University of Buckingham vice-chancellor encourages male academics to perve on female students.

// 23 September 2009

I am absolutely stunned by what I’ve just read. In a Times Higher Education magazine piece entitled The seven deadly sins of the academy, the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, Terence Kealey, takes on the supposed tradition of female students getting into bed with male academics. Betraying his sexist bias from the outset, Kealey addresses himself to a presumed all-male audience of academics and, using literary references to prove that female students can’t resist the allure of the male lecturer (because if some exalted novelist wrote about it it must be true), suggests that these academics deal with the adoring female undergraduate as follows:

Enjoy her! She’s a perk. She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.

Yup, I’m afraid so. As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch. Be warned by the fates of too many of the protagonists in Middlemarch, The History Man and I Am Charlotte Simmons. And in any case, you should have learnt by now that all cats are grey in the dark.

So, sow your oats while you are young but enjoy the views – and only the views – when you are older.

I hate to be juvenile but, really, *$&! you. Female students do not attend lessons so pervy lecturers can take mental images of our curves and project them onto their no doubt long-suffering wives to improve their sex lives. And we have enough leering and harassment to deal with on the streets and in the Union bar without having to face it when we’re trying to take notes on Emma Bovary’s suicidal bid for freedom from patriarchal sexual repression (yeah, us whining feminists can quote literature too).

As if that gem-laden paragraph weren’t enough, Kealey asserts that the male lecturer abusing his power by engaging in sex with a student is nothing more than a ‘myth’ because – wait for it – ‘the fault lies with the females’. Apparently the lecturer, who holds the keys to the student’s success, has no power because those dastardly, ‘intrusive’ agencies which ensure students’ work is graded fairly mean students can no longer ‘trade sex for upgrades’. Kealey neatly ignores the flip side of this trade, wherein male academics could theoretically force female students to have sex with them in exchange for grades, but I guess when the power in this relationship really lies in the undergrad’s wantonly flaunted curves, the academic couldn’t possibly be held responsible for his behaviour.

Of course, Kealey doesn’t go so far as to defend male academics who do have sex with students, but in encouraging them to view female undergrads as sex objects and squarely placing the ‘blame’ for any transgressions of the pupil-teacher relationship with the female, he is reinforcing the same sexist attitudes and victim-blaming myths we hear whenever a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted by a man.

This is a massive betrayal of female students at his university and across the UK, and if I were on campus in Buckingham I’d be kicking up an almighty fuss.

According to the Telegraph, Kealey’s supporters have described his statements as – you guessed it – a joke, and a spokesman for the University and College Union claims that the piece appears to be satirising harassment, but added that “Harassment is not something to be taking lightly and I would be surprised, and deeply concerned, if any university, or vice-chancellor, tried to laugh it off.” A GCSE English student could tell you that’s not satire, so I’d damn well hope a literature-quoting University VC would come up with something a little more convincing if that were his intention.

Comments From You

Clumperino // Posted 23 September 2009 at 12:27 pm

It’s appalling. Heteronormative, ‘male gaze’ centred and depressing! That this can be called ‘humour’ is incomprehensible to me.

Kez // Posted 23 September 2009 at 12:41 pm

Oh. My. God. That is horrendous. I really hope this man is called to account for this. I feel slightly sick after having read it.

“All cats are grey in the dark” – yuk.

I wonder if Mr Kealey has a wife, and if so, what she makes of his oh-so-charmingly expressed views?

Gemma // Posted 23 September 2009 at 12:42 pm

This is just disgusting – although I’ve heard from a female lecturer male- dominated staff rooms are awful for this kind of conversation. It’s gross.

For once I’d like women to speak about what we desire – I’d like old men to stop talking about how much we love them. Especially in this gross position of authority.

Tabby // Posted 23 September 2009 at 12:54 pm

And do you know what’s even more annoying? The fact that the readers’ comments sections of some newspapers covering this story seem to be mainly made up of people coming up with the tired old “it’s only a joke”, “get a sense of humour”, “men have have always and will always appreciate sexy women” type comments. They really don’t get it, do they? We have to live with crap like this daily, yet dare to voice our opinions against it and we’re branded as humourless, as whingers, taking ourselves too seriously. Yet see how quickly men will complain, moan and whine when their ‘right’ to perve over women is questioned.

Ok, deep breath… Nope, I still feel angry…

Toni // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:10 pm

Adoring female undergraduates? He fucking wishes! When I was at uni there were several male lecturers who were known for targetting female students. The female students tried to avoid them, not ‘flaunt their curves’.

Harassment is not a subject for humour. Female students are not a joke, and they are not ‘perks’. This revolting bastard should be sacked.

Wisrutta Atthakor // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:10 pm

I was once told about what was said to a friend of someone I know, who had just got her PhD in law from UCL and was accepted for a lectureship there. She was at a departmental gathering (seminar or something, can’t really remember) and this old professor introduced her to his colleagues: “This is name … She is here to be pretty and for us to look at.”

Despite the fact that she had excelled in her field, got distinctions and everything, that was all the stupid professor thought to say about her!

And then I read this … and my shitty morning has just become so much shittier! URGH!

Anna // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:14 pm

great. now I can go to my lectures (which start next week), and feel uncomfortable about the idea my male lecturers will be using my body as a marital aid. and I will be wearing shapeless, baggy clothes as a result. fuck you very much, kealey – it’s not like I don’t get enough harassment targeted at my figure without worrying my lecturers are doing it too.

and I’m actually seeing my ex-lecturer.

Qubit // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:19 pm

I think, if this is true, then it is just as bad for male students as female students. The article is encouraging lecturers to see helping the attractive female students as a perk but not the same for male students (independent of attractiveness). In fact I don’t think there would be any undergraduate who wasn’t hurt by a lecturer with such an attitude. I don’t mean to take the what about the poor men attitude but I feel it might be easy to justify why this is wrong if men can see how it hurts them.

I am still idealistic about this and hope that many lecturers can appreciate an enthusiastic student on the basis they are someone who loves the subject and wants to get ahead and encourage them with this. However it must be noted how a female student would feel reading such an article.

As for female students I think it would be easy to question your own ability and reasons for being where you are and begin to put it down to your looks. While I know women are encouraged to see this as a perk I think most women want to get ahead by ability. The idea that they were there to look pretty and that is all the lecturer deemed them good for would be very distressing. To be honest anyone who doesn’t get it should watch Legally Blonde, it might not be the best film but covers this issue in a reasonably way that I think most people should relate to.

Kit // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:25 pm

Ugh, this is gross and sad. I’ve been hearing loads of icky comments from blokes still in the uni I went to and blokes in my workplace on the joys of (good looking?) female students and how awesome it is uni has started again…

@Tabby – It’s guys like _that_ who need the tables turned on them. I know from the nice (not Nice TM) non-women-objectifying men I know that have been subjected to sexual harrasment at some point, they didn’t like it*, but then they already knew it’s not nice for women when it’s the “normal” way around.

*contrary to the usual response (“oh we would if it happened to us”) when that’s suggested.

Elmo // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:40 pm

well, i wont be applying for Buckingham Uni, then. well done, mr creepy, you have succesfully repelled a possible student, what a way to advertise “come to Buckingham, our lecturers think they live in 1962!”

its so fecking frustrating to see that even when women are ACTIVELY PROVING that they are more than just their bodies (ie by going to university and learning) we are STILL being viewed as a gimmick (oh! they let women LEARN nowadays, eh? well, i never! but, er, thats just until they find husbands, yes? jolly good!), we are STILL being viewed as objects to look at. well, feck him. urgh

and also,

urgh.

Kez // Posted 23 September 2009 at 1:43 pm

Having seen Terence Kealey’s picture, I find it hard to imagine that female students are gazing at him as adoringly (or “flaunting their curves” at him as regularly) as he seems to think. But I guess he’s entitled to his ego-boosting fantasies. If not to voice them in public.

Not that I would normally wish to comment on a person’s attractiveness, or lack of it, but given that he feels perfectly entitled to comment on the physical attributes of blameless young women, I don’t feel too guilty.

Kristin // Posted 23 September 2009 at 2:03 pm

This is pretty insulting to male lecturers too. If I was a male lecturer and someone depicted me as a creep who thought female students were nothing more than ‘perks’ and that I had to fantasise about them to ‘spice up’ sex with my wife, I would be furious! And I’d regard it as an insult to my wife too.

