A free Oxbridge tutorial for Boris Johnson on sexism

Boris recently suggested women go to university to find husbands. Does he need a lesson on feminism?

In a gaffe spectacularly sexist even for him, Boris Johnson has ‘suggested’ that the reason women go to university is to find husbands.

If this wasn’t bad enough, the context of this comment makes it all the worse. Johnson was speaking  at the launch of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in London. The Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, sat next to Johnson, was asked about the rights of women in Islamic countries.

He replied "before coming here, my officials have told me that the latest university intake in Malaysia, a Muslim country, 68 per cent will be women entering our universities." Johnson then interrupts the PM, a politician significantly more senior than himself, to make a joke, about women. Johnson is heard saying, with a laugh, "they’ve got to find men to marry."

Boris is well known for his less-than-politically-correct attitude to women, but he has always denied, vehemently, being sexist. “I’m not remotely sexist!” Boris cries. The problem is, I don’t think Boris really knows what sexism is. He is not alone.

Admittedly, we can’t really blame him for not understanding the complexities of intersectionality; some of my brightest undergraduates find it challenging, and that’s hardly a fair comparison. But having an undergraduate degree from Oxford, where I teach – which is according to many – one of the best universities in the world, I would really have expected him to understand the very basics of the concept. Oh well. I guess men don’t go to university to learn stuff either.

Anyway Boris, here’s a little tutorial for you, for next time you think about discussing women’s issues. I’ll make it as simple as possible.

  1. Sexism is prejudice based upon a person’s sex. That means treating someone in a certain way because they have a vagina or a penis. That’s what sex is (in case you weren’t sure on that either). 
  2. You can be sexist by being ‘nice’ to someone. If you treat someone differently because of their sex, you are being sexist.
  3. Although one doesn’t need to treat someone badly to be sexist, typically, sexism has manifested as men treating women badly because of their sex. Examples of this are women being criticized because of characteristics associated with their gender. (I don’t think I’ll attempt to explain the difference between sex and gender to you Boris; let’s not try and run before we can walk, eh?)
  4. One of the most common types of sexism women encounter in the workplace is that of their intellectual capacity being challenged (epistemic injustice). Being patronized is one of the worst forms of sexism because it belittles the speaker and calls into question their authority within a professional group. I think you might have had a bit of trouble with this sort of thing before. It’s not very nice to be patronized, especially when you’ve spent a long, long time studying and working and hard things like that.
  5. Casual sexism, like making jokes about women as a group, maintains a culture wherein women are perceived as less significant than men, which leads directly to sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence. You could read the tweets of @EverydaySexism for infinite examples of these. I believe you’ve recently been made aware of the project after a few of their followers tweeted you today.

If you were my undergraduate, Boris, I’d be expecting a 1,000 word essay with the title ‘What is Sexism?’ from you by next Monday. I somehow doubt you’d be up to scratch. As it is, I’d like to ask a different question of you. Given the Tories’ fetishisation of marriage, and your quite interesting view on women’s motives for attending university, perhaps your party could start to 'recognize marriage in the tax system' and use tax money to fund women to attend, thereby killing two birds with one huge, (as Everyday Sexism out it) 'pathetically archaic, unacceptably sexist, and hopelessly out of touch stone'.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine