Indeed the #MeToo movement is more than just a hashtag – it’s an anti-sexual assault crusade that can be used in all classrooms to spark important conversations, the professor from the University of Technology Sydney argues.
It just requires teacher to tackle the thorny issues head-on.
“I think that it’s an opportunity to use a real life example to look at (sexual) consent, that’s the focus that I took anyway…
“We are talking about adults and how they are treated by other adults with more power, in a workplace in particular, but also in private relationships, so it just gives teachers a resource to draw on.
"And it doesn’t have to happen in health class, I think there are lots of really good examples in literature and film.
"I was kind of proposing that it can be right across a whole lot of curricula, really.”
Kang is now calling for a re-frame in how we teach teens about sexual consent and their rights.
Rather than place the onus on girls to say ‘no’, we need to be teaching boys how to better listen for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, she argues.
“I think for a very, very long time there’s been, and still is really, our understanding … that it's women who are the ones who have access to their own bodies by saying no or saying yes, in the same way that women are expected to take contraception or be in control of contraception, and the same with even things like protecting themselves from STI’s, there’s a tendency to say ‘it’s up to the female’…
“There’s forever been this onus put on women (to assume all responsibility), and we teach girls and young women at school that this is what you should do.
"And that is just broadly accepted I think, that the best thing that we can do to protect young women is to teach them how to say no…”
Kang says the #MeToo movement is really out to change this skewed understanding.
And educators need to unpack its messages with students.
“I think what #MeToo has done is it’s really trying to shift the burden and responsibility clearly across the line to say ‘this is not just about women having to learn about how to say no and stand up for themselves, this is up to men just as much as women',” Kang says.
“So it’s about young men in particular, in the context of school education, learning to ask permission and to make sure that they hear that consent has been given.”
Teachers, and especially those in all-boys schools, can also draw upon the movement to explore (and dismantle) stereotypes around masculinity.
“I do have sympathy for young men as well, I think that there are expectations that they will be the ones in charge, that they will be the ones to woo and seduce and kind of come across as being a certain stereotype, and that may not suit them.
“So I think #MeToo can also talk about masculinity, it can talk about what the stereotypes are and how it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Kang is aware that many educators might feel apprehensive or uncomfortable about broaching the crux of these issues in the classroom.
More has to be done at the system level to address this, she says.
“If your teaching the nitty-gritty of reproduction and sex, it gets a bit tricky and it gets a bit personal, so I think we need to give teachers a lot more support at pre-service (level), and we certainly need to give them support once they’re out in the field teaching.”