By Kate Baines, University of Dundee
Summer Term 2023
I grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Despite the Scottish capital’s manicured, elegant appearance, there is a sexist underbelly among the sports clubs, schools, and universities. Growing up, I was aware of my mother always wanting to collect me from the bus stop when it was dark. I was told if a boy is mean to you, this means he ‘likes you.” I remember being scolded for being too ‘Girly,’ or not ‘Girly’ enough. As I matured and gained perspective, I realised that something was ‘off’ in our society, that these stereotypes were part of a much bigger problem. When I discovered the meaning of misogyny, I began to dig deeper and discuss the subject openly with my peers. The subsequent conversations inform this blog for The RAP Project.
Misogyny is a hatred for, contempt for, or prejudice of, women. A person who is misogynistic will disagree with and try to silence those who try to end patriarchal norms and expectations that don’t serve male interests. There is much more discussion around misogyny now, and many educators are addressing unacceptable behaviour and banter in schools. However, does this mean that contempt for women and girls is no longer an issue? Of course not. But I am surprised at how many people think so.
Let’s examine double standards and gender stereotypes. In 2023, men are praised and admired for being sexually active. The kudos increases if men have more than one sexual partner. However, if a woman has a healthy sexual appetite and enjoys physical relationships, she is likely to be depicted as easy.
Internalised misogyny is everywhere. For example, I scrolled through TikTok recently and stumbled across a video of a schoolboy criticising a woman for sleeping with more than one man. He repeated the vitriolic, highly personal comments her former partners had shared with him in his video. His cruel commentary indicated that virgins are more attractive, and that any female with over 8 sexual partners in their lifetime ‘belong in the streets.’ This video infuriated me. I made the mistake of reading hundreds of comments on his post, 99% of them of agreeing and praising his warped, sexist perspective. The more attention his post receives, the greater the interaction, thanks to algorithms. That’s how Tik Tok works. I then ventured to watch his next video. This time he reported what women said about the men they slept with, shaming boys who were still virgins and encouraging them to sleep with as many women as they could. This is par for the course on social media today.
Whether posted as a joke or not, I don’t this is Okay. I think it is cultivating a misogynistic mindset. I find it heart-breaking to think young women and girls are made to believe that sexual desire is shameful, and that and acting on these desires is even worse. Women should feel proud of their bodies, confident in their choices, and not believe for a moment that they are not allowed to behave differently than their male counterparts.
I attended a mixed school, well-respected for its academic and pastoral reputation. One day, female students were informed of a mandatory new rule: Once PE class finished, girls had to change out their skirts into their long trousers before leaving campus. The male students were able to stay in their shirts and t-shirts. When senior teachers were questioned why, we were told that our legs were too ‘distracting.’ Many of us sixth formers were outraged. “Why should women have to change their attire to accommodate a man’s lack of self-control?” I want schools to be challenging these attitudes, not teaching young women and girls to make way for how they are received rather than teach the males to respect women. Being told that my skirt was “too short” from the age of 12 in school was uncomfortable. Being told this by male teachers was very uncomfortable. But it was most upsetting when female teachers joined in, as they too were complicit in this victim blaming culture.
The old phrase “Boys will be Boys” is often used to justify misogynistic banter and attitudes. I have friends who attended several schools in Edinburgh and the themes were common. I remember feeling disappointed that we bonded over the shared experience of sexist banter and attitudes, rather than over shared cultural, intellectual, and athletic pursuits.
These subtle and not so subtle experiences informed my education on feminism, and I didn’t really have a grasp of how gender stereotypes and rape culture influenced me until I turned 17. The conversations became more frequent, with my female friends and with some of my male peers. We realised that we carried the responsibility of educating our male friends about feminism and internalised misogyny. We asked ourselves, “Why aren’t these conversations taking place at home and in primary school?” Families and schools should take responsibility for raising awareness around gender equality, not young women in school.
This year has been particularly challenging, as many Scottish boys and young men have succumbed to Andrew Tate, the influencer who has just been indicted on rape and human trafficking charges. Tate’s appeal rests on his inspirational work ethic, physical fitness, and living your ‘best life’. However, his misogynist views are well-documented. Tate dominated social media and inspired conversations of my male peers at university. When we expressed concern over why they were comfortable discounting his derogatory comments about women, we were called “snowflakes” (a derogatory term describing people deemed to be making a fuss over something small.)
As part of my work experience for The RAP Project, I conducted an anonymous survey of 20 people aged 18–22. My objective was to ask the same questions of 10 men and 10 women. I asked the sampling to define ‘misogyny’, and where they first remembered learning its meaning, i.e., in school, on social media, or from peers. All responses showed good understanding of the term. Yet all of the respondents said that misogyny was defined by female friends, family members, or on social media, not from school. Examples of misogyny experienced from female responses include street harassment, inappropriate comments and questions about love and sex life in the workplace, and looking ‘ladylike.’ When questions about Andrew Tate were asked, all respondents had heard of him. When asked if they agree with what he says, all female responses say they do not, adding they believe his social media platform is dangerous, whereas most of the male respondents say they admire him for saying what people are too “scared to say.”
All responses say that double standards are still prevalent in society and all the female responses identify as a feminist and all the male responses, despite one, said they do not. The male respondents equate feminism with a “man hating focus.” Equal rights and equal pay do not equal a man-hating, superior agenda.
Social media and its algorithms are promoting this skewed perception of feminism, dangerous influencers, and everyone has a responsibility to raise awareness about these issues that threaten to divide our culture. But the real responsibility lies with families and educators working in primary and secondary education.
*Days after Kate completed her work experience from the University of Dundee, Scotland’s Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingston openly acknowledged Police Scotland was “institutionally misogynist, racist, and discriminatory”.
* The Scottish Women’s Convention commissioned a project in April 2023 to gain a better understanding of women’s views on the proposed Misogyny Law and their experiences of misogyny in Scotland