QotD: “Claiming her in death, as he’d claimed the right to exploit her in life”
QotD: “Hefner operated in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech”
On hearing that the pimp and pornographer Hugh Hefner had died this morning, I wished I believed in hell.
“The notion that Playboy turns women into sex objects is ridiculous,” said the sadistic pimp in 2010. “Women are sex objects… It’s the attraction between the sexes that makes the world go ‘round. That’s why women wear lipstick and short skirts.”
Hefner was responsible for turning porn into an industry. As Gail Dines writes in her searing expose of the porn industry, he took it from the back street to Wall Street and, thanks in large part to him, it is now a multibillion dollar a year industry. Hefner operated in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture – and if the victim is a woman – the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech.
He caused immeasurable damage by turning porn – and therefore the buying and selling of women’s bodies – into a legitimate business. Hefner hated women and referred to them as “dogs”.
In 1963, Gloria Steinem (then a freelance journalist) decided to go undercover as a Bunny Girl, spending two weeks in the role at the Playboy Mansion. What Steinem found was that the women working there were treated like dirt. Bunnies had to wear heels at least three inches high and corsets at least two inches too small everywhere except the bust, which came only with D-cups. Steinem described it as a form of torture. A sneeze could break the zip, and when peeled off their torsos were bright red and swollen.
Steinem found grotesque misogyny towards the women, and commented that they were “dehumanised” by the punters – who were, after all, following Hefner’s lead.
“These chicks [feminists] are our natural enemy. It is time to do battle with them,” wrote Hefner in a secret memo leaked to feminists by secretaries at Playboy. “It is time we do battle with them… What I want is a devastating piece that takes the militant feminists apart.” As a response, feminists began picketing his businesses.
Admitting that he could only orgasm by masturbating to pornography, Hefner was a sexual predator. The young women who worked at the Playboy Mansion have spoken of their disgust in having sex with him, but said it was, “part of the unspoken rules”. “It was almost as if we had to do it in return for all the things we had,” said one.
Described as “modern, trustworthy, clean, respectable” by Time magazine in March 1963, Hefner has been regularly rebranded as a type of cultural attache rather than the woman-hating sleazebag he was.
To claim that Hefner was a sexual liberationist or free speech idol is like suggesting that Roman Polanski has contributed to child protection.
I would imagine that silk pyjama manufacturers are mourning Hefner, but no feminist anywhere will shed a tear at his death. And the liberal leftists that wax lyrical about how Hefner was a supporter of anti-racist struggles should perhaps ask themselves how such a civil rights champion squared this with the millions he made from selling the most vile racism in much of his pornography.
As I was writing this, a flagship news programme asked if I would take part this evening in an item in Hefner’s legacy. “We’re looking to discuss whether he was a force for good or bad. Did Hefner revolutionise feminine sexuality, or encourage the degradation of women by constructing them merely as objects of desire?”
Now he is dead I would imagine the scores of women he abused will come forward and force his liberal supporters to see him for what he really was – sexist scum of the lowest order.
“I called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. But that’s what he was”
Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many “libertines” who had threatened me with court action over the years.
It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboy’s ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.
Now that he’s dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to be have been involved. Righty-o.
I don’t really know which women were liberated by Hefner’s fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trump’s entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speak up in court – because over the years they have.
The accounts of the “privileged few” who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefner’s petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an “allowance”. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this “nirvana” were described by one-time Hefner “girlfriend no 1” Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: “I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.”
But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James recalls, they had to go to his room and “wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet – and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases.”
Hefner – repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation – would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didn’t care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep “Daddy” excited. Is there no end to this glamour?
Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isn’t that the definition of a pimp? I couldn’t possibly say.
“Lol at calling Hefner a ‘proselytiser for anti-puritanism’ … Looking at a woman & thinking ‘SEX!’ is exactly what the puritans did”
“Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine, dies at 91”
Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, has died aged 91.
Hefner, who founded the sexually explicit men’s lifestyle magazine in 1953, died at his home, the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, the publication announced.
Cooper Hefner, Hefner’s son and the chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement: “My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history.”
