School teaches pupils about impact of sexist language

“I hear it so often now it just doesn’t actually bother me, It’s just part of everyday life, just a normal word.” That is the view of a teenage boy at Nottingham Free School, who is among a group of pupils being taught in special lessons about the impact of verbal abuse against women. The BBC reports.

The school was so worried about the amount of misogynistic language to which its pupils were exposed, it decided to tackle the issue head on. BBC 5 live was given exclusive access to speak to the young people, with permission from parents and teachers.

The students were asked to write down examples of the sort of language they’d heard or seen which might be misogynistic or prejudiced against women. 

A 14-year-old boy says the words are regularly used amongst teenagers, “(to) insult your mates, whether that be a joke, or insulting someone, as if you meant to hurt their feelings. It’s so commonly used you don’t think about what the consequences might be”.

The teacher in charge of the lesson, Severine Wilken, asks pupils to write down all the words and phrases they have come across. It’s a long and depressing list of verbal abuse.

A board in the classroom is covered with sticky notes featuring phrases such as “feminazi” and “runs like a girl”, as well as more sexually offensive words.

“I was shocked by the amount that they are clearly bombarded with,” says Ms Wilken. “I was pretty shocked when I researched the lesson and discovered how much misogyny is in our day-to-day life, in popular culture that children are obviously listening to.”

After getting pupils to write down the language they’ve come across, they’re asked to discuss the impact it can have. For some of the girls in the class it’s significant.

“It belittles you as a girl. You feel really self-conscious and you get anxious,” says one. “There have been times I didn’t want to leave the house, I didn’t want to talk to people because I was anxious or I was worried about what people would say.”

Read the full article School teaches pupils about impact of sexist language

You can hear more about this story on BBC 5 live Breakfast on Monday 15 January between 06:00 and 0:900 GMT and on iPlayer Radio afterwards.

Do you think the impact of sexist language should be covered in class? Would it really create a change in the pupils use of language?  Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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