How a six-year-old unleashed a torrent of abuse towards female teachers, as Chorley councillors call for action to tackle "ingrained misogyny"

“Ingrained misogyny” in the home is cultivating violent and hate-fuelled attitudes towards women amongst children as young as six.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 8:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 9:03 pm

That was the sobering assessment of a Chorley councillor and teacher who told a recent meeting of the borough council that the behaviour some youngsters witness behind closed doors often manifests itself in appalling words and actions in the classroom.

Members also heard that highly sexaulised language was regarded as “the norm” by a growing number of teenagers.

A series of disturbing tales of how boys and adolescents are displaying misogynistic traits from a young age served as the backdrop to a debate in which Chorley Council committed to doing everything in its power to “build a borough free of misogyny and violence against women and girls”.

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Misogynistic attitudes are showing through in very young children, Chorley councillors were told

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A notice of motion brought by Labour councillor Julia Berry also saw the authority pledge to set up a task force to listen to Chorley women’s own experiences.

While the motion was concerned with the issue across all age ranges, it was a propensity for misogyny amongst some school pupils that dominated the discussion.

Cllr Karen Derbyshire - a teacher for 25 years - spoke of incidents which she said had “horrified” her down the decades - including that of a six-year-old child who regularly tried to kick and hit female teachers, calling them “bitches, whores [and] slags”.

“It turns out that...his Dad used to see him as a mate and they used to sit there together of a weekend…playing Grand Theft Auto.

“All this [is] language you will find in Grand Theft Auto. It’s just a game? It's a misogynistic game,” said Cllr Derbyshire, who seconded the motion and also told members of the case of a seven-year-old stealing his father’s credit card and accessing a porn site in school.

She added: “Ingrained misogyny in some homes - that is what it is. We need to stop it at source, we need to make sure people are aware of it.

“This is wrong, it's horrible [and] we hate talking about it, it makes us feel uncomfortable. Each and every one of us [is] sat squirming, I've got no doubt.”

Cllr Alistair Morwood, who also has an extensive background in education, said that he had recently been made aware of a young woman who would no longer go into a school playground, “because she cannot stand the language that is bandied about by young teenagers of an extremely sexual [and] sexual[ly]-violent nature”

He called for research to be carried out to help understand why the problem was “increasing so dramatically”

“We can look at the reasons - no doubt the internet and ease of [access to] pornography has a hell of a lot to do with it. But I'd like to see some serious studies go into [why] young men think this is the norm.

“It is not the norm. In all my life, I have never come across the amount of [bad] language and violence that is going on these days - I find it incredible,” Cllr Morwood added.

The meeting heard that a 2021 YouGov national survey on behalf of UN Women UK found that, among women aged 18-24, 97 percent said they had been sexually harassed. Across all age groups, 80 percent of women said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

Cllr Berry said that harassment and violence towards women was “endemic” and that some Chorley residents would experience it “every day”.

She also described as “deplorable” the fact that in the year to March 2020, just 1.4 percent of rape cases recorded by police across the country resulted in a suspect being charged or receiving a summons.

Her motion called for Lancashire Police to continue to record harassment of women as a hate crime beyond a current nationwide pilot period for doing so.

It also said that the council should push for the government to “urgently act” on any recommendations made by the Law Commission, which is carrying out a review of hate crime legislation.

While there was staunch condemnation of misogyny from both sides of the chamber, several Conservative opposition group councillors cautioned against the timing and wording of some aspects of the motion - and said that it could actually be strengthened by pausing the process.

Cllr Aidy Riggott said that the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner, Andrew Snowden, would welcome the chance to attend the authority’s scrutiny committee to be questioned about how he plans to tackle the issue.

“It’s not being partisan ..it’s about getting the right outcomes,” Cllr Riggott said.

He added that a discussion with the commissioner would then allow the council to properly formulate what it wanted to demand of him.

The motion committed the authority to requesting that Mr. Snowden “make the tackling of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls a priority, including the delivery of additional funding to support both the wider strategy and improved services locally”.

However, Conservative opposition group leader Martin Boardman, said that the commissioner had explained to him that dealing with dometsic abuse and sexual violence against women was already in the top five priorities in his police and crime plan - as evidenced by the “dedciated rape and seruous sexual assault team” that is now going live across the county.

Referring to an email to him from Mr. Snowden, Cllr Boardman said that £2.5m had been invested in the victims' services contract to enable face-to-face support for domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors, while the same amount had gone into “perpetartor programmes to change perceptions, attitudes and behaviours”.

Cllr Boardman said that the way to tackle the problem was to “filter the money straight out of government and straight into the hands of the people that are going to make a difference”, adding that the sensitive issues being discussed went against “all the moral fibre that we've got within us”.

Fellow Conservartive councillor - and a former lead police officer for community safety - Sam Chapman said that no organisation, including the Law Commission, should be given a “blank cheque” for the council’s support for its recommendations before they were published.

He also questioned the wisdom of automatically committing to extend the pilot of recording misogyny as a hate crime, because it missed the point of having a pilot in the first place - and denied “the opportunity to learn from experience”.

“There is also misandry [contempt for and prejudice against men] and we need to be careful not to give the impression that domestic abuse is just about women and girls, because there are serious problems of domestic abuse which also impact on men and the services for [such] men are frequently lacking,” said Cllr Chapman, who also highlighted the issue of domestic abuse within same-sex relationships.

However, Cllr James Nevett said that misandry was something that could be raised in a separate motion and that it was important not to “conflate” it with misogyny.

Council leader Alistair Bradley said that while the police and crime commissioner had pledged to tackle the problem, the council needed to ensure that the promise came to fruition.

He said that the motion should stand unamended and the authority should make its sentiments “known to those that matter”.

“We also need to make sure that the government puts some money up…as well. Doing things costs money - and doing things needs to be a priority,” Cllr Bardley said.

The motion ultimately won cross-party support.