However, others described Hefner as a lecherous pornographer who launched has magazine with a naked centerfold of Marilyn Monroe, taken years earlier and bought for $500. The Playboy mansion also saw a pyjama-clad Hefner attended to by a posse of women clad in bunny ears, all of whom were expected to be sexually available.
Notes on the BBC documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ Episode 1
Since this documentary is only available for a few more days, I want to record some brief notes on what happens in it.
The children taking part in the experiment are seven (Year 3), and already have very stereotyped ideas about what men and women are like, with boys being ‘better’ and ‘stronger’ and ‘more important’, and girls being ‘pretty’.
The school, on the Isle of Wight, has two Year 3 classes, both classes are measured, but only one experiences interventions, while the other is used as a control group.
As a side note, the school seems a really lovely place; I have very few good memories of primary school, bullying was rife, the level of physical violence from the boys was epidemic, and the teachers mostly did nothing. In one assembly, there is a girl wearing an ‘anti-bullying ambassador’ tabard.
One of the first thing the presenter, Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, notices in Mr Andre’s class, is that he calls all the girls ‘love’, or ‘sweat pea’, and all the boys ‘mate’ or ‘fella’ – already marking them out as different.
Abdelmoneim goes to visit Dr Gina Rippon, professor of cognitive neuroimaging, who tells us that structurally, there are very very few differences between the brains of girls and boys, that the brain is very very plastic, and that brain development is entangled with society and a person’s experiences.
Abdelmoneim quotes research from Stanford University, saying that seven is a key stage in a child’s development, because it is at this age their ideas about the roles of men and women become fixed.
The children take a psychometric test to measure what they think about men and women, their own levels of self-esteem, their perceived intelligence (how clever they think they are), and things like empathy, assertiveness, and impulse control.
The results show that the girls have low self-esteem, significantly underestimate their own intelligence, and only describe themselves with words relating to their appearance (‘pretty’, ‘ugly’, ‘lipstick’), while the boys over-estimate their abilities, and the only emotion they can express is anger. 50% of the boys describe themselves as ‘the best’, but only 10% of the girls.
Abdelmoneim changes the classroom, adding signs saying that ‘boys are strong’ and ‘girls are strong’, the same with ‘sensitive’, ‘clever’, and ‘caring’. He also adds a lottery to make sure that children are picked randomly to answer questions (Mr Andre had been observed calling on boys more often than girls to answer questions).
Abdelmoneim then tackles Mr Andre’s use of gendered endearments. He asks a number of the boys how they would feel if Mr Andre called them ‘sweet pea’ and they react with horror and outrage (the documentary does not make this point here – it is very much, and rightly so, about challenging gendered norms in order to benefit both boys and girls – but it is clear that the boys already know that being ‘treated like a girl’ is the worst thing ever, the girls don’t mind occasionally being called ‘mate’). As Abdelmoneim points out “this kind of language has power,” and “constant reminders of difference sink in.”
The classroom is given a ‘score board’ for the children to add sad-face stickers to every time Mr Andre uses an endearment. Also, the two coat cupboards, which were segregated by sex, are desegregated and the children paint them orange together (they are both originally pink, and some TV reviews said that they were pink and blue, which I find amusing; we are so used to such splits that our brains fill them in automatically).
The children all have very gendered ideas of what jobs men and women can do, so they are introduced to a male dancer and make-up artist, and a female magician and car mechanic. All the children have a great time, the girls find a car engine really interesting, the boys enjoy learning dance moves and having fake black-eyes painted on (the make-up artist had worked on Star Wars and Avengers, which would obviously be impressive to the boys, but it is still showing that there is more to make-up than ‘lipstick’). Abdelmoneim points out how easy it would be for every school to do something like this.
Abdelmoneim visits professor Rippon again, who shows that girls who played Tetris intensively for three months had improves spatial skills (related to mathematical ability), and showed structural changes to the brain. Tangram puzzles are introduced to the class, the boys do better, but the boys have been playing with Lego for a long time, so have had more practice.
Next, there is a recreation of the ‘Baby X’ experiment that was conducted in the 70’s, there is a clip of this available here, and very little has changed in over 40 years, adults treat a baby very differently, depending on whether they believe this baby is male or female, in ways that reinforce sex stereotypes.
