MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 10-Feb-14 13:29:38

'I'd hear three rape jokes a day' - one teenager on the epidemic of sexual harassment in schools

What is it really like to be a girl in school today?

In this guest post, 17-year-old blogger and activist Yas Necati recounts her experiences of sexism in the classroom, and urges us all - teenagers, parents and teachers - to act.

Yas Necati

It's Not That Simple

Posted on: Mon 10-Feb-14 13:29:38

(55 comments )

Lead photo

70% of girls report experiences of sexual harassment at school

When I was in school, boys would buy The Sun for Page 3. They'd crowd around the paper in one corner of the classroom and scoff to themselves. It sounds like something from the 70s, but I only finished my GCSEs a few months ago.

I once asked a boy to stop looking at Page 3 whilst sitting next to me in class. He called me a "jealous dyke" and an "ugly shit". We were 12. But we could've been any age; it was a recurring incident throughout our school years. After a while, us girls simply gave up saying anything for fear of being told that we just wanted “better tits”... and truth is, most of us did. Who could really blame us?

Sexism is alive and well in schools. 70% of girls report experiences of sexual harassment at school or college, and school is the most common setting for sexual harassment and coercion. 16% of 15-17-year-olds have avoided going to school because they felt bad about their appearance – hardly surprising when you consider that a quarter of girls are bullied because of the way that they look. 40% of girls feel self-conscious about their bodies during PE and 87% of girls think sexism affects most areas of their lives. The statistics are staggering, and behind each of these numbers are real people with real stories. Looking at my own experience of sexism, it's frustrating to see how commonplace it is. I've spoken to my sister, my friends and reached out to other young women via Facebook to share theirs. We – teenagers, parents, teachers - need to start listening to these stories.

One evening over dinner my younger sister recited her day to me, recalling the still life she'd painted and a joke she'd heard. She paused for a second, grimacing before describing how boys had been watching pornography on their phones in the back of her English class. The teacher did nothing and the girls were too intimidated to react. For my 14-year-old sister, and many girls her age, this is just another day at school.

A rumour went round that a girl in our year had lost her virginity to a boy in Year 9. Everybody called her a slut for the remainder of her time at school. There was no shame placed on him, despite him being two years older and having had sex a lot more times than her. "What's the boy word for slut?" my younger friend once asked. "Respected," I said.


My sister's revelation of her everyday experience prompted me to think further about sexism I'd experienced at school – and the way in which gender biases and expectations start so young, for boys and girls.

When I was 11, a girl in my class punched a boy of the same age in the face. His cheek had swollen and with a quiet voice he told the teacher that she'd hit him. Mrs. Cedar chuckled and chimed, "Aww, Liam, did you get hit by a girl?" Immediately others began to laugh. Liam's inflamed cheek turned an even deeper shade of cherry-red. Needless to say he probably never made the same "mistake" again. Can you imagine how the teacher would've reacted if the genders were reversed? We're contradicting ourselves - encouraging children to ask for help, but basing our reactions on gender biases and expectations. This instance may have been subtle, but it's the small actions, and everyday socialisation, that shapes people's minds for the future. This boy's masculinity was checked before he could even ponder it. The culture that we're taught we later put into practice.

In secondary school, Year 7, I remember a rumour going around that a girl in our year had lost her virginity to a boy in Year 9. Everybody called her a slut for the remainder of her time at school. There was no shame placed on him, despite him being two years older and having had sex a lot more times than her. "What's the boy word for slut?" my younger friend once asked me after she'd been the victim of sexual bullying for wearing "suggestive eye-liner." "Respected," I said, although I couldn't possibly explain to her why…

Fast-forward a few years to the biggest decision of our lives to that date: GCSE options. I remember my friend telling me he fancied becoming a paediatrician so naturally was thinking of taking Child Development. But there was a problem - Child Development is a "girl’s subject," right? He decided to opt out and a few months later switched career path. Only one boy, Jim, took Child Development, though managed to "hide" it from the other students during enrolment. When the term started and the boys found out, he was subject to severe harassment and bullying. A few weeks into the course, Jim dropped out. He continued to be teased for the remainder of his time at school.

