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Isolated for challenging boys at school

(36 Posts)
getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 11:06:39

DD (13) has just made her first foray into fighting the good fight at school, but is now feeling wounded and isolated and upset.

She asked her teacher to address the fact that she was allocated (by the boys) a supporting/passive role in a team where she is the only girl and does not want this role. They have, boringly & inevitably, given themselves the front and centre positions.

She was angry at how unfair this was and the fact that she was given no choice and that they will not negotiate.

At the weekend she wrote a fabulous letter to her teacher saying that as a minority female in her class and team (and school for that matter) she should not a) have a role that she does not want foisted on her by the boys and b) that she should be able to chose a more prominent/active role - she described it in terms of positive discrimination, visibility and opportunity for her as a female pupil.

The teacher (male) has been excellent and supported her position and directed the team to re-allocate the roles. They (the boys) have entirely ignored the direction, slagged her off to the entire class, gone off and worked on the project without her and she is now facing commentary and hassle from her whole class (girls included). She says "no one gets it Mum" and is feeling really bruised, even the sympathetic girls don't really understand where she is coming from with this. She has been told that she is being sexist, that it isn't sexist, what if it were a boy (erm - not even remotely the issue - because, dur, she isn't), she got told by a girl she has "read too much feminism" !!! Some of the comments are now veering into bullying.

My heart is breaking for her and I feel so guilty that I have sensitised her and essentially made her vulnerable to attack; she challenges something (and is right to) and then she has to go out and fight this crap on her own. The isolation of expressing a feminist opinion, socially, is horrible - how do I show her that there is solidarity out there and women who understand and believe her? I am so proud of her.

She is tired and torn between just giving it up, and really not wanting to roll over. She knows about @everydaysexism - but what else can I do? I feel awful saying, this is how the world is and you have to keep on fighting.

GuardianLions Mon 17-Apr-17 12:08:27

Totally love your daughter.
I remember arguing a lot as a teen and although it did pit me against people, and made be frequently feel isolated or in a state of constant combat simply for wanting to socialise, I just couldn't take all the sexism lying down.
In my first feminist meeting (a book group), I was feeling worn down, I told the women about how my brother had kindly told me to rein myself in a bit, stop using words like 'patriarchy' that would immediately make people switch off and see me as an idiot, and how he used to want to rail against unfairness, but he had learned to accept things as they are, and make the best of things instead of 'trying to change the world'. He was really close to convincing me there was just a problem with my personality.
Lucky for me without a second's hesitation, another book group member said "Well he would be okay with accepting the world as it is wouldn't he? The injustice works to his advantage." Touche!

Having said that, I don't think that joining feminist groups is the only solution, if I could turn back time, I think I would be using the system, such as complaining to teachers, etc, in the way you have done. Perhaps even starting up a feminist group in the school or insisting certain topics get taught. I am pleased to see how well that is working out, and think that... well... more of that is a good thing, not just for your daughter, but for the whole school and all the pupils in it.
Well done both!

Datun Mon 03-Apr-17 15:21:58

getoffthesofa

I read your OP with a sinking heart. I instantly felt torn. Huge admiration for your daughter, but all my maternal protection coming to the fore wanting to keep her from the backlash.

I'm so glad it didn't go as far as it could have. And it sounds like the teacher gets it. I wonder if there could be a lesson on the back of this?

Maybe a class discussion about something topical, or popular where a child (maybe one of each sex to make it fair) record how many times the boys speak and how many times the girls speak. But no one is told that beforehand.

It would be interesting to see if there is a discrepancy. And a discussion could flow from that. It might open up people's eyes.

This world needs women like your daughter. You must be very proud.

getoffthesofa Sat 01-Apr-17 11:54:34

It would be so great for DD to know some boys who actually get it. I guess at 13 they are still very young, but if anyone at all had actually understood, she might have felt a bit better. So good that he gets positive discrimination and recognises the behaviour of the boys steam-rollering over the girls. You have clearly done a v gd job with him. more like him please world!

SeaRabbit Sat 01-Apr-17 09:52:02

I think she's been great too.

I am proudest of my DS (17) when he's a feminist - he runs a sort of debating club at school and always encourages the girls to speak since as he says the boys will otherwise talk over them and also the girls say more sensible things. And when he ran a quiz team recently he made sure there was at least one girl on his team of 4 by asking a girl to join - lots of boys volunteered but no girls. His school needs more girls like your DD - there are some but they are a tiny proportion - it's sad.

getoffthesofa Thu 30-Mar-17 12:10:53

It's that Monty Python thing: "He's not the messiah! He's a very naughty boy" wink

LevantineHummus Thu 30-Mar-17 10:24:21

That made me laugh OP, rather a lot!

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 23:06:07

Oh gosh, you women are so kind. This feminist-ing /parenting lark is tough, but maybe just today I feel like we are on the right track?

But pride comes before...etc. Tomorrow we will be back to arguments about picking up your own pants and finishing homework.

quencher Wed 29-Mar-17 22:43:52

Am so proud of both of you, especially your Dd. You have an amazing child on your hands and she will be a joy to the world. She is teaching the kids in her class a thing or two. It won't always go her way but being brave is what counts. It changes things.

Your post made me teary in the eyes. In a good way because it shows hope that there are young people out there to follow our footsteps.

Chaotica Wed 29-Mar-17 22:33:00

I'm impressed by your DD too OP. That is awesome.

