Where Does #MeToo Start?

Reckoning with the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender-based violence in the wake of #MeToo has prompted many to reexamine the conditions that have allowed harassment and violence to flourish. One place to start is our public schools, where young people develop critical understandings about gender starting at an early age.

For over a decade, the ACLU has been raising alarms about teaching methods widely in use in public schools across the United States premised on the notion that there are fundamental, sex-based differences that determine how students learn and develop. Proponents of these methods frequently cast boys as active or dominant, and girls as passive or submissive — stereotypes that normalize the power dynamics that lead to abuse and harassment.

Consider the slide below, from a teacher training widely used by public schools in Volusia County, Florida, which literally divides students into pink and blue:

Effective Strategies to Motivate Boys and Girls Slides from Volusia County, Florida public school

Or this poster, recently posted on the wall of an all-boys public school in Dallas:

The Mind of Boys Poster from an all boys public school in Dallas

Michael Gurian, a popular author and chief proponent of this philosophy, has claimed: “Pursuit of power is a universal male trait. Pursuit of a comfortable environment is a universal female trait.” He suggests that boys who like to read or do not enjoy contact sports have a problem, and should be disciplined and made to spend time with “normal males” and play sports. He also recommends that boys be provided nerf bats to hit things in order to release physical aggression. Leonard Sax, another popular author, claims that teachers should discipline boys by asserting power over them or even spanking them, while they should discipline girls by appealing to their empathy. Both Sax and Gurian regularly provide teacher trainings in public schools, paid for at taxpayer expense, including recent mandatory trainings in Dallas, Texas and West Milford Township, New Jersey, to name just a few.

Educators often favor this approach because it matches perceptions of how “most” boys and girls behave, and because they are led to believe that separating boys from girls into different classes will eliminate distraction in the classroom and lead to better student performance outcomes. But scientific evidence tells a different story. Claims about differing male and female brains have been largely debunked: Brains are much more similar across sex than they are different, and what differences do exist don’t necessitate different teaching methods. What’s more, there is no valid evidence that the use of these teaching techniques is effective.

If we teach that boys are hardwired to be aggressive and dominating, and girls passive and submissive, how can we hold boys and men accountable when they perpetrate harassment and abuse? If we treat girls as too distracting to be educated in the same room as boys, what does that say about the relative value of girls’ and boys’ education, or their potential contributions to society? And if we presume male and female students can’t learn together in the same classrooms, how will they learn to coexist and treat each other with respect, whether in higher education or the workplace?


There is also the question of where this leaves students who don’t conform to gender expectations, including LGBTQ and non-binary students. Using sex as a proxy for students’ learning styles — or even to determine which classroom a student enters at school — erases their experience. Teaching that there is a “normal” way to be a boy or girl can exacerbate feelings of isolation, and increase instances of harassment and bullying, to which LGBTQ and non-binary students are already disproportionately subject.

Ultimately, there is little to be gained from using education practices that highlight gender differences, as opposed to emphasizing commonalities and meeting students where they are as individuals. Studies show that any practice that highlights differences between groups can increase biased beliefs about the other group. For example, separating students into a red t-shirt group and a blue t-shirt group leads to the red t-shirts making more generalizations about — and believing that they are superior to — the blue t-shirts, and vice versa. Research also shows that students who spend more time in single-sex groups develop more stereotyped views regarding gender roles.

To be sure, schools can and should be taking other measures to prevent violence and harassment at school, such as establishing clear complaint procedures and educating students on bystander prevention, and to ensure that teachers and administrators respond appropriately when it does occur. They should also institute comprehensive sexuality education programs that  equip students with the tools to help them maintain healthy relationships.

But #MeToo should also prompt us all, as parents, students, teachers, and community members, to reexamine entrenched assumptions about gender that are baked into the ways schools educate students. Only by eradicating sex stereotypes in education will students be equipped to collaborate, learn, and work as equals and ultimately realize the promise of equality as adults.


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The "Blue-eyes, Brown-eyes" videos on YouTube.com by Jane Elliott is what Florida students need to watch! The original video is great but the sequels are great also!


Why is the government outsourcing surveillance to private companies? Is it to avoid legal requirements of going through the FISA court order?

