The Stride for Equality: How Misogyny Is Built into Today’s Schools

Today’s schools seem to preach equality between men and women. But what if internalized misogyny underlies this progressive veneer that most educational systems possess?


Sonal Sharma, Hanna Brick, and Olivia Chun

Today’s schools seem to preach equality between men and women. But what if internalized misogyny underlies this progressive veneer that most educational systems possess? Today’s educators are working against the youth of America’s women. Progressive education systems might actually be debasing women instead of uplifting them. Looking deeply into the school system unveils a culture that contradicts gender equality and raises many questions regarding how truly invested schools are in the women’s liberation movement.

Ending the misogynistic attitudes starts with transforming the beliefs of authority in modern education systems. Beginning in adolescence, boys should be taught to respect girls. According to, research has shown that boys learn to behave in gendered ways that are reinforced by the adults around them. Gender-based harassment in schools has become one of the leading problems in our education system. According to The Guardian, the findings of a Northeastern University report in 2017 showed a quarter of female students at mixed-sex schools had been subjected to unwanted physical touching at school. A third of teachers witness sexual harassment in school on at least a weekly basis. “I think our school tries to ignore it. They don’t acknowledge it, so they don’t feel there is anything to be fixed,” Sadie Lehrfeld (’22) said.  If the schools are ignoring the issues, nothing will change. 

Moreover, dress codes have a huge impact on fostering a misogynistic culture. High school dress codes are intended to influence students in a more productive and safe environment, but in actuality they promote misogyny through sexualization of the female body. The THS dress code policy, which punishes girls for showing shoulders and legs, implies that these body parts are viewed as “distracting” (read “sexually provocative”). There are no strict dress codes for boys, further proving that women have been unfairly oversexualized in the school system. “Dress codes should be taken away. They are so unbelievably sexist,” Lehrfeld said. “Education should be changed to be more equal and less taught towards gender.” One predominantly sexist dress code rule is that women cannot show bra straps. Showing a bra strap is punishable with a dress code violation. Not wearing a bra is also punished with a dress code violation. Exactly what type of message do these violations send young girls? Young girls are essentially being degraded through the miscellaneous and ludicrous dress code restrictions. So why are dress codes written against female anatomy? The dress code implies that a woman’s body is the problem, not the man that hypersexualizes it. The policy of what clothing items are reasonable and which are not has a negative impact on young women’s views of their bodies and personal perspective on their femininity. 

High school girls protesting outside of their school

Additionally, the stigma regarding being a feminist continues to be an issue in modern school systems. The word “feminist” is used negatively towards young girls who seek equality. Being a “feminist” implies hysterical extremism, much like the label “radicalist.” “There needs to be less of a stigma around women’s rights,” Lehrfeld said. “Being a feminist is not an insult. Women are not inferior to men. It’s just a stigma in society.” A woman standing up for equality and liberation should not be seen negatively, so why do some of today’s young men use it as an insult to berate women? Could it be because of the pervasive sexist culture in educational systems? Or, could it be because of the ignorance educators demonstrate towards the situation? According to the National Education Union, at unisex schools, 37% of female students have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment and 24% of female students have been subjected to unwanted physical touching.” Most educators are well aware that women’s rights are an urgent problem, but choose to blatantly disregard it. 

In the last 50 years, sports—previously male-dominated activities—have been populated by females. Surprisingly, a majority of misogynistic attitudes come from the “school spirit” towards certain sports. Students seem to praise male-dominated sports more than female-dominated sports. “There is more praise to the guys who are good at sports than the girls,” Gavi Vidra (’22), a soccer player at Tenafly High School, said. “I think it’s based on views and traditions. We have this tradition where everyone goes to the football games. I don’t think that they [the girls’ soccer team] have many traditions for sports.” The praise we give to male sports has no doubt influenced and even encouraged misogynistic attitudes in the school system. “If you’re giving one thing to a guy, the woman should be getting it as well,” Vidra said. “I know the volleyball team is doing great every year—we are very proud of them.”

What can educators do to break the stigma around women’s rights? Teachers and administrators need to recognize the ongoing bias, as well as fight to neutralize it. Our administration needs to accept that misogyny is an issue and not one that will disappear with repeated ignorance. School dress codes need to be reevaluated to encourage safety and security in young girls, not self-hatred and sexualization of their bodies. For the women who are leading the future of America, the women guiding the fight for equal rights in schools, the most looming question arises: are the school systems truly pushing for female empowerment, or ignorantly being misogynistic?