Teachers to debate incel culture as ‘seven in 10’ experience misogyny

Teachers report undermining and belittling comments at work as well as experiencing physical and sexual violence.

Catherine Lough
Saturday 16 April 2022 00:01
Gender signage (Martin Keene/PA)
Gender signage (Martin Keene/PA)

Teachers will debate how to tackle the growing problem of “incel” culture in schools, as seven in ten teachers say they have experienced misogyny at work.

A survey of over 1,500 teachers by the Nasuwt teaching union ahead of its annual conference in Birmingham found that 72% said they had been a victim of misogyny at their school.

Of those who had experienced sexism at work, nearly six in 10, 59%, said this behaviour had come from a pupil, while 43% reported that other teachers had been sexist towards them.

In total, 45% of respondents had experienced misogyny from their senior leadership team, while 31% said their headteacher had been sexist towards them.

Nine in 10, 89%, said they had experienced verbal misogyny, while 60% said they had experienced non-verbal sexist behaviour, for example through body language.

Over one in 10, 11%, had experienced misogyny through emails, while 5% had been subject to sexism on social media.

Teachers reported that they had been intimidated or undermined at work, while others said the misogyny came in the form of comments about their clothing, body, intellect, abilities and teaching style.

In a minority of cases, teachers were threatened with physical violence (9%) while 3% had experienced physical violence, and 3% had been the victim of sexual violence.

Half of the teachers who had been subject to sexist comments or behaviour did not report it to their senior management, and for those who did report a problem, 45% said no action was taken by their school.

Flowers for a victim of the Plymouth incident which was linked to incel culture (Ben Birchall/PA)

A third of cases were resolved informally, while a fifth (20%) of teachers said they were not believed when they reported abuse.

One teacher said that pupils made comments such as “is it your time of [the] month miss?” as well as sexualised remarks about other teachers’ appearance.

Another respondent said that pupils had exposed themselves during a lesson, and had made sexual gestures and sex noises in the classroom in order to intimidate them.

“On a daily basis I feel boys are disrespectful towards me as a teacher,” one respondent said.

“I constantly hear sexist remarks from students.

“I see boys grab girls and say sexist comments.

“The girls are just used to it and brush it off.”

Teachers reported that pupils had derogatory attitudes towards equal rights for women, with some pupils voicing the belief that feminism equated to a desire to “kill men”, while one teacher said pupils had called them a “feminazi”.

One teacher said: “A male student looked me dead in the eyes and asked if I’d ever been raped.”

Staff also reported that other teachers had made derogatory comments towards them.

One respondent said their head of department had said they were a “real problem” when they were pregnant.

Another reported that their colleagues had been “complaining about mothers taking time to look after such children, saying ‘My wife does that for our family’ not understanding that we are the wives!”

Respondents who were pregnant or had had a child said that male colleagues and female colleagues without children made belittling comments about their chances of promotion or capacity to take on extra responsibilities.

When teachers reported issues such as upskirting, colleagues made comments such as like “I am not surprised, have you seen what the teachers are wearing, no wonder” or, “If they don’t want this to happen they should wear trousers – boys will be boys… they can’t help themselves.”

Some teachers say they have been harassed online (Adam Peck/PA)

One teacher said that a WhatsApp Group “which included only male members a member of SLT commented that I was hot and several teachers agreed”.

“A member of male staff brushed his groin across my buttocks whilst I was at the photocopier.

“A male student took a photo of my bottom, when I was helping another student,” they added.

In total, 69% of staff said that misogyny in their school had made their working environment “unpleasant”, while 41% said it had led to a lack of promotional opportunities.

Over a quarter, 26%, said sexism had prevented them from earning more through promotion or moving up the pay scale.

Just 19% said they felt their school was doing enough to tackle misogyny.

Kathryn Downs, a secondary school teacher from Leeds, proposed a motion at the conference on misogyny and incel culture, an online subculture involving men who express hostility and extreme resentment towards those who are sexually active, particularly women.

She said that in the last year, “we have also seen cases such as the murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and the shootings of five innocent people in Plymouth by a member of the incel community”.

“A study in October 2021, suggested that there was a 6.3% chance of being suggested an incel-related video by YouTube within five ‘hops’ of a non-incel related video,” she said on Saturday.

“Given the amount of time our young people spend on social media, this is 6.3% too much.

“Clearly this shows the dangers of failing to support and improve the mental wellbeing of boys within schools.

“Language and stereotyping attitudes such as ‘cry like a girl’ or ‘fight like a boy’ means that boys as well as girls still struggle to express their own difficulties with their mental wellbeing or feel like they need to suffer in silence.”

The motion calls for Nasuwt to lobby government to make misogyny a hate crime and also calls for more mental health support for boys in schools.

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