Lara // Posted 23 September 2009 at 2:11 pm

This is pretty much one of the most depressing things I have ever read. And even if it’s meant to be satirical – it’s in woefully bad taste. Students that are no doubt being objectified to hell during various night’s out for fresher’s week – expected to wear naughty schoolgirl outfits and being leered at by their drunk co-eds – the one place they should feel comfortable and not sexualised should be their lecture theatre. “Don’t get any fancy notions about your opinion being valued by other academics. They’d much rather be using you to spice up their sex lives.” There there, know your place…

And he has the audacity the refer to attractive female students as ‘perks of the job’. It’s revolting. ‘She will flaunt you her curves’. Oh WILL she?! It’s one of those moments when you’re suddenly confronted with the hatred some men have of women.

Sinead // Posted 23 September 2009 at 2:59 pm

This is absolutely sickening. First off, Kealey is living in a fantasy world, because no sensible woman would be fantasising about him (and I’m not just basing this on what he looks like, but on the internal ugliness which derives from such appalling sexism). But to claim that it’s obviously a woman’s fault if a male lecturer fancies her/pursues her for an affair, is strongly reminiscent of attitudes that sexual assault is the woman’s fault because she wore clothing/displayed behaviour which was deemed to be provocative.

This is also highly offensive to male academics, suggesting that they’re all sex pests whose chief function is to pursue female students. I hope that Kealey is severely chastised for these outdated, and horrendously offensive views.

Many comments in reply to that article condemn those who are justifiably outraged by Kealey’s views, stating that Kealey was just being sarcastic. This is absolutely not the case, and I find it very disturbing that such outrageous sexism can be so easily dismissed.

Amy Clare // Posted 23 September 2009 at 3:31 pm

This really is disgusting. I feel sick. So many levels of wrong. Where to start?

He is clearly living in cloud cuckoo land if he thinks his female students are ‘flaunting their curves’ at him… I’d like to bet that he is known at the uni as a pervy old man, and female students do their best to avoid him.

The worst bit is he clearly thinks he is being right on by encouringing male academics to “look but don’t touch”. Only because it would lead to them being fired, of course, not for any reason involving actually respecting women. The arrogance of it is sickening. This man is so deeply steeped in privilege that I doubt he will ever learn how to treat women as human beings.

The piece sends a message loud and clear to prospective female students… don’t expect to be taken seriously for your intelligence/knowledge/talent, as all your lecturer will be interested in is taking a mental photocopy of you for his wank bank! Female students, female and/or gay academics and lecturers, and male academics who aren’t pervs – all insulted in one fell swoop.

Claire // Posted 23 September 2009 at 4:39 pm

To say that this was ill judged is an absolute understatement. Reading the comments made on the Guardian website it is clear that many women feel incredibly uncomfortable with his disgraceful, sexist remarks. The fact that he considers staff/student relationships to be a harmless bit of fun just shows how little he understands the power dynamics behind these relationships and this surely must call into question his question his ability to deal appropriately with equal opportunity/harrassment cases from within the University? I consider that he should resign over this.

Laura // Posted 23 September 2009 at 4:43 pm

I’ve been invited to speak about this on the Richard Bacon show on Radio 5 tonight, will be on at about 10.45.

Floss // Posted 23 September 2009 at 4:55 pm

If anyone is a student at this creeps University then please, please make a complaint to the University’s regulator at http://www.oiahe.org.uk. Someone has got to hold this guy accountable.

Kez // Posted 23 September 2009 at 4:57 pm

I suspect this is one of those situations where a lot of men (not all) will just not “get” what the problem is, whereas the vast majority of women will get it instantly. I can imagine a lot of men going “well, that’s what men do! Why pretend otherwise?” and completely missing how objectionable this is to the women on the receiving end, or any women actually – to be objectified in that way, and demeaned, and joked about, by people with whom you are MEANT to have a professional relationship. (And if Kealey does have a wife, I’m sure she is enchanted to learn that he finds her so boring that he has to fantasise about students. And tell everyone else about it, and advise them to do the same.)

Femina Erecta // Posted 23 September 2009 at 5:46 pm

I lecture and often find that looking at a paticulary pleasant looking male student (mature, I hasten to add!) does make my lectures a little bit more bearable. But I do not think that he, or any other attractive man is ‘flaunting’ himself purely for my enjoyment, because I am not that egotistical. He was not created for me, he just happens to be of a physicality I find appealing.I would never ever dream of pursueing my crush, because I am a professional. And if he happened to walk into class tight clothing, then I wouldn’t think of touching him inappropriatly, flirting outright with him or harrassing him in any way because I respect him as a person. I just fancy him. This man is admitting to a complete lack of self-control in a professional setting and should be removed from his post for being unprofessional in his attitude towards his students. The rub is that, whilst if I were to write an article the same as this one, but replacing all the ‘women’s curves’ with ‘men’s hardnesses’ I would be accused of being a pervy old woman by the popular press whilst this man recieves a bunch of guffors from other similar men who cannot control their sex drives (obviously the object of their lust’s fault!) nodding their heads in agreement, I mean, why can’t we just wank ourselves dry over impressionable young women who have paid a ridiculous amount of money to supposedly learn from us? Thats what my willy tells me to do!

Lisa Brown // Posted 23 September 2009 at 6:05 pm

it annoys the hell out of me that some posters feel that they can speak for all women. i couldn’t give a fuck about this story. i have more important thinks to worry about, like keeping my younger sister from her abusive ex. but i guess if you don’t go to university or ‘uni’ (grrr) or read the guardian, you are not worthy of sympathy right? carry on back scratching, over educated guardian readers. the rest of us have real problems to deal with.

Laura // Posted 23 September 2009 at 6:27 pm

Lisa,

I don’t think being concerned about a university VC’s sexist attitude towards female students prevents us caring about anything else. Personally I do think this story is worthy of concern in that it is illustrative of a problem women come up against both in academia and in all walks of life: men treating us primarily as sex objects, not to mention the harassment, discrimination and violence that this can lead to.

Anna // Posted 23 September 2009 at 6:37 pm

um, lisa, I actually found that quite offensive – just because I’m attending uni this year doesn’t mean I don’t have ‘real problems’ or that I don’t have more important things or that I’m ‘over educated’.. but we’ve every right to be offended by this, just as you have every right not to be.

Qubit // Posted 23 September 2009 at 6:44 pm

I think I see this as being important because if a male lecturer perceives a woman showing interesting in the subject as actually showing sexual interest in him, then he will misinterpret her enthusiasm for the subject as an enthusiasm for him. This will result in him taking her less seriously when applying for jobs etc. Her chances of being seen as a serious prospect for a job etc will be reduced. Similarly it is likely his misinterpretation of her motives will show on a reference which will effect her chances of getting a job in a different place or field.

Also it is unlikely such an attitude can be displayed when thinking of undergrads without it also applying to colleagues. In an industry that thrives on collaboration and presenting research if you aren’t taken seriously because men would rather look at your curves than the words coming out of your month you aren’t going to get ahead. I’d hope this is rare and I have only worked in one group where these attitudes are discouraged. It isn’t something I have met and I am grateful for that. However this article seems to imply that such an attitude is OK and therefore is potentially damaging.

I believe but have never lectured only taught problems classes that as a lecturer you are there for your students not the other way around. Maybe it is nice to see an attractive female if you are male, I can’t comment, but the language used to describe the female students here implied that is all they were. If you are missing the qualities that you see in non-attractive students, such as ability and enthusiasm you are doing these women a great disservice. This isn’t just about finding women sexy it is about thinking of them as sexy things to be used rather than people.

It isn’t the most important issue around but such articles do remind women in academia what they are battling against to be take seriously. I would like to feel however much this seems to be demanding that I could be taken seriously in my job and not be beaten up by a partner. Both are seriously issues because they effect a large number of women.

Kez // Posted 23 September 2009 at 7:35 pm

Lisa, I didn’t go to university (finally got my degree in my 30s via the OU) but I’m not sure why that should prevent me from being concerned about this story, just because it doesn’t affect me personally. Nor why being concerned over this story should mean I don’t care about any other issues. One man’s pathetic opinions broadcast in a national newspaper may not be the most important issue affecting women today, but that’s not a reason to completely ignore it.

And by the way, that article was in the Times HE supplement, not the Guardian.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 23 September 2009 at 8:20 pm

I wonder if universities come within the remit of the Gender Equality Duty act and if so Vice Chancellor Terence Kealey is clearly promoting and condoning male sexual harassment of female students.

