“Stop acting like a girl”, “You look like a fag”, “You are such a slut”, “Genderbender”
Taunts like these can often be heard in schools across the land, where homophobic, transphobic, bi-phobic, sexist and sexual commentary is often seen as the norm. At the core of each of these comments is a common root: Gendered Harrassment.
What is gendered harassment?
“Gendered harassment is defined as any behaviour, verbal, physical, or psychological, that polices the boundaries of traditional heterosexual gender norms and includes (hetero)sexual harassment, homophobic harassment, and harassment for gender non-conformity.” (Meyer, 2008)
In other words where gendered stereotypes prevail about what males and females should traditionally look and act like then gendered harassment will exist. Anyone and everyone will be affected by gendered harassment , it is a way of society policing and enforcing its idea of “normal”.
Schools are starting to understand they need to address homophobia, thanks to high profile media campaigns, support and training, which is great but they still lack understanding about how to address sexual, sexist or transphobic bullying, where such behaviours are sometimes perceived as normal “gendered banter” from children and young people.
By reframing the discussion in terms of gendered harassment, this recognises that gender is at the core of all of these different types of bullying and harassment, then schools can get to the crux of the issue and start to address three distinct problematic issues in schools ‘for the price of one‘!
Obviously care will need to be taken not to lose specific nuanced issues within each type of bullying/harrassment. However by considering these things under the umbrella of gendered harassment, it gives opportunity to collectively challenge the common issues. This will save time and energy for schools and can transform school environments for male, female, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and straight students. i.e. such approaches will benefit absolutely everyone (What’s not to like!?).
So it’s Anti-Bullying Week and this week I do hope schools and young people will start to consider critically thinking about approaches to gendered harrassment rather than just sticking up a few “Some people are gay, get over it!” posters and thinking that this is sufficient. It really really isn’t.
For more help with understanding gendered harrassment in your school please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or visit The RSE Hub