In my final GCSE year, a boy kept calling me "hairy gorilla" for choosing not to remove my leg or underarm hair. When holidaying in Cuba that year, despite the heat, and the fact that I love swimming, I completely avoided the pool (the exposure!). After a whole week of hiding, I decided I'd finally 'take the plunge' on our final day away. For the rest of the academic year, a boy followed me around pointing at his underarms every time he saw me.

In my final year of school I became a little despondent. Years of experiencing sexism and watching others experience sexism was starting to profoundly affect my happiness and well-being. I began counting rape jokes. I realised that I'd be lucky, walking through the corridors, not to hear three a day. I became a feminist, not because I felt it was important, but because I felt it was essential. When I told my teacher she said I should "just give up" as I was "wasting my time."

Starting college a few months back I decided I should act. I set up a feminist society with a girl in the year above, and welcomed everyone along. The response, though mainly positive, didn't compensate for the years of sexism and discrimination we'd all suffered. We felt comforted that others had similar stories to our own. Yet these are stories of assault, bullying and shame; why should we have to experience this?

We're currently working on a local project - similar to Everyday Sexism - collecting experiences of sexual bullying and harassment within the college. After only a few months we found most young women had a story to share. One girl was the constant target of rape jokes and sexual threats because of her sexual orientation; another was told by a boy that he would "make her straight." I know so many young women who've been forced into doing things against their consent. I know young women who've been raped.

Sexism is alive in schools. The teenage years are an uncertain and difficult time for many as they grapple with their identities and try to sculpt themselves into the adults they will become. The culture in schools has a huge impact on this development. Although changes are happening, we've got a long way to go before achieving equality in the classroom. We need a massive shift in the way we educate our daughters and sons, both on the curriculum and off it. Sexism in schools has a negative effect for everybody, and it's time we made a change.

By Yas Necati

Twitter: @YasNecati

An incredibly enlightening read. I feel uplifted and despondent in equal measure. I am 38. how can we still be in this place? But with vibrant women like you around, I still feel positive things can change.
I act as a governor in a local school. What would kids like to see happen in schools to raise awareness, to discipline perpetrators and to support potential and actual victims?

tinagwee Mon 10-Feb-14 15:01:32

Great piece. Im impressed with her.
The effects of porn being so readily available to children is just beginning to be seen. I hear of this type of thing a lot though where girls in class have to put up with boys watching porn and treating them in demeaning ways because of what they learn from porn. There is a stop porn culture conference in march in central london. Teachers should probably attend. Parents too. We need to learn about it to know what we are combating.

lovelychops Mon 10-Feb-14 15:34:25

This is an excellently written piece.

But so disgusted it needs to be written in the first place. My children are babies but it makes me so worried for them. School and growing up is such a confusing time as it is, without having to deal with all this.

I think sexism is so ingrained in our society that young people grow up not noticing or feeling it's the norm. It takes people speaking up and pieces such as this to hold a mirror to society. Well done.

mitchvon Mon 10-Feb-14 15:56:50

If school is such a bad place and girls have to run a gauntlet of abuse and threats all the time , how come girls achieve better exam results than boys these days ?

PostHocErgoPropterHoc Mon 10-Feb-14 16:13:38

mitchvon apart from that being a complete non sequitur, are you implying that this piece isn't true?

craftybaker Mon 10-Feb-14 16:51:43

I never thought that there were benefits to going to an all girls school, but this thought provoking piece is reason enough to think again. The situations Yas describes are awful but the question on my mind is WTF has happened to discipline in the classroom? Kids looking at porn on phones in class, looking at the Sun in the corner of the classroom and the inappropriate language / conversations and bullying in this school suggests that the culture of the school is playing a large part in the actions of the children within its confines. I'm also working on the assumption that the school Yas talks about is an inner city comp? I'm 42 now and the mother of a 10 year old boy. I'm horrified to think that there might be swathes of kids behaving in this way. It makes me want to think hard about what else we can do to teach our boys how to respect women.

