When Piers Morgan defends your actions with the lame year 8 excuse ‘it was only a bit of fun’ it is time to apologise unreservedly. The West Indian cricketer Chris Gayles’ very public, very awkward ‘chatting-up’ of the sports reporter Mel McLaughlin was more than a bit of fun and so typifies the way all women have to exist in our civilised society, exemplified by the situation the highly articulate, very capable Mel McLaughlin was placed in simply doing her job. The girls in our schools, in our cafes and on public transport are treated by men of all ages as ‘fair game’, sexual objects to try it on with or even worse to sexually assault.
In my annual New Year message to the staff (Welcome back after Christmas break (NM) 04.01.16), my number one priority, exam results and finance apart, was for colleagues to find a way to empower all our girls. The very next day Gayles was conducting a cricket interview about the reporter’s eyes, potential drink date and blushing cheeks. Like many, our school has taken up the sadly informative ‘White Ribbon Campaign’, highlighting that domestic violence mainly against women has dramatically increased in Worcester the damning league table statistic of an increase of 50% of women in the past year receiving domestic violence: over 10,000 reported cases! Emotional as well as physical abuse is in so many households, affecting so many families with so many females being harassed and maltreated.
It is therefore absolutely essential we address all our students, not simply empowering the girls as my New Year message incorrectly advised, and begin to teach what a proper consensual, loving relationship is about. Milly, our 22 year old returning ex –student is studying for her doctorate at Birmingham University after gaining first class honours in politics international studies in her degree and subsequent masters. Our school helped produce a scholar and crucially, a major speaker. Her two assemblies to years 10, 11 and 12 girls (which was subsequently replicated to the boys of these year groups) highlighted the daily trial of endurance, resilience young women have to cope with in their daily lives. She highlights:
- Memories of science lessons in our school where girls were rated for their beauty – “6/10 for her arse – 3/10 for her face”.
- Memories of enduring Worcester Sixth Form lunchtime baiting by the rugby team on her appearance and willingness to consider sexual favours, some of which were physically impossible. The fantasy world of boys who want to be watching porn or exposed to unrealistic views of relationships.
- Research into Birmingham University male sports teams’ frank ‘proud’ admission that the game entitled ‘shag a pig’, where the aim is to sleep with numerous unsuspecting girls, tell all on social media and then name the unfortunate victims with the rating out of 10, is a sad reflection on the male participants in current university life!
Is it a surprise that our culture leads to boys objectifying women as sexualised objects for their gratification? The ‘Lad Bible’ website has over 17 million followers, the twelfth most visited website in this country, gaining over £100,000 in advertising fees for such illuminating philosophy such as February 25th post:
“Do you want to miss out on taking that 8 home tonight, that when you wake up is at best a 5? Lads, get your wellies on and absolutely smash it up.”
Or when reality shows such as ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ share millionaire Kim’s nightmare at putting on weight in her selfie obsessed pregnancy. No wonder suicide in young males has been described as an ‘epidemic’ at its highest British point for 14 years, as we establish unrealistic expectations for men who cannot, are not expected to share emotions and are expected to have the perfect body with the unobtainable six-pack, fast car and ‘barbie doll’ girlfriend. The increase in suicides to 6,233, figures from the Office for National Statistics, 80% of whom were young men usually in the age range of 20-25 shows that as a nation and as schools this is something we need to address urgently. We are producing emotionally stunted males and pigeon holed, stereotyped females that lead to relationship failure on an unprecedented level.
Perhaps schools should be allowed to test less and talk more. Perhaps the crass decision to remove the ‘feminist’ module from politics at A-level should be immediately revisited and perhaps, crucially, at a time when two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner, an immediate re-examination of the marginalised personal, social, health education (PHSE) delivery is required. Our schools are trying to ‘cram’ into students PHSE, often as an afterthought, taught by non-specialists too often placed last on the timetable: a piecemeal curriculum to keep the Ofsted inspector quiet. Perhaps it is time for leaders such as myself to place exam results not as the priority when the citizens we are producing are isolated, unhappy and depressed! This is a time for change. We owe it to our vibrant young people to create a fair and equal world and our curriculum and attitude as leaders has to reflect this now.
If you like the sound of our school please note we have three teaching vacancies for September 2016 – adverts and application documents are available from the school website:
- Geography – application deadline 10am 29th January 2016
- PE – application deadline 10am 1st February 2016
- Chemistry/Physics – application deadline 10am on 2nd February 2016