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Sexist comment or not?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by goofygoober, Jun 25, 2015.

  1. goofygoober

    goofygoober New commenter

    I was pretty astounded at a comment made by a teacher in an assembly today. Without going into details, the teacher was talking about the fact that rugby is a physical sport. The teacher then went on to say that rugby makes footballers look like 'a big load of girls'. I didn't like this, and neither did lots of other teachers, male and female. Was it sexist? I think so. It's surely reinforcing the stereotype that girls are weak. (I'd love to see this teacher up against the England women's rugby team!) What should be done, if anything?
  2. cally1980

    cally1980 Established commenter

    It's sexist of course, but fairly common place alongside 'big girl's blouse' and 'screaming like a girl'. I wouldn't say anything should be done about it. If you feel that strongly, a quiet word should be all that it needs.
  3. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    I suppose it depends what is defined as sexist.

    Personally, it sounds like you have a plain speaking member of staff who hasn't adopted the modern, ultra-correct, hyper-sensitive way of communicating that has been foisted upon society by those who I suspect he would call 'woolly minded liberals'. He used a perfectly normal, 'blokey' expression that I have heard on many occasions (including on that exact subject - a comparison between the 'footballing softies' who fall over at the drop of a hat and roll about like they've been shot and the apparently tougher rugby players who happily accept all sorts of on-field injuries and play on regardless).

    There's a danger that you're taking this plainly spoken and innocent expression far too literally. After all, was he really referring to a 'load' of girls? Can you even have a 'load' of girls? You can have a 'load' of coal, a 'load' of logs or a 'load' of tea, for example, as they can be 'loaded' into a container (such as a wagon or a ship's hold) and thereby become that container's load. Are you imagining a container (such as a wagon) full of girls? Should I be offended that you actually think of a wagon full of girls as an acceptable image? Should girls be treated like commodities in this way? Surely this denigrates girls, that you are capable of imagining them treated like inanimate objects and bundled together like so much coal...

    Do you get my point? It's an expression. It has no literal meaning. When it;s used, there's no intent to denigrate girls (or women). There's no implicit lack of respect for females either. There's certainly no suggestion that girls are weak. I suspect he would be wary of tackling members of the England Ladies' Rugby Team, just as you say (unless he's a huge rugby player himself). I would (and, by the way, I teach both rugby and cricket to the girls in my school and I don't regard girls as 'weak').

    As a fairly plain speaking bloke who came into teaching from industry and my own small business, I find it frustrating that there are others in the profession who are too far removed from the real world and take offence far too easily at things (such as this expression) which are innocently meant figures of speech.

    I would say, "Relax!" Accept that not everyone in the world (including teachers) analyses everything that is said to the nth degree and also consider that the more fuss we as adults make of such throw-away expressions, the more seriousness they assume in the eyes of kids who would otherwise probably not think twice about them.

    Just my thoughts...
  4. bunny200

    bunny200 New commenter

    I would stay that this is definitely a sexist comment, which degrades and denigrates girls, the implication being that girls are weaker and inferior. I assume, from your comment that the teacher was favouring rugby over football, so to compare something he considers inferior to 'a load of girls' underlines and reinforces the sexist stereotype that girls/women are inferior.

    I'm amazed that a teacher would use this language in this day and age and even more amazed that others would brush aside this concern as 'plain speaking'. Girls and women are exposed to so many negative comments and sexism that are excused as 'banter', 'plain speaking', 'telling it like it is' that it affect girls/women's perspectives on ambition, attainment, interests etc.

    Would the teacher have used the expression "a load of poofters" to compare footballers to rugby? No, they wouldn't. The expression "so gay" is bandied around still in the playground but no longer from the adults in schools (at least I bloody hope not) so why do we still allow negative comparisons to women, holding girls up as a negative example.

    We've come a long way in the equality stakes but we're not there yet and we as educators should employ a zero tolerance to such pernicious language.

    Check out these resources to see what I'm talking about....


  5. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    My reply is to the previous poster, more than the OP.

    Be amazed! (Or even more amazed!)

    And if the girls/women that you know have such low self-confidence, self-esteem or whatever you want to call it that their 'perspectives on ambition, attainment, interests etc' are adversely affected by such everyday, casual expressions, despite all of the positive images of their sex that they're also exposed to, then maybe you need to work harder to build their self-confidence up.

    You say that this comment carries an implication 'that girls are weaker and inferior.' I don't know what circles of men you move in but there is no such implication in this comment when my male friends or family use it. I don't have any male friends or family who actually believe that girls/women are inferior (at least none over the age of 11 or so). I don't believe that girls/women are inferior either.

    By the way, I don't feel inferior when my female colleagues make comments about males who can't multitask, males who can't cook or clean, males who have no dress sense, etc. I don't feel inferior when my female colleagues relate tales of their husbands' 'man flu'. Those comments are no more sexist than the one you are bothered by; They are what you refer to as banter and I know they are not meant with any seriousness.

    I didn't bother watching your links. I've probably heard the message that they carry many times before. I've been told (by people like you, I suspect) that women are oppressed on many occasions over the course of many years.

    What I see all around me is confident women (and girls) who have no concept that they are inferior to males, are not adversely affected by comments like these and are doing pretty well for themselves, thank you very much.

    You won't like me saying that and may decide that you don't believe me. That's your choice. I have no need to try to convince you of what I know to be true.