JacqueslePeacock Mon 10-Feb-14 17:07:01

mitchvon, what?? confused confused confused

This was an excellent, and very depressing, piece. Thank you, Yas Necati.

alsmutko Mon 10-Feb-14 17:17:05

I'd say the ready availability of porn is a sympton rather than the cause - 'girlie' magazies were easily available when I was at school and there were exactly the same comments about 'slags' and 'studs', and some girls were regularly assaulted with hands up skirts (no trousers allowed then). This was in the 70s. Just remembered with a shudder, the vehicles tooting, blokes holloring suggestive remarks ('don't put them away they're nice' as I pulled my coat round me in nippy weather) especially from the workers at the nearby wood merchant, the attitude of 'ooh look, schoolgirls in uniform, let's embarrass them'.
I had thought this sort of thing had died out over the last 30 years but then when my daughter got to her early teens I realised it was just me getting to be middle-aged and therefore invisible. She's overheard 'rape jokes' from her flatmates in halls most recently. Luckily they've always been respectful towards her, so she doesn't feel threatened by them, just uncomfortable. Only another couple of months before she gets to share a house with people she knows are nice people.
Many men are pigs. Luckily my daughter knows it's not all of them.

alsmutko Mon 10-Feb-14 17:23:55

Yes, craftybaker, I agree. My daughter was at a girl's school (inner city comp) with boys in the sixth form. They have feminist group at the school which succeeded in getting the nearby Tesco to get rid of the lad's mags.
Most importantly, she's been involved in a few extra-curricular organisations which have the effect of increasing their young people's confidence and assertiveness.

Piscivorus Mon 10-Feb-14 17:56:34

I think a large part of this is down to the school culture and discipline. I was at high school from 71-78 and, yes there were jokes and the sexism that existed then in everyday life but at the time that was just accepted but there were no threats, no assaults, no page 3 in school and there was far more respect between us and the boys than Yas' experience.

I was going to suggest that the availability and acceptability of porn coupled with reduced discipline was the cause but then saw alsmutkos post suggesting that maybe it is more about individual schools rather than the time frame.

Ruprekt Mon 10-Feb-14 18:56:56

My son is 9, Year 4.

He walked into a classroom at school and asked Harry if he had seen Jessica.

'Why?' Asked Harry, 'do you want to rape her?'

Am utterly aghast, appalled and saddened by the whole story. Ds does not know what rape is. (He does now.) confusedconfusedconfused

These children are 8 & 9.

mitchvon Mon 10-Feb-14 19:42:43

Actually exam results are relevant to school life. I don't dispute the things that can happen at school, but if it really was endemic like the blogger says then how would it be possible for girls to get better exam results than boys ?

I think the seriousness of sexual harassment should be made clearer in secondary schools. I think what in the adult world would be considered sexual assault or harassment gets overlooked in amongst teens with assumptions that "oh, they're just experimenting with sexual language/they're just being teenage boys".

I am 21, it wasn't that long since I was in school, and even though I went to a fairly nice comprehensive I experienced a similar culture - rape jokes, intrusive sexual comments/questions, 11 and 12 year old girls being called 'frigid', the list goes on...

And teenagers can learn better. For example, if someone had insulted another student racially at school, everyone would have gawped and gasped and the student would have most likely been suspended, so no one did it. The idea that children, particularly girls as young as 11, are being pressured into having sex and being sexually harassed on a daily basis should be made equally as taboo.

I think that for teenagers, having respect for their own and each other's bodies and boundaries should be the number one priority of PSHE lessons, along with maybe drug/alcohol abuse, because it seems to affect almost everyone but no one does anything. 5 years ago when I was in school (I'm not sure if this has changed) no education apart from in biology seemed to be given into sex until we were in year 9/10, and even then it was muffled through by teachers who were red in the face and would rather put on 20 years out of date video tapes of much older teenagers demonstrating what date rape was - useless.

FiveExclamations Mon 10-Feb-14 20:24:27

mitchvon

Because girls are told to get on with it, have a sense of humour and not make a fuss and they take this to heart?

MmeLindor Mon 10-Feb-14 20:29:34

Excellent article, although it did make me want to weep.

Mitch
I don't get your point. Yas didn't say that girls stop going to school, or that they give in completely. They get good marks despite the harassment that they encounter on a daily basis.

