle punishment with a round punch in the jaw for every man who enters a Gender Studies lecture theatre.’