Violence against women starts with school stereotypes

If we are ever going to combat the attitudes and behaviour that can lead to violence, we have to prevent early stereotypes from taking root.

Gender-based violence is a deeply embedded problem in many societies and cultures. Despite this, efforts to challenge it are rarely seen at a primary school level. There is a perception that children aged 11 and 12 are too young to “know” about violence, or to offer opinions on it. But this is something that has to change if we are ever going to combat the attitudes and behaviour that can lead to this type of violence.

Recently, I have been conducting research in this area with children in five primary schools across Glasgow. I wanted to look into how young children viewed and defined violence, and thereby confront what I discovered was an everyday acceptance of, in particular, male violence against women.

I found that young people understood and made sense of violence in a way that was always framed by gender. They tended to naturalise violence as an integral part of male identity. They justified male violence using expectations of inequality in gender roles. Violence that occurred amongst peers and siblings was normalised, and therefore not labelled as violence.

My research indicated that actions were only defined as “violent” under some fairly stringent conditions. They understood a “violent” situation to involve an adult male fight taking place outside the home, which would be followed by injury and official sanctions. This kind of violence is replicated by the media in films and in newspapers. When hypothetical examples followed this linear route the children were more likely to judge them as violent.

Incidents that were experienced by the young people themselves were therefore less likely to be labelled as violence. This was compounded by the way in which the girls often found that their own experiences of violent peers, particularly when boys, were invalidated by the lack of adult recognition.

Authority figures such as teachers are more likely to turn a blind eye to boys being violent towards girls. When the girls told teachers that a boy had hit or pushed them teachers normalised the behaviour by saying that it was the boys way of trying to get attention, or “that’s just what boys do.” If the violent actions of men towards women are normalised, girls may grow up to minimise abuse as part of their everyday gendered interactions with men rather than be encouraged to challenge it as behaviour that is wrong.

Stereotypical gender roles are evidently pertinent in young people’s understandings of men’s violence against women.

This is seen in the way that young people access a discourse of difference when talking about men and women. Most children judged adult gender difference as symbolised by heterosexual relationships where they expected men and women to have different roles. They also used age as a signifier in their constructions of gender, judging that the more adult somebody was, the more fixed and restricted their gender identity became.

This can be best illustrated with girls' future ambition. Girls in particular see their futures as limited, and their ambitions restricted because of their understanding of anticipated gender roles. Whilst viewing their identities as evolving and fluid at a younger age, girls saw these identities as more rigid, and less plural, as they got older. For example, currently the girls had a wide range of ambitions, doctor, astronaut, scientist, dancer. However they saw these ambitions and opportunities as being curtailed by marriage and children. Boys' ambitions, and their belief in achieving them, did not change.

This gendered invalidation of their own experiences of violence and their understanding of identity demonstrate that the promotion of gender equality and the reduction of gender divisions is a necessity for dealing with this social problem.

Violence against women is rooted in the structural inequalities between men and women. It is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality. When gender divisions and stereotypes are perpetuated, young people are less likely to challenge men’s violence against women.

As adults we need to examine our role in this. We can teach them that all violence is wrong but we also need to scrutinise how we may be limiting what children can be or become. Boys and girls are continuously told that they are “different” from each other, or this is implied by lining them up in different lines at school, having gender specific sports, toys or activities, by speaking to them in different ways or by expecting different things from them.

The promotion of gender equality would mean violence against women was no longer normalised or endorsed by gendered stereotypes. As such, gender segregation and division needs to stop, and all members of society need to challenge all forms of violence against women. Until they do so, women will never achieve an equal status.

Nancy Lombard does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

Violence against women is rooted in the structural inequalities between men and women. Photo: Getty

Nancy Lombard is a Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy at Glasgow Caledonian University.

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Let's face it: supporting Spurs is basically a form of charity

Now, for my biggest donation yet . . .

I gazed in awe at the new stadium, the future home of Spurs, wondering where my treasures will go. It is going to be one of the architectural wonders of the modern world (football stadia division), yet at the same time it seems ancient, archaic, a Roman ruin, very much like an amphitheatre I once saw in Croatia. It’s at the stage in a new construction when you can see all the bones and none of the flesh, with huge tiers soaring up into the sky. You can’t tell if it’s going or coming, a past perfect ruin or a perfect future model.

It has been so annoying at White Hart Lane this past year or so, having to walk round walkways and under awnings and dodge fences and hoardings, losing all sense of direction. Millions of pounds were being poured into what appeared to be a hole in the ground. The new stadium will replace part of one end of the present one, which was built in 1898. It has been hard not to be unaware of what’s going on, continually asking ourselves, as we take our seats: did the earth move for you?

Now, at long last, you can see what will be there, when it emerges from the scaffolding in another year. Awesome, of course. And, har, har, it will hold more people than Arsenal’s new home by 1,000 (61,000, as opposed to the puny Emirates, with only 60,000). At each home game, I am thinking about the future, wondering how my treasures will fare: will they be happy there?

No, I don’t mean Harry Kane, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker – local as well as national treasures. Not many Prem teams these days can boast quite as many English persons in their ranks. I mean my treasures, stuff wot I have been collecting these past 50 years.

About ten years ago, I went to a shareholders’ meeting at White Hart Lane when the embryonic plans for the new stadium were being announced. I stood up when questions were called for and asked the chairman, Daniel Levy, about having a museum in the new stadium. I told him that Man United had made £1m the previous year from their museum. Surely Spurs should make room for one in the brave new mega-stadium – to show off our long and proud history, delight the fans and all those interested in football history and make a few bob.

He mumbled something – fluent enough, as he did go to Cambridge – but gave nothing away, like the PM caught at Prime Minister’s Questions with an unexpected question.

But now it is going to happen. The people who are designing the museum are coming from Manchester to look at my treasures. They asked for a list but I said, “No chance.” I must have 2,000 items of Spurs memorabilia. I could be dead by the time I finish listing them. They’ll have to see them, in the flesh, and then they’ll be free to take away whatever they might consider worth having in the new museum.

I’m awfully kind that way, partly because I have always looked on supporting Spurs as a form of charity. You don’t expect any reward. Nor could you expect a great deal of pleasure, these past few decades, and certainly not the other day at Liverpool when they were shite. But you do want to help them, poor things.

I have been downsizing since my wife died, and since we sold our Loweswater house, and I’m now clearing out some of my treasures. I’ve donated a very rare Wordsworth book to Dove Cottage, five letters from Beatrix Potter to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, and handwritten Beatles lyrics to the British Library. If Beckham and I don’t get a knighthood in the next honours list, I will be spitting.

My Spurs stuff includes programmes going back to 1910, plus recent stuff like the Opus book, that monster publication, about the size of a black cab. Limited editions cost £8,000 a copy in 2007. I got mine free, as I did the introduction and loaned them photographs. I will be glad to get rid of it. It’s blocking the light in my room.

Perhaps, depending on what they want, and they might take nothing, I will ask for a small pourboire in return. Two free tickets in the new stadium. For life. Or longer . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 16 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times