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Everyone’s Invited: Why we’re not surprised about the #MeToo movement in UK schools

Blog Editor, IOE Digital27 April 2021

Jessica Ringrose, Ruth Eliot, Sophie Whitehead, Amelia Jenkinson, Kaitlynn Mendes & Tanya Horeck.

In recent weeks, allegations of peer-on peer sexual violence in schools, colleges and universities across the UK have been hailed as a ‘#Metoo’ moment for young people. The scale and severity of survivors’ testimonies has sparked shock and outrage amongst the commentariat, news media, parents and many education professionals.

We are a feminist consortium of sex educators – who spend a lot of time talking about sex, relationships, consent and intimacy in school – and academics who have been researching gender, education and social justice for decades. We are not surprised by the testimonies submitted to Everyone’s Invited, and really, no one should be. Not just because teenage girls everywhere have been demanding change for years. Or because just back in 2016, a Women and Equalities Committee inquiry revealed endemic sexual harassment in UK schools. But also because we must recognise that schools are a microcosm of society, including rape culture.

Part of the reason for the shocked response, we believe, is because listening to survivor testimonies forces us to (more…)

'Can’t flip the bus stop over': researching gender and public advertising in London

Blog Editor, IOE Digital21 August 2018

Kaitlyn Regehr and Jessica Ringrose
We met Sierra, a single mother of two, at Kennington tube station in South London. Sierra identifies as Black British, and walks using two sticks, due to limited mobility. On this rather windy day, she moved slowly but deliberately across the street to meet us before gesturing to the bus stop.
The advertisement situated on the bus stop, pictured here, was for American Apparel and featured a large-scale image of a woman in Caucasian flesh coloured underwear and the tagline ‘We’re Back. To Basics.”
Sierra stopped in front of the advert stating she was quite “shocked” and further:
Untitled
I thought they [American Apparel] really couldn’t be so bold to put something like that on an advert for children to see, for adults to see, and I find sometimes that adverts can be quite sexual and it seems like they seem to be advertising more for sex than actually for the actual product…
Sierra was one of the women we met because, as part of the Mayor of London’s 2018 #BehindEveryGreatCity gender equality campaign, Professor Jessica Ringrose had been commissioned to conduct research on women’s experiences of London’s public advertising. The research report launched this summer, was entitled The Women We See: gender and diversity in advertising, and drew upon (more…)

What happened to the link between the women’s movement and the fight for children’s rights?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 March 2018

Berry Mayall. 
Once upon a time, English women fought for childhood – not just for gender equality with men. In 1900 women fought for suffrage, but also for a socialist society – a better deal for all.
Children at that time had become visible in the new elementary schools. They were hungry, poorly dressed, lacking food and boots. Some were ill, some disabled. Women spoke up for these children: they could not benefit from schooling unless their health and welfare needs were addressed. Women argued that the state should share responsibility with parents for their health.
And women also saw that children had things in common: they grew according to laws of development; they learned by exploration – and that school should take account of these points. Therefore children were a special social group, and the future of society. As detailed in my new book, Visionary Women and Visible Childhoods, England 1900-1920: Childhood and the Women’s Movement, it is no accident that measures to improve the status of (more…)

Sexual harassment at school: What can young people’s gender based activism tell us?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital20 December 2017

Jessica Ringrose and Hanna Retallack. 
To teachers, students and researchers in the field of gender and education, the findings in the recent report “Sexism in Schools: ‘It’s just everywhere’ were not surprising. The study, commissioned by the National Education Union and the campaign group UK Feminista, found that more than a third (37%) of female students had personally experienced some form of sexual harassment at school and one in three teachers (32%) witnessed sexual harassment in their school on at least a weekly basis.
The study, from Warwick University, also reported that 66% of female students and 37% of male students in mixed-sex sixth forms have experienced or witnessed the use of sexist language in school and a quarter of all secondary teachers say they witness gender stereotyping and discrimination on a daily basis. Only 14% of students who experienced sexual harassment reported it to a teacher; less than a quarter (22%) of female students at mixed-sex schools think their school takes sexism seriously enough and 78% of secondary school students are unsure or not aware of any policies and practices in their school for preventing sexism.
Last year, the government’s first Women and Equalities Committee Inquiry and Report into sexual harassment and violence in schools concluded that children and young people’s experiences of sexual harassment in British schools had reached a crisis point and said (more…)