Abdelmoneim points out how sex stereotypes affect men and women differently, and both negatively, with men more likely to behave violently while women turn their distress inwards.
Mr Andre removes any books with sex stereotypes, all the books with superheroes (competition and aggression) aimed at boys, and passive princesses aimed at girls. One of the girls being interviewed says that girls are better than boys at ‘being pretty’ and ‘wearing dresses’. The class read books with princesses being brave and confident; one of the girls in the class says she does not like reading, but she liked the book with the active princess.
All the children think boys are stronger than girls, but Abdelmoneim points out that, before puberty, boys and girls have no difference in muscle mass. ‘Strong’ has an emotional component; at seven years old, the boys already know that they are not allowed to cry, they express their anger by breaking things instead.
A fairground with a ‘test your strength’ machine is set up in the playground, the boys all say they are the strongest, and all the girls under-estimate their abilities; one girl who scores 10 after predicting she would only get 5 is so overwhelmed she starts crying. One very confident boy who predicted he would get a 10, scores zero because he does not have the co-ordination to hit the button with the mallet; he reacts by throwing himself on the ground, screaming and crying, then starts kicking things – an illustration of boys’ inability to cope with negative emotions.
Interviews with the children throughout the documentary show that they do change their opinions and ideas about boys and girls for the better.
Episode 2 coming soon!
QotD: “Harriet Harman hits out at unions for backing decriminalised sex work”
Harriet Harman has accused two major unions of “legitimising exploitation” after they backed the decriminalisation of sex work.
Aslef and the GMB will on Wednesday urge the Trades Union Congress conference to decriminalise prostitution, claiming it would improve safety for the thousands of men and women who work in the sex industry. The unions want the TUC and the government to back the launch of a scheme where sex workers have full legal protection.
Opponents say the move could increase sexism and violence against women, legitimise grooming and make schoolgirls grow up seeing prostitution as a “career choice”.
The former deputy Labour leader tweeted her opposition to the motion and urged TUC delegates to vote it down:
The Aslef motion, which is backed by the GMB, demands the overturning of legislation which “forces sex workers to work alone, leaving workers vulnerable to crime and the threat of losing access to their families”.
It says “austerity measures since 2010 have led to an increase in the number of people working in the sex industry”, and claims that many people would not choose to work in the sex industry and do so “because of economic necessity rather than criminal coercion”.
It says “sex workers should have the same rights as those in other industries”.
The motion supports the New Zealand model of “full decriminalisation which would give sex workers protections as workers in law”.
At a fraught TUC fringe meeting on Monday, sex workers pushed the case for decriminalisation – saying the current law infringed their human rights by preventing them from setting up brothels. They were criticised by campaigners who said prostitution demeaned women.
One critic argued that the New Zealand model would mean women could set up small brothels without any registration. She said: “That is the model you want for this country: to bring prostitution to every street corner so all our daughters can choose to work there. What about the right of women not to be prostituted?”
A delegate from the National Education Union said thousands of schoolgirls were being groomed. “The problem is if you say it’s a job like every other … sex working will be presented as a viable option, a career choice,” he said.
Kate Millett Obituary
Kate Millett, author of the groundbreaking bestseller Sexual Politics, was the feminist who launched the second wave of the women’s liberation movement. Millett, who has died aged 82, developed the theory that for women, the personal is political.
The basis of Sexual Politics (1970) was an analysis of patriarchal power. Millett developed the notion that men have institutionalised power over women, and that this power is socially constructed as opposed to biological or innate. This theory was the foundation for a new approach to feminist thinking that became known as radical feminism.
Sexual Politics was published at the time of an emerging women’s liberation movement, and an emerging politics that began to define male dominance as a political and institutional form of oppression. Millett’s work articulated this theory to the wider world, and in particular to the intellectual liberal establishment, thereby launching radical feminism as a significant new political theory and movement.
In her book, Millett explained women’s complicity in male domination by analysing the way in which females are socialised into accepting patriarchal values and norms, which challenged the notion that female subservience is somehow natural.
