Schools against Sexism (just don’t tweet about it, please)

I had the great pleasure of attending the UK Feminista Summer School at my beloved University of Birmingham this summer. It was a thought provoking and tiring weekend, and I learnt an awful lot. The speakers were a formidable and influential bunch, and, really, who doesn’t love a spot of feminist celebrity spotting?!

One session that has particularly stayed with me was the Generation F panel talk, where I heard from young feminists about, among other things, their experiences of sexism at school, and their exciting campaigns. We discussed the worsening problem of sexual harassment in schools. We discussed the inadequacies of sex and relationship education. We heard from teachers concerned about the way girls were being treated by boys in classrooms and corridors.  And we heard about the UK Feminista Schools Against Sexism Pledge. I was positive and fired up by the end of it.

Undeterred by the sexual harassment I and my friend encountered when walking across campus after leaving the summer school (doh!!), and high on UK Feminista-ism when I got home I tweeted to the head teacher of my old secondary school. I asked him if he would sign the Schools Against Sexism Pledge. The pledge commits head teachers to:

  • Support girls and women who are experiencing sexism and violence
  • Teach equality, consent and respect
  • Develop policy on gender equality and girls’ safety, and demonstrate this commitment publicly

Not altogether unreasonable, or controversial I’d say.

I mentioned – cathartic, #everydaysexism stylee – in the tweet that I had been sexually harassed and groped during my time at school. I’m not ashamed of this. And incidentally, I think you would be hard pressed to find many girls that haven’t experienced sexual harassment at school. 

I thought nothing much about not getting a reply. I didn’t particularly need or expect one. I get annoyed sometimes when people ask me to sign pledges and petitions.

But what I was not expecting was that my old head teacher would block me.  This is bad Twitter etiquette surely? 

When I queried this with the school I was rapidly sent a private message telling me that if I had a grievance about something that happened while I was there that I should contact the school, rather than tweet it. I had obviously spooked them. This was not my intention at all.

I didn’t have a ‘grievance’  I wished to bring against my school. But truth be told, I am pretty aggrieved now:

  • Talking about sexism in schools isn’t something they should shy away from. It won’t make them look bad admitting it goes on, and for publicly taking steps to address it.
  • Sexual harassment and groping isn’t something I shouldn’t tweet about (they really should check out @everydaysexism – tweeting about sexism changes the world folks!)
  • Telling someone not to tweet about something kind of makes them want to tweet about it even more… And blog about it too.