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 22:26:53

I v much like the essay idea! Will tell her! But seriously- until men and boys put the bloody work in all the emotional and intellectual labour is left to women.

The pressure is on her now to do well and "show them" - it's that usual thing of grls and women having to work twice as hard to prove themselves against less worthy men.

Argh. I can bear the fact that all this plays out over and over again.

LevantineHummus Wed 29-Mar-17 22:02:05

*repercussion for the boys!

LevantineHummus Wed 29-Mar-17 22:01:30

Wow! Your daughter's awesome! In the truest sense of the word! Totally staggering!

Agree too there should be some repercussion from this. Personally I'd go for extra work set like an essay on the women's rights movement or what male privilege is..to be marked by your daughter!!

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 21:26:12

The bigest breakthrough is her not giving a shit - wanting to be liked and courting favour messes up so many girls and I think causes them to sell themselves short. I hope this feeling lasts for her.

OpalIridescence Wed 29-Mar-17 21:13:00

No, it should not fall on your daughter to educate and face down this group so I am glad she has been moved for that reason.

I hope she does really well on her project and craps all over the original groups grade never looses her spirit.

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 20:45:05

Personally I agree entirely and I don't understand why they are allowed to get away with ignoring a clear instruction, but that is my issue with the school not hers. Practically, though she is not having to work with them and can complete her assignment. I think the working together option wasn't going to happen as they were intractable, and she would have to be really tough to face them off in this. She is relieved and can move forward.

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 29-Mar-17 19:33:37

Totally agree that the boys should have faced a penalty for disobeying the teachers instructions and for their sexist behaviour. Essentially they have got away with what they've done. I wonder if this will be taken into account when their work is graded?

OpalIridescence Wed 29-Mar-17 19:29:56

Hmmmm to the teacher moving your daughter rather than punishing the boys.

I know it is easier on your daughter to take her out of the situation but I really wish the boys had faced some sort of repercussion for blatantly trying to steamroller a classmate and then ignore the challenge to this, grrrrr.

However your daughter should feel really proud of herself, she did something very difficult and got people to talk about and question this situation.

The image of the women holding the sign above is really pertinent, when I read your OP that is exactly what I thought.

Well done again to your girl, deep thinking and made of strong stuff, makes me smile to think of her grin

SheilaFentiman Wed 29-Mar-17 19:24:15

No, to be cowed is not gendered. It's from the same root as coward, I think.

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 19:07:13

So she has come home in very good spirits! The resolution is not entirely great, but her teacher spoke to her team, told the boys they had behaved badly and that he agreed entirely with her (though there are no repercussions for them), but she has been moved to another group. I think/hope this diffuses it. She says no one really gets it but people have been discussing it all day - and this seems to please her a bit - I don't think she has ever felt her own effect before. She also says she actually doesn't care what other people think, when she knows they are wrong in this way. She also said she hopes other girls will see what is going on when they feel uncomfortable in similar situations, and will see what she has been talking about.

I am ridiculously proud of how resilient she is being and that she is not cowed (is that a gendered insult?!) by all of this. She loved the comments you have posted and I think is feeling like it's okay to speak up. Thanks so much for support and suggestions here for her and me - it is really good to know there is somewhere to go where people get it and care.

OlennasWimple Wed 29-Mar-17 14:09:42

<high five for getoff's DD>

ZombieApocalips Wed 29-Mar-17 14:06:46

I have a dd the same age. There is a huge difference between the opinions that she expresses at school and the ones that she holds privately.
For example she knows a girl who is sexually active and in front of peers she talks about this in a very matter of fact way. Privately she thinks that anything more than kissing is outrageous for her age.
In my opinion, many teens consider themselves individuals but find themselves most comfortable being like everyone else. If you asked everyone in the class in private, most would agree with your dd.

Does she know the poem First They Came For The Jews? I know that this isn't a Holocaust situation but we should stick up for people in the right.

AssassinatedBeauty Wed 29-Mar-17 14:02:18

Your DD is doing amazingly well to challenge this sort of thing. I hope her teacher tells the boys in her group how crappy they're being and ideally gives them a very poor mark, as they haven't done the task as expected. They should also be appropriately disciplined for ignoring his instructions to reallocate roles. Needless to say the bullying should also be dealt with, and maybe the whole class should be spoken to about bullying.

getoffthesofa Wed 29-Mar-17 13:52:36

He has been pretty good, and has said she should get back to him with anymore issues. She emailed him last night, but I don't know result yet. Just got a cheerful text, so hoping today going better.

Isitjustmeorisiteveryoneelse Wed 29-Mar-17 13:39:15

hamlets suggestions are excellent. Does the teacher know what has been going on since? If the teacher has been good so far maybe another discussion about how this can now be used in the way hamlet suggests, to educate the rest of the class, would be a good idea.

claraschu Wed 29-Mar-17 13:30:58

Has she seen the movie "Suffragette" or something similar? Remind her of how hard people have to fight to get rights which later generations take for granted.

If she is a Harry Potter fan, you could also quote Dumbledore from the end of The Philosopher's Stone: "There are all kinds of courage," said Dumbledore, smiling. "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” I occasionally remind my daughter of this, (but only because she loves and knows the books so well).

I think your daughter is wonderful to speak up for herself and for others. She is brave at a moment when 99% of girls are too worried about what their friends think to be able to think for themselves. I would be incredibly proud if any of my kids had this sort of courage!

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