“Sex is deep at the heart of our troubles …” wrote Millett, “and unless we eliminate the most pernicious of our systems of oppression, unless we go to the very centre of the sexual politic and its sick delirium of power and violence, all our efforts at liberation will only land us again in the same primordial stews.”
Sexual Politics includes sex scenes by three leading male writers: Henry Miller, Norman Mailer and DH Lawrence. Millett analysed the subjugation of women in each. These writers were key figures in the progressive literary scene. Each had a huge influence on the counterculture politics of the time, and embedded the notion that female sexual subordination and male dominance was somehow “sexy”. Mailer, darling of the liberal left, responded with an article in Harper’s magazine in which he viciously attacked Millett’s theories.
And the well-respected critic Irving Howe wrote that Sexual Politics was “a farrago of blunders, distortions, vulgarities and plain nonsense”, and its author guilty of “historical reductionism”, “crude simplification”, “middle-class parochialism”, “methodological sloppiness”, “arrogant ultimatism” and “comic ignorance”.
It was never the intention of Millett to become a career feminist, being much more interested in her art, as a sculptor. But after being featured on the cover of Time magazine, in August 1970, she was catapulted into fame, which led to a backlash from some feminists who accused Millett of styling herself as a movement “leader” – an accusation she rejected.
That December, Time outed Millett as bisexual, and claimed that “[the] disclosure is bound to discredit her as a spokeswoman for her cause, cast further doubt on her theories, and reinforce the views of those sceptics who routinely dismiss all liberationists as lesbians”.
At the time the women’s movement was divided over the issue of lesbianism – Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), had labelled lesbians the “lavender menace” – and many liberal feminists turned against Millett. Yet more than three decades later, the feminist writer Andrea Dworkin wrote of Millett: “Betty Friedan had written about the problem that had no name. Kate Millett named it, illustrated it, exposed it, analysed it.”
Born in St Paul, Minnesota, Kate was raised by strict Catholic parents. Her mother, Helen (nee Feely), worked as a teacher and an insurance saleswoman to support her three daughters after her alcoholic husband, James, an engineer, abandoned the family when Kate was 14. Millett went to the University of Minnesota, graduating in English literature in 1956, and then to St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She taught briefly at the University of North Carolina before focusing on sculpture in Japan and then New York. In 1965, she married the Japanese sculptor Fumio Yoshimura. During their open relationship, Millett had sexual relationships with a number of women.
She went to Columbia University in 1968, and Sexual Politics, based on her doctorate, was published in 1970. At the time, Millett was living as an impoverished hippy in the Bowery district. She wrote about the impact of her newfound fame in Flying (1974) and followed this up with Sita (1976), about her relationship with an older woman. In 1979, she travelled to Iran’s first International Women’s Day with her then partner, Sophie Keir, a photojournalist. They were arrested and expelled, an experience they documented in their book Going to Iran (1981).
Millett had been committed to mental health institutions by her family on various occasions and she became an activist in the anti-psychiatry movement. She wrote about her experiences in The Loony-Bin Trip (1990). She also wrote The Politics of Cruelty (1994), in which she railed against the use of torture, and Mother Millett (2001), about her relationship with her mother.
In 1998 Millett wrote a piece for the Guardian, The Feminist Time Forgot, in which she said: “I have no saleable skill, for all my supposed accomplishments. I am unemployable. Frightening, this future. What poverty ahead, what mortification, what distant bag-lady horrors, when my savings are gone?”
I had met Millett the year before, when visiting Dworkin in New York. Millett was shy and warm, and not the angry, self-pitying person I had been warned about. She was preoccupied, however, with what she perceived to be the wealth held by other feminists, in particular those who had not contributed to the movement in any original way. Dworkin later told me Millett had lambasted her for owning a brownstone in Brooklyn, for no apparent reason other than she was unhappy with her lot.
In her later years, Millett and Keir lived on a farm in Poughkeepsie, New York state, where at first they sold Christmas trees, and later established a women’s art colony. In 2012 she received the Yoko Ono Lennon Courage award for the arts, and in 2013 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in New York.
Millett’s marriage to Yoshimura ended in 1985. She is survived by Keir, whom she married in later life.
