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Keys and Gray – Sexism in the workplace returns...

Keys and Gray – Sexism in the workplace returns...


So even if we do accept that some sexist banter is only meant in jest, why do men feel the need to bang on about it so much in the first place?

Why is it that a man who treats his girlfriend like a princess will also use phrases like “smash it” around his mates?

Counsellor Jane Taylor reasons that it’s a product of the all-powerful male ego. “Men talk about women in a sexist way because they want to appear to be the big controlling male who no one tells what to do,” she says.
“When he is with his girlfriend he is playing a different role, one of a caring, loving partner who is aware of her needs. However, he might not consider it ‘manly’ to act like this, and fear his mates will tease him for being 'under the thumb', so a few sexist remarks redress the balance.”

Patrick White agrees, stressing the significance of the pack mentality among groups of males. “Men are social animals and need to feel part of a group, so to this end they will fall in with the general tone,” he says.

“They do not want to appear too different to the others, which is where the need to be ‘one of the boys’ stems from. It is also the case that if there were females present, the conversation would probably be toned down considerably.”

On the other hand, relationship expert Rochelle Peachey thinks that it is hopeless to expect men to behave any differently, as it’s simply part of their nature. “The sweetest man, who adores his wife can become a sexist pig when she’s not around,” she says. “Why? Because that’s what men do.”

Furthermore, provided it’s not aggressively directed, Peachey believes that the odd off-colour remark shouldn’t lead to a man being tarred as a sexist. “Men generally feel its OK to talk about women in sexist terms when with their mates because its just ‘men talk’. It doesn’t mean they’re misogynists, they’re just men being men.

Are women ever guilty of sexism?

We’ve heard plenty about how men carry on, but do women ever use similarly sexist terms when discussing the chaps in their lives? Well, it definitely seems to be less prevalent, but that’s not to say it doesn’t go on.

“I think women also make plenty of anti-men comments too,” says Maggie Berry, “like laughing at guys when they say they’ve got the flu. You’ll often hear women dismissing it as ‘just a cold’, or calling it ‘man-flu’.”

Lucy, 27 from Bristol, agrees with Berry, claiming that in her office, the men come in for more stick than the women. “I work in a PR firm,” she says, “where there is quite a female dominated atmosphere. We often tease the men in the office, over what they’re wearing or how their love lives are going. It’s affectionate really, but I suppose they might get sick of it sometimes.”

In general, it seems less common to find women discussing men in the sort of sexually aggressive terms favoured by Gray and Keys.

“In my experience,” begins Patrick White, “women tend to use less disparaging terms when talking about men. Also, their conversations are less focused on men’s anatomy and more on positive factors. How handsome he is, his charm, his generosity or, conversely, how lacking he is in these qualities!”

Counsellor Jenni Camplin explains that the difference in the way women talk about men is a result of the different way all-female groups interact in comparison with their all-male counterparts.

“Women discuss men,” agrees Camplin, “but in a way that unites them in how they feel men treat them. For instance many women might get together and discuss how little men help around the house or are able to look after the children or cook. So women's comments to each other about their men often serve as a way for them to bond as women.”


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