—Picture: Chatham House
Yvette Cooper rocked the gender political boat last week by saying we should raise our sons as “confident feminists” writes Glen Poole.
Chris Maume at the liberal left newspaper, The Independent ,agreed. He declared, as confidently as a boy feminist: “Should we be teaching boys to be feminist? [The] answer, naturally, is a resounding ‘Yes.’ And really, who could argue with that? Rod Liddle, possibly, but nobody in their right mind.”
Over at the conservative Spectator magazine, Lara Prendergast had a different view. “School shouldn’t be a place where you indoctrinate pupils to believe a particular ideology,” she said. “And feminism, for all its admirable achievements in the 20th century, is an ideology.”
These left vs right disagreements about gender politics are not unique to the UK. In France, a left-wing programme promoting the teaching of “gender theory” was dropped last month after a concerted campaign by right wingers and traditionalists led to parents removing their children from school.
The ABC of Equality
On one side, advocates like Simon Massei, whose article “France gives way to opponents of ‘gender theory’ in schools” is published at insideMAN today, claim that the idea of the ABCD de l’égalité programme was simply to teach children that some differences between the sexes are biological, but others are socially constructed.
Meanwhile, opponents of the programme like the Catholic Group Civitas, claim that “an unnatural and perverse ideology” is being taught as early as pre-school “under the guise of equality and ‘the fight against homophobia’”.
Some of these arguments are redolent of the struggle over section 28 of the Conservative’s Local Government Act of 1988, which prohibited schools from teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Looking back at this period of recent history, the Conservative MP Francis Maude said in 2012 that “in hindsight, it was very wrong — very wrong. It was a legislative provision that came out of honourable motives. It took me some time to realise what an emblem of intolerance Section 28 had become for gay people. It was the tip of a deep iceberg — the iceberg below the surface being a host of anti-gay social attitudes.”
In the eighties and nineties leading conservatives were convinced they were right to ensure all children were NOT taught that homosexuality is an acceptable form of family relationship. Today, leading thinkers on the left are convinced that it right to ensure that boys are NOT raised to be anything other than feminists—and they believe “nobody in their right mind” could think any differently.
Not the usual suspects
But people do think differently—and not just the usual suspects on the right. In France one of the leading campaigners against the teaching of feminist gender theory in schools is, Farida Belghoul, a writer and filmmaker of Algerian descent who was the main spokesperson for the March for Equality and Against Racism.
In the UK, the former feminist and gender equality consultant, Karen Woodall dismissed Yvette Cooper’s calls for boys to be raised as feminists in no uncertain terms saying:
“The rights of boys are equal to those of girls and it is not for feminists to determine what makes a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl’ either for that matter. Feminism is not synonymous with equality, much as the feminists would have us believe that it is so and it does not and cannot solve the problems of the world in which we are raising our children and grandchildren.”
Another opponent of Yvette Cooper’s proposal to teach boys to be feminists is the 17-year-old sociology and politics student and YouTube broadcaster, Josh O’Brien. In a video recorded for insideMAN he says:
“My issue is not that it is feminism that she wishes to be forced upon children, it is that she thinks it is the place of a school to indoctrinate any political belief.”
Let boys think for themselves
Josh’s suggestion that children should be given information for and against different beliefs and the critical thinking skills to form an opinion themselves, seems like an eminently sensible idea.
One project that’s already working with boys in schools on the issue of gender equality is the Great Men Value Women project. According to one of their male volunteers, Folarin Akinmade, “feminism is just about being a decent human being. It’s so much more simple than people make it.”
Is it really that simple? Experience suggests that the world of gender and gender politics is deeply and deliciously fascinating and complex. It’s complex because there are many different genders and gender identities and there are many different forms of gender politics.
No politician should seek to dictate what gender identity a British citizen can or can’t adopt and at the same time, no MP should seek to impose his or her own gender politics on every boy in the country. But why not teach boys about gender, gender issues and gender politics in school—from all perspectives, not just a feminist viewpoint—and let them make up their own minds what they want to believe?
Written by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men
What do you think? What types of gender issues and gender politics should we be teaching boys in schools?
- Teenage boy tells Yvette Cooper why she has no right to re-educate young men as feminists
- France gives way to opponents of gender theory in schools