What have women ever been allowed to do in the education system?November 5, 2015
In the last few months the extent of the patriarchal domination of education has been made clear by some brave campaigning organisations, willing to point out how rare it is to see a woman in a school, and how difficult it is to organise childcare for a job where you only get school holidays off. Below are the minutes of a meeting of one such group, the Judean Women Teacher’s Front:
“The education system is oppressing us. It’s oppressing us in every way. And not just us, but our mothers and our mothers’ mothers.”
“And our mothers’ mothers’ mothers.”
“Yes. And our mothers’ mothers’ mothers’ mothers.”
“All right. Don’t labour the point. And what have we been been allowed to do in the education system?”
“Oh yeah, yeah most teachers are women . Yeah. That’s true.
“And senior management”
“Oh yes… senior management. You remember how two thirds of deputy and assistant heads are women?”
“All right, I’ll grant you that teachers and senior managers are two things women are allowed to do in education.
“Well yes obviously most headteachers are women… headship goes without saying. But apart from teaching, senior management and headship…”
“Managing Ofqual, including being chair or CEO.”
“Yes… all right, fair enough…”
“Yeah. That’s got something like 8 women out of 11 members”
“All right… all right… but apart from teachers, and senior managers and heads and academics in university education departments and Ofqual’s managers and educational psychologists and the education select committee and civil servants in the department for education and general secretaries of teaching unions- at least 50% of the people in all these positions are women – what have women been allowed to do education?”
“What!? Oh… secretary of state, yes… shut up!”
Update (about 5 minutes after posting): Actually, before I get murdered for this, I will add a short justification. The only point I am making is that education is a field dominated by women. That doesn’t mean no sexism exists. It doesn’t mean every part of the system is perfect. But it does mean that there is plenty to celebrate. The contribution of women to education is enormous. Men could not stop women in education if they tried. So why on earth should anyone promote a narrative about women being excluded and marginalised in education? Why is education not held up as an example? Why is the fact that 65% of heads are women not something used to encourage women into management in other sectors? Why should women teachers ever be portrayed as a class of victims, rather than leaders and professionals making a difference?