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As a final year King’s student applying for grad jobs, I’m sick of men telling me I’m not good enough

Since when was career snobbery a module offered at London universities?


As 2022 came to a close, we were all reaching points of exhaustion. London’s population alone was either coughing like the plague or nursing bruises from that fall whilst ice skating at Somerset House. Then, after the Boxing Day slump *finally* relaxing on the couch, comes your family’s eleventh time asking “What are you doing after graduation darling?” So, you frantically start to apply for that graduate job. 

Not that long ago in November of 2022, I made a rooky mistake. Much like Alice in a Hinge wonderland, I fell uncontrollably into the depths of the dating app trap. A like was sent hurtling my way, from a guy that at first glance… could have had it all. As per the app’s prompt mechanisms, he boasts his achievements on his profile, speaks three languages and studies a niche PhD across the pond at a highly-ranked London university. The story starts with him telling me to dress formally and that he’ll sort out the plan. I am intrigued. 

We planned to meet at 7 pm. He had told me to eat dinner beforehand. Simple instructions – at least we won’t spend the rest of the evening trying to decide which cuisine to try or which allergens to avoid. Alas, he arrives to the date saying that he was, in fact, hungry. Why? Because he had planned the squash game with his buddy too close to our meeting time. Sigh. Giving the athlete a chance to grab a bite to eat before I witnessed him too hangry, we wind our way through the streets of China Town. Naturally, every restaurant has a queue around the block, prompting him to refer to himself in the third person and say that he “doesn’t queue” anyway. The same went for the Christmas Market we walked past, festivities ignored. Doesn’t queue, I thought? His weekly supermarket shops must take forever. Sadly, my favourite restaurant that could have worked as Plan B, Bun House was closed at that point. I take that as the third bad sign of the night. 

via Google Maps

Obviously, we come up with a Plan C. “I know a secret spot”, he whispers. I imagine my Whatsapp live location jumping frantically around Picadilly Circus on my two best mates’ phones. This is part of the usual girl code action before a Hinge date with a stranger. As we weave through the traffic of stalled taxis, the “so, what do you do?” is flung into the conversation. Ah. He tells me about the ins and outs of his PhD, along with the research project that he is involved with somewhere on the other side of the world.

Obviously, we come up with a Plan C. “I know a secret spot”, he whispers. I imagine my Whatsapp live location jumping frantically around Picadilly Circus on my two best mates’ phones. This is part of the usual girl code action before a Hinge date with a stranger. As we weave through the traffic of stalled taxis, the “so, what do you do?” is flung into the conversation. Ah. He tells me about the ins and outs of his PhD, along with the research project that he is involved with somewhere on the other side of the world.

His response was along the lines of “Oh…yeah nice, but um, you know that journalism is a very competitive field in Spain. You have to know the right kind of people here and there. I guess you could smile your way through.”

For a moment, the woman was left too stunned to speak. Within the first ten minutes, my date had insinuated that I might be prettier than I am smart enough to get into my dream job. I doubt that he tells any of his male buddies to smile their way through those accounting exams. 

After a series of further snarky and sexist comments, alongside asking me what the best present that I ever got from my ex was, I called it a day. It’s safe to say that I had no energy left to defend myself or my career aspirations. I didn’t need to experience his fancy plan either. His ego was clearly so harmed, he unmatched me on Hinge and unfollowed me on Instagram the next day. Date, insult and erase.

His sexist comment reminded me of something I had read earlier that week. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, is a public figure that has tackled many sexist comments. Constantly quizzed about her hair dye and maternity leave, the most recent blow featured Finlands Prime Minister, Sanna Marin. It came as an Australian journalist, Joey Dwyer, dared to suggest that the two leaders were meeting at a joint press conference in Auckland’s Government House because they are of the same gender and similar age, sharing other “common stuff”.

