How can we make women safer? It starts in the classroom.

Two friends and I walked along the beach the other day lamenting several things. The first revolved around the behaviour of kids in the classroom. 

Two of us are still involved in teaching secondary students, the other is retired but well-versed in student behaviour and learning. We lamented that so much bad behaviour was from boys directed at women teachers. 

We had all experienced this gender-based behaviour, we had all been sworn at, ridiculed and even shoved physically by some of our students. Literally, none of this had happened to our male colleagues.

We talked our way around the issue of post-lockdown behaviour, and the fact that many students seemed immature, dysregulated and lacking some basic skills. We blamed the social isolation of lockdown, the ready availability of social media, computer games, and even online pornography for some of these ills. 

We segued to the unrealistic and often violent content of pornography, often portraying women in degrading and objectifying ways, disconnected from the real world of interpersonal relationships.  

Sadly, this led us to the next connection. One women is killed every four days in Australia, this year alone, either by their partner or a stranger. The killers are allegedly all male. 

This is a stark and shameful statistic and there has been much hand-wringing, some marches and headlines, with politicians gaining the spotlight for a moment of emotive connection. But do the male politicians really understand what women put up with on a daily basis? And have done for centuries? 

Women don’t feel safe

Why do women not feel safe in this country? As teenagers, we were all warned about provocative behaviour. Don’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t flaunt your body. Don’t walk home late at night on your own. Don’t get drunk. Don’t wear that mini-skirt. Don’t, don’t – fill in whatever you remember from those times. 

This list comes from 60 years ago in my case. Historic really, but still as relevant today as it was then. I told my two daughters to always be careful, always be alert, always watch their behaviour, where they went and with whom. 

They railed against my advice, with the complaint: “Why do I have to always be on the lookout? Boys and men don’t have to always be hypervigilant.“ And that is true. They should be able to wear what they like and go where they like but that is neither sensible nor to be recommended in our world. 

Evidently, we now have one of the highest rates of femicide in the developed world, the latest statistics pushing us up a notch or two. According to the United Nations Global Study on Homicide 2019, “One in five homicides are perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member, yet girls and women make up the vast majority.” A sad statistic indeed.

So, what are we to do as a nation? The talk and the change needs to happen in the early formative years when the very basic attitudes are formed as children. Boys and girls need to be taught the value of each other, of each gender, respecting and believing in equality.

Now, all of this sounds like sweeping platitudes. In some ways they are. What I want right now, as a teacher, is for my students’ parents to take them in hand and have the hard discussions about pornography, about respect for women and about anger management. 

I don’t want my male students to become tomorrow’s thugs. I am tired of being disrespected in the classroom, let alone on the street.

Do you have an opinion on Dianne’s article? How can we tackle the current gender-violence crisis?

Also read: Travel SOS: Solo Traveller Safety


  1. This is not true. Respect starts in the home at birth. By the time the child is 7 damage done by poor examples at home are ingrained and very difficult to undo. The poor teacher has a huge task ahead made even more difficult by unsupportive parents. Not everyone should be a parent obviously.

  2. I agree. There are so many things parents should be instilling in their children, not the least including respect for themselves, other people, their own and other people’s property. A whole range of values. I suspect too many parents expect teachers to take on their responsibility.

  3. Whist I agree with both the writer and Teeto27, it is more.
    It also needs to be the training that actions have consequences, and failure to accept discipline and its consequences breed s the consequences we are now seeing in our society.
    It is the result of spoiling the child, and the being more interested in keeping people happy and not offending anyone.
    Partly that is because people are are too fixed on what they want to do rather than spending tie and effort caring for bringing their children up with balance in life and having understanding that and respect when they themselves are selfish and and undisciplined

  4. No, teaching children respect does not start in the classroom, it begins at home. Unfortunately, there are too many lazy parents who want to be their child’s friend that they don’t parent. Everything seems to be wanted to be taught at school – well there are only so many hours in the day, so how do the basics actually get taught if all the things that should and need to be taught at home, be taught at school? Everything that gets added into the curriculum takes away time from the kids who are slipping through the cracks and don’t understand different concepts in subjects, so get left behind the rest of the pack. It is turning into a vicious circle.

  5. I totally agree with Peter. I also remember the days in school in South Africa, that boys were sent to the office by teachers and the headmaster dished out 6 of the best. Our parents taught us respect for our elders and others, as well as not taking or damaging what did not belong to us. It took a village to raise a child and neighbours were allowed to discipline our children, within reason. Nowadays a lot of the youth are a bunch of entitled sissies who act with impunity. Mothers accept disrespect from their sons and fathers seem to allow that behaviour. Decent men have to call out other men for bad behaviour, otherwise nothing will change.

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