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Schools breed misogyny but we can break the cycle

Nick Evans, the principal of my former high school Wesley College, last month wrote to parents with an affirmative recognition that misogyny is present everywhere, including at Wesley, and must be tackled by administration and the community alike.

As a former student of Wesley, it is with regret that I say this letter came too late.

I graduated from Wesley in 2015, but it was not until some time later that my female friends began to share their experiences of school, which were markedly different to my own and those of my male friends.

Wesley College is dealing with multiple disclosures of alleged sexual harassment of girls by male students.

Wesley College is dealing with multiple disclosures of alleged sexual harassment of girls by male students. Credit:Penny Stephens

As a member of co-educational group who waded through those formative years together, I was surprised to hear that many of the memories of the women in our group were concentrated around moments of acute unease, bodily fear, and shame.

Those were not emotions that I, or many of my male friends, associated with our time at school. This disparity is because these instances of jeering, provocative jokes, or general harassment were being done to girls by boys. This part of the school experience was exclusive to girls.

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As these stories are being shared, myself and the other men in the room have begun to ask both ourselves and the women, “It wasn’t us, was it?”

The uncomfortable truth is, in some part, it was.

For many young men grappling for an identity and social stability, their female classmates are simultaneously objects of both desire and denigration. The result of this is the sexual objectification of girls, which allows them to still be pursued romantically, but minimises the social consequences of their opinion should they turn you down.

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