Published on February 5, 2014 | by Sophie Smallshaw1
New website by LCC student fights against sexismA new website to help men and women share stories of sexism and resistance to it, as well as understanding their legal rights, has been created by a UAL student.
Karoline Kirchhübel, a third year BA Design for Graphic Communication student, has developed Is This Sexist? with housemate Sarah Parkes, a practising lawyer, to combat the ongoing issue of sexism and provide victims of sexual harassment with free legal advice.
Inspired by websites and social media networks such as The Everyday Sexism Project, which has helped put sexism back on the news agenda, Kirchhübel wants Is This Sexist? to focus on community support in all types of fighting sexism.
In an interview with Arts London News, she said: “Some instances of everyday sexism perhaps aren’t severe enough to require legal action, but they’re still important to address and sometimes you need a bit of encouragement, someone to assure you that resisting sexism is a brave and worthwhile thing to do.”
The website’s legal section, which is currently still being prepared, will feature videos and text explaining people’s rights regarding issues such as workplace harassment and victimisation. Future plans also include readers receiving legal advice to specific issues they wish to enquire about and a direct call contact service.
In 2010 the National Union of Students (NUS) published the Hidden Marks project, which reported that 68 per cent of UK respondents that had taken part in the project had been the victim of one or more kinds of sexual harassment on campus during their time as a student.
Concern over the rise of sexism at universities has grown significantly over the years with NUS findings also revealing that 50 per cent of study participants identified “prevailing sexism, ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment” at their universities.
“it is important that the government and universities listen to what students are saying, and challenge any normalisation of sexism on university campuses.” Dianne Abbott
Labour MP Dianne Abbott backed the report, stressing that “it is important that the government and universities listen to what students are saying, and challenge any normalisation of sexism on university campuses.”
Parkes and Kirchhübel are confident that their website can become a strong platform for students with concerns over the presence of sexism within their education institution. There will also be further advice for graduates on knowing their rights once they start employment, exploring factors such as equal pay and work harassment.
Parkes said: “We’re still developing the legal section, but when it’s finished, there’ll be resources on there that are directly applicable to students. For instance, the Equality Act protects students at school or university from discrimination and harassment.”
With the site relying heavily on reader contribution, writers have included a Danish political science student at Columbia University in New York, and a regular contribution by Hildegard Titus, a third year photojournalism student at LCC. Parkes and Kirchhübel hope their website will garner further positive response and result in others coming forward with their stories in the effort to empower through resisting injustice.
“You shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice parts of yourself to conform to expectations based on your gender – or even race, age, sexuality.” Karoline Kirchhübel
“We believe that resistance begins when feeling that something ‘isn’t right,’ and subsequently acknowledging that you shouldn’t be forced to sacrifice parts of yourself to conform to expectations based on your gender – or even race, age, sexuality.” Kirchhübel said.
“Having that sense of community to explore non-legal forms of resistance is something we hope everyone will find useful,” she concluded.
Is This Sexist? is looking for future contributors to write and share sexism resistance stories. Visit Is this sexist? for more details.