Warren Hoskins

Why does the US military outsource so much to contractors, putting tens of thousands into other countries and involving them in acts of war? Is it to avoid accountability to the international laws and rules at the same time it avoids Congress discussion & votes? The same people promoting gender discrimination are promoting militarization of America, in my opinion. Pushing boys into Jr. ROTC and into the hands of recruiters also goes on in Florida public schools.

Doug Giebel

Is it really possible to change all traits related to sexuality so they conform with some standardization? As noted, significant differences exist not only between male and female brains but within the brains (and behaviors) of each sex and its variations. Some #MeToo comments suggest a desire to completely eliminate what some (but not all) would find irritating, discomforting, offensive: zero tolerance. But who decides the standards, the rules, the laws, the consequences? When some suggest there are differences among acts of various incidents/levels of (say) sexual harassment, they are denounced and reviled. And yet what one person might find "uncomfortable," another might find the same action of no importance.
Some might find certain attentions or comments unwanted, others might accept and even appreciate the same actions. As a small, slight high school freshman boy, I went out for football (against my mother's insight), found it wasn't for me and instead was attracted to music, literature, the arts -- and also to girls. Going into my senior year, our superintendent suggested I should try to be more like "one of the guys." I didn't know what he meant, but in our small Montana school, sports were and are always supremely important. Some "guys" getting drunk on weekends didn't appeal to me, either. In those long gone days, the girls had no opportunity to participate in sports (only boy's football and basketball were offered). Girls had to be cheerleaders and sit on the sidelines. Fortunately times have changed and smalltown girls now play basketball and volleyball, often with considerable skill and success.
Perhaps it's possible to diminish stereotypes and improve intersexual relationships, but at the same time we might celebrate the differences (as an old French saying has it), because the many differences are worth noting and appreciating. The #MeToo movement is important, but it has also already led to overkill and abusive excess where fairness, so long advocated by the ACLU, is abandoned in favor of fashion and expediency. Why does it seem verboten for journalists and researchers to write about the dangers inherent in FALSE ALLEGATIONS of sexual misconduct? In the flood of allegations now coming forward, how many are exaggerated or simply false? False charges DO happen for various reasons including a wish to retaliate, to "get even," or out of some emotional instability such as paranoia. They may even result from error in one's perception or belief. Just as there are victims of sexual misconduct, so there are victims of false charges -- and sometimes the false charges result in greater damage to an individual than result from actual sexual misconduct incidents.
Based on my experience and research, the #MeToo movement's effort to disinfect human relationships will result in more false charges and in biased investigations and procedures where fundamental fairness is abandoned in order to get tough and set examples. Yes, it was laughable and hypocritical for Donald J. Trump to call for "due process," and yet due process and common sense fairness are vital to dealing with relationships, passing judgment, assigning punishment -- whether in our schools, in politics, in employment. The ACLU could take a leading role in fostering (in demanding) fair treatment to all sides in sexual misconduct disputes.
Doug Giebel, Big Sandy, Montana


"Based on my experience and research, the #MeToo movement's effort to disinfect human relationships will result in more false charges and in biased investigations and procedures where fundamental fairness is abandoned in order to get tough and set examples."
What is your experience in the prevalence of false allegations? Have a source?
In my lengthy experience and observation, more women never report.

Anonymous D

Absolutely correct!! This purging of all past behaviors and changing of mores and the past culture sounds like the "Cultural Revolution" undertaken by Mao Zedong in China. Resisters were sent to Re-education camps to adapt the proper mind set, exiled or worse thousands were executed! With the fervor of this movement, based on "all inclusive" surveys and re-building emotional frenzy aimed primarily at men their direction is that of a "kangaroo courts" to convict all those that don't mouth the same slogans or believe exaggerated claims of sexual dysfunction. Their goal is to purge all from the former way of behavior and thoughts to a unique repression where the new "ruling class" is entitled to privilege and power and the lower class mostly men are the slaves. Vive the true resistance!!


Just as Black Lives Matter began as a valid and honorable protest which was then Co-opted by Media Matters and the super-delegates, Me Too has morphed into a weaponized political tool. This will diminish the original valid intent of the movement.
Whatever the super-delegates touch, they ruin.


Please point me to the peer reviewed journal where your research on this topic will be published. Research indicating the #metoo movement is increasing false allegations and biased investigations would be noteworthy.

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