The Sex Discrimination Act supposedly made it illegal for male employees in positions of power to engage in sexual harassment of female employees but I do not know if this covers universities and particular male academics who are employees and hold greater power than the female students they are supposedly employed to teach. Female students are not ‘men’s sexualised commodities’ but perhaps Kealey will next announce male students too are ‘hot’ and hence it is acceptable for female academics to ‘view them as sexualised commodities.’

Despite immense efforts for women in whatever occupations or places of education to be seen and treated by men as fully human, which includes males not subjecting them to sexualised insults and contempt, this perspective is swiftly changing with more and more powerful white males engaging in making misogynistic comments and sexually insulting comments to women.

Odd thing about ‘humour’ it is only ‘humour’ when men subject women to sexualised and degrading insults. Men however are seen as fully human with certain rights and privileges – one of which is no man must be ridiculed or subjected to ‘humour’ by a woman because such actions are ‘insulting to men.’

Lisa Brown // Posted 23 September 2009 at 8:23 pm

Just because this particular article came from The Times does not mean, as you are well aware, that the publication most often cited on this site is The Guardian. Anyway, this is all a tangent from the real issue. Which is, whilst a lot of meaningful and useful things are discussed on this site / done becase of it, there is a certain intellectual / middle class snobbery surrounding it all. I live on an estate and guess what, people (men and women) round here don’t have a clue what patriarchy means, let alone kyriarchy or a ‘cis’ person. My point is – more work needs to be done to reach out to people who are not like you. I happen to be relatively well read, etc, but I still live on an estate, wear trackies, etc., so I doubt me or my opinions would be given the time of day by most Guardian types, who would probably regard me as someone to be sneered at. That or they would cross the road for fear of being accosted by the ‘chav’. Do you see where I’m coming from?

polly // Posted 23 September 2009 at 8:24 pm

“and she will flaunt you her curves.”

I think he forgot to add “in your dreams”.

thebeardedlady // Posted 23 September 2009 at 8:36 pm

Wow. Doesn’t the university have an equality and diversity policy? Surely this breaches it?

I hope the Women’s Officer/NUS at Buckingham are on the case. Female students pay a lot of money for education, and articles like this are effectively discriminatory.

Brilliant article, though, Laura. Really well written, passionate and convincing.

Rita // Posted 23 September 2009 at 8:59 pm

Why it is it about education in this country that people dislike? I find sometimes even so embarrassed to speak about any qualifications i have because there seems to be something about it that people dislike.

I came across a saying that, ”when you educate a woman, you educate a nation”, no offense to any man out there. I wish more women would aspire towards that rather than be angry about it.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 September 2009 at 9:49 pm

Poor old pervs, they don’t get to force young female students to have sex with them for grades! At least they get to leer at them and make their education hell in other ways!

/sarcasm

Pity they don’t get that female students sense creepiness. We know when you’re being a perv, especially if you make

This isn’t about being attracted to women. It’s not about forcing red-blooded men to look away lest they see a beautiful woman, (yet people always respond to criticism of sexism like this as feminists wanting to force men to stop being sexual). It’s about being a responsible sexual being, and not letting your sexuality be an excuse for inappropriate behaviour, or assuming the world revolves around your fantasies.

I’m sure a good number of the male academics I’ve encountered are attracted to women. Yet they somehow manage to treat me and my fellow female students as the capable people we are, not like the sex toys this perv wishes we are. Because there’s nothing inherent to men that does not allow them to be a decent human being, whatever some people will have you think.

As for this academic, if I were male I would be ashamed to be his colleague or fellow man and be in any way associated with his leering and entitlement issues.

*contrary to the usual response (“oh we would if it happened to us”) when that’s suggested.

Yes! Exactly! But then they always seem to assume it would be a young, skinny, hot (TM) permanently sexually available woman doing the supposed harassing. The idea that fat women, ‘ugly’ women, older women, or even men could find them sexually attractive doesn’t seem to enter their minds. Of course, it never enters their minds that someone they are not attracted to hypothetically harassing them (eg the mythical predatory gay man or the fat ugly hairy old woman) is exactly the same to us as them harassing us. Apparently it’s different because as a heterosexual woman you must be open to all sexual advances by men, ever!

Elmo // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:13 pm

Lisa-i actually feel hurt, even though your comment wasnt directed at me. firstly, one of the things i love about the site is that it isnt classist. (i dont know if you noticed, but thats one of the rules of being allowed to comment) it covers a wide area. while it may be largely accessed by the middle class (but i dont know, i havnt met any of you) this doesnt mean its reserved for them, and its hurtful that you suggest that we dont care about people of different backgrounds-that we are, as you seem to suggest, self indulgent snobs. the great thing about this site is that it covers EVERY aspect of feminism-the huge international things, the local things, the remarks made by politicians, magazines, and things affecting every day life for everyone, people like you. i care about a lot of people, all from different backgrounds, some at uni, some not, some who are living in near poverty, some who live in luxury. but i dont regard their social status (if such a thing is even real) as important. i cant recall anything but support on this site for women like yourself, or your sister. if you do feel that the website needs to branch out, you can write to them and ask to write an article. but making hurtful comments on an article that is relevent and important to many people (as you can tell from the comments) is not the thing to do. this website will have article and links that are relevent to you. Lets says a female student is assulted, even raped, by a man who has read the original article and assumes that students will enjoy his advances. are you telling me this girl wont have “real problems” then-because she’s at uni?

Shea // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:14 pm

@ Lisa Brown,

yeah I see where your coming from, I grew up there in fact. My best friend also lives on an estate, she is the most feminist person you could every hope to meet,(she remains one of the only women I know who has consistently been unafraid to walk away from a relationship where she wasn’t satisfied with it) but I doubt she has ever read the Guardian or Simone de Beauvoir.

I would give your opinions the time of day (and I do read the Guardian) and definitely not sneer at them. Some of the smartest people I have ever met never went to university. Sadly with the introduction of tuition fees, I feel that higher education is and will be seen as something for the privileged few, rather than for intelligent people of all walks of life.

* I have always wondered how politicians feel they can represent ordinary people. I bet my left kidney that David Cameron has never had a minimum wage job in his life—- in which case how can he possibly know what life is like for the vast majority in this country?

But I agree with you- more needs to be done to reach out to people who haven’t had the luxury of a uni education, because they are the ones who need feminism the most.

Especially with prats like Kealey about.

Kelly // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:41 pm

Great, to all the commenters elssewhere who suggest he admits some truth of nature- in one blow he suggests other lecturers take home, disgustingly, a picture of their students, mentally cheat on their partners – and think of students as perks, lecturers as all- male.

It seems like a tired rant from an insecure man – the type uncomfortable with women progressing at his university. As he published his opinion nationally, he’s obviously uncomfortable with women progressing generally also.

Troon // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:47 pm

This man (who by the way is the VC of the only private UK univeristy-i.e. already a bottom-feeder in the HE world) does not reflect the hidden wishes or views of male academics.

I spend my lectures and seminars thinking about everything from the professional aspects of the the delivery (keep to time, remember who has said what, try to sense who is not speaking about what issue and why) to what students might reasonably be expected to know, to how to respond to the often bright and thought provoking comments made by the students. Even if the fact that these people’s relationship with me was professional and that they were all so darn young could just handily be forgotten and some desire conjoured up against all the odds of the situation and personalities involved, I simply don’t have the mental capacity to combine everything else with perving at students.

Academia is still often appallingly sexist, and it being so cheapens the profession, but to those commenting here that this puts them off university or worries them as they are about to start, please don’t assume these comments are viewed as normal or acceptable by lecturing staff or tutors. The guy’s an offensive blinkered moron, not a representaive of academic life. Enjoy your studies, transform your fields, change your lives and those of others. This man can then rot in the nasty little unintellectual backwater he belongs in.

PS: Lisa, I too live on what the government at least defines as an ‘estate’. It’s rather nice in its way, and folk look out for each other and their kids, but also a bit grim in others. And this debate about higher education does matter, because otherwise we just go round in circles rescuing women with problems you call ‘real’ but never getting anyone out.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 23 September 2009 at 10:47 pm

Dear Lisa,

I can’t understand your criticisms. This site deals with plenty of issues that are of interest to women from different backgrounds. You said that this blog is not important to you. I suggest you try to reflect on its deeper significance. We are living in a society where the top brass in an reknowned educational institution thinks it is fine to publicly spout this crass sexist humour. What kind of example is this setting? Can’t you see that this kind of attitude can trickle down to less academic worplaces where women are even less safeguarded.

