So I have a friend. His name is David. David once said to me, “Well Scarlett, if women are equal, and can punch men, I can punch a women without a reason.” I was taken aback. Now that I think about it though, he said this to me maybe four or five times. I, a female, tend to be friends with men more often than I am with women. If I do the calculations, 70 percent of my friends are male. So, considering this, they tend to be a bit on the ignorant, and whenever David (previous agressor) says something along the lines of abusing, objectifying, or depricating women I go off. And then I am told that I am “being unreasonable” or that I am “starting something” or I am “fighting a losing battle” or that women “ARE equal”. Perhaps my going off is a tad unreasonable. Wait, no. No, it isn’t. So this isn’t exactly a story where I was being hit on, but at the ripe age of 15 I was defending my right to speak. I felt it my job to help protect this, along with the simple fact that he was disrespecting everyone, not just women. He has a sister. I pulled that card. I said, “Would you use this right against your 6 year old sister?” And he just could not get the point that you can’t go around hitting people. We are no longer friends.
A tech mentor at a coding bootcamp I attend told me today that he has a unique perspective on “females” because he has a mom and a girlfriend in the field. That was the argument he used to prove that I was wrong to ask him to fix a bug that affected the students.
I have a few things to say on the topic of “encouraging and inspiring girls into STEM”. When I was younger, I was enthusiastic and excited about Maths and Science. I did not need encouraging! I taught myself concepts and did a lot of reading. I watched educational videos, used computer based resources and observed things in real life. This all changed as I grew up, particularly at Sixth Form College in Geology Class and I’m some parts of Biology Class. My enthusiasm was sucked out of me by my teachers. Going to class and attending field trips became soul destroying and stressful experiences where teachers would use emotional blackmail and sarcasm on us because they thought that we were all lazy. I slowly lost my passion for these subjects and my will to live. A male teacher, while he was teaching us Structural Geology, would tell us that women could not visualise 3D objects in their brains. He told us that was why girls struggle with that topic and make mistakes: because our brains supposedly weren’t wired to understand 3D geometry (according to “science”). When boys made mistakes drawing cross-sections, he attributed this to their personal failures to work hard, not because they were male. He’d yell at us or look at us with despair if we made mistakes while we were learning. Lots of the boys touched me without my consent on field trips and would constantly try to chat me up while I was trying to concentrate on work in the field. The young men would also make rude explicit jokes about women’s anatomy and laugh. Female teachers would scream and yell at me for various reasons. One time was because I was late (the bus was stuck in traffic after a car crash for two hours), but a female teacher blamed me for this and would not listen to my explanation. She would actually shout at people who were 30 seconds late to class. This made me nervous constantly checking my watch and rushing to class. Some female teachers I had seemed so stressed and would snap and scream if something unexpected went wrong. One female teacher asked me personal questions about my mother’s age then she told me that my practical work was “awful” without calmly explaining where I went wrong or what I could do better next time. She had basically given everyone a worksheet and told them to read said worksheet (with very confusing instructions she did not go through that no one in my class understood) and do lab work during free periods. She said that we could use the lab at any time we liked. She told us we could just walk in and get on with the work. This was a lie. I tried to enter the lab during one of my free periods only to be screamed at by another female Geography teacher who told me to “get out” because I was “being disruptive”. I was working quietly and looking down a microscope and reading books. I was not talking or disturbing anyone. The only noise I made was walking in quietly. She screamed and shouted at me. I self harmed that night by scratching my wrists and cried. I still have nightmares and flashbacks about this even though I am over 30 years old. I heard voices in my head, not due to a chemical imbalance or “depression”, but due to what teachers said and shouted at me: those voices in my head were their voices! I felt betrayed and lied to. That school was supposed to be an “Investor in People”, but it was traumatising me. It was as if some of the teachers were trying to wrong foot me in science every time. I just couldn’t win. One time, I used the lab to do some research before a field trip. Fortunately there were no female teachers telling me to get out and screaming like banshees, so I managed to get some work done. There was a microscope, slides and microscopy books. I really had fun drawing sketches of the different igneous rocks. I felt great. I had got a ton of work done and I felt more prepared for the trip. No one else entered the lab and I wondered