This has nothing to do with school results - except in the case that if teachers are lax enough to allow kids to watch porn in the back of the classroom then there are questions to be asked re discipline in the school.

Yas
what would help? It seems to me that education of the younger kids, and the teachers would be a good start.

TunipTheUnconquerable Mon 10-Feb-14 20:44:28

Because if the boys are watching porn at the back of the classroom, Mitch, they're probably not learning much.

PostHocErgoPropterHoc Mon 10-Feb-14 20:53:04

Of course exam results are relevant to school life. I was pointing out that this:

If school is such a bad place and girls have to run a gauntlet of abuse and threats all the time...

Has very little to do with this:

...how come girls achieve better exam results than boys these days ?

The reasons girls achieve better exam results are complex, but my pet theory is that some boys look at the world that awaits them and see no reason to work hard, they end up at the top anyway. It is the same sense of entitlement that leads them to treat girls as there for their amusement.

scallopsrgreat Mon 10-Feb-14 21:16:49

Girls are doing better in exams despite being sexually harassed at school. They are pretty bloody amazing really.

This blog post, although anecdotal, provides yet more credence to a number of surveys in recent years. YouGov one here

nameequality Mon 10-Feb-14 21:43:43

Really powerful Guest blog. Well done Yas.

You have spurred me on to write to my local secondary school:

Dear Mr XXXXX,

The Schools Against Sexism Pledge

I live in the catchment area for XXXX School and my son is currently at XXXX School in Year X. I am writing to you as I am very concerned about sexism in schools and in particular sexual harrassment that girls are sadly routinely facing in secondary schools in the UK today.

Part of the reason I have decided to write to you today is due to an article I have just read which a 17 year old girl, Yas Necati has written. I have attached this article. I have taken the following information from the UKFeminista website at http://ukfeminista.org.uk/take-action/generation-f/statistics/.

Violence against women and girls
Sexual bullying and harassment are routine in UK schools. Almost a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching in UK schools, and close to one in three (28%) of 16-18-year-olds say they have seen sexual pictures on mobile phones at school a few times a month or more.
Nearly one in four 16-18-year-olds say that their teachers never said unwanted sexual touching, sharing of sexual pictures or sexual name calling are unacceptable.
1 in 3 teenage girls has experienced sexual violence from a boyfriend.
1 in 3 young women experiences sexual bullying in school on a daily basis.
If girls experience repeated sexual harassment, they are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.
According to the World Health Organisation, globally school is the most common setting for sexual harassment and coercion.
Over 20,000 girls under 15 are at high risk of female genital mutilation in England and Wales each year.
1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls think it is ok sometimes to hit a woman or force her to have sex.

I am very concerned about this issue. I am asking whether your school will sign The Schools Against Sexism pledge which has been developed by UK Feminista with support from the End Violence Against Women coalition. I have attached a copy of the pledge together with the article I mentioned earlier. I look forward to your thoughts on this matter.

Kind Regards,

XXXXXXXX

all of those who have been moved by Yas's blog post please consider writing a similar letter to your local school

I am also planning on writing to my old school and some other local schools.

Links to the UK Feminista statistics:ukfeminista.org.uk/take-action/generation-f/statistics/

Link to The Schools Against Sexism Pledge: ukfeminista.org.uk/campaigning-in-your-school/

MmeLindor Mon 10-Feb-14 21:48:17

Nameequality
Great idea to write to local schools.

We had a guest post on Jump! Mag recently from Girl Guide Advocate - she wrote about sexism in school and being harassed from age 13yrs old.

The phones in schools issue has been bothering me for a while now. My kids are in primary school and too young for phones, but I know that they will soon be aware of what can be found on the internet if you know where to look for it.

