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Primary school headteacher - sexist?

(76 Posts)
Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 16:17:05

We went to look round a primary school today, as our DD will be starting school in September.

The headteacher was showing us their outdoor space and he said, "It's great because boys - and some girls - like to play robustly outdoors."

Do you think this is sexist? It really set my teeth on edge. They asked for feedback at the end of the visit, and I wrote down that I was disappointed to hear such gendered language from a leader, but now I'm second-guessing myself and wondering if I was overreacting.

Pizanfan Wed 16-Nov-16 16:42:54

If this use of language was literally it, then what are you thinking?

He specifically says boys and some girls, clearly he means those girls who chose to play robustly.

I suspect that by complaining that he used the words boys and girlsyour comments have resulted in an eye roll.

ElizaSchuyler Wed 16-Nov-16 16:44:21

Did you want him to lie?

He was saying what the current cohort like to do.

ReggaeShark Wed 16-Nov-16 16:44:45

They'll be hoping you don't apply OP grin.

trevortrevorslatterfry Wed 16-Nov-16 16:45:12


not all boys etc etc

Gizlotsmum Wed 16-Nov-16 16:48:58

I guess it is a bit sexist, not all boys like robust play but I probably would have let it pass over my head

Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 16:59:03

I have no problem - of course - that he used the words "boys" and "girls" - that would be bizarre.

My concern is his assumption that boys are more inclined than girls are to "robust" play. And potentially reinforcing that in a learning environment.

He was talking about Reception kids in generally, not the current cohort - there are no differences in the way these children play or should be encouraged to play.

I suspect he will be hoping we don't apply. Similarly, we will be hoping that's not the school we are allocated. (More for the enforced "Prayer Corner" if I'm honest, but the casual sexism didn't go down well either.)

TreehouseTales Wed 16-Nov-16 17:02:51

I'd not be so keen on the prayer corner but I think you might be overthinking it - it may well be that "boys and some girls" do play like that. Similarly its mainly boys that play football at my daughters school. I'm v up for inclusivity but hes not saying only boys can do it, just describing how its used surely.

There will be so much more to come that is worth arguing about (girl/boy uniform differences, gendered santa presents...)

VestalVirgin Wed 16-Nov-16 17:04:07

It may be true to an extent, but why state it?

Would someone say "It is great we have more police force now, because men, and some women, are so criminal and violent"?
Sure, men are much, much more likely to be criminals than women, but people usually manage to talk about crime without stating this fact.

Also, if you want the parents of children of both sexes to think that this school is a great school, such a statement is idiotic.
"It is good for children to play outside" would be a much better way to emphasize how great this outdoor space is, even if you don't feel confident in claiming that all children will like it.

Pizanfan Wed 16-Nov-16 17:04:36

Well technically speaking Androgens are more prevalent in higher levels in boys than girls, and can determine male behaviours.

So Boys are more likely to play robustly than girls, biologically.

VestalVirgin Wed 16-Nov-16 17:10:47

I think I figured out why I dislike this statement so much: It implies that he primarly wants to cater to the boys, and expects the parents to thik the same way.

As I wrote above, if you want all parents to think that this is a good school for their children, you will point out the advantages in a way that applies to all children: "Playing outdoors is good for children - look, we have this great outdoor space!" and "Reading broadens the horizon - look, we have this great library!"

(Can you imagine someone emphasizing that the girls (and some boys) like to read the books in the library and the library is therefore a great thing for a school to have? This would be true, too, in most places, but I am pretty sure teachers would not proudly announce this fact to visiting parents.)

TreehouseTales Wed 16-Nov-16 17:13:43

I honestly think you're reading to much into it. Its a big thing sending your child to school, and there's bound to be bigger things you will actually disagree on. I think trying to pick up on something that may have been not entirely right but is factual really isnt the way forwards.

ClaudiaApfelstrudel Wed 16-Nov-16 17:14:31

Considering you have a daughter, I think he was a little bit unreasonable. It's almost as if he were saying 'Boys like to use this space, but as you have a daughter I'll say girls as well'. Presumably there are also some boys who wouldn't like to play in such a robust way. Why mention the gender at all?

Having said that I don't think it's fair to judge completely on this throw away spur of the moment comment.

