Teachers in the UK have been told not to call female students ‘girls’ or ‘ladies’ because it reminds them of their gender.
Natasha Devon, a former government health advisor, told the Girls’ School Association’s annual conference in Manchester, “never walk into a room in an all girl’s school and say girls or ladies” because it is “patronising”.
“I don’t think it is useful to be constantly reminded of your gender all the time and all the stereotypes that go with it,” she continued.
Devon also feels the same applies for boys and suggested teachers use gender-neutral terms such as “pupils”, “students” or “people”.
“I actually think in some ways boys are more constrained by the expectation of their gender,” she said.
“And whilst that is being challenged and changed I don’t think it’s helpful to keep saying ‘girls, girls, boys, boys’, because there is so much implication that potentially goes with that.”
Devon believes using the term ‘girls’ can imply pressure for perfection, resulting in anxiety.
Using the term ‘boys’, she feels, implies “being macho, not talking about your feelings, being told to man up”.
“If your narrative is saying girls don’t get angry, or boys don’t cry, or girls aren’t allowed to do this, or boys aren’t allowed to do this, then that is potentially going to have an impact on your well-being.
“So I hope that in taking away the negative stereotypes associated with gender, we can ultimately improve their mental health.”