Isn't it possible for schools to scramble 3G signals to make it impossible to get online? I can't believe the technology isn't there to disable kids from looking at porn in school, given the firewalls put in place in most workplaces.

heyday Tue 11-Feb-14 11:22:36

I am not at all surprised by this article, it's just one aspect of the daily battles that females have to endure. However, young women do need to be a bit more pro active in some areas. They can't scream sexism one day then by delighted to be paid a fortune the next for baring her tits in a lads mag aimed solely at men. Girls, stop watching the disgusting, sexist videos that accompany so much of the modern day music. Tweet Miley Cyrus and tell her that her actions do not liberate young women but simply play into the hands of mens sexual perceptions of women. They just set the standard that is expected of women nowadays and make women feel that they simply are just never good enough. One pop star does something sexually outrageous and earns a fortune, the next star has to be even more daring and sexually overt..... Where will it all end?

angelinterceptor Tue 11-Feb-14 11:29:32

what an excellent post - and well written

I have a DS (age 14) and I would be disgusted if he was like this when he is at school with his friends, trying to fit in, be one of the lads!

jumbojoy Tue 11-Feb-14 12:06:36

Unfortunately none of this surprises me. My husband has recently started commuting by train to London for work and has been horrified by overheard conversations by children on their way to school. He recently overheard some lads sitting behind him regaling of their previous evening 's escapades with local 'bitches' and what they did to them sexually over the park or down some alley. He said he couldn't believe the pornographic language they were using in public, let alone the content. When the lads reached their stop my husband looked up to see who these lads were, thinking they were probably college boys or something and was absolutely horrified to discover that they were around 11yrs old!!! Maybe year 7/8!! This wasn't an isolated incident.....every morning he is subjected to more of the same from different groups of CHILDREN! Boys & Girls! We are seriously considering sending our two daughters who are only 6 & 9 at the moment to all girls schools. However as we live in a small village, we are not in any catchment, so will have to move. This is a really worrying situation and we as parents need to do SOMETHING!!!��

littlemrssleepy Tue 11-Feb-14 13:45:44

Heydey biscuit

Oh I see. Its the women to blame.

Asagrandmother Tue 11-Feb-14 14:06:37

One of the things available to you, but by no means the only things to be done. Is to sign the petitions and or become involved with No More Page 3 and Child Eyes. They are working to change the current wider culture and both have petitions and Actions you can chose to be involved with. They are very much worth a look.

VegetariansTasteLikeChicken Tue 11-Feb-14 15:45:11

If school is such a bad place and girls have to run a gauntlet of abuse and threats all the time , how come girls achieve better exam results than boys these days ?

Um, because they are clever? And being surround by wankers doesn't make you less so?

This is a briliant article and I love seeing a younger generation "getting it". I struggled so much in school because I didn't have the strength and I love that there are teenagers who do despite all the shit they put up with it.

VegetariansTasteLikeChicken Tue 11-Feb-14 15:46:41

Heyday, I don't think the majority of girls who experience sexism then go on to do page3 confused

I do think writing to schools, signing petitions etc is a positive step to take. But most of us on here are parents of children, boys and girls, who have the potential to be involved in similar situations to those described by Yas - are we confident our boys would behave any differently to the boys Yas describes? Are we confident the behaviour of our girls towards other girls will be blameless?

I would like to see resources (and maybe there are some - please tell me) to support parents in educating their children and teaching them respect, and appropriate behaviour so they can work with schools to change the culture and environment.

I want to believe my son would never watch porn on a phone aged 15, or call a girl a slut or frigid, and thay my daughter would always stand up for herself, and her friends in these situations - but I don't know that! So I guess its time to start working on those values and behaviours now (my DS is 5 and my DS 7!).

ommmward Tue 11-Feb-14 18:39:35

... and then when I tell people that my children are home educated, they say "but aren't you worried they won't get opportunities for socialisation?"

If enough families simply refuse to be part of the rape/porn culture endemic in schools by opting out of school, things will change pretty fast (because every child taken out of school costs that school several thousand pounds a year in lost funding).

(and yes, I know we are privileged that we can afford to be a single income family).

cutsnake Tue 11-Feb-14 20:34:18

This was my experience of high school. It makes me so sad to read that it's as bad as ever, if not worse. It's the reason that my two girls go to an all-girls school.

neiljames77 Tue 11-Feb-14 22:03:57

It's one of the reasons my eldest daughter has left her nurse cadet course at college. Lads are constantly making sexual jibes at the girls. When my daughter and her friend reported them, the head tutor asked if there was any witnesses. A male tutor was in clear earshot of everything said, yet denied hearing anything. Coward.

nameequality Tue 11-Feb-14 22:41:51

There is a radical community bookshop with a list of books for children and young people that might be of interest to some.

