Andrew Tettenborn: Ms Victimhood goes to Eton

How does today’s struggling pressure group make the transition to tomorrow’s well-heeled social partner and purveyor of orthodoxy? In two ways: by setting itself up as a supplier of independent advice, and by infiltrating schools.

One organisation that has managed both these things with panache is Stonewall. Once a fringe LGBT ginger group, this slightly creepy outfit now has a sizeable corporate client base and has (as Caroline Farrow observed on Tuesday’s TCW) managed to invade even religious schools in a big way. A Church of England report targeted at faith schools and aimed at suppressing traditional ideas of marriage and child-rearing turned out to have been partly written by two senior Stonewall executives, who needless to say did not identify themselves as such. At the same time it transpired that the Catholic Education Service’s guidance for its own schools on the issue of LGBT matters was largely copied from Stonewall’s own literature. And this is without Stonewall’s open attempts to influence how schools are run and what is taught in them, which are considerable and worrying, but will have to wait for another TCW post.

It’s not only Stonewall, though. The Everyday Sexism Project, currently a volunteer advocacy group with members worldwide, seems to have ambitions to become a more general advice group to the great and the good. It has already, it seems, provided advice to Transport for London on misbehaviour on the Tube, and last week it reached the pinnacle of the establishment. Young and go-getting Eton headmaster Simon Henderson, a man with a reputation for being blunt-talking and sensible, let slip that as part of his drive to make the boys in his charge gender-intelligent he had invited ESP founder Laura Bates BEM to provide talks on sex equality issues.

What’s the harm, you might say, in getting everybody’s favourite women’s equality expert to educate Eton on equality? Actually, quite a lot. For a start, a glance at her project’s website reveals that it is, to say the least, one-dimensional. It’s essentially a series of stories – unchecked – about gripes at men, ranging last month from rape to bottom-squeezing in nightclubs to not being chosen for the works football team. Ms Bates’s weekly column in the Guardian is not much more inspiring. It is largely composed of unoriginal, vaguely feminist agitprop such as is discussed in comprehensive school staff-rooms up and down the country every day, and it concerns matters frankly pretty trivial – one week lambasting Conservative MP Philip Davies for being doubtful about compulsory wall-to-wall sex education, another getting uptight about Nick Clegg’s high-powered wife being referred to as Mrs Clegg, waxing furious about the pinkness of Barbie’s accessories or the price of the morning-after pill, or counting the percentages of women featured on Wikipedia and the number of words they get.



But this is not all. The real difficulty with the ESP, as Belinda Brown pointed out on TCW as long ago as 2015, is its negativity. It does not celebrate, as a balanced feminist advocacy body might be expected to, the many areas where women do as well as or better than men – not only in terms of entry into elite professions such as law and medicine, but their better record in school, in the suicide and homeless statistics, and elsewhere. Instead, the relentless message pumped out by this organisation is one of universal victimhood. Women are structurally subjugated, always the underdogs, owing to things done, or attitudes held, by men. Such an approach has two pernicious effects. One is to skew society’s view of men. Innocent statements morph into sinister manifestations of sexism, as in the case of suggestions that it might be wise for women to take precautions against getting drunk with boyfriends they do not know very well, or light-hearted (and probably true) suggestions that women researchers are more likely to interrupt projects by taking time off to look after children. And trivial matters such as the occasional hand on the knee, which in the past would have been pushed away or slapped and then forgotten, are inflated out of all proportion and pompously referred to as serious matters of assault. The other effect, ironically, is to harm the interests of women. As more sophisticated and sensible feminists such as Camille Paglia have pointed out, encouraging men to regard women as victims deserving sympathy, rather than as people able to earn respect in exactly the same way as the rest of us, is not the best way forward for those who believe in genuine equality.

The glory of Eton has for many years lain not so much in its elite status, but in the fact that it is a very good school. With all the resources at its disposal, it rightly spares no effort to produce young men who are well-rounded, thoughtful and informed. By all means accept that in 2017 this means educating the boys who pass through it about the problems of sexual equality. But preferably not through the incomplete, distorted and at times frankly naive approach to the subject adopted by the ESP and Ms Bates. Schools such as Eton, to put it bluntly, ought to be able to do better than this.

Andrew Tettenborn

  • Ed McA

    Equality is a theoretical concept and not practical. When are men going to have equality in health screening, in the courts, in being granted custody of their children, in the female oriented education system in having few women to complete the really dirty and heavy jobs………….
    At least the pension is now being equalised (must stop as laptop is out of battery)

    • martianonlooker

      The victim culture brigade have absolutely zero intention of approaching anything to do with equality. They are in to me, me , me and give us loads of wonga to compensate.

