'Victimhood narrative' taught in schools fuels anxiety in young women, academic claims
The “victimhood narrative” that is being taught at schools and universities is fuelling anxiety in young women, an academic has argued in her new book.
Doctrines of “everyday sexism” are “rape culture” are having a “debilitating” effect on girls’ confidence, according to Dr Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education at Kent University.
Institutions which should be promoting women’s rights - such as schools, universities and feminist campaigners - are now doing more harm than good, she argues.
In a new book, titled Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars, Dr Williams say that the breed of feminism which is considered “fashionable” nowadays involves telling young women that casual misogyny and sexual harassment are rife.
“I do think that there is one particular feminist narrative that seems to dominate in education,” Dr Williams told The Sunday Telegraph.
Rather than persevering they think ‘oh these are the insurmountable barriers I was told about 'Dr Joanna Williams
“But it is increasingly out of touch with reality. Girls are doing so much better at school than boys, and yet we are having people like The Everyday Sexism Projectare coming into schools sends out a message of: ‘just you wait, there are real difficulties ahead’.”
She said that if girls are instilled with a mindset of victimhood at a young age, it can set them back later in life. “When women go out into the world of work and experience obstacles, rather than persevering they think ‘oh these are the insurmountable barriers I was told about'."
The Everyday Sexism Project was set up in 2012 by Laura Bates, as a way to highlight casual misogyny by publishing online a catalogue of women’s experiences of harassment.
Dr Williams said that the narrative continues at university where students are told that there is a "rape culture" or some kind of "epidemic" of sexual assault on campus.
“It is very difficult for women to present themselves as powerful, strong and capable if they think they need to be wary and anxious," she said.
"So if someone pays you a compliment [you are told] that is outrageous. You are told it is not a joke, it is a sexual attack, it is “everyday sexism” or a micro-aggression.”
She went on: "It can also be tragic. I gave a talk at my university and a young woman came up to me at the end and says she doesn’t leave her room after dark.
"When you teach girls they are victims they believe it. But this is not in keeping with reality and it can become quite debilitating."
Dr Williams said that this narrative of feminism is outdated since girls now consistently outperform boys at school and more women have been going on to higher education than men for the past generation.
“If you go back 25 or 30 years ago it really was the case that girls were not doing as well as boys and didn’t have the same education opportunities,” she said.
“You had very good reasons for wanting to challenge gender stereotypes in schools.” Dr Williams said that instead, feminism should now be presented in a more positive light since “pretty much for the first time there is nothing holding them back in their career”.
Writing in Women vs Feminism, she said that today's dominant feminism narrative "clearly espouses one idea above all others: that women are disadvantaged and oppressed; routine victims of everyday sexism, casual misogyny and the workings of patriarchy".
She argues that the better women’s lives become, "the harder it seems that a new generation of feminists must try to justify their purpose through uncovering ever more obscure problems".