See here.

neiljames77 what a shame for your DD. Do you think she would write to her college's governing body? Maybe send them the pledge I linked to above?

nameequality Tue 11-Feb-14 22:53:34

Googling "teaching consent to kids" brings up some useful looking blogs from people.

<warning some may be triggering>

There are some suggestions at goodmenproject.com/families/the-healthy-sex-talk-teaching-kids-consent-ages-1-21/

mathanxiety Wed 12-Feb-14 05:59:15

You know, the more I see of all of this the more depressed I feel.

I don't think we start with consent.

I think we need to suggest the radical proposition that women and girls are human beings, and see how that flies. I predict it won't.

I recently joined a new group being set up at my church (RC) to provide support and outreach and referral for victims of intimate violence to domestic violence agencies that have begun partnering with churches in my area. Domestic violence is a problem close to my heart.

To kick off the group, a priest who has been recently authorised by my diocese to evangelise on the issue of DV after years of running a successful support programme in his own parish preached the sermon on Sunday. I am 49 years old and have never once heard the terms 'domestic violence' or 'pornography' mentioned in any church I have been in. It was a great sermon. The priest got an ovation.

There are 28 of us now in the group, coming at the problem from a variety of angles. Hopefully we will make a dent. Yes, I am well aware of the irony of a church that denies one of the sacraments to women coming forth so late in the game to do right by women and to name the problem that afflicts the church itself. One of my hopes in participating in this is that some day someone in the hierarchy will see the fundamental issue is male entitlement and inability to see women as fully human and fully deserving of respect.

Heyday, it ends in women being terrorised in their own homes by men who do not acknowledge that they are equally human. It is not women who do this to themselves.

The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing

In this case it HAS to be men, specifically men, who condemn it, loud and clear and forcefully, and with no equivocation.

Otherwise, it is just another boring, insignificant 'wimmin's problem' (yawn) that they probably bring upon themselves.

Men have to sit themselves down and ask themselves the fundamental question -- are women and men fully equal?

mathanxiety Wed 12-Feb-14 06:13:54

This programme was developed by a local domestic violence agency and introduced in my DCs' high school in the US.

DS did the Step Back component at age 14 as a freshma. It involved involving examining attitudes to girls and women, to the word 'gay', to sex, violence and aggression, and exploring what it means to be 'a man'. The DDs did the girls' counterpart which involved raising consciousness of what constitutes abuse, abusive attitudes, speech, and empowerment exercises. Overall, with the school committed to this programme, the hope is to cultivate an atmosphere where mutual respect rules.

This is an American public high school of about 3500 students. There is nothing like this in the local RC high schools angry sad.

MmeLindor Wed 12-Feb-14 10:34:40

A MNetter once posted that she taught her kids about consent from a very young age with the words 'If everyone is not having fun, everyone stops'.

i.e. teach kids that they have to respect the wishes of others, and that it is not ok to badger, annoy, irritate, bully or shove another child. As the kids get older, you can expand this concept, introducing the idea of consent in a sexual relationship.

I do think that it needs to be taught from an early age, and that we have to stop making excuses for little boys who annoy little girls 'oh, boys will be boys! He's pulling your hair because he likes you'. It teaches girls to put up with bad behaviour and teaches boys that they can do what they want.

ThingsThatGoBumpInTheNight Wed 12-Feb-14 12:06:03

I was so lucky when I was at school

One, no one liked me in any case, I wasn't popular, I got bullied.
But I did see girls get treated the way I read in the op.
I also regularly dragged boys off girls who were trying to push them away, a few I beat the living day lights out of, one of these was on top of a girl with his pants round his ankles, trying to pull her knickers down.

It was so commonplace, I never even thought to report it, how sad is that?
I just vowed to bring up my own children differently.
My son, if he came across a girl, drunk/drugged/naked, the first thing he would do is make her safe, a blanket, recovery position, then call emergency services. It would never cross his mind to harm her.