    Maybe all the women and girls I know are exceptional.
  6. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    The obvious answer to that is to provide him with an alternative phrase which would express what he wants to say and which is not insulting to anyone.

    we want a word to describe a group which exagerates minor injuries and insults, goes into a panic ot a hissy fit very easily - we know what he meant.

    What would be an appropriate replacement phrase?
  7. T34

    T34 Lead commenter

    This is my experience too. The picture painted by feminists is simply not correct.
  8. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    I did watch the YouTube clip and as a female found it interesting that the girls didn't know that "like a girl" was an insult until someone "suggested" that it might be ...
  9. Malenko

    Malenko New commenter

    Is the comment sexist? Yes. Literally at least. There is a clear implied connection between being a girl and being weak.

    That said you'd want to know more about context. Do you have any concerns about the teacher doing this more consistently? Do you think it "scripted" or an unplanned off the cuff remark? Would the phrase "big girl's blouse" be offensive? Would it be as offensive? Here there is less suggestion that girls are weak but still a connectionn between the female gender and weakness.

    In the broader context, if the remark is assumed to be off the cuff, as alluded to above there are stock phrases and attitudes fairly deeply rooted in British society (and globally) that link women with weakness (what does effeminate mean for instance). This is not an "excuse" per se but an explantion of how different norms and cultural sensitivities can clash without any malicious intent.

    It then becomes more troublesome in that aspects of these assumptions are at least partially rooted in the truth, i.e. the average male is stronger and more athletic than the average female (hence their separate competition in most pro sports). So there's complexity here.

    Back to the point though, was the comment helpful, no. If a one off, was it likely to have a substantial impact? No probably not. Could/do schools do work to counteract stereotypes? Yes. Anything to be done for/to/with the teacher in question? Not unless you consider it a trend and/or reflecting malicious or sexist intent. As a general rule you don't want to make teachers have to watch their language more than necessary, nor seem to imply that they are in some way being unprofessional or harmful or whatever.

    Fwiw, I think that the argument about "load" offered above is a red herring (load having a clear informal and increasingly more prevelant meaning of "many/lot/group", whilst girls means girls and whilst many would be able to seperate themselves from a stereotype, others wouldn't) and the "I know many confident girls" (coming alongside a suggestion that girls who are adversely affected require special attention and/or have been neglected or poorly taught "maybe you need to work harder to build their self-confidence up") isn't particularly helpful.
  10. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    "no concept they are inferior" .. really lightening? Surely you meant "know they are not inferior" rather than implying that women are simply clueless to their inferiority.... or were you just showing your own prejudice?
  11. Boogum

    Boogum New commenter

    I can't believe we've still got to argue this with professional people in 2015.

    Yes, it's sexist. Yes, it insults women and girls. Yes, it's offensive. Yes, s/he IS out of order. It's this sort of thing that perpetuates the myth that girls are inferior.

    I suspect that the teacher involved had no idea that the phrase is unacceptable. Like many of the respondents, s/he probably just accepts it as a "phrase we all use". Unfortunately, it is this slow and steady chipping away at a person’s identity that has the most damaging effects.

    We used similar phrases about “strong confident" black people who were "doing pretty well for themselves" and who had "no concept that they are inferior" in an earlier decade.
  12. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    What about "strong confident" white people who were "doing pretty well for themselves" ? Is it still insulting if taken as a compliment?
  13. alexdoncaster

    alexdoncaster New commenter

    I think the phrase 'like a load of girls' is totally out of line. As others have said, it typifies girls as being weak and incapable.

    If he wants to use this 'blokey' expression, let him do so in a private context with his friends, not when addressing hundreds of young people. Whether or not it's intended to be sexist, the mode of address when talking in a professional context should be inclusive and inoffensive.
  14. JCA_1989

    JCA_1989 New commenter

    Surely there is bigger fish to fry than this. Move on, get on with it!
  15. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    If you are told regularly by the media and through common phrases that you are inferior; If you are judged daily by what you do, look like and wear and know you can never get it right because "rules" are for a perfection that doesn't exist; If you are demeaned and put down on a daily basis; If people act as if they have a right to make loud (sometimes mildly) abusive comments about you, invade your personal space and even handle your body, then you go to school and find the people that are educating you seem support these ideas and feel it is acceptable to use your gender as a term of insult in an off hand way in front of a whole school assembly it IS a big thing. I don't think there are bigger fish to fry. We need to support our students to see each other as unique and capable. As educators we need to be more careful than the general population in ensuring what we say supports that, especially when speaking in front of the whole school.

    If however, as a teacher, you believe that girls are weak, incapable, inferior beings who need to be kept in their place then you're in the wrong profession (and the wrong century)
  16. Andrew Jeffrey

    Andrew Jeffrey New commenter

    I think it's even more basic than sexism - it's just plain rude. Girls play rugby and football, as do boys, and just because lots of blokes think something is ok, or call rudeness 'banter; doesn't stop it being plain rude. And wrong.

    For the record, it is equally rude and ill-informed to tell girls off for behaving like a 'bunch of boys' - so it works both ways. We are rightly vigilant about pejorative language against females, but we need to be just as vigilant about boys as well. To be honest, all such stero-typing is just plain laziness.

    And btw I'd love to see our 'boys' do as well as our 'girls' and get to the semi-final of a World Cup; bring back Italia 1990!

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