Sexism is structural

April 3, 2008

The answer to your front-cover question about the gender gap in British universities, "Is it a patriarchal conspiracy or is it just me?" ( March), is neither. It is structural. It is about institutional sexism, deeply embedded in appointment processes failing to honour the spirit, if not the letter, of "equal opportunities" guidelines. It is also about closet misogyny, particularly in the older universities. It is also about an atavistic fear of political women.

By all means read Stephen Whitehead's latest book, but also read Simone de Beauvoir (and Angie Sandhu's book Intellectuals and the People) if you want to appreciate the broader political context. Male-authored publications do not necessarily carry all the answers.

Best of luck to Sheila Rowbotham ("Battle of ages fought on two fronts", March)!

Julia Swindells, Anglia Ruskin University.

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