The theme for this week is labour, derived from the School Hymn line, He’ll labour night and day, to be a pilgrim.
I think it’s safe to say that the RGS is a school where we pride ourselves on hard work much like the humble pilgrim within our School Hymn. Whether its staying after school for sports practices, drama rehearsals or just keeping on top of all those seemingly endless Teams notifications, every RGS boy is surely well aware of what hard work looks like and its merits.
But to what extent is labour simply the head on expenditure of effort? Is labour limited to ticking off a tasks in homework diary, tries on a rugby pitch, or is the process of hard work a slower, more continual process of helping our wider community?
As I am sure most of you are aware, there has recently been a UN investigation into UK sexual violence. The research found that 97% of women have been sexually harassed across their lifetime. These are harrowing crimes and evidently not ones which can be immediately solved, but my intent with this assembly is to make the RGS more of an active institution in dealing with sexual assault and sexism, reinforcing our School Values of Integrity and Respect we all find in the first page of our calendars. Our school is not one which limits its values to a gender, race or class and this is why if we are to behave with integrity it is vital, we all play our part in preventing these crimes.
Another UN paper found that 5 – 10% of men have also come forward about a history of sexual assault. With 90% of all assaults being male perpetrators, this figure rises to 93% in cases of male-on-male assault. We cannot expect to fix this issue if it is not men who – together – take it on. Whilst I am not saying men are deserving of more attention than women, it is nonetheless important to remember it is in the best interest of men to talk about these issues, who experience the same consequences of upholding sexist standards of masculinity as femininity.
All this is well and good, but I’m sure many of you are asking what we’re supposed to do about the problem. It’s understandable to want to distance oneself from these horrific crimes, and the truth is that the laborious task of bringing an end to assault, and misogyny is not one which can be done overnight. The calling out of sexist behaviour, however, should no longer be exclusively the burden of female friends and staff, as we have to, together, call each other, and even ourselves, out. Recognise when you’ve said something harmful and take responsibility because speaking up is the first step on the long journey which we must all begin now as a community.