  • paul parmenter

    Something strange here. Why would a school like Eton choose the ESP as the most appropriate people to teach their charges about sexual equality? I would be hard pressed to find any organisation with a worse ethos, attitude or record in the field. Thousands of people without the privilege of an Eton education can see straight through the flimsy bias and hypocrisy of these feminist front fraudsters. Just look at the comments that they generate when they put forward their blinkered views. But Eton has fallen for them hook, line and sinker? Is there something else going on that we – or more importantly the parents – are not being told?

    • CRSM

      A basic rule of thumb is that there’s always something else going on.
      Finding out what it is is not easy though.

  • Belsay Bugle

    It’s Simon Henderson behind this. He can’t see a PC bandwagon without wanting to leap onto it and drag the school (willing or not) with him.
    It will be interesting to see what the boys (and the other members of staff and the Provost) make of it. They’re not easily taken in.

    • jamesdelingpole

      He’s the Provost’s place man, so I wouldn’t be too sure about the latter.

  • Belsay Bugle

    On the other hand it’s clever to give the opposition a platform and test what it’s saying by exposure and argument. The school is very good at bringing that out in the boys. So maybe Simon Henderson is being cleverer than I immediately thought.
    He certainly can’t be criticised for failing to engage with the modern world.

  • UKCitizen

    The thought police are real and powerful. Totalitarian regimes old and new would be proud and yet we are so cowed by these organisations, we do nothing.
    The trap of the decadent society is that we are too comfortable to fight the enemy, even when they are p1ss1ng on our front lawns.

  • Stinky Britches

    This seems a rather odd story. Something doesnt quite add up here. Does Henderson have any Common Purpose connections?

    • Busy Mum

      He is known as ‘Trendy Hendy’ by the old guard and it appears that his entire ‘purpose’ as head of Eton is to ‘change’ it.

  • Busy Mum

    “By all means accept that in 2017 this means educating the boys who pass through it about the problems of sexual equality.”

    No, no, no. I do not accept this should be part of education and I do not accept that there are problems of sexual equality, unless you mean the inequality which faces boys all the time in this feminised world.

  • Ken

    Successful societies are always destroyed from within ….

  • Nockian

    Second-hand people searching for prestige amongst their peer groups. That’s how it is when there is no argument for individual freedom, pride and self-esteem. These people are already in the bucket marked ‘scrap human beings please recycle carefully’. They are ghosts.

  • Nockian

    ‘The fish rots from the head down’ to quote the cliche. However, that’s only if we think of society as an entity and not an aggregate. It is ideas that are corrupted.

  • Sean Toddington

    Now I’m confused. There is another article on this site complaining about some religious group being booted out of a Grammar school. In this case we are told the children should be free to listen and make up their own minds. And yet here we are arguing precisely the opposite about the scholars at Eton.

    • Devonian_Prof

      Different issue. The argument over ESP doesn’t concern appropriateness or offensiveness of what they say, but their competence in understanding the issues. Not so the grammar school case in the earlier post.

      • Sean Toddington

        Won’t wash I’m afraid. Neither group – Crossteach, or ESP – can lay any claim to competence or correctness. Both present an opinion. I am happy with the argument that, if it is presented in that context, the children can make up their own minds. Furthermore I would be extremely confident that context would be set scrupulously at Eton.

        It seems to me like Conservative Woman is indulging in hypocrisy here. Happy for children to be exposed only to opinions they agree with.

        • Little Black Censored

          Gosh, you sound pompous (even if you are happy).

          • Sean Toddington

            Thank you. Based on your disgusting choice of nickname, you sound like a complete racist.

          • Malcolm Marchesi

            You’re very good at making snap judgements aren’t you ? Do you also claim to be right all the time ?

          • Busy Mum

            Did you never read the book ‘Little Black Sambo’ – it’s all about a little black boy, tigers and pancakes. It was one of our favourite stories when I and my siblings were small. There is absolutely nothing racist about the book but it was ‘banned’, along with the golliwogs in Noddy etc.

            Little Black Censored is not being racist at all!

          • Sean Toddington

            It is an insulting and derogatory term used to belittle and demean black people. As you know perfectly well. And if you want to educate yourself I suggest you visit Morecambe and find out who Sambo really was.

          • Devonian_Prof

            Sambo was, I think, a servant to a sea-captain who happened to be black and who died near Morecambe. And your point is … ?

          • Busy Mum

            No, I didn’t know that ‘Sambo’ is used in any other way. I have never ever heard it said or come across it other than in the afore-mentioned book.

            I had a quick ‘google’ – that is a very poignant tale, of which I was completely ignorant; there is nothing ‘racist’ about it though….

          • Sean Toddington

            Yes the real Sambo was probably a slave, abandoned in England, who succumbed more or less immediately to a disease he probably had no natural resistance to.

            Sambo was used as a term of racist abuse when I was a kid (I went to school in Camberwell). We have moved in a lot of ways since then. Thank God.

