One thing that becomes apparent when you have children is how lots of stuff is gendered. There are boys’ and girls’ versions of toys, colours, bedclothes and movies. And when you start to look, you see it everywhere in the adult world too. We have male moisturiser, for instance. How, exactly, can a moisturiser be male? The mind boggles.
Until now, I had never heard of educational words and phrases being dichotomised into male and female. However, that’s exactly what Sue Cowley has done in a recent post. We read that ‘every child matters’ is female whereas ‘grit’ and ‘rigour’ are ‘forceful’ and male. Really? If you want to see real grit in action then I suggest being present when a woman you love gives birth.
It is tempting to write-off this rhetoric as sheer silliness. But there is a sinister side. Imagine that you are a female headteacher who is trying to implement a ‘no excuses’ (male) approach in your school. Does this make you less feminine? Is this the point, to apply a subtle kind of pressure?
It is clear that Sue is not a fan of the terms and practices that she labels as ‘male’. We all know the game here; it is an attempt to frame the debate. Males are violent creatures, responsible for wars, sex crimes, oppression and destruction. Females are nurturing, sharing, collaborative and consensus-building people. Men are bad. Women are good.
Therefore, if a practice, idea or term can be labelled as male and maleness is bad then, by implication, that practice is bad.
This clearly represents the bankruptcy of an argument. If ‘no excuses’ is a bad approach then the most obvious thing to do is to explain why. Personally, I am unconvinced about trying to inculcate character traits such as ‘grit’ in schools, preferring to use the time to teach academic subjects and I have explained why.
Let us not allow others to manipulate and control the language that we use – the very thoughts that we are allowed to have – just because they have run out of valid arguments.