He is 16. I'm incredibly proud of how he is, but really, he should be 'the norm' not 'the unusual' blush

I've known women who have gone on to be sexually assaulted in the workplace/club/pub ect and I would safely guess that it's a rare woman that has not had some kind of inappropriate touching happen to her.

It's happened to me but I am very tall and I guess it puts most off trying, the ones that have get a painful reminder of their experience rather than a pleasurable one.

We are responsible for bringing up these boys. Society has it's pressures ect but that's no excuse.
We must be clear on what is acceptable and what is not. If we're afraid to talk birds and bees, or we do that first, then inappropriate touching later, it may be too hard or not done at all.

We need to be honest with our children, or end up visiting our dd in hospital after a sexual assault, or our son in prison after committing one.
And we can not assume that it will not be our child unless we have done everything in our power to make sure it isn't.

WilsonFrickett Wed 12-Feb-14 12:07:40

As the mother of a boy this article has been extremely thought provoking and I will redouble my feminist teaching!

Just to come back on the all-girls' school comments - having read this I completely understand why you would want to send a DD to a girls' school, but worry terribly about the impact that would have on boys. I know it's not girls' jobs to be a civilising influence on boys - that is our job as parents primarily although I'd like to think society could give a hand in this I see no evidence of it actually wanting to, quite the contrary in fact - but the thought of an all-boys' ghetto where this kind of behaviour would undoubtedly be more commonplace fills me with horror.

HumphreyCobbler Wed 12-Feb-14 12:30:50

this echoes my own experience of schooling. I had hoped things had improved sad. I particularly remember the way in which you were either a 'slag' or 'frigid' - there seemed to be no acceptable middle ground when you were defined by these terms.

Dreamgirls234 Wed 12-Feb-14 18:53:53

My daughter gets a lot of sexual harassment on a daily basis it's not on and schools should do more to prevent it.

jewelsandbinoculars Wed 12-Feb-14 20:44:34

An eloquent and mature voice. One I am glad my daughter may one day grow up to hear. Thanks Yas.

What strikes me about this is that it is all-encompassing, and not just anti-female. I think the whole business of anti-feminism discriminates against men too. I am shocked that it is so overt in schools and that nothing has been done to stop it! Great post.

neiljames77 Fri 14-Feb-14 14:07:08

Nothing will be done in schools and colleges because they are cowards, afraid of any backlash. At one point, my daughter took to walking around the outside of the college to go to her next lesson(which was only a few doors down the corridor) just to avoid lewd comments.

legoplayingmumsunite Sat 15-Feb-14 19:59:50

I find it incredibly depressing that schools allow behaviour that would be completely unacceptable in the workplace. Why are the teachers not doing something about this?

I have to admit to being horrified by this description of school. I went to a small rural secondary school in the North of Scotland 30 years ago and although there were some sexist comments there was nothing as aggressive as Yas describes.

I do think there is a strong argument to ban mobile phones from schools altogether (at the very least smart phones so the internet couldn't be accessed). I find it very scary to think in a few short years my innocent children will have their first exposure to sex through someone's mobile phone at school rather than from their own consensual exploration.

neiljames77 Sun 16-Feb-14 14:19:20

I'm afraid they can take as many pledges, have think-tank meetings and pass around as much literature as they like. The bottom line is, it will just be lip service and an empty gesture. The reason the gang of lads at my daughters college get away with making disgusting remarks is down to political correctness. Apparently, female students being spoken to and treated like crap is the lesser of two evils.