BabyGanoush Wed 16-Nov-16 17:15:56

Goodness OP, are you part of the "professionally offended"?!

Meeep Wed 16-Nov-16 17:18:35

I do roll my eyes when people say things like that, but I wouldn't bother writing a comment about it. I'm resigned.

pieceofpurplesky Wed 16-Nov-16 17:22:41

OP have you spent much time in reception? Because if you had you would know that what he said was true! Boys do like to play outside as do some girls. Some girls prefer to stay around playing house and mummies and daddies. As much as it is gender stereotyping it does happen. Not many boys really want to be bossed around by girls and made tonne the baby - preferring to be outside. Sad but true

Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 17:24:17

Yes, VestalVirgin, that's exactly it. It isn't at all relevant which gender may choose to use the outdoor space or the library - the important part is that it's there to be used by everybody.

Additionally my one-year old, who was with me, waved at a member of staff, who said, "What a lovely boy." I mentioned she was a girl (no drama - not offended in the slightest) and then she said, "Oh yes, I can see some pink flowers on her socks now." Socks, which by the way were a hand-me-down from her male cousin.

BabyGanoush Maybe I am part of the professionally offended. I just see so much to be offended by, and the assumption that male is default and that girls are supposed to look pretty and wear pink and be passive and not robust gets on my tits. I had hoped the next generations we were raising would be moving forward but sadly it seems not.

I'm hardly making a massive thing of it - I mentioned on my feedback form (which I handed to the head) that I was disappointed by his statement, but it's not as if I'm going to the papers or starting a petition to get him sacked. I'm aware it was a throwaway comment, but the failure to be conscious and appropriate in our language can show deep-seated prejudices.

Shallishanti Wed 16-Nov-16 17:26:49

you think that's bad- when we went to look round DS1's primary, the head spoke to us as a group - as it happened, all white parents- and told us
'I'm sure you've noticed that we do have quite a few- ah- asian children here. Now I don't want you to worry, in fact these children are just as intelligent, and do just as well as our children, so no need to worry at all'shock
a few glances were exchanged
we did send him there, in spite of the HT, figuring he was near retirement
it was the early 90s, but it was shocking even then.

Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 17:27:09

pieceofpurplesky I also hate the word "bossy" when used about girls - particularly when we are talking about them being directive or assertive with boys!

Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 17:28:53

Shallishanti That's awful. Those poor Asian kids. I hope they all went to Oxbridge. smile

Xenophile Wed 16-Nov-16 17:29:59

Prayer corner would be a deal breaker for a lot of parents, is it a church school?

If in the UK, and you feel that the school is putting up subtle barriers to girls utilising the outdoor area, then you would have grounds for complaint. Even so, in this day and age, it's a weird thing to highlight.

Sadly, school is where all our careful gender neutral parenting comes apart, so be ready for the cries of "I don't want that one, it's pink and pink is for girls" or blue for boys or whatever.

Lules Wed 16-Nov-16 17:39:39

Something can be both sexist and relatively unimportant. This was sexist because it rests on assumptions about what boys (all boys) and girls like. So no you weren't wrong to mention it and it doesn't imply that there aren't more important things to worry about as some pp seem to suggest

YonicProbe Wed 16-Nov-16 17:41:20

Of course YANBU and you aren't a PO.

This is the conditioning shit that adults need to watch for in themselves and schools should be hyper aware.

Would he say "and here is the library, great for the studious Asian kids"? Doubt it.

RufusTheSpartacusReindeer Wed 16-Nov-16 17:42:37

He should have said some boys and girls like to play robustly

Its the lack of some boys that is a bit jarring

Octoberrat Wed 16-Nov-16 17:45:54

Yes, it is a church school. We don't have much choice around here. We are hoping to get her into the one non-faith school in the area, but we may end up with this school, as it is the closest to us.

As an atheist, I want our children to be tolerant of all religions, but able to challenge religious ideals they may disagree with. I do hate that religion is practised in schools. At a push, I can cope with a bit of hymn singing, but the school has massive posters up asking, "What can you say sorry to God for today?"

My daughter is four years old, and has absolutely fucking nothing to apologise for. But I am aware this is a feminism board, and I'm straying into atheism waters!

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