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School comes under fire for promoting “bikini body” fitness classes to girls as young as 11


British schoolgirls are already prone to sexist bullying among pupils, so it's particularly depressing when a school itself is the instigator of casual sexism and gender inequality. Yet it seems to be happening every other week.

If schoolgirls' skirts aren't being 'distracting', or parents are being forced to pay more for girls' trousers, it's headteachers justifying uniform politics by labelling female pupils "hefty".

Now, a school has been forced to apologise and call off a "bikini body" fitness class for pupils as young as 11, after complaints from concerned parents.

A mother whose 11-year-old daughter is due to start at The Ripley Academy in Derbyshire in September, told the Derbyshire Times she was "appalled" when she learnt of the after-school classes.

Sarah Reeves, 42, says: “I’m all for kids enjoying and getting into fitness but enough of the sexualisation.”

“Yes, it’s important to promote health and fitness but it needs to be done in the right way. Putting extra pressure on our girls is not setting the right example.”

derbyshire school

Ripley Academy has apologised after promoting ‘bikini body’ fitness classes for pupils

Another parent, who didn't want to be named, tells the paper: “Isn’t it bad enough to have impressionable girls to already be worrying about the state of their bodies? I am all for healthy lifestyle but this is sexualising the fitness class.”

The "bikini body" classes were organised by a supply teacher without the head's knowledge.

A spokesman for The Ripley Academy ays: “As soon as we were made aware of these after-school classes they were cancelled as they did not reflect the values of the academy.

“We would like to sincerely apologise for any offence caused. They were organised by a supply teacher, who is covering a member of staff on maternity leave, without permission from the principal and this issue will be dealt with internally.

“At The Ripley Academy we do run a variety of extra-curricular activities aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst all of our students and we would never condone any class, or after-school activity, that may put pressure on any young person in terms of their own body image.”

Last year women everywhere rallied against sexist body shaming and the absurd notion of a "bikini" or "beach" body, following a protein shake's provocative tube ads:

The brash posters were met with outrage, especially in London where they were emblazoned across the tube network. An after-school class in Derbyshire carrying the same message is more likely to fly under the radar, though this time, thankfully, that wasn't the case.

Unlike Protein World, who are behind the body shaming adverts, the school recognises the "bikini body" message is wrong, damaging and sexist.

Children, female and male, are already exposed to insidious sexism from the likes of those big yellow adverts - their school should be teaching them why that's wrong, not repeating the offence.

Images: iStock/Google Maps


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