Listen up ladies! Wait no. NO. Let me do that again. Gather round girls! Ah I’ve gone and done it again.
You might be wondering what I’m talking about. Well, as it happens, teachers have been told not to refer to pupils as ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ as it ‘constantly reminds them of their gender.’
Former government mental health tsar Natasha Devon told headteachers of the UK’s leading girls’ schools (sorry, pupil’s schools) they should adopt gender-neutral language when addressing students.
The same, they say, should be applied to boys (pupils*).
Talking at the Girls’ (Pupils*) School Association’s annual conference in Manchester, Natasha said that she would ‘never walk into a room in an-all girls’ school and say girls or ladies’ as it was ‘patronising.’
I don’t think it is useful to be constantly reminded of your gender all the time and all the stereotypes that go with it.
I think actually in some ways boys are more constrained by the expectation of their gender,” she said. “And whilst that is being challenged and changed I don’t think it’s helpful to keep saying ‘girls, girls, girls, boys, boys, boys’, because there is so much implication that potentially goes with that.
Devon argued that using the term “girls” can put a pressure on them to do everything perfectly which can ‘create a lot of anxiety’ in kids and teenagers.
As for saying “boys”, she claims it can evoke a sense of ‘being macho, not talking about your feelings, being told to man up’.
If your narrative is saying girls don’t get angry, or boys don’t cry, or girls aren’t allowed to do this, or boys aren’t allowed to do this, then that is potentially going to have an impact on your well-being.
So I hope that in taking away the negative stereotypes associated with gender, we can ultimately improve their mental health.
The obvious other reason why schools should avoid using terms like ‘boys’ for boys and ‘girls’ for girls is that there could be transgender students in the schools.
There are some schools I go into that are single-sex schools, but there are transgender students in the year,” she said. “You can’t presume that because somebody presents as a gender that that’s what they are.
Devon was appointed the first ever mental heatlh tsar in August 2015 by the Department for Education (DfE).
However, she was fired some nine months later after criticising Government policy.