A video circulated shortly on social media, of Ardern’s reaction. An immediate frown arises and her head spun violently around in shock. Rightly so, she interrupted the journalist who continued to babble on and replied by asking “So, my first question is I wonder whether or not anyone ever asked Barack Obama and John Key if they met because they were of similar age”. Ladies, that is how it’s done. The clip has amassed 1.5 million views on Twitter and considerable backlash against the male journalist’s initial question. Dwyer has since pulled a similar stunt after insulting the leaders, by erasing his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

It is embarrassing that any woman in power should have to deal with such questions on a public stage. I suppose, it only shows that men questioning women’s ability to do their job happens on both small and large scales. 

Speaking to other female journalists has been a comforting reminder that I was not alone in these sexist comments. However, it is an awful reminder that makes you wonder when they are going to stop. 

Becca and friends

Becca, 20, who studies English at Exeter, shared a similar story with me about her ex-boyfriend’s and his parents’ opinions about her degree subject. They would say “What are you studying? And what exactly are you going to do with that?” This negativity came as a surprise to Becca because the boy’s brother was studying drama, which is often received with similar disdain among the creative arts degrees. I am still confused about how the nature of her English degree warranted such spiteful commentary. Perhaps he’s an ex for a good reason.

Another story hails from 21-year-old Grace at Uni of Lincoln. Having studied English literature as an undergraduate, she has moved on to do a creative writing Postgraduate Master’s. Choosing a postgrad is daunting and incredible enough, but it was completely undermined when a male friend at a party asked: “Aw, how does it feel to have not one but two useless qualifications?” I am glad that she graced him with her presence and left swiftly after that. 

Grace

Messages from women kept coming through. Hermione, 21, from Exeter, had recently written a play based on university life and dealing with the emotional turbulence in a flat-share after an incident of sexual assault. Upon mentioning this to a male friend at a party, he rebutted saying: “Is that what you want to do then?” Before Hermione could mutter an ever-witty response, he added: “Well probably not, it’s not really a career is it?” Comments like this make me scratch my brain to try and remember when I last heard such words said from a girl to a boy. Quite frankly, I can’t. The disrespect would simply not let me sleep. Either way, keep your eyes peeled for more plays by Hermione, they’ve got important points to make. 

Whilst these are stories from real-life encounters (and sucky party-goers), I should say that the Hinge world isn’t all evil. A month ago, I had a guy message me saying: “Hey, I was writing an article…” and I thought okay he’s a writer, that’s a promising starting point; it continued, “…it’s about the finer things in life, and I was hoping I could interview you?”. Giggle I did. 

Hermione

These stories from Becca, Grace and Hermione speak for a clear underappreciation of creative arts or language degrees and a particular spite when it comes to women knowing what they want to get out of them. I wonder when and how this came about. As far as I can remember, women featured as focal points for several chick flick films including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, The Devil Wears Prada, Sex and the City (and sequels), Bridget Jones’s Diary, Morning Glory, The Ugly Truth, Never Been Kissed, 13 Going on 30, Sleepless in Seattle.. and there’s more

These are, of course, in no order of my favourites. In fact, I find that the message in many of these films is outdated and wrong, but they certainly will do for a girl’s night in. Often, the female journalists in them are depicted as dramatic hellraisers and homewreckers in frantic search of a news scoop. Yet, in the end, the enemies-to-lovers trope always wins. Might it be, that all these boys are terrified of romance or of ending up in our writing? I couldn’t help it, seeing as my date had managed to lose me and my attention in the record time of an hour. 

Or might the truth (that men don’t want us to ever figure out) actually be that some guys cannot handle a young woman who asserts her own career plan, be it her choice of degree, Master or desired field of work? Perhaps, this type of Hinge man would have found it more attractive if I had said ‘Oh, I don’t know’. What I do know, is that I have no intention of resigning my ability to plan my career or silencing my voice to tell others about it. 

To the incredible male friend of mine who read an earlier article of mine and said: “I read your piece and thought it was excellent. You’ll smash it xx”, you really made my day. Your supportive attitude might have restored a bit of faith that young women, including myself, have in men who uplift them in their chosen field of work. Run don’t walk ladies, he’s currently studying at Cardiff.

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