why I was the only one preparing for the trip. When I was finished, I put the microscopy books back into a neat pile and put the books back exactly where I found them. Sorry, but my mother had brought me up that way to tidy up after myself and leave things organised for other people. Fortunately, my next class was Geology, so all I had to do was move my books and bags from the lab annex to the classroom next door. My female Geology teacher walked in and inspected the lab annex. She shook her head disapprovingly and then walked back into the classroom. I felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt like had done something horrible, but I couldn’t figure out what it was yet. She shouted at the class: “I can tell that no one has used the lab annex for research because the books are in a neat pile and the slides are just how I left them. I know no one has been in the lab because none of the equipment has been touched. Why are you lot so lazy and you can’t follow basic instructions? And no I don’t want to hear your “excuses” or “explanations”!” So that was that. I felt too frightened to tell her that I had been working in the lab during free periods and lunch because I was afraid she’d think I was lying. She used to moan at us for leaving the lab in a mess, now she was unknowingly moaning at me for leaving it too tidy as if “no one had used the equipment”. Can’t win either way, just don’t know why I bothered. I cried and scratched my wrists that night, utterly defeated. So sad, angry and yuck in the head. So please don’t medicate young women for “depression” or “hearing voices”! Instead, make educational environments less stressful and hostile. Calling a young woman “depressed” and suggesting she take pills unfairly individualises a problem that is a community issue. Human beings whether we like it or not are social creatures who are affected by the words other people say and how they treat us. Set high standards, yes, but do this in a respectful way that helps young women learn from their mistakes that doesn’t treat young women like verbal punching bags. More effort should be put into not discouraging and not emotionally abusing young women who are already interested in science. I am not a verbal punching bag for teacher’s frustrations or someone you stick a pernicious psychiatric label on. I am a human being who tries to listen and be polite. I felt lied to by the Sixth Form College prospectus that said the school environment valued “equality”, “diversity” and “inspired students by supporting them to fulfil their potential”. It was all just fancy buzz words and lip-service. Every week there would be some “scientific” lecture on at the school about how the “male brain” was supposedly better at science and maths. Also how empathetic female brains could not be good at Maths because they supposedly didn’t have “systemising” brains like men did. Um explain my female Maths teachers then? Oh and that woman who won the Field’s medal, what about her? Crickets…Silence… I got an As in Geology and Biology by working alone in spite of my teachers not because of them. Sorry, but this is the truth. I wish I had something inspiring and uplifting to say, but I really don’t.
I recently asked my headmaster (at a school in a very middle class, well educated and politically aware area) why boys were not allowed to have hair longer than their collars when girls are allowed to have long hair and also “unstereotypical girls hair- e.g. short hair”. As he is a politics and history teacher, I expected him to have some idea of equality and for him to turn around and say “OH MY WORD I had no idea that rule existed we must abolish it immediately”; but as a true politician would, he managed to skirt around the question and with a slight stutter in his voice, he answered the question very vaguely. From what I could gather, he basically said “It looks scruffy” – but in a few more words. Needless to say, I was FUMING for the rest of the meeting. I am a 15 year old girl and have decided to recruit a few male friends to help me fight this sexism and stereotyping, in the hope that he may listen to a male voice.
As a woman who can read maps, has excellent orientation skills, can manipulate 3D objects in her mind and did well in her technical drawing courses, I can assure you I can assure you: I am a woman, and I am good at it, so your geology teacher is wrong (and most probably sexist), and your math teachers are right. Spatial abilities for men and women are a bell-curve average, and they intersect. That means that some women will be better at it than most men, and some men will be worse at it than most women. Just as some women are bad at multi-tasking while some men are good at it. And yes, like so many abilities, it can be trained. It’s just that some get it right from the start, and others need to put more effort into it. Playing with Lego and other building kits, for example, is a great way to train oneself in spatial visualization and manipulation. All those “men brains are this way, women brains are that way” are averages, and too often used as an excuse to limit genders in what they should do. Don’t let anyone tell you what to like, what to dislike, what you can do, and what you cannot. Try for yourself, and don’t give up until you know why you don’t like this or can’t do that. (I totally want to learn blacksmithing!)
