Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

And it shouldn't stop there either - we all have a part to play

Share

Should we be teaching boys to be feminist? That was the question raised by the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper this week. Her answer, naturally, is a resounding “Yes.” And really, who could argue with that? Rod Liddle, possibly, but nobody in their right mind.

Cooper wrote that Labour was committed to introducing compulsory education in sex and relationships. Presumably she’s not talking about maintained schools, where they’re compulsory already, though only the biological part.

Academies and free schools can do what they like, and Cooper is recommending making sex and relationships education compulsory across the board, which is sensible and logical. Why should any school be exempt? She also wants to make sure our children know that violence in relationships is unacceptable. How depressing that this kind of thing has to be taught.

If Cooper is right about the current state of things, we have much work to do. Girls, she wrote, are “heckled if they dare to speak in class, their shirts forcibly undone, their skirts lifted and held by groups of boys”.

I don’t doubt that this sort of stuff goes go on, but I showed Cooper’s piece to my 13-year-old son, and he simply didn’t recognise the picture she painted of classrooms as misogynistic hell-holes. That’s not to say there’s no nastiness, but it’s clearly not universal.

My son’s sex education so far, at primary and secondary level, has been strictly biological. I don’t actually feel he needs any education about how to treat women, but then I don’t feel he needs any education about how to treat human beings. When, according to Labour, 21 per cent of rapists and more than a quarter of perpetrators of domestic violence are under 24, however, some young people clearly do.

Ofsted believe there’s something lacking in how we teach our children about sex and relationships. Last year they reported on a survey of PHSE education in 24 primaries and 12 secondaries (PHSE stands for personal, social, health and economic education).

They concluded that sex and relationships education required improvement in over a third of schools. In the primaries there’s too much emphasis on friendships and relationships, leaving children unprepared for puberty, while in secondaries it’s the reverse, with too much about on the mechanics of reproduction and too little about the surrounding issues.

Last month the Sex Education Forum said the current legislation was confusing, and allowed schools to avoid anything more than the basics. In particular, they said, pupils needed to be taught about the notion of consent.

And if internet porn is at least partly to blame, which Cooper believes it is, that needs to be tackled, too. David Cameron spoke a while back about internet servers being persuaded to make pornography an opt-in rather than opt-out function on computers. Nothing seemed to happen with that one, like so many of the ideas the government spouts. But parental controls are freely available, and parents need to use them.

There are encouraging signs, like the decline of the lads mag, suggesting that not all young men are intent on the objectification of women. But we still have idiots like Liddle to contend with – he says he runs a competitions on his blog every year to name the most stupid woman to have appeared on Newsnight in the preceding 12 months.

We still have gender-specific toys (perhaps we could make a start by banning the colour pink from toyshops). We still have torrents of woman-hating internet filth.

But we have to make a start somewhere, and the classroom is the best place, along with the living room and the kitchen. If we catch them when they’re young there may be a chance of producing a generation which prizes equality and respect.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world