• Rosemary Mac Cabe

Sexism or Common Sense?

Around the time of the PricewaterhouseCooper scandal, I had various discussions with my friends (mostly female) about sexism. Some said they had encountered sexism at work, in the gym, on nights out – while others were equally convinced that sexism has all but died a death, and that "women and men are just different" and "sure, that's just a bit of fun". For my part, I couldn't count on both hands the number of times I've encountered sexism as I went about the business of life. The train conductor, who told me to "listen, love" when I complained about our pre-booked seats not being available*; the constant, not necessarily unwelcome but gender-specific, references to my looks, at work or on a night out; the inference that admitting to being bad with cars made me a "bad feminist" (the assumption being, of course, that I'm bad with cars because I'm female, not because I'm entirely disinterested).


But sometimes I find myself wondering, is this sexism or is this just life? Is this an example of discrimination based on gender, or is it merely common sense based on general differences, perceived or otherwise, between the sexes?


The most recent example of this occurred to me yesterday, at the Canal Cafe in the Village at Lyons between Newcastle and Ardclough. I was having lunch with family (and friend) and happened to pick up a brochure of cookery courses run by Clodagh McKenna. She runs classes on various topics, from cooking for the family to kids' classes, Italian dinner party classes, bread baking . . . and so on. By and large, classes are run during the day from 10am on weekdays. Some, including the kids' classes and pasta making, are run at weekends - but, without fail, the only evening classes are supper clubs or - and here's the rub - Boys in the Kitchen, a men-only class run over three hours from 6.30pm on a Thursday.


What does this say to you? Because, to me, it says that (a) cooking is for women, as men need a specific cookery class and (b) women have all the time in the world during the day, while men can only do evenings (and as an addendum to that point, that, therefore, men work and women do not). Is this sexism? Or is it common sense? Are there a lot more ladies who lunch with money to spend on cookery courses than there are men? Or would women not benefit from evening classes, too? Have I got a bee in my proverbial lady-hat over nothing?


* This resulted in my responding: "Don't 'listen, love' me, thanks" and a friend dragging me away, hissing, "stop being such a feminist".

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