“Why do you need to end sexism in schools? Sexism is a thing of the past, right?”
Hate to burst your bubble but sexism is definitely not a thing of the past. In fact, not only is it not a thing of the past but research is starting to show that recent events (ahem, COVID…) is actually setting women’s rights back. Check out Everyday Sexism or the excellent book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez to get a better idea of the current state of gender inequality.
“Okay, but why the focus on schools? Surely there isn’t sexism in schools?!”
Sadly, there is. From the continuing perception of ‘girls subjects’ and ‘boys subjects’, to school uniform policies, to how female and male teachers are addressed, to how certain behaviours are responded to, to what is studied in the curriculum, sexism pervades much of school life and culture. You only need to take a look at the 2016 parliamentary report on harassment in schools, and the recent Everyone’s Invited project to see how serious the issue is.
“Wow. That is a problem. So how does the End Sexism in Schools campaign plan to help tackle it?”
Ending Sexism in Schools is a huge undertaking and we hope that our work will compliment that of the many organisations already attempting to address pressing issues that need immediate intervention — such as sexual harassment and abuse in schools. We’re aiming to support this intervention based work by starting to expose, unpick and change the underlying issues in school curriculum and culture, that enable these serious sexist behaviours to continue.
“That sounds sensible but what does it mean in practice?”
Well, we’ve just finished a crowdresearch project to identify the gender balance of authors studied in KS3 English. And now we’re about to start exploring the contents of the history curriculum.
“So…you’re looking at what kids are learning about in school?”
“That seems…underwhelming. What do the books they’re reading or the history they’re studying have to do with sexism?!”
Remember what we said about tackling the underlying issues? What children and young people study in school help inform their understanding of the world, our society and themselves. So if they are only studying subjects taught from a white, male perspective (which is often the case) they are only being exposed to a narrow perspective — one that reinforces stereotypical patriarchal norms and limits the ability of all children to reach their full potential.
“I take your point but shouldn’t you be focusing on the harassment issue you mentioned?”
There are lots of great organisations and campaigns working on addressing that issue and we fully support their work. But our focus is the broader, longer term goal of creating a lasting culture shift in schools. If we all focus solely on dealing with the immediate problem of sexual harassment in schools, we’ll constantly be putting interventions in place when the problem has already occurred, rather than preventing it from happening in the first place.
Whilst that immediate intervention work is vital, in order for it to stick, and to reduce (and hopefully eliminate) the need for such interventions in the future, we have to change things earlier down the line. For example, by ensuring all children are studying a gender balanced curriculum that values the work and representation of women and men equally.
At the end of the day, to affect long term change, we have to get stuck into the nitty-gritty detail that lies behind the attention-grabbing headlines — identifying and undoing the underlying causes. This isn’t an either/or scenario. We need both the immediate interventions and the long term culture shift for true and lasting change to happen. (And remember, the book-focused crowdresearch is just our very first step — there will be more to come!)
“That makes TOTAL sense!”
We think so.
“So how can I help?”
Glad you asked! Get in touch with our team by completing the form on our Get Involved page – let us know if there are any particular areas you’d like to help us with (for example, a specific subject area you’d like to tackle, outreach to other organisations, developing general strategy or helping out with comms on social media) or any specific skills you’d like to offer, and we’ll find an opportunity to suit you!
“Awesome! I’ll go do that now.”
Thanks! We’re excited to have you on board!
Still got questions? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.