Education and Misogyny
Education can’t tackle misogyny while it is complicit in it
As an educator and a former safeguarding lead, I have been asked many times in recent months about what schools should do to ensure young people have supported conversations about misogyny, sexual assault & harassment, and the treatment of girls and women in society.
I absolutely believe it is the place of education to challenge the rise of popularised misogyny. In 2017 the National Education Union produced a report with UK Feminista entitled It’s just everywhere – sexism in schools. We have developed resources for schools and colleges, including delivering training on the adultification of black girls after the horrific case of Child Q, and continue to support our members to confront these issues in their workplaces.
Laura Bates gave her celebrated Ted Talk Everyday Sexism in 2014. Every year after I used it in the classroom with my Sixth Formers. It remains every bit as hard hitting as the first time I watched it. The discussion afterwards would elicit an outpouring from young women of their own experiences, and a realisation that the treatment they encounter on a daily basis is sexual assault or harassment. Young men would also be angry that they hadn’t always stood up and spoken out and talked about the abuse they receive when they do.
The stratospheric rise to fame of Andrew Tate, the normalisation in some parts of society and the acceptance of his views and behaviours clearly show that work in schools and movements such as #MeToo, Every Day Sexism and Everyone’s Invited have not had the long-lasting impact on society that we need.
Of course, it isn’t every man. But it is every woman, your sister, your daughter, your partner, your colleague.
Ask a woman who works in the hospitality industry about their experience. I’m not talking Presidents Club-type events here; I’m talking about your local pub or pizza restaurant. They will tell you about being groped as you reach for a glass, verbally abused when you don’t respond to the tenth sexual innuendo of the evening, having your hand pulled onto a stranger’s genitals as you serve the main course. It’s the reason I hate celebrating New Year’s Eve. Too many triggering memories of men thinking it gave them free reign to maul and molest you, thinking that because they’d paid for a pint, they should get access to your body with it.
Well, that’s what you get working in a male dominated environment, that’s what you get for working in the night-time economy. If you don’t like it, find a job elsewhere.
That is the reality for any woman who speaks out. You are gaslighted, made to feel ungrateful for the attention. You talk to your friends; they try to reassure you it’s just that workplace. They know it isn’t.
We must confront the misogyny, sexism, harassment and abuse that are still a normal part of women's experience of working in education
For the last twenty years I have worked in a female-dominated environment, education. Time and time again I have lived through a real version of Arabella Weir’s The Girl Who Boys Can’t Hear sketch. You make a proposal in a meeting, it is ignored. It is repeated by a male colleague ten minutes later to great adoration. You decide on an action and there is a patronising ‘well done’ mouthed from across the room. The way you deal with behaviour management is contradicted by a man who uses their physical size and stature to belittle you. Your resources and expertise are taken credit for. Women report instances of being undermined, demeaned, and ignored by male colleagues.,
In a profession of over 76% women, they are still less likely to receive automatic pay progression than male colleagues. Worse if you are a black woman, over 50 or disabled.
Women working in education have told me when they report sexual harassment and assault, just like those in the hospitality industry, they were discouraged from making a complaint. When they do, they are told it was just ‘banter’, that they are being oversensitive or most horrifically that they might have instigated it. Women tell me that when they say something the incident reports that follow too often contain information about what they were wearing, their relationship status and age. They are told to change their story.
If schools and education are to be part of the solution, then they cannot continue to be complicit.
The National Education Union must do more to ensure that members reporting incidents of misogyny and sexism, assault and harassment are heard, believed and supported. Unless we fundamentally change the way women are treated in the education profession we will never change how we are treated in society
To see the article in schools week and view comments visit: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/education-cant-tackle-misogyny-while-it-is-complicit-in-it/