Written by Vix Leyton


Pardon me?

A Canadian school’s new women studies course is offering lessons in ‘polite conversation’ and dinner parties. Boys like dinner parties too, says Vix Leyton, and, besides, polite chit-chat sucks.

formal place setting
So a Canadian school, here in the present day, has made the decision to run a course ‘just for girls’ named ‘Women studies’. Now, women are bloody brilliant – I’m all in favour of young girls sitting in a room talking about what we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come with a view to being inspired to drive equality forward and feel unrestrained in their ambitions.

But I also think boys need to hear this too. Human achievements are human achievements, and a woman’s ability to traverse the Atlantic in a light aircraft really has fuck-all to do with what she has in her pants.

Scratching the surface of the ‘syllabus’, alongside skills like web design, you can learn how to dress for your shape, the cultural aspects of beauty around the world, dinner-party etiquette and ‘polite conversation’.

While boys, presumably, crack on with lessons that can inspire them into the roles they dream of, girls get a manual on becoming a Stepford wife. And, all things considered, this is just as unfair to the boys. Maybe there’s a boy in the class who would quite fancy learning how to plan a dinner party? Well, he need not apply – this activity has been clearly marked by this school as ‘girls only’.

The school superintendent has since defended this course, blaming the way it was promoted and saying that the intention was not to stereotype women. But this sounds like a somewhat flimsy defence. How can you possibly avoid stereotyping when you are actively selecting what young boys and girls should be interested in?

Many of life’s lessons are learned in school – in and out of the classroom – and teachers have a really important part to play in closing down the notion of ‘the weaker sex’ and promoting equality.

While this course might be construed as a well-meaning gesture designed, as they say, to help young women navigate adolescence with their self-esteem intact (as though only girls are ill-equipped to manage the hormonal shitstorm of being a teenager) we must call out things like this every time we see them. We must put them under a microscope, mock them as they need to be mocked, and use them as a platform for real conversations to happen.

As the old adage, that’s now so memed it’s almost lost all meaning, goes: well behaved women seldom make history. And no one should aspire to polite conversations.

As a PR person frequently forced to network, small talk is my nemesis. I like my conversations like I like my friends; rowdy, strong, punchy and passionate. Only that conversation will do.


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Written by Vix Leyton

Vix is a financial PR and ginabler who lives and works in East London. As a result she long ago lost sight of whether riding a unicycle while wearing a monocle is par for the course on a normal day.