Femina Erecta, there is no shame in admiring young men. Even if they are not “mature” but much younger than you! By the way, I thought it was admissible for lecturers to have relationships with students as long as there was a declared conflict of interest when marking coursework or exams. Or is this wrong?

Great blog Laura but there is no need for the f-word. It cheapens your work unnecessarily and you never know who might surf onto the site.

Shreen // Posted 23 September 2009 at 11:04 pm

Lisa Brown,

What you’re saying about needing to reach out is very valid, but assuming that being concerned about this story automatically means thefword.org.uk and its community doesn’t care about other issues – this is incorrect.

I grew up on a council estate too, and I think snobbery can work both ways e.g. “I grew up with little money therefore all the middle-class problems are less important”. Well no, that’s just snobbery, but of a different kind. Discussing this issue doesn’t mean we are ignoring other issues, although I sort of see where you’re coming from – looking at the online feminist community it is very easy to get a skewed idea about what modern feminists are doing for the cause (the amount of online debate on a certain subject doesn’t accurately reflect how much activism is taking part to combat it in real life, I’ve found).

Back to the issue of reaching out, an issue I have been discussing a lot with other people recently (feminists and non-feminists): all agreed that the online language used by modern feminists makes it very difficult to navigate the various discussions. It doesn’t feel very inclusive, or open to people who are new to the subject. Of course all subjects, taken to a very deep level, have their own jargon which newbies must learn and understand in order to participate. Feminism should educate people who are ignorant, and sometimes it seems as if the language used is that used *only* within the feminist community. Is that what you’re concerned about Lisa? Because I think it only matters when you are trying to deliberately reach out, as I think jargon is useful in very intricate difficult discussions, the likes of which you see a lot of here.

Rita // Posted 23 September 2009 at 11:14 pm

Excuse my typos.

Laura // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:39 am

Hey Lisa,

I definitely hear you on the use of terms like kyriarchy, cis etc: we should at least make sure we link to definitions when using them – I’ll pass you comments on to the rest of the collective. If you feel your perspective or issues you think are important are being missed by the site, you’re more than welcome to submit a feature or idea for a guest blog post.

And, yes, I know I for one do tend to linklove the Guardian a lot, but as a blogger rather than a journalist I have to source stories from newspapers and I think the Guardian is generally the most feminist-friendly UK paper.

Anna // Posted 24 September 2009 at 1:23 am

Troon – thank you, you’ve calmed me down on the subject rather. Good to know it’s not all that way!

Kez // Posted 24 September 2009 at 8:35 am

Yes Lisa, I do see where you are coming from and I take some of your points – despite being (like you) fairly well read I had never heard of some of the terms I have come across on this site (“cis” etc) and I do think some of the bloggers (and commenters) are overly heavy on the jargon sometimes.

However I do take exception to some of the assumptions that *you* are making (despite complaining that other people will make assumptions about you). I grew up on a council estate and lived on one for a number of years after that, I was a single parent on benefits for some years, I am not exactly steeped in middle-class privilege even though I have a professional job nowadays. I don’t sneer at anybody because of their social circumstances. And yes, I do read the Guardian and have done for many years, because it tends to reflect my views (not always, but often) more than do the Sun or the Daily Mail. So what?

There are, unfortunately, a lot of people out there who will sneer at what they perceive as “chavs” (and who feel it is perfectly fine to do so) but I don’t think they are all, or even mainly, Guardian readers!

depresso // Posted 24 September 2009 at 8:35 am

“spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.”

Advocate of marital rape too?

Liz // Posted 24 September 2009 at 9:07 am

@Elmo – I don’t think you’re right to say that this site isn’t classist, as classism can take many different forms. Now don’t get me wrong, I really like the fword and think it is positive BUT people say classist things, and middle class cultural norms/language/experience is privalaged because that tends to be the background of those most easily absorbed into feminist communities. More definately needs to be done to make this not the case. I do think this issue is important and needs flagging up but yeah, I think there are bigger issues too -and I don’t think it’s wrong to highlight the fact that working class women are excluded from this site.The exclusion of working class women from feminism is often down the list of priorities/severely neglected – I guess which is why I am a socialist first.

@Elmo – I find your post a bit hurtful though it wasn’t aimed at me ‘social status – if such a thing is even real’ it is bloody real. Saying that class doesn’t matter or perhaps exist is pretty damn classist, on a website that is supposedly not.

I’m a student and a youth worker, I leave my class at uni where everyone just spent there summer travelling and then go work with young people who have so much shit to deal with it’s unreal – I don’t think it’s wrong to say there are bigger problems, and if you get personally offended by someone saying that I feel like you are missing the point somewhat.

Having said all that I think that this story is important, I think middle class and wealthy women have real problems yes, everyone has some real problem of some distinction – that’s not really the point.

I guess what I’m saying is yes Lisa, I can understand your problem.

Kate L // Posted 24 September 2009 at 9:54 am

Dear Lisa,

I follow your logic, as many others have said above, so I won’t repeat all the arguments.

I straddle both sides of the fence, having grown up in one of the most deprived areas of the country (according to all the various governmental statistics that define this sort of thing – grades set against wider area, country, national average, people on benefits etc…) but I’m also studying a PhD at a University and I support myself via two jobs.

In some ways, by its very nature, this site will do those things you have criticised it of – but I don’t think that makes it middle class or exclusionary. Feminism has been beset – and enriched – by these sorts of criticisms for a long time, such as the problems of what defines a woman, including people of colour, including those who have less access to education, have less money – generally trying to dispell the white middle class view of feminism. I think it’s brilliant and I think we need to keep doing it – which is why comments like yours are important.

However, I think this site does uphold those values and embracing rather than exclusionary. I think one of the commenter’s idea of doing a blog post on this is great idea.

Elmo // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:09 am

@Liz- i dont think i worded it very well when i talked about social status. what i really meant to say (i tend to just type, not think) is that i WISH there wasnt such a thing as social status, because its one of the things that divides people so much in this country. of course there is such a thing, but i hate it when people go on about other people being middle class, or working class, or upper class (as the first thing they notice about anyone else)-it seems sad that we still value people because of how much money they have-but i do, of course, understand that people have problems (and very serious ones) because they are poorer-i just didnt want the experiences of those more finacially fortunate to be disregarded, as lisa seems to do-i found it hurtful that she didnt regard it as a real problem. and yes, i think the site could be more relevant to people like lisa-what im saying is that this article was totally not the place to point it out- i do understand lisa’s problems-i know people in her situation – but they dont make this any less important-its not like there’s only so much “problem” to go around and we share it out according to wealth. i just found it odd that she, rather aggressively, dismissed this issue-thats a kind of snobbery in itself.

Laura- i heard u on the radio last night-great!

George // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:13 am

As much as I’d like to be surprised by this article, I’m not. I’ve just completed postgraduate study (an MA) and the levels of sexism I encountered were incredible. Perhaps those higher-up in the department never expressed objectifying opinions, but plenty of those doing PhDs or post-docs did. To witness the start-of-term scrum around any female in the department was disgusting – moreover, I truly think that every thing I said (both within and outside of seminars) was always affected by the fact that I was young and female. The effect this has in an already male-dominated environment is crippling.

I’d like to see departments having strict guidelines on discrimination and equality that actually mean something. I think that’s the only way we’re going to achieve academic equality. Similarly, this particular tosspot needs disciplinary action. He would not be allowed to make these statements in the media if he worked for a council, for the government, for a charity, etc.

Laura // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:19 am

Do you mind if I ask what course you did, George? I imagine the department you’re in makes quite a difference: I did a languages BA and MA, around 80% of the students were female, with about an equal split in the lecturers and profs so fortunately didn’t experience any sexism while at uni.

Kit // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:20 am

@Kez & Lisa re. terms

I’m not well read, and I didn’t/don’t know those terms when I started reading feminist blogs and communities. I just looked them up on Wikipedia or put them into search engine to find out.

The discussions taking place here (and on the rest of Internet) aren’t like an in real life conversation where the Internet isn’t at my fingertips and, if I don’t know something, have to ask. Here, if I don’t know something I am spared the possible embarassment of asking because I can just privately go and look it up to get the general idea.

Maybe the F-Word could have an FAQ including commonly used terms and what they mean to the people who use them *here* though, since some words are likely to be used differently depending on context and stuff :).

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m in Wales and went to a Welsh uni (none of ours strike me as being at all snobby or places where the “rich kids” go & fees are lower than in England), but I thought these days more people were going to university because current & past governments encourage this [to make it look like unemployment figures aren’t as bad as they are]?

