Tom Martin quit the Gender, Media and Culture Masters course after six weeks and is hoping to sue the university for breach of contract, misleading advertising, misrepresentation and breach of the "Gender Equality Duty Act" which, weirdly, doesn't actually exist. He claims that the course had a "sexist agenda" and that he was required to read "anti-male" texts.
Ho ho ho, "what about teh menz", right? It's all faintly ridiculous and seems like a bit of an attention-seeking stunt by a guy who didn't like his course and is bearing a bit of a grudge. "Man objects to learning about things from the perspective of women".
The first thing I'm wondering is that surely he read about the content of the course and knew at least some of what to expect before he applied for it? Having looked at details of its content, areas of focus and recommended reading areas on the LSE website, I know that such information is out there. It's also pretty clear that the recommended reading isn't exactly a catalogue of man-hating extremism - focusing, in fact, on a wide range of topics and the intersection of gender, race, sexuality, class and economics. This particular course is called "Gender studies" rather than "Women's studies" for a reason.
Secondly, I'm wondering whether it was less a case of "anti-male" teachings and bias, more a case of actually having to study oppression and discrimination in detail and feeling uncomfortable that men seemed to be playing a pretty big part in it all?
It's a common argument you see when someone writes an article about rape statistics, or atrocities committed during wartime, or to be honest, most areas of discrimination and attack by men, aimed at women. Men get upset that simply by mentioning that some men have done bad things, the newspaper or the blogger in question is "anti-male", or "tarring all men with the same brush". Sometimes these comments are mild-mannered and jokey, but often they're vitriolic and on blogs in particular they seem to have a habit of turning into threatening diatribes.
The thing is, analysing experiences as they relate to women isn't anti-male. Addressing issues which only affect women isn't anti-male. It seems like Tom Martin could be suffering from a particularly belligerent case of unchecked privilege. And he's not just making a snarky comment on a blog in retaliation - he wants £50,000.
And as we all know, when privilege goes unchecked, when people don't acknowledge that they are at a significant advantage, any challenge to the status in society it gives the most privileged is often seen as "discrimination" or "unreasonable". We see this when measures to ensure greater racial or gender equality are implemented somewhere and as a result, white people or men start claiming that it's SO UNFAIR because having a problem with patriarchy is totally the same as hating all men.
These complaints against universities aren't new. Over the years there have been several cases, in various countries, where students have attempted to claim that having a university Women's Officer is discriminatory - and in 2009, London's School of African and Oriental Studies debated whether it would be a good idea to appoint a "Straight, White, Men's Officer". As many people pointed out at the time, the point of having officers to represent non-white students, or women students, or gay students, is because there are particular issues affecting them and it's important to have space to discuss it all, as well as the opportunity to organise campaigns.
An investigation carried out by the LSE following Martin's comments has apparently found "no evidence" to support his claims and the university's legal team has claimed that any "discriminatory effect" was "justifiable", which I have no doubt it was. For the time being, I'm wondering how long it'll be before the right-wing press picks up on this and starts analysing the nefarious impact of gender studies courses on the nation's men.
This post originally appeared at BitchBuzz. Image, showing an image and slogan that was actually campaigned against by men's groups in 2003, via Phil Wiffen's Flickr.
Edit: Jonathan Dean now has a post up at CiF attempting to dismantle some of the myths about gender studies courses and critiquing Martin's opinions. As usual, people commenting haven't bothered to read what he's saying, nor do they seem to understand what gender studies courses entail. There are over 600 comments and I wouldn't advise reading most of them.