Sexism harms boys and girls in schools.

‘Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools is to be investigated by MPs for the first time - amid reports sexualised behaviour has become a “social norm”, with incidents being “brushed off” by teachers.

Pupils who took part in preliminary research for the Women and Equalities Committee expressed concern over the existence of “lad culture” within the learning environment, many suggesting boys have a sense of “entitlement” to girls, pressuring them to have sex or face being “bullied for being a virgin”.

The research was undertaken through a series of workshops with 300 school and college students aged between 16 and 25 as part of a wider investigation to establish the scale and impact of sexual harassment and violence within schools.

Exposure to sex in the media 24 hours a day was suggested by students as a contributing factor towards the problem, while schools were accused of having too simplistic an approach towards sex education.’ – Independent 

Pupil ‘Rosie’, writing for the BBC, was sexually assaulted by another girl:

‘"I remember feeling quite embarrassed, and I didn't really want to talk about it at the time with anyone. I felt ashamed and quite disgusted really."

When she did eventually report it to the school, Rosie says teachers disciplined the attacker but didn't offer her enough support.

"Post-traumatic stress disorder has come up quite a lot. I have taken some trauma from what has happened.

"It's affected my self-esteem. I'm quite scared that something like that will happen again."’

‘The normalisation of the porn and sex industries tells us it's fun to view girls and women as sexual commodities and boys who don't like it are at risk of being labelled gay or anti-sex, while the girls are bullied for being virgins. The heavily gendered culture prevents boys from forming healthy friendships with girls and later, working relationships with women. It feeds into homophobia as the mould of masculinity narrows to a cardboard cut-out. It puts pressure on boys to fit into a type that doesn't allow them to know the full range of their humanity. With such little cultural celebration of men in caring roles, boys learn that being gentle, kind, not overtly physical are not 'masculine' behaviours.’ – Rachel Bell in Huffington Post

‘Tackling sexism should be a core and consistent part of teacher training, not an optional extra for the already passionate and engaged. That's why UK Feminista is developing an initial teacher training resource that can be integrated into existing courses, and delivered internally by teacher training providers. But much more is needed.

The Department for Education's Preventing and tackling bullying: Advice for headteachers, staff and governing bodies does not include a single resource relating to sexism in schools. Sexism also remains notably absent from Ofsted's assessment criteria. In their School Inspection Handbook, sexual harassment is not listed alongside 'racist, disability and homophobic bullying'. What message does this send out? Well, that sexism isn't a big problem. And it certainly isn't a priority.

Despite this, young people and teachers across the country are calling for change. They are setting up feminist groups, running campaigns and delivering school assemblies to raise awareness of gender inequality. It's time to listen to them.’ – Sophie Bennett in Huffington Post

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