Whilst I do agree that more must be done to teach boys about sexual abuse and harassment at school, I think it should be about educating ALL children and their parents about what is and is not acceptable in their treatment of each other. The internet has changed the “social norms” around sexual behaviour and therefore this should be added to the school curriculum. Boys only schools most definitely need to pick up their game, they probably need to be sent to a mixed school to better understand how to live alongside girls, because they are confused as well and all of them need clearer guidelines about the rules and to open up the conversations.
Personally I think it’s a real tragedy that Sarah Everard’s murder, a horrendous, but thankfully extremely rare attack on an innocent female has been “hijacked” to the degree it has. Everyone has been sickened by her death, it shouldn’t have divided the genders. The perpetrator is a sick man who was clearly in the throws of a full blown breakdown who should have been assessed and possible sectioned before this terrible crime occurred. Of course there are real concerns for women’s safety and we all have our stories to tell and of course we shouldn’t have to look over our shoulders and hold our keys between our fingers, but there is no direct link here and we really do need to remember that. Understandably there is public anger about her death and the insecurity many women feel in public spaces, but the answer is not a curfew for men after 6pm, or for men to feel they are seen as a potential threat when they run or walk the streets.
This is a time for all of us to come together calmly to reflect on how we can practically work together to ensure we improve the situation for everyone. A time to look at the wider problems in society such as domestic violence and male suicide and make a plan that works for us all. Our stale old patriarchy and the confining ideas about what it is to be a man or a woman are still hurting men, just as they are hurting women. Men are still three times more likely to take their own lives that women and suicide is Britain’s biggest killer of men under fifty. I cannot begin to imagine how lockdown has added to this. One of the main reasons for this is the lifelong conditioning we are still all experiencing – men are more likely to repress their emotions instead of express them and fail to seek help from friends, family or health professionals, because it is seen as weak. It’s these constrained and rigid roles we have to find a way to move away from, we need to talk about positive masculinity, teach boys and girls how to take risks and how to compete, but also how to lose and how to be resilient. Blaming men in general isn’t the answer, we have to work together collectively, as a team, to make a new plan on how to move forward.