KatieN1 Sun 16-Feb-14 15:01:39

An excellently written balanced piece which shows the sexism suffered by both girls and boys. I do believe that the experiences of teenagers vary enormously depending on the ethos of the school. Those with a strong positive ethos and good management teach their pupils to show respect to others and to embrace differences. I think teenage boys will always be prone to looking at images of scantily clad women (in my day it was National Geographic magazine or the lingerie section of clothing catalogues) but a school with well enforced rules should certainly not be allowing such behaviour during lessons or indeed in a manner likely to cause offence.
Respect for others is perhaps one of the hardest lessons we have to teach our children and needs to begin early on. Perhaps we need to worry less about the toys children play with and more about how they treat others. As a mother of only boys I know it is possible to raise boys not to resort to violence; it is less easy to teach them to fully respect girls once they reach their teenage years. There does seem to be a common belief that it is a sign of manhood for boys to sleep around but a sign of sluttyness for girls to do the same, a belief that often seems to be held as much by girls as by boys. Schools need to spend more time on the emotional aspects of sexual maturity and should be judged on the quality of their emotional education just as much as on their academic achievements.

neiljames77 Sun 16-Feb-14 15:22:35

Why not just suspend the perpetrators, threaten to expel them if there's a repeat of it and call an assembly to explain why they've taken such action?
Calling their parents/guardians into the school/college would be an idea also. Not just so they can reiterate to their son that he's throwing his future away for the sake of some dickhead remarks to make himself look clever in front of his peers but also to gauge where he might be getting the attitude from.

mathanxiety Sun 16-Feb-14 22:07:30

It's not done because it's not understood to be a problem. This is because it affects girls and to some extent students who have been identified as gay. This issue is about heterosexual male ownership of shared space.

Once the problem is recognised much can be done. But too many school administrations do not understand what it is or do not care.

neiljames77 Mon 17-Feb-14 14:08:26

It's not seen as a problem in general society. It can't be can it? Ron Atkinson made a racist remark and was castigated by everyone. Quite rightly. Nobody in the media would touch him. Richard Keys and Andy Gray make sexist and derogatory remarks and they just get moved sideways to a different media outlet.
A few famous footballers have taken things further and attacked women physically. It doesn't seem to have done any long term damage to their careers at all.
The message seems to be clear; Make a remark about a woman's colour, ethnicity or religion and you're for the high jump.
Make sexist, lewd comments, deny her opportunities solely down to her gender or physically attack her and it doesn't raise the same outrage.
I understand and accept that by having two daughters, I might not be looking at this objectively. It's still wrong though and it needs addressing. Firm action is needed from a very early age.

tryingreallytrying Mon 17-Feb-14 21:04:40

Great blog, Yas.

This is why I sent my dds to single-sex schools, and also why I wouldn't send my ds to a single-sex school - though the boys you know may be dreadful, Yas, at least they are learning, through mixing with you, that girls are people. (And yes, realise I'm lucky every parent doesm't think tjhis too or the mixed schools would have no girls in.)

I teach teenagers and ALWAYS pick students up on sexist attitudes/comments. Am quite shocked there are teachers who let students get away with rape jokes/porn in class - male teachers, maybe? As clearly this is offensive to female teachers as well as female students.

So glad the new generation of girls is fighting back - the whole 90s lads movement made me so depressed...

mathanxiety Tue 18-Feb-14 05:26:58

How do we get to the point where boys have to learn that girls are people?

neiljames77 Tue 18-Feb-14 17:04:53

mathanxiety - by doing exactly what my youngest daughter is doing. She's going for a career in a very male dominated industry. She's doing her A levels at the moment. When she was asked in the class what she wanted to be, the boys who wanted something similar were sneering and so was the dyed in the wool, crusty old fart of a teacher.
Doesn't make any difference though. She's wiping the floor with them in her tests and is comfortably ahead of all the boys. She's on target to get grade A or A* in all of her science A levels.

mathanxiety Tue 18-Feb-14 17:26:28

Well that's one way to move on, and I agree that's a direction girls women need to have the chutzpah to take, but how did we get to the point where we find ourselves utterly disrespected and held in such contempt right now?

What is the foundation of the attitudes that girls and women battle against?

And also, how do we get boys and men to change? I linked upthread to a programme in an American high school I am familiar with that was designed to tackle the issues by inviting boys to examine images of manhood they are dealing with. Boys and men need to examine the image they have of themselves. I think that is key.

Yas thank you for sharing. I am horrified and gob smacked.

Are there petitions out there?

Are there people we can write to?

My DD is 9 and I don't want her experiencing what you and your friends have experienced in school.

I've been a feminist over 30 years and it was never this bad when I was younger.

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