Lara Prendergast Lara Prendergast

Don’t tell schoolboys to call themselves feminists

In the Independent this week, Yvette Cooper suggested that British boys should grow up as ‘confident feminists’. They need to have lessons in feminism to help them learn how to treat women, she argued.

But school shouldn’t be a place where you indoctrinate pupils to believe a particular ideology. And feminism, for all its admirable achievements in the 20th century, is an ideology.

Compulsory sex education in which boys are taught to be feminists is beyond silly. By all means explain that they shouldn’t go round lifting up girls’ skirts for a peek, but it’s possible to do this without telling them they must call themselves feminists. They might not like that kind of prescription. Schoolboys do tend to be a bit… truculent.

British schools already teach children about many of the prevailing ideologies that have shaped their short lives. But you teach kids about the Nazis; you don’t dictate to them not to become little fascists. You don’t sit them down and tell them totalitarianism is wrong; you suggest they read Brave New World and Animal Farm – then ask them what they make of it. The same goes for feminism. Add Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf to the curriculum. Show schoolboys feminism (and schoolgirls, for that matter), but don’t expect them to identify as feminists.

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