Prejudice

Before I walked into a classroom, I’d already planned my response for when inanimate objects were called “gay” – a sardonic “I don’t think a ruler has a sexuality, Jordan”.

In reality, being armed with this response was like taking a pea shooter to a battle. I was really taken aback by the sheer volume and ferocity of the insults here.

There are three main prejudiced insults at my school.

Gay

So this one’s predictable. Things that have no sexuality are gay if they annoy them, but it is also a favourite insult to anyone remotely effeminate or plain unpopular.

What really surprised me was the hatred when I dug a little deeper with students.

Early on, I had three boys in detention with me and we had a conversation about using the word gay. “Don’t you understand, Miss? They don’t have normal sex”

There is a real obsession with anal sex and how disgusting and unnatural is is.

My standard response now is “straight people can have anal sex, too, you know”. Don’t know if that’s really appropriate for me to be telling them but I can’t just sit and nod.

Disabled

When I was at school, things were “spastic”. We didn’t really know the origin of the word. We used it because our friends did and it was a funny word to say. After someone properly explained the origins of the word and properly guilted us, we stopped using it.

I expected something similar. But the word the children use in place of spastic is plain old “disabled”. No sugar coating. They know exactly what disabled means; they have disabled schoolmates. They are still unabashed in calling my board marker disabled when it stops working or telling Hassan he’s disabled when he mixes up his times tables.

Gypsy

This one really shocked me when I first heard it.

If you smell, you’re a dirty gypsy.

If you steal things, you’re a thieving gypsy.

Nothing is just “jacked”. It is “jacked by a gypsy”.

We have a sizeable proportion of both Roma and Irish travellers in school. I’m pretty surprised no fights have broken out in front of me over this to be honest. I’m sure they have outside my classroom.

I don’t know how much of this is mindless repetition and how much is conscious hatred. Either way, my response is now the same. If I hear these words, I go all out with a “learning conversation”, apology letters and SLT detention. I hope my earnest conversations with the kids have opened their eyes somewhat, but I’m not holding my breath. Hopefully the SLT detention makes them realise it’s no joke.

So the kids don’t say these words openly in class anymore. That’s a start. But how many mindsets have I really changed? Not enough, I suspect.

4 thoughts on “Prejudice

  1. Obvious no-one admits to knowing anything about porn

    Bearing in mind that anal sex has become an absolutely central fixation of heterosexual pornography, that anal sex is seen as a uniquely gay does seem to puncture the regular claim that “all schoolchildren are being brutalised by endless exposure to porn on the internet”.

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  2. Pip

    Other terms of abuse in very common use where I work are “immigrant” and “blick” (meaning very dark-skinned). The strange thing is that “immigrant” is almost always used as an insult by pupils who are themselves immigrants, albeit second-generation, against more recent arrivals, and similarly “blick” is invariably used by lighter-skinned black pupils against their darker-skinned peers.
    I, too, have had a few earnest conversations with pupils, partly to try to open their eyes, but also to try to understand their motivation. I’m sure there are explanations for this in social psychology, but I can’t explain it, and nor could the perpetrators with whom I spoke.

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