9 June 2017
Recently I have been having conversations with my three daughters about the need to respect each other – as they share space, as they sometimes need privacy and in dealing with social media. It’s actually proven a little harder than I thought! But we’re navigating things as a family as positively as we can. The idea that my girls are also interacting with others at school, church and elsewhere, learning to be respectful in a ‘say-it-as-it-is’ texting culture is also challenging. I was then forced to think about the ways boys respect girls and women when confronted with a few conversations and activities that have occurred during school time in the last few weeks.
In an attempt to raise student awareness on this, I mentioned at an assembly on Monday the need for the boys to behave as gentlemen and treat the girls like ladies, in all interactions. Simple things like letting them into class first, speaking to them politely and refraining from general name-calling. After a few snickers and smiles, I let the students know that they should not be dismissive of demeaning behaviour, or that the girls should think they were less than worthy of being treated as ladies all the time.
I was unhappy. Students are old enough (even as young as 5) to understand respect and consent. No young lady should be made to feel uncomfortable and less than valued as a lovely, attractive and honoured member of the opposite sex. And non-respect leads to not accepting “No, I don’t like it” as a reason to stop behaviour or actions.
As I explored this, I came across a website (http://www.justincoulson.com/respectwomen/) that delivered some really great conversation about this. Below is an adaptation of what I found.
So it’s up to all of us to teach respect, knowing that in Australia, predominantly at the hands of males: one in three women over the age of 15 have experienced physical violence; one in five have experienced sexual violence; and one in four children in Australia experience domestic and family violence.
So here are some possible game-changers in teaching boys better: Show respect by example (our example can be the best model of how to treat others with respect) Speak kindly (simply saying “please” and “thank you” can be huge respecters of individuals) Be helpful (show children how to offer help) Monitor media (minimise exposure to games and shows that glorify violence or condone gratuitous sex) Pre-arm against pornography (Let boys know that pornography exists, that people might want to show it to them, that others might think it’s funny, and that it teaches bad things. Let them know they can and should talk to us if anyone tries to show it to them. It is NOT something ‘all boys do’.) Talk about the issues (when you see disrespect, talk about it) Teach intimacy (and what it means to be in a healthy relationship where people love one another and express that love in healthy, functional ways) Teach consent (our boys must understand that no means no) Call out sexism (let them know sexism is not cool and it is not funny)
Ultimately, regardless of everything that we say, it is what we do that makes the biggest impact on our boys’ respectfulness. Let’s aim to teach them well.
Head of Secondary