Charterhouse isn’t sexist, but the boys there definitely are
Money is power, sexism is humour
In 2009, The Telegraph published an article about Charterhouse called “Private hell in a boys’ public school”. The horror stories about the sexist boys was definitely a scandal, but today it’s far from the the “private hell” we read about. The boys are hardly abusive and mocking, as told in the article, but they’re still far from perfect.
Charterhouse, along with Eton, Harrow, Rugby and the other three original public schools have a bit of a reputation for having the stereotypical upper-middle class posh boy. One whose ideal night is MNG and whose ideal future is catching the commuter train back from the city to their Surrey mansion – which is not always bad thing by the way. I was only at Charterhouse for two years, while the boys are there for five years, which makes them feel like we’re simply guests in their own home.
The school itself takes pride in having the flattest football field in England, a title that cost them most of the donated money they get from the prestigious Old Carthusian’s. I think it’s clear now the foundations of these public schools are built on are money, boys and sports and so a slightly tricky environment in which to introduce girls. Charterhouse is one of the few public schools that decided to take girls at Sixth Form, but the sexism experienced by the girls around 45 years ago, has definitely changed.
Some of the boys at Charterhouse can be savage. I know girls who had pizza thrown at them and some who weren’t spoken to for over a month in their school houses. Some boys have even been known to “put a girl back in her place”, by making her cry, after she got too comfortable. This isn’t uncommon, some boys think that the girls should fear the boys and treat them with a respect they’d give to a superior. Although, this sort of thing doesn’t apply to all the boys, some have a serious inferiority complex. So it’ll be no surprise that for some of the boys, the best joke you’ll hear is about women belonging in the kitchen. This obviously doesn’t apply to a lot of the boys, but for a fair few it’s just the humour that circulates around Charterhouse and public schools in general.
It’s quite clear that the boys have a sexist sense of humour, one that they will eventually grow out of. But why does this sense of humour stick around? I think it has something to do with the hierarchy, which is honestly more important for the boys at public schools than the daily trip to the tuck shop is, or “crack” as we used to call it at Charterhouse.
It’s always the older boys who have power over the younger ones. They make them be their footrests or flip their mattresses in the night while they’re sleeping, which sounds funny but in reality is painful and quite a shock. One thing they’ve always passed on is the popularity it gives you to avoid girls, so maybe it all stems from what the older years are passing down. Or maybe it’s the way the girls can be treated differently by staff, which I will come to.
One thing is certain, if you stand up for woman’s rights and equality, they’ll start thinking you’re the generic man-hater lesbian who doesn’t shave their armpits.
Despite all this, you can’t blame the boys for feeling like we’re given privileges that they aren’t. When we get cookies, they get bread. When we get ensuites, they get shared showers. And when we get in trouble, we’re often let off much more easily than they are. This obviously isn’t fair and while it’s not our fault as girls, we don’t try to stop it as much as we should, because why would we? We know it’s not right and we know they’re not given the luxuries we are, so how can we blame them for reacting badly to it? This is what I think makes the boys frustrated to have girls in the school more than anything. However, the reputation of Charterhouse having particularly sexist boys has to come from their idea of good banter and the reason it isn’t changing is because it’s being passed down through each year of students.
Charterhouse and the other public schools don’t have sexist reputations, but the students definitely do. Whether it’s the ongoing hierarchy or the unfair treatment girls get, most boy’s react in a way that seems sexist, and sometimes it is. Obviously each school has a certain amount of people who think they can say whatever they want, who’s life will be handed to them with minimal effort, but the fact of the matter is most boys around England just think it’s funny and that’s something they’ll grow out of.
The girls are given things that boys aren’t, that’s a fact, but maybe we’re being looked after to make the prior sexist situations better and to ensure they don’t happen again. Either way, public schools need to get the balance right and make sure both men and women are treated fairly. That is what “equality” means. Despite all this, I had an amazing time and two years was far too short.