Notes on the BBC documentary ‘No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?’ Episode 2
[EDIT 27Sep17: Episode 1 is available for another two weeks on the iPlayer here, and Episode 2 is available for another three weeks here (both with audio description).]
Episode 1 notes here.
In episode 2 of the documentary we see that the children are doing the Tangram puzzles every day, some of the girls are still struggling.
Abdelmoneim talks to Professor Gina Rippon again, who emphasises the plasticity of the human brain, and the different ways boys and girls are treated. Abdelmoneim then looks at toys and clothes aimed at girls and boys, and finds “an overwhelming avalanche” of pink for girls and blue for boys; it’s not just the colour, the pink domestic appliances are obviously ‘meant’ for girls, while the blue construction kits are ‘meant’ for boys.
Abdelmoneim goes to the house of one of the girls in the experimental glass, where an eight-year-old girl’s birthday party is taking place, in a big pink marque tent in the back garden, “an avalanche of pink, sparkles, and feather boas.” The mother of the girl says she loves being ‘pampered’, which means having her nails done – the focus is on looks and appearance.
Abdelmoneim then visits the home of one of the boys, whose toys are all Lego and guns; he also says boys are better than girls because they get better Nerf guns than girls.
Abdelmoneim talks to the boy’s mother, who says she used to believe in nurture over nature until she had a son; she says that she had “a bit of an anti-gun rule, until he stated school, but then he made them out of Lego and sticks and everything and one day he said ‘look mum, I’ve got a handgun [holding her hand up shaped like a gun], you can’t take this one off me’ and I knew about that point I’d probably lost the weaponry argument.”
It’s not clear, from what the mother is saying, if the gun obsession was there before or after the boy started school. Few parents get to raise their children in total isolation from the dominant culture, and children pick up gendered rules from a very young age; also small children have a very black-and-white understanding of the world, and want to fit in.
Abdelmoneim says that children are constantly receiving messages about what it means to be a boy or a girl, so it’s not surprising that they believe it is ‘natural’.
Abdelmoneim then looks at children’s clothing, and is disturbed by the slogans, like ‘forever beautiful’ for girls, and ‘here comes trouble’ for boys, and he wonders about how much the parents think about these slogans. Abdelmoneim then designs t-shirts of his own, and asks some parents to look at them (it takes a while to find some parents who have time to stop after school).
For the girls’ t-shirts, he starts with the bought t-shirt saying ‘forever beautiful’ then moves on to his own slogans: ‘looks are everything’, then ‘boys are better’, then ‘made to be underpaid’.
For the boys’ t-shirts, he starts with ‘here comes trouble’, then ‘boys don’t cry’, then ‘tough guys don’t talk’, then ‘bottled up and ready to burst’.
The parents don’t have a problem with the commercially available t-shirts, but they can then see the progression. It’s interesting to note that one of the boys watching with his father sticks his thumb up at ‘boys don’t cry’, while his father describes it as ‘wrong’ – like I already said, no parent gets to raise their children in isolation. One of the other fathers talks about being raised to be ‘tough’.
There is a clip of one of the girls saying you never see girls doing ‘big’ things like being an astronaut, we then see that a picture has been put up on the wall of the classroom, of a female astronaut, alongside one of a man bottle feeding a baby.
Abdelmoneim says he has to be a bit more direct and get the parents involved, so he creates ‘homework’ for the parents, looking at gendered words and household chore, and plastic sacks to use to remove gendered items from their homes. Abdelmoneim asks the parents to link up what’s positive in the classroom experiments with what they do at home.
One of the parents says children don’t pay any attention at that age, it goes in one ear and out the other, but in reality, the opposite is true, children are learning from what goes on around them all the time.
Abdelmoneim then sets up a unisex toilet experiment (I would challenge his claim here that workplace toilets are increasingly unisex; unisex single-stall facilities may be increasingly common, but multi-stall unisex facilities are not, and the toilets at the school are multi-stall.)