Amy Clare // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:21 am

@Lisa Brown

The the f-word has always covered a wide range of issues, and as far as I’m aware has always fought the corner for low-income women (like myself). I’ve never met the people who run the site, but I wouldn’t assume that they are all middle-class.

The idea that if someone uses academic language (or goes to university or reads The Guardian) it must be because they are middle class and a snob, is basically prejudice – the same kind of prejudice as held by those people who think you are a ‘chav’. I come from a working class background, and the culture of ‘you’re a snob if you do x’ or ‘you think you’re better than us if you do x’ is just as damaging to people’s life chances as tuition fees (for example) are. Yes there has been a history of class privilege in education in our country (and there are still MANY inequalities), but why pander to it by pouring scorn on those people who do what, traditionally, only ‘posh’ people have done?

Intelligence has nothing to do with class, and knowledge itself is benign. You don’t have to go to uni (why are you so angry at that abbreviation?) to educate yourself, but many people *from all walks of life* choose to do this, and why shouldn’t they? They deserve to be given the best chance – and if they happen to be female, academics like the man who is the subject of this article can seriously damage their chances.

As a disabled person I could also talk about ‘real problems’, but as a feminist I want to be informed about misogyny wherever and whenever it happens. I would’ve been disappointed if the f word hadn’t covered this story.

charlotte // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:35 am

‘”spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.”

Advocate of marital rape too?’

haha, i’d say so, depresso. that ‘nightly’ notion got me also, whether she wants to or not? but wow, this article is just sick. i’m a uni student and have not encountered lecturers as backward as he, thankfully.(not that i believe all lecturers are so hideous) ‘flaunt her curves’? oh god, this gets me too as something so 1950’s and typically synonymous with ‘buxom’ femininity. the majority of the female uni population i see are clad in usual formless street wear, because we are, like, teenagers. ha ha ha, what a loser.

Rosalind // Posted 24 September 2009 at 11:48 am

@Jennifer Drew Most universities do come under the Gender Equality Duty but as Buckingham is private maybe it isn’t.

However, if you read any of the reports on Gender Equality most universities have only produced one half-heartedly and tend to have stupidly long deadlines for when they plan to make changes.

Sexism and gender discrimination is rife in universities for both students and staff and it is institutional sexism. It is played out in more ways than through suggestions of sexual harrassment but through who is hired, what research gets funded and even what they name the buildings.

Despite the gender equality duty sometimes women at university are made to feel that they are only there by the gracious permission of men. The THE has shown (and admitted by publishing Kealey) that this isn’t a subconcious attitude but an open one.

Kez // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:17 pm

I would imagine Terry’s nightly sex with “the wife” is as much a piece of fantasy as his conviction that female students flaunt their bodies at and would love to jump into bed with him. Or that “could you advise me on my essay” is code for “I really fancy you”.

Kit – yes, I quite agree about looking up terms etc. Certainly not suggesting these terms shouldn’t be used because some people might not understand them. However I think minimising the use of jargon to what is absolutely necessary, wherever possible, is a good aim to have, whatever you are writing.

Wellington // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:25 pm

I attend the University of Buckingham.

There is no Women’s group here, or anything of that kind. No one gave a f*ck (apart from me; but my written complaints went unanswered – there is noone to go to specifically with such issues) when there was a Playboy Party last month. Seriously. And if I went to picket or whatever, I couldn’t get anyone to go with me and it’d all look really ridiculous – one woman with a placard. You have to be here to understand!

The cultural mix is an issue. I’m no expert on other cultures. However, I get the impression from talking to students and lecturers I’ve met there that many students are from countries where women/LGBT people do not have much equality/respect at all. Since people tell me that themselves, I feel quite confident in this assertion.

Its extremely ironic that the university prides itself on the mix of ethnicities, but women’s issues bah forgeddit. Have your photo taken with a Bunny! It’s for charity! Gimme a break.

This environment doesn’t really lend itself to supporting women or gay/bi/trans people – there isn’t an LGBT group of any kind either and trust me, its not gonna happen anytime soon. Its a tiny uni, and many people are from countries where coming out would get you stoned to death.

This also means that this article will have no significant bearing upon their score in the next National Student Survey (unless I manage to vote many, many times somehow). He is therefore quite “safe” making such remarks from that point of view, which is infuriating.

This article doesn’t surprise me in the least, unfortunately – Keeley says many thing, it seems, merely to get attention (check out his other articles!).

Unfortunately, I think he actually means it on some level this time. Which is shocking. I’m fortunate enough that I personally don’t pay my fees – and I’m trying to see the money as just having gone to my (basically very good in other respects) education. Still..its not a good thought…I’m indirectly helping to fund this!? At least I’ve done the majority of my course now.

I’m on course to leave with a good degree, and suddenly I’m not quite so keen on bestowing them with my presence as a post-grad now!

The good thing is, that I personally have not encountered sexism from any lecturers. That’s one point I feel bound to make, stepping aside from this asinine “humour” of T.K. Which is revolting. This uni isn’t the most woman friendly, however, as you can tell from this comment. Of course, I can’t speak for the female lecturers.

Marls // Posted 24 September 2009 at 12:36 pm

Taking away women’s credibility and voice in one, nice.

I also agree with the comments above – statements like Kealey’s are bad for women, bad for the reputation of other male professors who do not share his view, bad for the university, bad for the perceived value of the literature he’s quoting, … You get my point.

I am glad you are using this story to strike up a valid discussion about the issue, Laura, as opposed to all those people ignoring it or making it a joke to tell their friends around the watercooler or to justify their own objectifying of the female body.

Apropos the title ‘The seven deadly sins…’: I am reading ‘But She Said’ by Fiorenza at the moment & thought it was ironic how the the article gives rise to similar views as certain sections of the Bible.

Lisa Brown // Posted 24 September 2009 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for all your replies etc…

Ok I admit I was a little aggressive, sorry about that (really). I’m not anti middle class, and I’m not anti-education. Not at all. I guess I just find it kinda frustrating that, as some of you have agreed with me, there does seem to be a certain kind of dare I say ‘pompousness’ associated with some of the shared viewpoints by certain people who comment, etc. And as for the accusation of inverse snobbery, I reject that. I can kind of see why you came up with that, but its not the case. I have friends from different backgrounds. It is true however, and this is what I hate the most, that certain people I work / have worked with, who seem very nice and cool and friendly and because I am fairly well spoken assume I am like them, shrink in horror and embarassment when I meet them on a weekend, and its the first time they’ve seen me in non-work clothes, and hey, I’m wearing something like a lacoste tracky tucked in white nike socks and trainers. And this has happened to me so many times. Suddenly they remember something they had to do, they are always busy when I suggest future arrangements, they just give me the cold shoulder. Big time. Thankfully, I have a handful of real friends who aren’t like this. But it is a major problem. And unlike sexism / racism / homophobia, etc, etc, people are shameless about shunning people who they regard to be ‘chavs’.

Kez // Posted 24 September 2009 at 5:45 pm

“And unlike sexism / racism / homophobia, etc, etc, people are shameless about shunning people who they regard to be ‘chavs’. ”

Totally agree with Lisa on this. Prejudice against and poking fun at people who are perceived as “chavs”, or whatever, is seen as perfectly legitimate in many circles. Anyone remember Prince William, or Harry (I forget which, though I think it was actually William on that occasion) attending an oh-so-hilarious party where the theme was that all the young toffs had to dress up as chavs? Hysterical. The most privileged people in our society having a jolly good larf by pretending to be working class. Ha ha.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 24 September 2009 at 5:48 pm

Just to clarify on my previous post I was intending f-word as the vulgar word NOT as this site. Hope I was not misinterpreted.

Rosalind // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:16 pm

“And unlike sexism / racism / homophobia, etc, etc, people are shameless about shunning people who they regard to be ‘chavs’. ”

But that still assumes that people don’t think it is OK to be sexist, racist or homophobic whereas Kealey’s piece for example shows that sexism is considered OK by many. I don’t think you can really say that sexist, racist or homophobic people are ashamed of their prejudice more than classist people when many think that it is perfectly reasonable and even sanctioned by culture and religion. I think this blog has a (possibly unwritten) policy about people playing oppression olympics; it really isn’t on.

Laura // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:19 pm

Rosalind’s right, let’s please not start discussing whether racism/sexism/classism or whatever ism is more or less accepted than another: many people are affected by numerous isms and playing them off against each other helps no one. That said, I do take Lisa’s point that looking down on ‘chavs’ is generally widely accepted, and I’ve very rarely seen anyone object to it.

