War Studies addresses ingrained departmental sexism

This year, KCL’s War Studies Department (particularly War Studies BA) has been under the gun for reported sexism toward its female students, from both classmates and seminar leaders. Some have taken up the issue with King’s Wellbeing and the student union.

One War Studies student speaking anonymously described being ‘…consistently being spoken over and shut down.

‘It seems the department’s issue goes beyond those who happen to pass through here: it is institutional,’ she continued. ‘I just want a degree in the subject I want to do and I shouldn’t have to socialise boys on how to behave like it’s my job to.’

Other women on the course describe not being recognised as often as the male students. When they are, they are greeted with ‘eye-rolls’ and often have their opinions dismissed due to War Studies being seen as a predominantly male subject. In a report conducted by Roar, the proportion of women studying War Studies was roughly one in four through 2012-2016.

Sexist remarks have also reportedly been thrown around in casual conversation, with female students being asked whether they got accepted into the course on a quota, or due to ‘lowered grade boundaries’.

One female student, describing these comments, stated ‘I feel the need to constantly prove myself, like I’m not as worthy as my male classmates, which is insane.’

This pattern of discrimination in War Studies can be traced through the years. Previous reports of prejudice even led to the department head apologising for sexist behaviour of students in 2015.

When asked about coming together as a course and raising the issue of sexism, students said that it was impossible, because most of the students were male and hence did not see any pressing issue. However, some raised their concerns to King’s Wellbeing services and the Student’s Union, both of whom sympathised with the cause. KCLSU’s Women’s Officer reacted to the issue with empathy and said that both the students and the university must collectively work toward finding a solution to such exclusion.

Female students observed some improvements. Departmental talks were held on sexist incidents, and the lecturers made it clear that they valued everyone’s opinion and did not support discriminatory behaviour of any kind. Moreover, members of the department repeatedly established that they wanted to create an environment where everyone felt comfortable.

According to one particularly vocal student, ‘It’s a bit tiring, but I think it’s been getting better over the past few weeks as seminar leaders seem to have a handle on it.’