In the French school environment, associations are still fighting against sexism

In the French school environment associations are still fighting against

While the High Council for Equality drew up a report on Monday, January 23 ” alarming of sexism in France, the associations in the field believe that education, which nevertheless constitutes an essential lever, is still sorely lacking in the means to hope to have a much more effective and lasting impact.

But if it is the girl who proposes to the boy in marriage, that means that it is she who commands the couple! Mégane le Provôt is used to this type of reflection. Chargé de mission within the association gender equal, she regularly leads workshops in schools, from primary to high school, to raise awareness of gender equality. Within the framework of their various modules, the young woman and her colleagues try to facilitate the debate and to approach ” questions that young people have never thought of, or to which they have never had an answer “says Mégane le Provôt.

According to Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin, a sociologist specializing in gender violence and also a trainer with students, the theme of sexism has become ” much easier to talk to them today “. For a majority of young people, both girls and boys, ” the problem is quite clear “, she assures. Except that ” for some time, I notice a tension of certain boys around themes dealt with in my interventions “.

Because sexism is tough. According to last report of the High Council for Equality (HCE) published Monday, January 23, despite ” indisputable advances in women’s rights “, the sexism does not back down in France. Worse, among young people, “ some of its manifestations the most violent get worse “. Nearly a quarter of those under 35 consider that it is sometimes necessary to be violent in order to be respected (against 11% on average).

Didier Valentin, also a specialist trainer for college and high school students, was not at all surprised by the conclusions of this report. ” On the ground, we can clearly see that there is a backlash, a backlash, against the feminist movement for a long time. There is a fed up with certain injunctions of feminist discourse, and this transcends all the social classes in which we intervene “, he advances. Faced with this observation, the associations in the field therefore underline the extent to which education and prevention in schools is one of the keys to trying to reach young people and change mentalities.

For many of them, a woman is in the kitchen »

During the interventions in the establishments, each trainer uses different tools to interest the students, but all dig into their universe to establish a space of trust. For example, Mariam Touré, founder of the association School freedom to actis based on advertising posters, poems, YouTube videos, decryptions of rap lyrics…

In the workshops of Mégane le Provôt and her team, young people are provided with red and green signs to indicate “no” and “yes”. They then answer questions such as “ is jealousy proof of love? ” Where ” is it normal for a woman to do more household chores than a man? “. Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin has opted for a show with actors who talk about sexist and sexual violence to school audiences.

At the beginning of the discussions, each speaker has already been confronted with remarks from boys relating to gender prejudice. ” For many of them, a woman is in the kitchen. Same thing on the trades: for many young people I see, a girl has nothing to do in mechanics, in the technological environment, or even in football. And for two hours, my role will be to show them that yes, it is possible “says Mariam Touré. Faced with the clichés that some boys launch, Mariam pushes them to their limits so that they develop their argument and so that she can then bring another one. The goal: to question them, without ever judging them.

Depending on the social environment and the public to whom we are speaking, the key word is always adaptation. ” Each time, I recall the figures around gender-based violence, I give concrete information. In some popular neighborhoods, many young people are already experiencing discrimination. So I try to create empathy between the different oppressed communities “, reports Didier Valentin.

► Also to listen: Great report – Sexuality: how do young people get information?

We talk to teenagers who are in the middle of construction »

For all trainers, one of the keys to reaching young people is therefore to adjust to the group and bring empathy. Mariam Touré does not hesitate to bring in one of her volunteers to tell her story. “ Young people like testimonials, it speaks to them a lot more. »

As for Didier Valentin, he relies partly on the fact of himself being a man who speaks to other boys. ” They are often quite surprised to hear anti-sexist discourse coming from me. I always speak saying “we guys have a problem”. It’s also how I can shake them up a bit in their representations and show them the limits and the damage of toxic masculinity. “.

During his interventions, Didier Valentin is always careful to accept that boys do not necessarily immediately grasp anti-sexist messages. ” You have to remember that we are talking to teenagers who are in full construction, who sometimes repeat things without understanding. Some have the impression of paying dearly the bill for their least acts and gestures. It was important a few years ago to have a radical discourse, more inside. But today, it no longer works to issue injunctions on everything. Now we have to work with more finesse. »

Indeed, for these associations in the field, the ambition is above all to inform and to plant a small seed in their minds, but not to convince at all costs. ” They are simply shown that their own truth is not everyone else’s truth, and at least they see that there are other possible representations of what a man or a woman is. But we don’t force anything “, explains Mégane le Provôt.

The essential role of schools

As these speakers point out, each lesson requires a great deal of energy and patience, especially when they come up against a lack of will on the part of certain teaching staff or a lack of resources on the part of establishments. ” In our workshops, we very often find ourselves catching up on what has not been done by the school. “, describes Mégane Le Provôt. ” In an establishment where I worked, there were only five supervisors for 80 students, including 77 boys, and this is where I heard the most vehement speeches against women. So we immediately feel whether the equality project is supported or not by the teaching team. adds Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin.

Indeed, according to the two trainers, the teaching staff has a crucial role to play in the fight against sexism. While sex education courses have remained compulsory since 2001, they are still struggling to be implemented in colleges and high schools. ” Just for our training to take place, the school must already perceive the subject of gender equality as a priority and put money into it. But many schools think the reproductive biology course stands on its own. “, continues Mégane Le Provôt.

This is why one of the recommendations in the HCE report is to establish ” an obligation of results for the application of the law on education in sexuality and emotional life “. The Minister of National Education, Pap Ndiaye, himself underlined in September 2022 the importance of ” respect this law » and claimed to be working on « new tools for teachers.

Educate the young, but also the oldest

Thus, Mégane Le Provôt and Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin must navigate very regularly through the ” provocation and frustration of some minority boys who insist that ” women have overtaken us men in terms of rights “. However, in the face of this male frustration, all the trainers agree that it is imperative not to throw the whole blame on the young boys, but on the system in which they evolve.

The problem is that there is a social tolerance for sexism which is still very high. Just look at our political class or the people of power accused of sexual violence who continue to hold office. What message are we sending to the rest of society? It shows that ultimately, these behaviors are not that serious. “, thunders Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin.

To explain the resurgence of sexism among young people, Mariam Touré also points to the trivialized violence against women on social networks and in pornography. ” Teenagers are constantly bombarded with images and videos where the relationship between men and women is very unequal, and no regulation is made “, she is indignant.

Thus, according to the associations, if education for equality is essential for pupils, it is just as essential for the rest of the population. ” Often, priority is placed on raising awareness among young people, but training the adults who supervise them in equality will have much more impact than a one-off two-hour workshop. », maintains Mégane Le Provôt. This is why the trainers are calling for more political coherence between the messages advocated for the fight against sexism and actual practices: “ After the Grenelle of 2019 on domestic violence, we finally did not receive a penny more “, denounces for example Stéphanie Le Gal-Gorin.

The associations in the field are therefore expecting an increase in financial and human resources around education, better training for professionals in schools, an increase in subsidies allocated to their interventions, and a real political will to change mentalities on the gender equality.

► Also to listen: Sexism in France: an alarming situation