Tackling teaching about Trump: lessons from Black feminism

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 November 2016

Jessica Ringrose and Victoria Showunmi
Many school and university teachers around the world have been asking how to discuss the 2016 USA elections with children, young people and students in the aftermath of what has been called the most divisive election in American history.
Wednesday night, in the wake of the election results, we were presented with the timely opportunity to re-tune our planned MA lecture in Sociology of Education on “Racism and Black Feminist Intersectionality” into a discussion about the global significance of Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. Since the lecture was on Black Feminism, we would naturally be addressing the issues of racism and misogyny and also the deep class divisions that became powerful focal points throughout the battle between (more…)

A feminist manifesto for education: gender equality has a long way to go

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 September 2016

Miriam E David. 
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is now very much on the public agenda. It is even addressed through the BBC’s Radio 4’s Archers programme: the case about domestic violence in the Titchner family is arousing great interest in how such issues of sexual abuse are treated in the family, the law and politics.
Yet these questions are still not usually addressed in schools and are not routinely on the curriculum. Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is still not a compulsory component of the curriculum. This week the Commons Select Committee on Women and Equalities exposed the ‘shocking’ scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in English schools. The committee recommended that high quality relationships and sex education for every child should be made statutory and that schools should be judged by Ofsted on how well incidents of sexual violence and harassment are recorded, monitored and prevented. There is also currently an online feminist campaign (more…)

Feminism is everywhere, but so is sexism. Do teachers understand what this means in the classroom?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 September 2016

Holly Maguire.
When I was in Year 10, feminism was a word I vaguely associated with not wearing a bra, hating men and setting things on fire. But the world has moved on. Last term, one of my Year 10 GCSE students told the class that men taking birth control pills and exercising responsibility for their sexuality was “just basic feminism”.
Young people’s relationship to feminism has changed. Beyonce is now a feminist. ‘No More Page 3’ campaigners won the argument. #Sayhername, honouring black women and girls killed by US police, happened. Social media made my students aware of these things.
But do teachers understand this change and its implications?
This progress has been coupled with non-compulsory PSHE in schools, allowing many (more…)

Jolie’s appointment does not change fundamental gender relations in universities

Blog Editor, IOE Digital27 May 2016

Miriam E David
No it’s not her latest movie role – Angelina Jolie is to become ‘professor in practice’ at the London School of Economics. And this appointment illustrates the argument of my new book Reclaiming Feminism: Challenging Everyday Misogyny perfectly.
It is clear that female [celebrity] status is now enmeshed with academia in contradictory ways. Many have dismissed Jolie’s appointment as a visiting professor at the LSE from September 2017 as marketing and branding, arguing that it has nothing to do with scholarship, research or teaching. I think it is no accident that the appointment of a high profile female celebrity is to a course about women, gender equality and sexual violence. These gender questions have become causes célèbres of neoliberalism, although they do not change fundamental gender relations.
The film star’s many roles have led to her ‘teaching a course on the impact of war on women’. This will be part of a new MSc on Women, Peace and Security and the first of its (more…)

Has Halloween become ‘Slutoween’ even for toddlers?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 October 2015

Siri Lindholm, Emilie Lawrence, Hanna Retallack and Jessica Ringrose
“In the regular world, Halloween is when children dress up and beg for candy. In girl world, Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it,” explains Lindsay Lohan in the 2004 cult teen movie, Mean Girls. This statement is testament to the existence of a set of complex unwritten rules that girls must navigate and negotiate with on a daily basis, to avoid being shamed by adults and peers.
skankoween
Even small children aren’t immune from these pressures; the tweet quoted in the headline asks us ‘has Halloween become slutoween even for toddlers?’ Whilst the tweet poses ‘toddlers’ as the subject of debate it (more…)

School uniforms and double standards

Blog Editor, IOE Digital5 August 2015

Jessica Ringrose and Rosa Tully.
A school in Stoke-on-Trent has banned skirts on the grounds that they are ‘distracting’ to male teachers and pupils. The head teacher said that as girls ‘get older their skirts get shorter’. Jessica Ringrose, Professor of Gender and Education at the UCL Institute of Education, took part in a discussion on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour triggered by this news. Here, she and Rosa Tully, 16, founder of a feminist group in her London secondary school, extend the debate. (more…)