Be realistic about misogyny
“This isn’t a subject that can be tackled in one conversation, one assembly or one lesson,” says Dr. Tamasine Preece.
Oftentimes, when an issue like cyberbullying, misogyny or something equally as serious gains traction among students, schools pause to address it. This might be in the form of a letter home, a form time lesson or an assembly. While it’s important to address the issue, it cannot be done in one sitting. Equally, staff may not have the training they need to deliver the content effectively.
“Misogyny is a problem as old as time,” Dr. Preece says, so it’s important to understand the context making misogyny in schools popular now. “Children and young people are immersed in a culture that presents distorted, unrealistic and confusing representations of both sexes.”
Learn how children are introduced to misogyny through porn, influencers and algorithms here.
Dr. Preece tells school staff to “point [misogyny] out when you see or hear it every single time.”
Misogyny spreads hate and harmful stereotypes about women and girls. When trusted adults let hate speech slide, they create an environment that supports it.
Negative or misogynistic treatment of women and girls is ingrained in a lot of people’s way of thinking. As such, it often goes unnoticed. Or, if it is noticed, it isn’t taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination and abuse. Worse, it is sometimes dismissed as a joke or banter.
Teach children the difference between joking, banter and bullying with Introduction to Cyberbullying, a lesson from Digital Matters. Sign up for free here to access the supporting lesson resources.
Teach about gender stereotypes
Dr. Tamasine Preece urges schools to “create opportunities for children and young people to understand the origins of gender norms and gender stereotypes.”
While many children are exposed to misogyny that reinforces gender stereotypes online, the issue is an historical one that existed well before the internet.
“Even to this day it can be difficult for many men and women, or boys and girls, to break these stereotypes.” For men and boys, they may feel pressured to act a certain way or fit into a certain role. For instance, many men and boys are called out if they cry or if they the surnames of their spouses when they marry.
This toxic masculinity contributes to issues like homophobia and misogyny in schools among other forms of hate both online and offline.
Similarly, talk about how misandry (the opposite of misogyny), the hate against men, helps reinforce these same things.
Help children learn about breaking down gender stereotypes with this interactive discussion-based quiz created with Samsung.
Support critical thinking
“Create opportunities to explore how media such as gaming and music often uphold gendered roles.” Character design, song lyrics and more may “present women according to lazy, sexist stereotypes.” And this is not limited to content created by men. Many women and artists create work that does the same.
Find opportunities to talk about these things as a part of regular lessons. English and History, in particular, offer plenty of opportunities to talk about key characters or figures and their gendered roles. But subjects like Science and Maths offer excellent options too. Have discussions about the lack of female representation in these fields and why that is. Or, lead lessons about women’s contribution to each and why they aren’t more well-known.
Children have unique perspectives on the world around them, and you can facilitate some impressive conversations to help them think more deeply about these things.
See more guidance to help children think critically about what they see online. Or explore the Find the Fake quiz, created with Google, which features 3 different quizzes divided by age group to use with students.
Appeal to who you know they can be
Children and young people often want to help and receive praise. And teachers know that this is true regardless of age.
“When discussing misogyny with boys and young men,” Dr. Preece says, “it can be powerful to appeal to the person with good values you know them capable of being. Recognise and acknowledge good behaviour when you see it.”
Positive reinforcement is a great tool for supporting change, especially among groups of friends. “It takes a great deal of strength to go against the grain and stand up to your peer group. For every young man who looks up to Andrew Tate and similar figures, there is another young man who has considered his values and renders them unacceptable.”
When you support positive behaviour while challenging negative behaviour, you create a clear structure for children to understand.