Kez // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:26 pm

Laura, that is what I was trying to say (“looking down on ‘chavs’ is generally widely accepted, and I’ve very rarely seen anyone object to it.”). I am not suggesting for one second that sexism, racism etc are not widespread, and I LOATHE the oppression Olympics and have said so many times. All I was trying to say was that even among people who deplore the other -isms, looking down on chavs is often seen as perfectly fine and amusing.

Laura // Posted 24 September 2009 at 6:50 pm

That wasn’t directed at you, Kez, just a general point :-)

thebeardedlady // Posted 24 September 2009 at 7:56 pm

Julie Burchill has always been very hot on the ‘chavs’ thing, pointing out that it is nothing more than anti-working class sentiment.

On a related topic, I work as a lecturer at an FE college, and my male boss today addressed me as ‘babes’. Before I even had time to react, he said, ‘oh no, am I not supposed to say that? Am I in trouble? I shall call you by your full name and do a little curtsey in future.’

earwicga // Posted 24 September 2009 at 9:33 pm

I believe that to bring class into this discussion is relevant. I have no sources to back me up here though, so feel free to disregard to ignore me.

Kealey’s article is just another notch in our culture which likes to turn women into just bodies.

Rape culture puts women’s bodies at men’s disposal.

Belonging to a lower social class increases the risk of sexual abuse.

Belonging to a lower social class negatively affects access to justice in many ways.

I know The Myths of Rape say that any woman is at risk, regardless, but I have read in many places that lower social classes are at higher risk, but obviously cannot find a link right now.

Am I way off tangent with this line of thought?

Off-topic here, but I find very little on this blog that directly speaks to me in my current situation – I find everything of interest as it discusses the culture I live in, but very little for those of us who are placed in the ‘under-class’ of our society so I can completely see where Lisa Brown is coming from. NB. When I came accross the term ‘cis’ I did google it and didn’t understand wiki at all. I have come to understand it by reading blogs written from a trans perspective.

polly // Posted 24 September 2009 at 10:07 pm

I heard the radio 5 live phone in on this last night as well, and it was profoundly depressing, I don’t know how Laura got through it without screaming, congratulations to her for doing so.

The bit that completely enraged me was when a man who said he was a forty five year old lecturer phoned in saying that young women students deliberately wore tight clothes because they wanted him to see them as sexy – Laura tried to point out that these clothes are in fact fashionable to no avail. I’m in my forties, but I just can’t imagine that very many women my age would be deluded enough to think that because young women, (or indeed men), don’t go round in dressed in sackcloth and ashes that it’s because they want to attract people nearly 30 years older.

It makes me wish you could bring one of those body swap scenarios about, like you get in cheesy films, so these sad middle aged lechers (or should that be lecherers) could find out what young women really think of them.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 9:17 am

@polly, Yeah, it was pretty frustrating! I can’t believe that guy actually thinks women get up in the morning and think ‘oo, I’ll put on this tight t-shirt so middle aged lecturers will look at my chest, and this thong so they’ll stare at my arse’, ffs. There’s a lot of pressure on young women to look good and be stylish, especially in the early years of uni when you’re keen to fit in and make friends, and fashion generally = sexy, because women are seen as sex objects for men. And aside from that, a 45 year old man happily admitting he perves on 18 and 19 year old women is just creepy.

Elmo // Posted 25 September 2009 at 9:57 am

i would have happily phoned in and informed this 45yr old that actually, all the girls i know think the idea of a teacher fancying them is creepy, to say the least. perhaps they dress to impress other students, or themselves, but im pretty sure he was flattering himself when he said they dressed for him. Iknow ive never considered teachers when i choose my clothes in the morning. eurgh. that bit made me mad, ‘cos it proved that some men STILL delude themselves that young women find them irresistible, even if they are creeps.

anyway, its HIS responsibility NOT to “get distracted”. perhaps he could just concentrate on TEACHING. its related to that argument-“oh, but the male sex drive is insatiable, once they get going, they cant stop. if you tempt them, they give in” which is insulting to both men and women, and is the kind of thing people use to excuse rape.

but i thought u did very well, especially considering that u had to deal with some pretty frustrating people. i notice ALL the women who phoned in that night agreed with your points.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 25 September 2009 at 12:25 pm

“And aside from that, a 45 year old man happily admitting he perves on 18 and 19 year old women is just creepy.”

Well Laura i think we need to be a bit careful here. I fully agree that Dr. Kealey’s comments were sexist and offensive but you seem to be going overboard here and I am starting to detect an undertone of ageism.

First of all we need to define what we mean by perving. As Femina Erecta said, there is a social etiquette involved in looking admirably at other people. Of course you should not make the other person feel uncomfortable and if you are in a position of authority you have to be even more circumspect. However I would not go as far as to say that a lecturer that steals a glance at a cleavage or derriere is the devil incarnate, age difference or not.

Excuse me if I don’t lock my gaze down on the Zimmer frame when an attractive 18-yr-old passes by. Well so far I have managed to be discreet and nobody has called me a pervert.

Eventually you too will get to your forties and allow me to inform you that yes, you will still find 18-yr-olds physically attractive.

Monty // Posted 25 September 2009 at 12:44 pm

I see you posted the original article “Seven Deadly Sins”, yet you failed to actually read it and understand the satirical nature of it. Please do your homework better, and get yourself a sense of humour while you’re at it. The last line of his article:

“… enjoy the views — and only the views — when your older.”

As a strong supporter of feminist and womens’ rights, I just can’t really agree with your article.

Danielle // Posted 25 September 2009 at 12:46 pm

As a student currently studying at buckingham university (and also a strong feminist), it is my opinion, that this article has been taken wholly out of context. Terrence Kealey merely meant to bring to our attention that young girls will develop crushes on teachers but academics must enjoy the flattery, rather than commiting the sin of sleeping with a student. It is correct to say he did believe it was not an abuse of power, but only because academics no longer have the power to boost grades in return for sexual favours. In this day and age it is ludricous that such a valued academic such be ostracised for being brave enough to talk about such a taboo subject, because most cannot understand the tongue-in-cheek impertenance of the article on a whole.

He is not encouraging lecturers to ”view” students, but is merely clarifying that if you do, do nothing more. If anything he is trying to discourage it.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 12:59 pm

Hi Daniela,

I definitely take your points about older people still finding younger people attractive, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but this guy (on Radio 5) was talking about young women ‘bending over to expose their g-strings’ and wearing tight tshirts so he could see their boobs: he seemed to think they did this on purpose so he could get a good look at them. I find that creepy.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:11 pm

Danielle,

He explicitly says that male lecturers should ‘look but not touch’ and encourages them to ‘enjoy’ female students as a ‘perk’ of the job. If he wanted to discourage this behaviour, and indeed, sexual relationships between academics and students, he would have written a different article.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:24 pm

Oh, Monty, don’t make me laugh. A strong supporter of feminism and women’s rights telling a feminist she needs to get a sense of humour and patronisingly ordering me to do my homework better?! That’s the kind of support we can do without.

Danielle // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:25 pm

@Laura

Dear Laura, you obviously missed my point from my last post. How do you know what Mr. Kealey meant by the words used?

As a student, that has worked closely with him over the last year and one that has spoken to him within the last hour Mr Kealy’s article was one of a humorous nature poking fun at the 7 deadly sins of academia. He admits that it was bad journalism, but did not mean to appear as if encouraging or condoning teacher student relationships. Hence why the last line states enjoy only the views. It is only human nature to look. Perhaps you should think about the clothes you wear, the way you wear your hair and the makeup you wear. Why do you do all of the above mentioned? To look attractive. Why do you want to look attractive? So people look at you.

Can you honestly say laura that you have never looked at anybody you have walked by in the street, if only for a second.

Also, the word ‘enjoy’ was written to mean enjoy the flattery of it all. Surely we should praise him for saying to only enjoy the views, after all, to do more than that is perfectly legal. Imorral, but still legal.

Kit // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:30 pm

@monty – of course it’s not at all possible women in university might not want to have their lecturers or colleagues perving on them, not matter how much they admire or respect them. Big woop, he’s not advocating sexual assalt, but he’s still backing up an attitude of looking at women, regardless of their capabilties, as objects for their visual pleasure. Just like men, we go to uni to learn, not so the men in university have something nice to look at.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:38 pm

Danielle,

I couldn’t care less whether people in the street (or anywhere else) think I’m attractive, but we’re not talking about the street. We’re talking about an academic environment in which students want to learn, not have their ‘curves’ looked at by male lecturers.

