From ‘rape-lists’, to ‘body counts’ and revenge-porn group-chats: revelations from the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ website – which provides a platform for people to submit anonymous experiences of sexual abuse and violence within schools and colleges – makes for harrowing reading.
The website has received nearly 15,000 responses from students, helping bring to light the endemic rape culture within educational institutions across the UK – particularly acute in private schools.
One pupil accused the independent school Hampton Boys of perpetuating such a culture. “Boys have saved pictures I post,” the student revealed, “and have reposted them in their group chats, making crude and disgusting comments.”
According to another post, boys at King’s College, Wimbledon, have “a game during the summer about how many girls they could show their dicks to…it was some sort of sick competition”.
Another stated that there “would always be a competition of how many ‘yats’ they had got with or slept with – many of these girls being drunk and taken advantage of”.
Another student revealed: “You would be entirely correct in saying St Paul’s boys’ school is integrally built upon the unadulterated wish for boys to show their sexual prowess through rape and assault. I recall their age old ‘theme tune’ sung at rugby games including the lyrics: ‘I’m St. Paul’s till I die…fuck her sleeping, fuck her dying, if she had wings I’d fuck her flying’.”
Capitalism and sexism
It is hardly surprising, however, that private schools have found themselves at the centre of this storm. At their core, private schools are a means for the ruling class to perpetuate their rule, by training up the next generation of the capitalist establishment.
As the children of the rich and powerful, boys at these schools are brought up to believe they are born to rule. From observing their parents, they are raised to believe they can act with impunity. On top of this, they are fed a curriculum that most closely reflects the outlook and interests of the ruling class, with pervasive sexist and racist ideas.
These reactionary ideas are a product of the capitalist system, which relies on sexism and racism in order to divide and exploit the working class.
Under capitalism, women are treated as a secondary, exploitable labour force – the first to be sacked in the time of crisis; and relied upon to carry out the bulk of domestic labour in the home.
Enormous barriers – such as a lack of affordable childcare – stand in the way of women entering the workforce on the same terms as men, as well as in other fields of life, such as politics, culture, sport, etc.
On top of this, capitalism promotes sexism through the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies, for the sake of the bosses’ profit. This occurs through the capitalist media and through advertising, as well as the porn industry.
All of this is actively fed and fuelled by the ruling class, in order to divide the working class, making both women and men more vulnerable to the exploitation of the capitalists.
In effect, women are relegated to the position of second-class citizens: degraded, objectified, oppressed, and exploited. And this creates the fertile ground upon which sexist ideas – and sexual violence – flourish within wider society.
It should come as no shock then that elite schools – where the future capitalists and establishment politicians are educated – reflect this culture most acutely.
This lack of respect for women’s autonomy and freedom begins at school, but carries on all the way to the top of the establishment.
For example, we see comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson about how he would deal with a female colleague by “patting her on the bottom and sending her on her way”; or from Tory candidate Nick Conrad, who claimed that, in order to avoid being raped, women should “keep their knickers on”.
Such horrific remarks would not find themselves out of place within the allegations on Everyone’s Invited.
Headteachers of fee-paying schools, meanwhile, have a vested interest in creating the illusion of ‘good behaviour and egalitarianism’ within their schools. But this only goes so far.
For example, Dulwich College headmaster Joe Spence “condemned unreservedly” the actions of his students. But he followed this immediately by banning his students from attending a demonstration against rape culture.
Tackle the roots
It is important for schools to teach pupils the importance of consent and respect. But this will do little to mitigate sexism in a system that thrives off the oppression of women.
A few petty reforms have been proposed by the establishment in an attempt to create the pretence of action.
But Ofsted investigations into private schools will have little-to-no impact on the issue. And given their sordid history, we can be forgiven for having little confidence in the police to take allegations of sexual offences seriously. Similarly, the whole criminal justice system has demonstrated an historic inability to tackle sexual violence.
At the end of the day, these reforms present schools as isolated institutions where sexist culture can be ‘fixed’ internally. They fail to recognise that the schools – and the whole education system – are a reflection of wider society, shaped by capitalism and the interests of the ruling class.
Revolution and liberation
Marxists will fight for any real improvement in the lives of working women. But ultimately, the only way to fully tackle the question of sexism and women’s oppression is by overthrowing the system that breeds this sexism and oppression.
Women will never be viewed as equals within a society built upon inequality and injustice. Neither women nor men will ever have control over their lives and bodies within an economy based on exploitation, profit, and competition, and commodification. And we will never rid the world of misogyny, as long as the capitalist class are in control, using sexism and bigotry to divide the working class.
In other words, to end sexism and all forms of oppression, we need to overthrow capitalism – we need a revolution.
The choice is clear: socialism or barbarism!