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Feminism: chat

Schools institutionally sexist?

115 replies

RobynNora · 29/10/2021 18:42

Would be interested to know what people think of this, whether this aligns other's experience and if it bothers you on a day-to-day basis or not?

I was just reading an online chat about the asymmetries of 'Sir' and 'Miss' as titles in schools. Sir having much stronger connotations than Miss, which is a hangup from when women teachers were young and quit when they married. It's been discussed here before.

Someone else commented that people in the corporate world tend not to use marital titles, while most schools still use them, which seems outdated. And that in many schools, nobody uses the gender neutral Ms - especially at primary. Instead, the kids are effectively told which teachers are married or not, while all the men get to be gender neutral. Unfair!

I'm not fussed which titles people use in real life, but in a professional setting, isn't it weird to still use married titles? Won't very small kids think it's important to know if women are married or not and unimportant to know if a man is married or not?

What's more, the senior leadership team at our local primary is entirely male. Most classroom teachers are women. All the cleaners and catering staff without exception are women. It's never commented upon and I sometimes wonder if people don't see it.

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Plotato · 29/10/2021 18:44

I see what you mean about Miss vs Sir bur in every primary I've worked in there have been several teachers who go by Ms.


RobynNora · 29/10/2021 18:45

@Plotato that's cheered me up a bit!

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Plotato · 29/10/2021 18:45

I do completely agree about SLT though. It really gets my back up that nearly all men in primaries are promoted out of classroom teaching, despite being very much in the minority.


Plotato · 29/10/2021 18:46

[quote RobynNora]@Plotato that's cheered me up a bit![/quote]
Sorry, my next post probably brought you back down!


Gardenlass · 29/10/2021 18:48

Won't very small kids think it's important to know if women are married or not and unimportant to know if a man is married or not?
Very small kids are generally concerned about playing, what's for lunch, their friends, and other topics that directly affect them. I very much doubt they're bothered about the marital status of their teachers.


Newgirls · 29/10/2021 18:48

Until Eton etc go co-Ed then yes.

The Ms/Mr thing is old fashioned for sure but don’t think that has as much impact on kids as single sex education, especially at ‘elite’ schools


LoveGrooveDanceParty · 29/10/2021 18:53

What's more, the senior leadership team at our local primary is entirely male.

There are not enough 🙄 in the world for this.

Because, of course, not ONE of the women on the teaching staff could possibly be considered good enough to be LT material. Have you questioned it, OP? How are they reflecting the diverse needs of their staff and school community in their LT?

I’m not in the UK, so ‘Ms’ is widespread here, and certainly many women teachers use it.

My DD’s primary school don’t use titles at all - just first names, including for the Principal (a woman).

DS goes to a private school, and the teachers are referred to as ‘Sir’ and ‘miss’, and like you, it doesn’t sit comfortably with me. One demands respect. The other, not so much.


Toasty280 · 29/10/2021 18:55

My kids went to a private school overseas for a few years and all teachers were just called by their first name. It was a bit of a shock to come back and have to call teachers by mr/mrs/miss lastname. My youngest thought the teachers should call him Mr lastname.


RobynNora · 29/10/2021 18:56

@gardenlass I agree they’re not bothered. They’re also not bothered if every cleaner they encounter is a woman and every high ranking staff member is a fella, but what message is it all sending? And does it matter?

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Grumpyosaurus · 29/10/2021 18:58

I work in a primary where both the male teachers are classroom teachers and neither is part of the SLT (even though one has been there years - he's a subject lead and just enjoys the classroom end of things, I think).

I think there is entrenched sexism, though - towards the DC. Girls get one kind of cutesie colouring book (unicorns and flowers), boys something more roughty-toughty (pirates and spaceships).

The use of playground space used to bug me when my DC were at primary - the boys really dominated it, because of football, four days out of five. The fifth day, the girls were 'allowed' to dominate the footer.


