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Salient. Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 25. October 4, 1976

Learning about Sexism in New Zealand

Learning about Sexism in New Zealand.

This book consists of a series of essays (mostly by women) about sexism in New Zealand. Its authors' avowed purpose is to communicate an understanding of women's oppression as well as to be involved in appropriate political change, by adding their voices to the Feminist Movement.

Any reviewer should compare and contrast this book and its aims with the one entitled 'Sexist Society' (published in 1972, eds Sue Kedgley and Sharyn Cederman).

This latter book is for me, a first-rate expose of sexism in the social political economic and personal lives of New Zealanders.

It's defined purpose was to show (especially women) just how oppressed women are as well are attempting to establish the significance and purpose of women's liberation.

'Sexist Society' achieves its aims in an effective and direct way by using a seires of case histories as archetypes exemplifying the different ways sexism works.

On the other hand, 'learning about sexism' doesn't have the same impact on me.

It is suggested in the introduction that efforts will be made to describe sexism the way it is seen not "according to an abstract and academic formula which takes the guts out of experience".

I don't think the efforts made were very great.

Thus, even in Debbie Jones interesting article. The erotic revolution', one sees passages such as this: "What is the truly revolutionary alternative? essentially the deinstitutionalisation of sexual intercourse. Rather than being confined to a [unclear: functionally] oppressive social role, sexuality should affect all areas of our lives".

So that while most of the essays feature carefully-worded arguments well supported by good, statistically sound research, it is, taken overall, far too dry and academic. (Many of these essays would get high marks in stage three sociology courses).

To me, as an instrument of mass educaton therefore 'Sexist Society' is far more effective a book than 'Learning About Sexism'. It is true that some feminists would not see the former book as possessing the same degree of political radically as the latter, but its accessibility and simplicity nevertheless give it an advantage.

One essay in 'Learning About Sexism' [unclear: has] particularly aroused some attention and ire. This is Chris Wainwrights one aobut male oppression. Some reviewers have suggested that his comments indicate to them that men should not attempt to write about sexism.

Certainly one does get the feeling that Chris, while intellectually accepting all he puts forward in the article is still not free emotionally from chauvinist tendencies. He always writes from a distance, referring usually to 'we', rarely to 'I' and while generalising about the oppression men 'endure' never talks about his own personal experiences. I think, though, he is right when he does suggest that women have contributed to sexist practices as much as men for it takes effectively conditioned people of both sexes to maintain the traditional forms of social life, and personal and power relationships.

At the same time it is possible (thank god) for women to break out of their inherited bondage. It is also possible for men to do the same. It is said that women have everything to gain as the oppressed by fighting back, and that men, as they have everything to lose, won't be inclined to give up their privileges. How true, but for some men who don't like rugby, racing, beer, violence, conventional competiveness, aggressiveness and who don't want to accept their privileges, suffering and sitmas are in store.

Here men suffer (not as women do, simply because they are women) but because they have become social deviants. Of course, these men can conceal their dislikes - even a male homosexual can 'pass' for what is regarded as sexuality legitimate if he cares to swallow his integrity and act as if he was heterosexual.

The pain is still there, undoubtedly, but such men can still hold the advantage which accure to males whereas women will always be disadvantaged unless there are radical changes, and not many men are interested in bringing those about.

— Robert WooIf