All the children react with horror at first, but then the boys seem more enthusiastic; it is originally a girls’ toilet, so there is a ‘taboo busting’ element for the boys. One boy says he thinks it is a good thing because then the boys will “know what the girls look like”. Since he is only seven I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, he may believe that girls use an equivalent of urinals, and it is normal for children to be curious. One of the boys and two of the girls say they don’t like it and call it ‘weird’ (we are a society were privacy is the norm).
Abdelmoneim visits one of the parents to see how they are getting on with the homework, she reports that her daughter put all the words (including the word ‘war’) into the ‘both’ column in the word association test (and had a rationale for what she was doing). They bag up all the ‘girls’ toys, including a whole wardrobe of princess dresses – but she does have an R2D2 toy as well.
Abdelmoneim says that even though children choose many of their own toys, it’s not much of a choice if only gendered toys are on offer.
The next experiment involves handing out toys to the children in anonymous brown paper bags (ie no packaging to tell them whether it’s a ‘girls toy’ or a ‘boys toy’); the toys are a marble run, a teddy bear sewing kit, an arts and crafts set, and a robot bug to construct. All the children seem to like their toys, even the ones not normally ‘meant’ for them. (The boy who threw the tantrum over the strength test in episode 1 liked his sewing kit bear).
We return to the unisex toilets experiment, with the girls saying the boys are annoying and dirty, and one girl saying she tries to hold it in all day, and a boy saying he wanted it to go back to normal. Abdelmoneim says he has managed to make the children ‘equally unhappy’ with this experiment (according to this Daily Mail article “the head put the toilets back to normal when the film cameras left”.) I would put this down to the fact that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are two different things, despite the fact that the two terms are used interchangeably (sometimes simply because everyday language usage is vague and people think ‘sex’ is a rude word, other times to deliberately obfuscate that this difference exists), and Abdelmoneim moved from gender differences to sex differences with this particular experiment – it’s telling that the children were enthusiastic about everything else (in spite of their highly gendered upbringing), but not this.
Abdelmoneim then goes back to the parents’ ‘homework’, and finds that in spite of the fact that some of the dads are doing a share of the housework, their children still have a gendered view of household chores (in other words they are picking up ideas from more than just their parents).
The class is then taken on a day trip to the beach. There are two tasks for the children, build a fire pit and make a picnic; the children split themselves fairly evenly between the two tasks, and girls ‘take charge’ of both tasks. But the boys get bored of the picnic preparation quickly, one of them yelling “I’m not a girl!”
Next, they set up a football game. The boys dominate in the playground at school, with some girls wanting to play but feeling that they can’t because it gets too rough. They have to practice in mixed sex teams. When Abdelmoneim asks if they want to play a match in their practice teams, or play boys verses girls, one of the boys (the same one who threw the tantrum in episode 1), suggests mixed teams would be fairer, because the boys have had more practice; Abdelmoneim sees this as improved empathy, working out that it would result in a better match for both girls and boys.
On the last day of term, the children (including the control class) retake the tests they took at the start of the experiment six weeks ago. The results show that in the experimental class the 8% self-esteem difference between girls and boys has dropped to 0.2% (girls being interviewed say they believe they can do anything now), and no girls describe themselves as ‘ugly’ anymore. Boys’ pro-social behaviour is up 10%, and their ability to identify emotions has improved; girls’ self-motivation is up 12%, and they are 40% more accurate when asked to predict their scored before a test (before, they had been seriously underestimating their own abilities); boys observed bad behaviour is down 57%. After two weeks of Tangram puzzles, the top ten pupils are five boys and five girls.
Mr Andre says all the children are more confident now, and challenge the things adults tell them; he jokes that they have been turned into ‘monsters’ and the girls were never like this before (this is done good-naturedly).
In the end of term assembly, the class puts on a performance for the rest of the school and the parents, to show what they have learnt about equality between boys and girls. One of the mothers was moved to tears by how confident her daughter is now.
The head teacher says she is really impressed by the changes, and Mr Andre will be teaching what he has learned to the other teachers. Abdelmoneim says that all of his changes were small, and not ‘rocket science’ and that it would be really easy to roll them out in all schools.
We learn at the end of the documentary that 6 weeks later, Mr Andre has presented these new teaching methods to the Institute of Education.