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Sexism, sex and gender in primary education

(17 Posts)
MrsTerryPratchett Mon 06-Jun-16 14:45:01

I knew DD (5) was learning about equality and 'all families are different and great' at school. She's just told me that because she likes ninjas, she has a 'boy brain' based on what her teacher has told her.

I want to address it. But I want to do it in a way that won't get me branded a bigot and ignored. So I thought what I would do is solely address the sexism aspect. I thought I would ask them what they do to work on stereotypes and sexism. Possibly suggest something like Redraw the Balance. I know a female fire fighter so I could supply one!

What do you think?

I've already addressed it with DD but she's in that infuriating 'my teacher is always right' stage. Grr.

ThatStewie Mon 06-Jun-16 14:46:51

I would go spare if that happened to my kid. TBH, I'm not sure there is anyway to deal with this that doesn't invoke Cordelia Fine

ThatStewie Mon 06-Jun-16 14:47:23

and -shouting--

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 06-Jun-16 14:53:39

Not even the UK. It's everywhere, believe me.

Why they have to address this when they do such a piss poor job of addressing the massive inequalities around sex and race, I have no clue. Actually, I do, it's the patriarchy, isn't it?

ChocChocPorridge Mon 06-Jun-16 15:04:27

The amount of lazy splitting the class by boys and girls annoys me intensely - and it is worse at DS1's current school (International ie. American) than it was at his plain UK primary (which was actually pretty good, barring one PTA Christmas raffle hamper incident that I and another mother quietly subverted by ignoring the recommended toys/books in favour of any gender ones - cowardly, but first time mums at the school trying to avoid a reputation).

I think all you can do with her is laugh it off and look like it's incomprehensible to you that there's any difference. It's what I did when DS came home with the whole pink for girls/blue for boys thing, and it seemed to have worked (helped because he's always known that my favourite colour is blue, and DP always tells him his is purple).

With the teacher - depends how confident you are being that mother (I have discovered some inner tiger at DS1's new school) - pointed show and tell items/projects where you have a chance? I raised some breathtakingly biased worksheets that came home with the class teacher at a parent's evening and she admitted that she hadn't really thought about it, but it was true, and she'd be changing them before using them again - she was an excellent teacher - and honestly hadn't realised, and was properly appalled when she read it to herself and thought about it.

SpeakNoWords Mon 06-Jun-16 15:08:03

Is this a UK state primary school? My DS1 starts reception in Sept and thisis the kind of nonsense that I worry he might be exposed to...

VashtaNerada Mon 06-Jun-16 15:11:16

I would contact the head and ask for an appointment to discuss as surely the teacher can't really have said something as silly and sexist as 'boy brains'. It may be the head is equally as horrified!
I contacted DD's infants school after some sexism from the teachers and the head was great.

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 06-Jun-16 15:11:24

Is this a UK state primary school? No, but I doubt you're safe.

I do worry about her because she's very loud, active and opinionated so already fighting the stereotype.

All her teacher appears to have done about sexism is, one month from the end of the year, told the children that girls are allowed to play with Lego too. After months of the boys hogging it.

I despair.

MrsTerryPratchett Mon 06-Jun-16 15:12:21

It may be the head is equally as horrified! The Head is known to be completely ineffectual. There is a new Head next year. Do I wait or do I address the old and the new Head?

VashtaNerada Mon 06-Jun-16 15:13:47

To avoid the bigot label, don't mention trans or anything like that - many trans people don't believe in 'boy brains' so it sounds more like ignorance on behalf of the teacher rather than a trans agenda (if that is what you were thinking). I had a good chat with a trans person who talks about gender stereotyping in schools and there is NO WAY he'd talk about boy or girl brains like that.

VashtaNerada Mon 06-Jun-16 15:14:52

Oh dear (about the ineffectual Head) - I'd still give it a go! Throw around a few terms like Public Sector Equality Duty and you might scare them!

sashh Mon 06-Jun-16 22:56:34

She's just told me that because she likes ninjas, she has a 'boy brain' based on what her teacher has told her.

I'd like your dd to ask her teachers whether the muslim women who cover all but their faces and are sometimes known as 'ninjas' have boy brains?

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 07-Jun-16 00:13:05

So would I.

Her teacher wasn't there today. She is also, I suspect, pretty into gender roles. She's all heels, pink, make up and all the trimming. Nothing wrong with any of that but I suspect she is fine with very fixed gender roles.

MrsJamin Tue 07-Jun-16 07:12:15

Ffs you have to challenge this! What danger a teacher could have by saying children have the opposite sex's brain! I despair. angry

LurcioAgain Tue 07-Jun-16 10:26:17

Argh! Sounds like the school is a complete nightmare.

In terms of what you can do to redress this at home, my experience with DS was that google image search is your friend! He went through the peak gender-role-policing stage at about the age of 5. (I believe this is typical and to do with child development - what parents can do, if neuroscientist Lise Elliot's advice is right on this one, is to delay the start of this stage, and help their child out of it reasonably quickly. Incidentally when I say "to do with child development", it's not specific to gender - children of this age are starting to categorise themselves in all sorts of ways, to do with developing a sense of who they themselves are, distinct from other people, but because they are only 5, their categories are very black-and-white with no nuance to them).

With DS, when he said things like "girls can't be prime minister/ generals/ doctors..." the way forward was to google that, and show him pictures of women doing just these things.

Likewise a few years later when he decided to grow his hair long and got some flack from his school friends (which the school and his teacher handled brilliantly - to the extent that his school friends started standing up to him outside school) and more so from adults (who were much more of a problem in the long term) again, we spent a lot of time googling footballers he admired and finding them in their "long haired" phases!

I guess what I'm trying to say is you can't easily distill Cordelia Fine for a 5 year old, but you can take their simple rules then find pictures which are exceptions to those rules, and just say "but what about...?"

MrsTerryPratchett Tue 07-Jun-16 14:50:30

Thanks Lurcio. DH is angry too and is signing her up for karate and waxing on (get it?) about female ninjas in his talking-to-the-fruit-of-my-loins-about-martial-arts voice. It's very sweet. He's a black belt and is horrified. I think he had a small Olympics martial arts dream so the more ninjas the better.

I'll see if the teacher is back today. Unfortunately the word is that she has been dealing with some rough family stuff so I can't tackle her as soon as I'd like. She loathes me anyway so I don't want to totally mess up DD's last couple of weeks.

HermioneWeasley Tue 07-Jun-16 19:48:56

I would ask why they are teaching something that has no basis in science? How dare they teach this shit about "boys brains" etc?

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