The Kitten Manifesto (1st Draft)

The Kitten Manifesto was born out of an animated discussion among a group of Twitter users, about the way in which a very masculine terminology is pervading education (see here and here). The Kitten Manifesto is an attempt to put forward some ways in which we could ensure more equitable representation in all walks of life, and specifically in teaching. As teachers, we believe that we have a particular responsibility to ‘blaze a trail’ on this subject, because we are in a position to influence the next generation. See also the brilliant work being done in this area by @LetToysBeToys and @5050Parliament.

The Kitten Manifesto

1. Representation does not mean homogenisation.

Under represented groups should not have to take on the mores, language and attitudes of over represented groups, in order to ensure equitable representation.

2. Be aware of your privilege; use your privilege.

Be conscious of all the privileges you have encountered throughout your life. If you are in a position of privilege, use it to help others up, not to keep others down. Recognise that gender privilege is multi-facted and can be adversely affected by other characteristics, such as ethnicity and disability. It is the combination of these characteristics that can determine how much privilege you have.

3. All groups should be represented equitably, everywhere.

In education, this means it is as much about the equitable representation of people from black or minority ethnic backgrounds in SLT, or of men in early years settings, as it is about women on conference panels.

4. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

“No women put themselves forwards,” is not an excuse – look for them, encourage them. “We chose the best person,” is not an excuse, especially if those doing the choosing are from an already over-represented group. “Don’t read too much into that,” when under representation is pointed out is not useful, as it closes down the viewpoints of others.

5. It is not necessary to be rude to effect change.

It is always possible to model the behaviour that we want to see, and that we want to receive, even when we are deeply frustrated by the attitudes or behaviour of others.

6. Pick the words and images you use with the greatest of care.

In the Internet Age, a single image or quote can quickly make its way around the world. When we use words such as ‘feisty’, ‘nag’ or ‘bossy’ to describe a woman who speaks out, or when we draw attention to the clothing of women in government, we unwittingly reinforce an outdated view of gender. When photograph after photograph shows us a specific gender or cultural group as ‘leaders’, this reinforces the view that leadership is particular to this one group.

7. Inanimate objects and school subjects should not be ‘marketed’ as specific to gender.

The campaign to Let Toys Be Toys is calling for changes in the way that toys are designed and marketed, so that it is not suggested that only one gender of children ‘should’ play with them. As regards school subjects, there should be no gender divide – while the focus is currently on getting more girls to study physics or maths, equally we should encourage more boys to study arts or languages, if they so wish.

Thanks to @JulesDaulby, @LCLL_Director, @benniekara, @DiLeed and @EquitableEd. Follow the hashtag #genderedcheese to join in the conversation.

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