Casual sexist remarks at school/college that stayed with you?(88 Posts)
I was just wondering about the impact of casual sexism. I don't mean sustained, serious, shocking things - I mean the off-the-cuff remarks that didn't seem important at the time, but that really stayed with you.
I remember really clearly, overhearing my teacher saying to another teacher: 'A lot of them are really ladylike, and then there's [myname]!'
It is a little bit funny, I know - and I know exactly what they meant - but I was thinking about the way I remember this once chance comment twenty years on. I thought of it because one of my mates just mentioned her lecturer (female) turned to her calmly and say 'Jenny, do you ever stop to let the boys get a word in edgewise?!' Not, 'the other students' but 'the boys'.
What about you?
I was told I wasn't any good at physics because I was a girl.
I got 100% in my next project and then stopped giving a shit about getting grades.
Well, I remember being told by my primary school headmaster that 'girls are never very good at chess' - I didn't really have any particular interest in the game, but I was top of the chess ladder within a week and remained captain of the school club until I left I was, possibly, something of a bloody-minded child . . .
at the 100%. But ouch. That's just incredibly wanky.
I was told that by the male teacher, at a parent's evening BTW. Was back in 1983/4 though so maybe things have changed.
In a religious studies class, talking about marriage, a teacher informed us that men "don't want second-hand goods". This was in 1989, not 1889.
A bit like duelling with her physics project, we all responded by shagging around like crazy.
I was denied a try out for the primary school football team because I was a girl eventually the boys on the team requested they let me join because I was better than the rest of them
I then started a protest about not being allowed to wear trousers (again because of my genitals saw me destined to skirts and dresses), the headmaster gave the biggest sigh and said to my Mum that I was going to be 'one of those problem women when I was older' cheeky misogynist fucker.
In the 6th form, we were allowed to wear anything we liked, as long it was in the school colours and not denim (the biggest sin going.) So as it was summer, and I was cycling a lot, I wore grey shorts. I was called into the deputy head's office and told they weren't appropriate. "They're longer than D's skirt!"I argued. "Yes, dear, but she's got the legs for it."
I spent my life cycling, swimming and walking back then. My legs were pretty good. And they weren't relevant anyway.
When we were in the upper sixth, we could wear "clothes suitable for an office environment". The housemaster clarified this meant you could wear short skirts if your legs were good enough and listed the girls he thought qualified.
I tended to wear long skirts or more usually scruffy trousers then, but on the occasions I wear short dresses now, people always observe they've known me for over 10 years and never seen my knees before.
My mother used to say I'd never find a boyfriend/a man to marry me if I didn't wear girly clothes/put on makeup etc. I often look at MrNC and think "ner ner ner ner ner"...
I was told to be ladylike a lot. Clearly wasn't very good at it.
My Dad said I was too picky and would never find a man up to my unreasonable standards. (fwiw, found several. But even as a youngster i knew better to have a life alone than a life with any old Tom or Harry with a dick.)
I went from an all girl secondary to a mixed sixth form.
The boys used to make comments about my boobs and the teacher would laugh. Bastard.
When I was five years old and going to move the benches for PE, the teacher said "let the boys move the benches". I have spent a lifetime not letting any bloke help me lift anything that can be carried by one person.
PS - it's what made me a feminist
At school during a home ec lesson our physics reached strode through and said something to the effect that girls should be there doing the washing up rather than in his lab. He was an idiot. That's why I'm not an astronaut now. Maybe I should sue the school? I make a damn good quiche though.
I remember my Dad saying to me as a teenager, "you don't do anything. You can't even cook!" (I doubt he ever said that to my brothers).
And he always said it was worth sending me to university because if "you educate a woman, you educate a family".
And my Biology teacher "typical reaction from a girl!"
My History teacher "girls always want to work with animals or children don't they?!"
'Careers ' master " what do you want to do O levels for ? You're a pretty girl you will get married " I was only about 12 ( in the 1970s) but I remember being really cross.
When I was about 15, my form tutor, upon me informing him I wanted to study medicine said, 'I think you should do nursing?'. I was one of the top 5 at school in science, there wa no bloody reason why I couldn't have done medicine if I wanted. Nursing is brilliant and academically challenging career too, but he was a dinosaur (and taught woodwork) so this was about suggesting a career that he felt was more appropriate for a GIRL, not helpfully thinking it a suitable career path.
I laughed it off at the time, but perhaps it does explain why I dropped A level chemistry for being 'too hard' (i.e. something I had to work at for the first time in my life).
Mind you, it was a school that had major issues with aspiration anyway. The Head of Upper School's 'inspirational' speech was about how much she looked forward to 'seeing the girls with their babies in prams in a few years'. This was in about 1997. Not long ago, really.
On telling the school my desired career at the time - 'you can't do that because you're a girl'.
Art teacher (male) used to make the girls in the class stay behind to tidy up.
I'm wondering if these are more likely to happen at mixed sex schools compared to single.
I went to an all girls, with a brilliant (though terrifying) female head and a good balance of female and male teachers and I can't recall hearing any remarks like that.
Another one that stuck with me..
The head teacher (a nun in an all girls' school) talking about my choice of career. Bright girls like you should be teachers, the kind ones should be nurses and the others should be secretaries. She didn't approve of my choice of career. So she managed to insult everyone in one single sentence.
Things were so bad in the 70s, I seriously thought Woman was a dirty word, I couldn't quite believe I would one day be one, anyway, these two stick out:
At school 'You Woman' as an insult
1st driving instructor, women can't reverse, they lack a specific mechanism in their brain
My headmaster at primary school told me boys were more intelligent and had more potential than girls as they grew older .
My home economics teacher asked me if my mother ever showed me how to cook
because clearly I was useless at it and it was my mother's job to sort that out. She was far and away the worst teacher I ever had. She'd really invested in the patriarchy. Several levels of cognitive dissonance going on. I solved her problem of being shit at cooking and bagged a husband who does it for me. <Disclaimer: I am not actually shit at cooking and DH has other qualities like cleaning which make him excellent material as a husband>.
And yes 'ladylike' was something I never achieved. Another disappointment for Home Ec teacher. I'm gutted I tell you, gutted.
We had deportment stars.
Guess who never got one because she "walked like a boy"
I was terribly unladylike.
When I was 15, I turned up to school with a shaved head after the Christmas break. My mum had cancer at the time and my younger sister and I shaved our heads in an impromptu gesture of solidarity. We spent a blissful festive season together, all bald and loved up. Mum made a full recovery some years later and all our hair grew back.
The school's reaction was something else. My favourite teacher stared at me in disbelief and asked me why I made myself ugly on purpose. I remember being a bit stunned by her reaction - it was only hair and why did it matter to others what I looked like anyway? To this day I think this experience of her shock makes me check my appearance against the expectations of others, which I really dislike doing.
In my first week back at medical school after taking a year old to have dd, I was asked why I wasn't at home looking after my dd, like his wife, who was a good mother.
This was 2011.
Join the discussion
Please login first.