No one’s saying Dr Kealey was condoning teacher-student relationships, what we’re angry about is that he encouraged an attitude which makes life difficult and unpleasant for many, many women. He may very well think what he wrote was funny, but the idea that women are sexy objects on display for men to enjoy looking at is the basis of much discrimination and violence against women, which really isn’t all that humorous.

Dr Kealey was writing in a national publication, of course readers won’t know him personally, and he was aware of that when writing so he should have been more careful about what he wrote; interesting to hear he admits it was bad journalism, he didn’t say that in his statement.

gadgetgal // Posted 25 September 2009 at 1:51 pm

@ Danielle

Humorous satirical pieces only generally work if they’re actually humorous – I read the whole article and didn’t find much of any of the pieces to be particularly funny or even well-written, sad for universities in this country at the moment, I must say! And your comment “Why do you want to look attractive? So people look at you.” kind of reminds me of an exchange that took place in the Metro a year or so back between a couple of random tube users – the woman objected to people staring at her in the morning on the train, whereupon the man replied that if women in general dressed up it MUST be to be admired so he shouldn’t be held at fault, to which she replied “We dress up to be looked at by ATTRACTIVE people, so if a woman gives you an evil stare for looking now you know why” – to which he could only reply “Ouch”. Never presume the reasons behind what people wear, it very often isn’t anything to do with what you think it is, it’s probably best just not to go there!

Kez // Posted 25 September 2009 at 2:01 pm

Maybe one of these Buckingham students who have suddenly mysteriously popped up all over the place can tell me whether Terence Kealey does in fact have a wife, and if so, whether they would at least agree that his article is massively disrespectful to her? And if he doesn’t, that it is disrespectful to the wives and partners of his male colleagues (and indeed male academics everywhere) who are, he appears to presume, so unattractive that he advises their husbands to fantasise about students during sex?

He’s not just acknowledging that it may be difficult not to look at an attractive person while advising against taking it further… I’m sure we can all agree that whatever one’s age, it may be hard not to occasionally notice that someone is attractive, even if the situation is not appropriate. But he’s not saying that. He’s explicitly advocating using unsuspecting young women as some kind of marital aid – “you should admire [her] daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife” (notice the use of the word “should”!) and regarding them as some kind of perk for male academics.

CLumperino // Posted 25 September 2009 at 2:03 pm

My big concern with this article is based on the heteronormative and male centric view that Kealey takes of academia.

Women have been striving for generations to be taken seriously in this field (as with others) and Kealey’s approach which focusses on his male norm is really offensive. Whether or not he finds young students attractive is not so much the point as the way he discusses women students. He dismisses women as nothing more than ‘perks’ and therfore implies that we can never be serious contenders in academia. He ignores the fact that his heterosexist position means that only his sexuality is valid. He is as dismissive of men (slaves to their sexual urges) as he is of women (sexual manipulators). And clearly he does not give any though to anything beyond his own privileged position.

It disgusts me that so many people on the THE comments page have come out in support of his piece. It is the kind of attitude that should be called out for what it is – blatantly heterosexist and mysognistic.

Gemma // Posted 25 September 2009 at 2:45 pm

In my opinion, it was more about making a sexist edgy statement than actually being honest about his work. If he can dish it, he needs to expect it back.

Typically, he expects a right to leer at 18 year olds in an academic environment, publishing this sentiment nationally. Naturally, his supporters are amongst the ‘we pap horns as a compliment. We have a right to stare/ scare’ brigade. It’s about being middle- aged and mocking his student’s vulerability (their age, his authority) and being sexist. Also about whether this attitude at his academic level is acceptable. As someone else said, sexism amongst lecturers isn’t uncommon (i’ve heard of numerous occurences) – and it truly cheapens the profession while making a mockery of female students ourselves.

Laura // Posted 25 September 2009 at 3:07 pm

Moderator’s note: I won’t be publishing any more comments which simply say that Kealey’s piece was humorous/satire/taken out of context etc. These points have already been made a number of times and there’s no need to go over the arguments again.

Kristin // Posted 25 September 2009 at 4:57 pm

I think it’s Danielle and the Buckingham brigade who are missing the point. Of course there’s nothing wrong with looking at people you find attractive, or wanting to look attractive yourself. Yes, it is indeed human nature.

The problem starts when you make other people feel uncomfortable, threatened, insulted and objectified as a ‘perk’. It is NOT then your call to tell them they don’t understand satire or have no sense of humour.

Come on, Buckingham students! It ain’t rocket science – or even English grammar. And if Mr Kealey is a poor misunderstood victim of bad journalism, perhaps you’d like to invite him to explain himself here on the F-Word?

No?

Didn’t think so!

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 25 September 2009 at 7:32 pm

Dear Danielle and other sceptics,

I am aware that I am repeating what others have already said but here goes.

The reason we found Dr. Kealey’s piece offensive is not because he has commented that lecturers “check out” students. It is natural that this will happen occasionally. Some youngsters might find this flattering and I can understand that too.

Dr. Kealey’s piece goes much further than that though. To begin with it does not cross his mind that female lecturers sometimes admire students too; they are asexual holy beings not susceptible to a deadly sin of academia.

He is also implying a kind of ownership of female students, as if some deity had placed them in that lecture theatre just so that male lecturers can indulge their fantasies. The tone of the piece is also conceited and self-aggrandising. You can almost see the female students tripping over themselves to be admired by him in some figment of his imagination.

Come on Dr. Kealey, if you are going to be cheeky at least show some modesty or self-mockery. You would look less of a tool and might even be genuinely funny.

Kez, I agree that this piece is really denigrating to his wife. If I were his consort he wouldn’t be using his right hand just to write this drivel, for quite a while!

polly styrene // Posted 25 September 2009 at 7:36 pm

No I don’t think Laura’s being ageist in saying a 45 year old man perving on 18 and 19 year olds is creepy. I’m an over 45 lesbian and I’d think a woman who did stuff like that is creepy. He’s not just saying he thinks they are attractive. He’s saying they’re dressing in tight clothes because they’re trying to attract HIM.

Realistically, although age gap relationships do happen, most people tend to have relationships with a similar age, and not that many 18 year old women fancy 45 year olds. If an 18 year old expresses interest in a forty something fair enough, but to assume someone is trying to attract you just because they look attractive is deluded.

Polly styrene // Posted 25 September 2009 at 7:42 pm

And am I allowed to be a bit suspicious of the Buckingham *students* all defending the place? Funny that.

Wellington // Posted 25 September 2009 at 8:53 pm

Yes, Keeley (sp..never mind) does have a wife. One wonders what she thought of what he wrote!!

Anna // Posted 25 September 2009 at 11:39 pm

I’ve read through all the comments on this post and I’m surprised that all the criticisms are directed at Terence Kealey and none at the Times Higher Education Supplement. And the Editor’s criminally weak defence of Kealey, claiming ‘humourous’ in one sentence and then ‘freedom of speech and robust debate’ in the next. No one would be handwringing about ‘the PC brigade’ if the article had been ‘the seven deadly sins of secondary education’ and they were printing ‘satire’ about the crushes of 12 year old girls.

Or, depressingly, it’s possible they would.

Laura // Posted 26 September 2009 at 11:29 am

Wellington – it’s spelt ‘Kealey’ on the Buckingham website.

Ah, I made a couple of typos in the post (‘Healey’), sorry! Have corrected them now.

Carrie // Posted 26 September 2009 at 12:46 pm

Yes, interesting to see the THES’s standpoint in this. I think as a feminist journalist (who works in academia) this enraged me particularly – the problem with Kealey’s words has been well covered here but the twin facts that it’s a poorly written piece (as he admits himself, apparently) and desperately inappropriate for publication in a professional journal flag up that the damn thing shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day.

‘Course, when I said as much on a rather heated debate on my Facebook status the other day I was told I was advocating censorship. Which I’m not. It’s not a freedom of speech issue as far as I’m concerned; it’s a matter of editorial judgement.

Juliet // Posted 26 September 2009 at 1:24 pm

Re. Anna’s comment: I think someone did criticise the Ed of the TES. And Kealey himself has turned on her now, with accusations of ‘bad journalism’.

What a heel!

Qubit // Posted 26 September 2009 at 2:18 pm

Does freedom of speech mean you have a right to say what you want where ever you want? For example if a national newspaper failed to publish a piece I’d written on why cats were great pets would this be denying my freedom of speech?

