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BBC Breakfast's Naga Munchetty: This is how we stamp out teenage misogyny and sexism

Being a teenager in 2024 is tricky. The BBC broadcaster met with a group in the North East to better understand the pressures they're under

Naga Munchetty. Image: BBC

Sexism, misogyny, social media, calling your mates out, toxic masculinity, cancel culture… being a teenager in 2024 is tricky. It’s something I’ve discussed on my BBC Radio 5 Live show a lot, but until recently I’ve not had the chance to have a frank and open conversion with young people about it.   

Enter Newcastle College in the beautiful North East, which is well aware of these issues and is trying to tackle them. It’s a further and higher education college – one of the biggest in England – and it offers hundreds of vocational courses, degrees and apprenticeships. Poppy, who works there as lead learning mentor, contacted my programme last July during a discussion about the London mayor’s “Say maaate to a mate campaign”, which aims to empower and encourage young men to call out any misogynistic or sexist behaviour among their friends. 

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She invited me to meet the students and her colleagues to see how they’re tackling misogyny and sexism.  

I wasn’t sure if I should be shocked, surprised or saddened by the experiences of some of the female students at the college. 

Engineering student Lucy, 18, recalled being told that “women are better at engineering because they are more caring”. 

Her friend Erin, also 18 and also studying engineering, was told: “You can’t just be a pretty face, you’ve got to get on with your work.” Some people might dismiss their experiences as “banter” or a joke, but it’s more than that. For a while, these young women haven’t always felt able to directly challenge sexism, and comments such as these. Perhaps that’s as concerning as the attitudes themselves, which is why it’s important they both spoke up. 

Equally striking were the accounts of some of the male students at the college. 

Harry (16) and Alex (17) are both acting students. It can’t be easy to speak live on national radio on such a sensitive and controversial topic, but they were straight-talking and bold. They summed up how many young men are feeling right now.  

Alex said he felt that boys are depicted as rough, sexist and controversial: “Boys get judged for their clothes, when they’re wearing hoodies and tracksuits.” 

When I asked Harry what he thinks a “typical lad” his age is like, his first response was to say “kind”. I was expecting him to say “sporty” or “funny”, but the fact he pointed out his kindness shows how misrepresented teenage boys feel in 2024.   

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So what can be done? Poppy and her team at Newcastle College have been proactive and trying to get to the heart of the conversation around this. Whatever the students see on social media, they need to be aware of too. It’s not easy when social media is constantly evolving. 

Mel, the student support manager at the college, wants to see a culture shift. If female students are concerned and uncomfortable, she wants them to be able to say so. 

She wants the boys to know that actions have consequences, and that misogyny and sexism is never acceptable.  

The challenge going forward – how do we better create an environment for girls to speak about their experiences? Equally, how can we include young men in the conversation without them fearing being “cancelled” by their friends? 

Listen to Naga Munchetty every week on BBC Radio 5 Live Monday-Wednesday, 11am-1pm.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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