Culture clash: Flo Perry encountered a wholly different subset of GWM at Durham University. Photo: A D Teasdale/Flickr
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Flo Perry: Could this be the age of the Great White Female?

When I was a fresher in 2010, feminist societies weren’t commonplace in universities. Now every campus in the country has one.

The Noughties were a bad time for rebellion. The third wave of feminism was old-fashioned – it wasn’t cool any more. People shrugged at lads’ mags and laughed along with date-rape jokes on national telly. But then something switched. Cosmo started asking all its interviewees whether they were feminists. Feminism became cool again and my generation picked up the baton. The fourth wave is rolling, but can we be the ones to overthrow my dad’s special subject: the Great White Male?

When I was a fresher in 2010, feminist societies weren’t commonplace in universities; if there was one, it was probably a bunch of postgrads discussing the minor works of Greer. Now every campus in the country has one. I didn’t know it, but when I started Durham University I needed that feminism society. I’d been brought up with the children of champagne socialists in comfy north London. I had a bowl cut and liked ugly T-shirts from the Eighties. Suddenly, I was mingling with boys who’d grow up to be the fourth generation of accountants for PwC. They’d never met a lesbian before and I’d never met a Tory: we couldn’t be more different and both be white, middle-class people from the south-east of England.Who’d have thought that being thrown from one middle-class breeding ground to another would be such a shock to the system? It was enough to shake the political apathy out of me.

In my second year I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman, started browsing Jezebel and The Vagenda, and followed Laurie Penny on Twitter. Other girls were obviously feeling the change and Durham University had an active feminism society once more. Across the country, we weren’t the only people criticising rugby clubs’ drinking games and pooh-poohing outdated welfare policies. But are we making a difference?

The people with the power to stop the dictatorship of Great White Males are the Great White Males themselves. They are the ones who can choose to hire someone different. Once they have acknowledged they like to hire little clones of themselves and once they actively try to push out of their comfort zone, things will change. Hire someone from a state school you’ve never heard of and maybe that person will be the boss in 20 years.

We young fourth-wavers can point out the obvious; we can complain and campaign; we could tell the system to eff off, make feminist zines and live on organic vegan farms. But non-GWMs want to be corporate, too; we want the chance to rise in the ranks of PwC. Some of us want to be part of the system, not destroy it. It’s hard to tell someone they’re racist and sexist, that their company looks like the end of the Eton production line, and still ask them for a job.

Besides, feminism has grown up. We know anarchy isn’t the most effective agent for change. We want to work alongside the GWMs as equals – make shitloads of money, become bankers, even politicians. We just need the GWMs to let us in.

I currently work in one of the most modern and liberal environments there is, the offices of BuzzFeed. There are no ties; there’s a beanbag and gifs are an acceptable form of communication. Yet my supervisor, and boss, and his boss in America are all straight white males. In fact, pretty much everyone I know is employed by one.

Now I’m slipping into my semi-corporate world. It was quite easy for me, partly because everyone at work is all “Yeah, feminism!” and my boss is all up for diversifying. But it’s also because I’m not so different from the Great White Male. There’s only one characteristic I fall down on. So maybe the time of the Great White Female is soon. But I think the time of the Great Black Transgendered Lesbian who speaks with a working-class accent is quite far away. So even though I’m asking for a job, I’m still going to complain and campaign against the Great White Male. 

Flo Perry is a journalist at BuzzFeed

This article first appeared in the 08 October 2014 issue of the New Statesman, Grayson Perry guest edit

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The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.