The reason I ask is when ever someone defends some thing due to the notion of free speech they are often saying that the person in question has a right to have their views published where ever they want. I have never considered this a right since failure to publish my piece on why cats make great pets doesn’t deny my right to say it.

Similarly if I published such a piece while working for the ‘I hate cats league’ then I would expect to be in some trouble at work. However yet again for some reason people don’t expect this to happen when it comes to comments like Kealey’s.

Emma // Posted 26 September 2009 at 4:51 pm

All I know of free speech is it apparently enables sexists and racists to oppress a larger majority. If that’s anything to do with freedom then…

If I was to ask to do a campaign about sexist lecturers – I doubt I’d be able to fully flex that same freedom of speech prejudiced tossers feel they have a right to. I doubt I even have that same freedom of speech to talk about feminism in an every day context.

Freedom of speech as we know it is a complete joke. The loose concept of freedom gets tied up to racists and sexists as if it’s written in legislation they get to oppress freely. Freedom is traditionally used to do good (like gaining equality?), not to be twisted to oppress the masses. As an excuse by the THE editor, it’s ridiculous.

I agree the THE has been let off lightly given that apology. She’s being edgy to apologise for the same edginess we had a problem with. That’s being stubborn, not apologetic…

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 26 September 2009 at 5:41 pm

Hey Laura and Polly,

I think that 45-yr-old chap is conceited and deluded rather than creepy.

What I find ageist is the notion that people above a certain age cannot be physically attractive. Sean Connery and Helen Mirren, to give two examples, are both widely considered attractive despite their age.

Whenever we see a couple with a large age difference we immediately think that the younger person is in there for the money and not for love. It is almost like an older person cannot be worthy of sexual attention from a younger one.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2009 at 9:31 pm

@ Carrie: Exactly. Editors (and others) have always exercised judgement in what is fit to publish. Nobody’s owed a particular forum to express literally whatever thought or words they want, nor have they ever been, nor is this part of our ‘freedom of speech’. Since when was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all about paying academics to write about their fetishes for young female students? And how come this is ‘free speech’ yet most employers consider it perfectly reasonable to sack employees who make inappropriate comments relating to their work in a public forum?

Apparently editing and judgement are censorship only when something bigoted and inappropriate is published.

Anne Onne // Posted 26 September 2009 at 9:37 pm

About the age gap: A 45 year old man can be attracted to, and have a relationship with an 18 year old woman and not be creepy. Most older men, even most older male academics are not creepy.

What’s creepy here isn’t the age itself, but rather the paternalistic, patronising power-trip attitude. This isn’t about attraction, it’s about feeling others exist as objects to please you. That hot,young women supposedly exist for the pleasure of older men in a position of power over them. And that this power isn’t really power at all cos they can’t force women to sleep with them to improve their grades. Not all older men are creepy, and men being attracted to women is not creepy. But the scenario he lays down is.

M. Maus // Posted 29 September 2009 at 12:23 pm

If u think Kealey was bad check this prick out:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/giles_coren/article6850146.ece

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:19 pm

Hi M. Maus,

I bloody adore Giles Coren’s writing, sorry! I think he actually is funny, unlike Kealey, and I didn’t have a problem with the piece. (Admittedly that could well be because I’d be first in line if he turned up at my university…)

Sam // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:41 pm

i do not see the funny side to giles’ article. If you are condemning kealy for his ‘look but do not touch’ attitude why are you not condemining giles for openly admitting he went back into teaching to sleep with the women and saying he slept with the first student he came across at events. i think this is far worse. he is looking at women as if they are sex objects and abusing his position because he didnt get enough sex whilt at university himself.

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:49 pm

@ Sam,

Coren never went back to teaching, the events he’s talking about he attended as a journalist / food critic, and he’s writing as an entertainment columnist, not the head of a university. That puts his words in a very different context.

sam // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:53 pm

direct quote:

”the excitement of the daily newsroom slog began to pale, did I begin to think again of doing the D Phil and going back to teach.

And then I realised that my newfound academic zeal had nothing to do with tiring of journalism, and nothing to do with intellectual curiosity. I just wanted to sleep with the girls. ”

here he mentions going back to teach to sleep with the girls.

how can you condemn one entertaining article, are praise the other when the latter was far worse discriminating against women and using them for sex

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 1:57 pm

No, he said he thought about it, but decided against teaching and had sex with his old uni mates instead. I really don’t think there’s anything serious about his piece, if anything, he’s taking the piss out of Kealey and himself.

Kez // Posted 29 September 2009 at 2:19 pm

Coren’s article sounded very tongue in cheek to me. He’s clearly taking the mickey out of Kealey. (“Plump young ladies sitting there in the tutorial, all wet-eyed and tight-skirted, bulging and blooming. Staring at you. Hungry for information. Hungry for anything you have to offer.”)

Somehow I do not think he is being entirely serious here.

thebeardedlady // Posted 29 September 2009 at 2:28 pm

@Laura, are you joking? Coren goes on to say this about female university students:

“Plump young ladies sitting there in the tutorial, all wet-eyed and tight-skirted, bulging and blooming.

Staring at you. Hungry for information. Hungry for anything you have to offer.”

Nice, eh? Not students trying to learn something, but young girls hungry for cock?

Then he finishes his article by saying:

“To Dr Kealey, I say: put up or shut up. For heaven’s sake, find a girl you like, give her one from me, and then go back to your books, your lecturing, and, if she’ll have you, your wife.”

I don’t find this funny. If anything, it’s worse than the Kealey article because it’s actually well written, and he even says, ‘I’m a feminist’. Plus the supposedly humourous posturing is clearly meant to pre-empt any criticism. ‘It’s a joke, ladies! Look, I’m making it obvious that I’m joking, so there’s no need to upset your pretty little heads about it. I’m on your side!’

Except it turns out that the main reason he disagrees with Kealey is that he doesn’t like the idea of ‘look but don’t touch’. He prefers the idea of looking and then ‘giving her one’. Then going back to your wife.

Describing women as objects for the consumption of men; discussing them solely in terms of their attractiveness and availability; playing on old sexist tropes like racking up the numbers of women you’ve slept with and boasting about your ‘conquests’: none of this is funny. It’s sexist bullshit.

I’m now waiting to see which feminist is going to tell me that I need to get a sense of humour.

anya // Posted 29 September 2009 at 3:35 pm

As someone who was nearly raped by a professor this enrages me!!

Sexual harassment -especially in situations where there is a perceived power imbalance – is NO joking matter.

If this person encouraged or justified racial slurs, then tried to laugh it off as “just joking” he wouldn’t have been tolerated! Yet he can say this about women and claim to be joking!?!? I’m appalled

Laura // Posted 29 September 2009 at 4:56 pm

@ thebeardedlady, as Kez said, I think he’s mocking Kealey with those quotes. Coren’s generally pretty sarcastic and critical and that’s what I’m getting from him here. That’s not to say your reading is any less valid or that you need to ‘get a sense of humour’, but personally I took it as jest, Kealey being the object of the joke, with a few pokes at himself.

thebeardedlady // Posted 29 September 2009 at 5:24 pm

Maybe if it was written by a woman, as a parody, then yeah, I can see why it might be funny. But it wasn’t. And it wasn’t. It was just more of the same, laughing at women for either being sexual or not sexual, and all men together, having a joke – sure, maybe someone went too far, he’s a bit of a loser, but to the rest of us blokes it’s all a bit of fun.

Surely, as somebody pointed out earlier in the thread, if something is supposed to be funny, it should be, well, funny? Neither of these articles are funny, and as far as I can see they both say the same thing. Except one is supposed to be cool, knowing and ‘ironic’. Yuk.

Legible Susan // Posted 29 September 2009 at 9:52 pm

Anya said If this person encouraged or justified racial slurs, then tried to laugh it off as “just joking” he wouldn’t have been tolerated

Sorry, that’s not true. The comparison is more like this:

Kealey makes creepy comments about women -> we object -> the editor backs him up, claiming it’s a joke ::

Theoretical white guy makes nasty comments about people of colour -> people of colour object -> the mainstream media fall over themselves to excuse his behaviour.

That is what happens. See the reaction to Don Imus’s comments about “nappy-headed hos” – http://theangryblackwoman.com/2007/04/21/why-i-love-tim-wise/

hexia // Posted 29 September 2009 at 9:53 pm

I wonder what Mrs Kealey uses to spice up her marital sex life, because it can’t be the vision appearing on the Telegraph website. Even if he does spout literary references like ticker tape.

Travis // Posted 1 October 2009 at 2:36 am

Wow… wtf? This is “humor” now?

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