I want to discuss the sexism I encountered on my Masters degree in Art and Design. The class group was small and consisted of three men over 35, two younger guys, and the rest women 20-30. The older men in the group dominated every conversation and shouted the women down any time they did try to say anything. In my own case, I was using digital technology and from the very first time presenting my work I had the validity of my research and my programming abilities questioned (by a man who had absolutely no experience of programming). The course went on in much the same way, but the main problem was the two main tutors – men in their thirties – who didn’t try to include the women at all and let the older men not only dominate but also influence their views of other students, including me.
I was labelled as opinionated and troublesome for, well, expressing opinions on the subjects we were taught. Sometimes I knew more than the tutor on certain topics, which I think didn’t help actually.
When we had a female tutor, who I personally thought was intelligent and had no problem with, they complained about her for being – yes, too opinionated! Then on our research trip, the guys were trying to get her into bed, claiming her problem was that she needed a dick up her (how original – they didn’t seem to notice she already had a boyfriend), and one of the guys boasted that he made her cry by complaining to her about her teaching.
It felt that there was an objection to a woman using technology, like I couldn’t possibly be making art in this way because women are supposed to be all about feelings and not logical, but perhaps the real problem was that it was a group of egotists whose main goal in life was to demonstrate to others how much more they knew than everyone else; with my chosen research they didn’t know anything, and so instead they simply tried to diminish me and what I was doing. It did knock my confidence, but I have in no way given up and have continued to work in this area. However, so desperate were the mansplainers of this group to control the narrative, that because I have a part-time English teaching job to support myself (as I have done for many years), they have spread the rumour around that I have given up and am now a full-time English teacher. I couldn’t care less what people like this think about me personally, but it does trouble me that the artists network is small, and I don’t particularly want false rumours about myself spread around damaging my reputation.