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Teachers debate how to tackle incel culture in schools after female staff reports of misogyny at work

Written by on 17 April 2022

Teachers will debate how to tackle the growing problem of “incel” culture in schools after seven in 10 staff said they had experienced misogyny at work.

Kathryn Downs, a secondary school teacher from Leeds, proposed the motion at the NASUWT union’s annual conference in Birmingham after a survey of members revealed 72% had been the victim of misogyny at their school.

Incel, an abbreviation of the term “involuntary celibate”, refers to an online subculture involving men who feel unable to have sex or find love and express extreme resentment towards women.

The movement was linked to the murder of five people by gunman Jake Davidson in Plymouth last year.

Ms Downs told the conference: “In the last year we have seen cases such as the murders of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and the shootings of five innocent people in Plymouth by a member of the incel community.”

She quoted a study from October 2021 that showed there was a 6% chance of someone being suggested an incel video on YouTube within five steps of a non-related video.

“Given the amount of time our young people spend on social media, this is 6.3% too much,” she told the conference.

“Clearly this shows the dangers of failing to support and improve the mental wellbeing of boys within schools.”

In the survey of 1,500 teachers, 59% of those who had experienced misogyny at school said it had come from a pupil.

One said that a student had asked “Is it your time of the month miss?”, while others reported sexualised remarks about their appearance.

Another responded said pupils had exposed themselves or made sexual noises or gestures during lessons.

“On a daily basis I feel boys are disrespectful towards me as a teacher,” one person said.

“I constantly hear sexist remarks from students. I see boys grab girls and say sexist comments.

“The girls are just used to it and brush it off.”

Teachers also said some male pupils thought feminism was a “desire to kill men” and one had been called a “feminazi” for broaching the subject.

One teacher wrote: “A male student looked me dead in the eyes and asked if I’d ever been raped.”

Half of teachers who had experienced sexist comments or behaviour at work did not report it and of those who did, 45% said no action was taken.

Only 19% of respondents said they thought their school was doing enough to tackle misogyny and 41% said they felt it has meant them being overlooked for promotion.

Female staff who were pregnant also reported negative comments from fellow teachers.

Ms Downs’s motion calls on the NASUWT to lobby government to make misogyny a hate crime and provide further mental health support for boys in schools.

A similar vote was rejected by MPs last year.

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