          • Busy Mum

            I wasn’t that far away – my childhood memories include my father getting very irate about Lambeth Council – there were certainly black children at school with me, and many other ethnicities, but I never even noticed any ‘racism’ – we all just played happily together. We have certainly moved in a lot of ways since then, though not necessarily for the better. There is far more name-calling now, of the -phobic and -ist sort, and it’s more sinister.

          • Sean Toddington

            You never noticed the signs in the newsagents windows then. Rooms to let no blacks or Irish? I was bullied for being Irish. My best friend was bullied for being black. Happy days.

          • Busy Mum

            I guess you are a bit older than me 🙂

          • Harley Quin

            I lived in bed sits and rooming houses across London in my youth. If I were a landlady, I wouldn’t have risked Irish or blacks on the premises either, even though my mother was Irish and I have close connections with Ireland.

            The Black and Irish people I encountered in these places, rough working people most of them, caused a lot of aggravation with drunkenness and drugs, playing loud music whilst others were trying to get to sleep, damage to property, fighting, thieving and bringing women of uncertain virtue onto the premises.

            The signs one saw were blunt of course. Nowadays people have to be mealy mouthed and devious. That’s the real difference. It’s called freedom.

          • Harley Quin

            Yet they lived among the English out of choice.

          • I had a coloured friend at work. He didn’t mind the so-called racist names. What angered him most was white people telling him what he should be complaining about as he felt that was racist and implied he wasn’t capable of making up his own mind

          • Sean Toddington

            Excellent. A coloured friend no less! Why don’t you put it to the test. Next time you encounter a black person try calling them ‘Sambo’. They’ll probably think you’re a great lad.

          • Why should I? You clearly are one of those people whom my friend despised who goes around telling people what is racist.
            I was brought up to have manners and normally address someone as Mr or Mrs as appropriate, unless we are on Christian name terms.

          • JabbaPapa

            Allright, snowflake.

        • Busy Mum

          I think one crucial difference lies in the fact that Crossteach has been hounded out of schools, by a few parents, despite the staff, whilst ESP is proactively being welcomed in, by staff, possibly despite the parents.

          I am not at all confident that the context would be set scrupulously at Eton; my alma mater, one of the top independent girls’ schools in the UK, is incredibly PC….I read the last but one school mag right through with a grim fascination – I showed it to my brother who turned green and gave it back to me after the first couple of pages.

    • Kathy Gyngell

      Only if you equate a world faith or belief with genderism or transgenderism – we don’t.

      • Sean Toddington

        Then I think you need to revise Julie Lynn’s article then: ‘the cowards who can’t bear to let children think for themselves’. It is clearly not in line with what you believe.

        • Kathy Gyngell

          Not at all. Indoctrination does not leave children able to think for themselves.

          • Devonian_Prof

            Especially when we have rather doubtful ideology being dressed up as instruction.

          • Sean Toddington

            How is having a guest speaker from ESP indoctrination? Remember is is Eton we’re talking about here.

  • Hampsteadpinko

    I don’t think that a very few children from wealthy families are going to change the world even if they are serially duped by fervent wimmin, do you?
    Mr Tettenborn’s point is somewhat obscure as he stood as a candidate for a party of one-dimensional cranks: not at all incomplete, distorted and naive, Mr T?

  • digitaurus

    I agree with your comments about the dangers of spreading negative stereotypes of women as victims, but overall I’m guessing that the boys at Eton school are perfectly capable of forming their own judgements on the merits of Laura Bates’s argument.

  • Hugo1

    Lets hope the young men of Eton will (assuming they’re given the opportunity) subject Ms Bates to the robust and critical questioning she deserves relating to the Everyday Sexism Project.

    It’s clear that this so-called ‘Project’ should be subjected to the most robust and critical scrutiny, not least because of its methodology which has all the appearance of being wide open to misuse and which, surely, no responsible researcher worthy of the name would accept as a basis for drawing reliable conclusions re the extent of the sexism experienced by women in general in their everyday lives (with what constitutes ‘sexism’ being, of course, in many instances very much a matter of subjective personal perception).

    If the young men of Eton act as suggested above, perhaps some good will come out the exercise mentioned by Mr Tettenborn in his article.

  • Harley Quin

    But the sexes aren’t equal.

    • JabbaPapa

      I think the phrase “are equal but they are also intrinsically different” is what you’re looking for … 🙂

      • HappyCheese

        Indeed; I for one wouldn’t want the responsibility of looking after a woman like a pre-1950s man was expected to. That’s a fool’s errand.

        Regarding the growth of The Everyday Sexism Project I would say two things; (a) when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and (b) the project’s quest to monetise itself is what happens when grievance mongering becomes profitable. All these wymin’s studies majors, like the gay rights agitators over at Stonewall, lack any other work experience and marketable skills. Its only logically (and human) that they would seek to earn a living doing what they know and love lol. Sadly the consequences for the rest of us are likely to be disastrous.