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25th September 2022

Agony Aunt Angela: Politics and silence

Is gender just about women, or do men have a voice too? Conflicted, this politics student doesn’t know where he stands.
Agony Aunt Angela: Politics and silence

“One of my modules is gender and politics. As a man, I don’t think I deserve an opinion as I have no personal understanding of the topic. For instance Prime Minister’s Questions – I know misogyny takes place there, but I didn’t know that it was a misogynistic institution itself. 

In order not to offend anyone, I simply sit there and learn. But, in seminars, they always ask for people’s opinions. I know what the ideal answer should be, but everyone else in the seminar is a woman. Should I not be taking their time or space to speak? Yet no one else in the class speaks or gives answers… What should I do?

Gender issues aren’t female-led issues, it’s for gender as a whole, otherwise the module would be ‘feminism and politics’. You’re right in thinking the module is there to shine a light on the misogyny that is rampant in politics globally, providing a voice to female students.

However, assuming that gender translates to female issues only feeds into the issue of gender and politics. You’re making assumptions based on gender, thus stifling any progress towards equality from the get-go.

Holding back and letting others who are more affected by gendered political issues (such as female students) is initially the right thing to do. But, from what I can tell it’s providing no real benefit to your learning because you’re not learning anything by holding back. Seminars are set up for discussion, however that usually doesn’t happen. Either the class sits in silence or everyone has the same opinion, wasting everyone’s time.

Shake it up a bit. If you have a different opinion, don’t be afraid to share it. There’s no such thing as an ‘ideal answer’, you’re just giving an answer that the room may want to hear. But what’s the point in that? That’s not your opinion, and you shouldn’t be afraid to explore it.

Providing alternative answers opens our minds up to critical viewpoints, widening our political and ideological bubble. We ultimately gain a more accurate understanding of the world around us and why people foster into a certain ideology.

Obviously don’t be overtly offensive by using misogynist or homophobic rhetoric, but that’s just a given in seminars. If you worry your opinions will be offensive, state that. Explain that this is what you think and that you’re open to hearing what others have to say. When people shut you down with no reason as to why you may be wrong in your thinking, that is in itself ignorant. That is essentially what you are fearing by not giving your opinion.

Ultimately, your female classmates aren’t using their voices to discuss the issues in front of them. Why shouldn’t you use the space? Again, as a man, you are part of the discussion of gender in politics. Your views and experiences are just as valid so why not use your voice. You’re not taking away from their space if they’re not using it. Frankly, the lecturer would probably be grateful for some discussion in their classes.

Speak up, and don’t cater to the views of everyone in the room. By assuming what women want to hear, you’re unknowingly contributing to the bias women face in politics. Furthermore, gender isn’t just about women. It’s about equalising all genders within the political field, and that’s something people easily forget.

Kisses, Agony Aunt Angela

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