Girls battle against ‘everyday sexism’

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A majority of girls and young women are experiencing sexism and sexual harassment, with problems often beginning when they are at school.

The annual Girls’ Attitudes Survey by Girl Guiding UK says that too often girls and young women are left to negotiate what it calls this “everyday sexism” with little support.

The survey this year focuses on issues of equality and involved 1,288 girls and young women aged between 7 and 21.

It found that those aged 11 to 21 are as likely to have been harassed at school as on the street. Six in 10 report having had comments shouted at them about their appearance while they are at school, rising to seven in 10 for those aged 13 to 21.

Meanwhile, 62 per cent of those aged 11 to 21 have had comments shouted at them on the street, rising to 76 per cent for those aged 16 to 21.

The sexual harassment experienced in schools or colleges includes sexual jokes (reported by 51 per cent of the girls and young women), seeing images of women that made them uncomfortable (39 per cent), and seeing rude or obscene graffiti (33 per cent).

Almost a third of the girls and young women report received unwanted sexual attention (28 per cent) and being touched (28 per cent).

More than half of the respondents have also had negative experiences online, with older girls aged 16 to 21 experiencing sexist comments (26 per cent) and threats (25 per cent).

Girl Guiding UK says there is “little support” to help girls in these situations, with half of the respondents saying that too much responsibility is placed on girls for their own sexual safety.

The study finds that more than a third of young women aged 16 to 21 (38 per cent) feel that sex education has not prepared them well enough, while 64 per cent want sex education to focus more on relationships. Overall, 75 per cent of the respondents feel that sexism affects most areas of their lives, while 87 per cent think they are judged more for their looks than their ability.

The survey report states: “The findings show that girls feel that they experience high levels of sexism in their everyday lives – at school, online and in the media – and that this has a negative impact on girls’ confidence, wellbeing and, too often, their aspirations. Girls recognise that these inequalities are likely to have an impact on their future opportunities and curtail their choices.”

 


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