It’s pretty small, but: In school we were learning about Queen Elizabeth I of England and the male teacher kept on saying about how she was so maternal and motherly because she cared about her country and stuff. Of course she cared cared about her OWN country! It was so annoying, if a guy was a great leader, they would just talk about that, not how was like a parent to it. He said that she was such a great mother to her country and her children. It was so stupid, he never mentioned any king’s children or parenting skills. Nothing wrong with being a mother or anything but if someone is the QUEEN OF A COUNTRY shouldn’t those accomplishments be stated before talking about her parenting skills? The same teacher kept referring to people as “man.” How “man” made such advancements, and stuff. And he defined a philosopher as a “man” who seeks greater meanings, and we still learned about a female philosopher!
On the way to Sixth Form every day everyone has to pass a garage down the road that’s usually open at all hours. It’s June, and the hottest 2017 has been so far for the UK, and so people are typically wearing less to stay cooler. Most days walking past this garage, men (including ELDERLY men) while on their smoking breaks are catcalling students walking past, making comments like “Hey X, you’d like the tits on this one” etc. etc. Some of these girls are 17, some of them even younger when considering the high school students walking the other way, and they’re sexualising women, GIRLS while trying to avoid conditions like heat stroke? I feel like the only one who has any sort of issue with this? True most people walk around with headphones in, but I also do that, and I notice. It’s concerning that nobody in college is talking about this. It’s making walking to college seriously uncomfortable and I really don’t feel like attending college some days, or at least, not walking alone.
This seems minor but it has really annoyed me. In maths class, we were discussing how weight was different on the moon. The teacher then said, girls, if you want to lose weight go to the moon. He was implying that girls all want to be thin and lose weight which is not the case. Also, some boys may want to lose weight etc
Was never ever told about how to report sexism from teachers at school. We were told that we should report general bullying between students, but as students, we were never told what kind of procedures we would need to go through to report a teacher for gender prejudice. All genders of students: female, male and other, I feel should be able to safely report a teacher for sexist conduct. This could be sexual harassment or verbal remarks. I am not a young student any more and I strongly feel that young people coming up should be given clear guidance as to what is appropriate behaviour for teacher and what to do if a teacher or other member of staff engages in behaviour that the student is not comfortable with. This could include homophobia, biphobia, queer phobia or gender prejudiced remarks. This can be a thorny topic because some things that some people consider to be sexist or gender prejudiced others such as some teachers consider to be fact and “hard science” such as what women’s and men’s brains are supposedly hardwired to do. Some teachers may think that male and female students need to be taught in different styles according to gender (not accounting for individual differences or preferences). Some literature and debate contains sexism. I am not advocating for shielding people with “safe spaces” or squashing debate. It would just be nice if there was some respectful dialogue between people with regard to these issues. I also see some company training groups say that in order to promote gender equality, people should realise that men and women think differently, therefore need to be treated differently. Hence the “different, but equal” argument about how women are supposedly more empathic than men and how men can supposedly throw more accurately and read maps better. By the way, does it make me weird or “mentally disordered” if I as a shy woman would prefer to read a map or go on dead reckoning rather than ask people for directions? Would the psychologists and psychiatrists be circling me, like sharks after blood if I even mentioned this to anyone? I just don’t know what to think any more because men and women clearly have physical and hormonal differences, but what about hermaphrodites or other people who don’t fit into a neat little conceptual box? It’s hard work, but I think that people should be treated as individuals with their own histories, bodies and preferences rather than be shoved into gender stereotyped boxes. It is lazy thinking to assume that all people you put into one gender category look and behave exactly the same way. Nature is messier and more complicated than that. There could be outliers and exceptions to categories people graphically draw up.
I’m only 13 years old, yet I experience sexism almost every day. I recently bought a new Adidas jacket, from the men’s section. I needed some new shoes, so I said to my mum that I really wanted the Adidas gazelles, and she told me that I couldn’t have them because they would make me look like a chav. I asked why, and she told me that I would look like a boy, and I can’t do that cause I’m a girl. I then asked if my brother would have asked for the same pair of shoes, with the jacket I had bought and she told me that it was unfair to spring the sexism thing on her. The next day at school, a teacher was talking about how much footballers get paid, that it isnt fair that they get to lie and cheat, act like girls.Later this day, football was brought up in class, when i raised my hand to add to the discussion, the teacher expected me to know nothing. These incidents are just three examples of what happens on a day to day basis.