RobynNora · 29/10/2021 18:58

@LoveGrooveDanceParty I’ve not questioned it but think I will. Like most schools nowadays, they talk a good talk about equality too

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LoveGrooveDanceParty · 29/10/2021 19:16

[quote RobynNora]@LoveGrooveDanceParty I’ve not questioned it but think I will. Like most schools nowadays, they talk a good talk about equality too[/quote]

It’s an entirely reasonable question. It will be interesting to see what they come back with.


AICM · 29/10/2021 19:57

Should teachers remove engagement and wedding rings to ensure their marital status is kept from the kids?


AICM · 29/10/2021 19:59

At my primary school 100% of the SLT are white women.


LoveGrooveDanceParty · 29/10/2021 20:03


Should teachers remove engagement and wedding rings to ensure their marital status is kept from the kids?

Yes. That’s exactly what’s being said.

lazylinguist · 29/10/2021 20:09

I had a teacher who was Ms in the 80s! Lots are Ms now, and many keep their maiden names at work even if they are Mrs at home. There's certainly no feeling that they shouldn't do that - not in any of the schools I've worked at in the last 25 years.

As for the Miss/Sir thing. I sort of see what you mean, but it doesn't feel unequal to me tbh. The kids have no notion of sir being a superior or less marital-status-related thing than miss, I don’t think. To them it just means 'male teacher' or 'female teacher'.


noblegiraffe · 29/10/2021 20:20

The gender pay gap in some schools/MATs is horrendous, and while teaching is a heavily female dominated profession, only 38% of secondary headteachers are female.


campion · 29/10/2021 20:25

Plenty of my colleagues have been Miss maiden name rather than Mrs married name, thus keeping their professional and private lives separate. That included the head. So it told the students nothing.

Also, I've never allowed anyone to address me as 'Miss' ; I have a name. The use of Ms is pretty widespread and not a problem if you want to be known that way. But it is a choice and shouldn't be imposed.

Children don't tend to take too much notice anyway : I was frequently 'Mrs' C before I got married and the 'Miss' C afterwards. 'Ms' would obviously have made that easier except it's not my preference.


AICM · 29/10/2021 20:27


What has been suggested is a way of stopping children knowing the relationship status of teachers. My idea is no more or less stupid than any other on this thread.


LadyMonicaBaddingham · 29/10/2021 20:38

Actually, I prefer 'Miss [first name] to Ms/ Mrs [surname] but that's because the school disapproves of my allowing the children to call me simply by my first name. They 'get away with it' if no-one notices though


RobynNora · 29/10/2021 20:43

I can’t speak for others @AICM but it doesn’t bother me that children would know their status. It’s more that the default for men is Mr while the default for women is Miss/Mrs, which sends a message that we should care whether or not a female teacher is married while nobody cares whether a male teacher is married. This stuff all shapes a child’s view of the world, especially at this age when teachers are a hugely significant part of a child’s life.

@noblegiraffe - yikes. Sobering stats.

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RobynNora · 29/10/2021 20:44

Forget Miss, Mrs or Ms! I would just use your user name @LadyMonicaBaddingham

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Gosports · 29/10/2021 20:49

I totally agree @RobynNora. It’s the insidious nature of it, even if the kids don’t comment on it. ‘Sir’ commands respect. ‘Miss’ doesn’t carry the same clout.


RobynNora · 29/10/2021 20:52

@campion I respect that many women don’t like Ms and used to share your view that it shouldn’t be imposed. But I think I’m changing my mind. Raising non sexist kids is now more important to me that letting women use a marital title at work while men are not. Appreciate this is a deeply unpopular view!

It does seem dictatorial to impose ‘Ms’ though if people dislike it! Maybe schools should get rid of titles entirely?

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MrsTerryPratchett · 29/10/2021 20:53

I'm always depressed at the amount of space boys take up compared to girls. The whole outdoor area is screaming, running boys. The girls are relegated or suffer shoves and bumps. I gave one boy shit for throwing a ball at a girl before school started. It's violence and the threat of it is real. Add to that sexual harassment from boys.

I'm teaching DD to take up space.

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