This blog was originally written for the Womened blog. If you agree with anything in this blog, I would advocate following and supporting the movement. @Womened
I don’t believe in a world where women are treated differently men, a world where your ‘gender’ plays an integral role in predicting the story of your life.
As a member of the global majority (non-white), I have been asked on numerous occasions why I identify as a feminist? Why indeed? It is true that within many Asian cultures, for a multitude of reasons, women are not treated with the same level of respect, dignity and basic humanity as their male counterparts. However, whilst it is a ‘different’ form of discrimination in Western culture, there is discrimination none-the-less.
As a member of the global majority (non-white), I have been asked on numerous occasions why I identify as a feminist. How does a man of colour, fighting his own demons, understand the oppression of women as a whole? The answer is simple, I don’t understand.
In Western culture, there is still a blatant level of disregard for the ‘female’ gender. At present, in Western culture, in particular, there is a highly toxic culture of male sexism and predatory behaviour that has been allowed to grow as a cancer in society. This has been allowed to spread because of fear, privilege and the ‘violence in silence’. The discrimination against women is a global, world issue that we all play a part in.
So how does a man of colour, fighting his own demons, understand the oppression of women as a whole? The answer is simple, I don’t understand. Why am I concerning myself with an issue that I’m not and never will be a victim of then? Well, when you yourself have faced discrimination and have learnt to deal with its sharp sword face, it’s your duty to challenge, ‘speak-up’ and show solidarity where ever you see inequitable treatment. If we only ever stand firm against things that directly ‘affect’ us then society will only become more and more insular and less human. At the end of the day, we are human beings first and foremost – we are both the cause and the cure.
When you see injustice it is your duty to act without the fear of consequence (originally from the Bhagavad Gita but adapted by my father Mr A. C Patel). All very well sitting and recognising that something exists but that is not enough, direct action so this is a metaphorical call to arms.
The social inequity with respect to gender is stark. Some high profile cases such as the shooting of Malala Youzafzai and the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls by Boko Haram to the disgusting misogynistic and inexcusable behaviour of Harvey Weinstein is now relatively well known within society. Shifting the lens to the education profession alone, I really shouldn’t have to point out that although there is a significantly greater proportion of females within our profession, they are considerably underrepresented when it comes to leadership positions. Sadly, many fellow men are yet to realise their privilege and most importantly, use this to redress the balance.
‘And with great power (of privilege) comes great responsibility.’
However, I struggle with the image of a ‘he for she’ in education; what does one look like? Moreover, how does one act? It’s not the place of men to dictate which actions should be taken when trying to support women; this leadership should come from women.
Enough of the why. On to the what. Six months ago, Women Ed announced their Unconference 3 and expressions of interest were requested. I knew I wanted to contribute. I am so grateful to this organisation as the people within it and what they stand for have made me a better leader, practitioner and person overall.
And from this emerged: a charter, a pledge, guidelines on ‘how to support’ (all crowdsourced through Twitter interactions), an @2ndaryrocks chat, one to one/group meetings and a workshop at the Unconference all, solely for ‘he for she’ or men supporting women.
This is what came out.
Recruitment and CPD
- Adopt blind recruitment practices – HR to remove names or genders from application forms. Remember unconscious bias exists, gender equity is never about lowering the bar but allowing everyone the opportunity to jump.
- Actively dispel presenteeism by celebrating impact over attendance.
- Appreciate the value of flexible, part-time and job share opportunities. Weigh the words in advertising for all positions. Having the view that one person is better than two is archaic and we’re probably missing out a heap of talent out there.
- Part-time is no bar to internal promotion to leadership positions. See point 2.
- To stop pigeonholing teachers into gendered roles, suggesting women are always suited to pastoral roles and not behavioural specialists.
- To develop women’s confidence, with the use in school coaches. Women are generally more reluctant to apply for leadership roles sometimes they need the support of the school to put them in a position where they feel confident in applying.
- To consider taster opportunities of part-time and job share leadership roles. This is will give all parties involved a taste of the advantages of part-time/job share positions.
- Supplier vetting for gender equity i.e. CPD companies. If a supplier cannot show they value gender equity. If a CPD provider cannot involve one woman into their INSET day program. Do we really want them in our schools?
- Governors are to be made aware of gender inequity possibly through unconscious bias training/ CPD. Governance is about holding school leaders accountable and we have to skill governors to do that effectively.
- Governors to be linked to students and staff (gender/race/LGBTQ/etc)
- An attempt to make governing bodies more representative of society with a 50 50 gender balance. Male-biased governors may find it difficult to acknowledge privilege within their own ranks.
Pupils and Curriculum
- To teach universal values and critique gender based ones.
- To teach an equal opportunities curriculum.
- To consider teaching in gender-segregated groups (specifically PE lessons).
- To promote only gender-neutral physical learning environment (display boards, etc.)
- To develop critical thinking around gender issues for pupils.
- Gender par guest program. Attempt a one for one policy. One male followed by one female and so on. Especially pertinent when involving our pupils if we continue to show pupils that men are always the inspirational people in power this becomes and self-fulfilling prophecy, leaving girls feeling inferior and boys feeling superior. (reword this)
Effective Use of Privilege
- Refusal to speak on all-male panels. This is a direct use of our privilege as it will force organisers cannot find at least one qualified female to talk on the panel.
- To call out gender inequity when we see it whether that be with the pupils, parents, staff or governors. This is difficult but necessary. Colleagues need to be challenged if making sexist statements such as “but boys will be boys” and referencing female staff as girls – would you refer to male staff as boys?
If you’re a man reading this, review the list and recognise whether you are in a position to make the above changes; if you are, you’re in a position of privilege and you should. It’s your duty to use your privilege to try to make change.
This is not a finished job. It’s a beginning, not an end.
Any other ideas, thoughts?
Could a wordsmith out there polish the ideas into a snappy, ready for action list?
I am privileged as a heterosexual, able, cis male (no doubt I have missed some of my privileges here). Society bestows an invisible power upon my shoulders. With that being said, this and every other action I take is, I hope, with the recognition of that privilege.
If I overstep, I’ll be glad for someone to please put me back in line.