International Men’s Day – on the 19th November – was founded in 1999 by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh, a history lecturer at University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tabago. That day has never been recognised by the United Nations (who in fact recognise the 19th November as World Toilet Day). They have recognised International Women’s Day on the 8th March since 1911 and from 2012 have recognised the 11th October as International Day of the Girl Child.
In 2018, Dr Teelucksingh sent a letter to government leaders and non-governmental organisations calling for the inaugural observance of the International Day of the Boy Child (more commonly known as International Boys’ Day) on the 16th May. Dr Teelucksingh is of mixed acclaim in the Men’s Human Rights Movement (MHRM) – while International Men’s Day in particular and International Boys’ Day increasingly are celebrated by the community, Teelucksingh’s commitment to patriarchy theory (widely contested by the MHRM) creates an intellectual gulf that appears in practice to be a barrier to communication that the MHRM is only slightly less bound by than Teelucksingh himself.
However, his efforts to draw attention to the “many boys and teenagers who are marginalized, alienated and left behind”, issues such as educational underperformance and neglect and abuse, and his apt observance that “We cannot ignore that without a focus on both the boy child and the girl child, gender equality is not a reality” are laudable. And, gratitude should be extended to the man for founding these days of observance that can be so useful in uniting people concerned about men and boys and elevating the issues faced by men and boys in the public conversation, at least once – or twice – a year.
Boys in the U.K., who are reasonably typical of boys across the Western World today, do progressively worse in education than girls, with attainment gaps widening throughout primary, secondary and tertiary education. Some theorise that reasons include:
- Girls changing ambitions in a modern society – including career and pushing back family,
- Feminism “which has lead to raising the expectations and self-esteem of girls”,
- Gender-stereotypical parenting that socialises girls into studious habits and excuse lack of discipline in boys.
Sue Sharp’s 1970s and 1990s ‘Just Like a Girl’ studies did indeed show that over those decades, girls ambitions have changed (from ‘love, marriage, husbands and career’ to ‘job, career and being able to support themselves’) – which could feasibly account for more commitment and diligence being applied by girls in educational settings. In 1983, Dan Kiley published his book ‘Peter Pan Syndrome – Men Who Have Never Grown Up’ which argues that there is a prevalent issue with irresponsibility in men who behave childishly and need help to reach emotional maturity. The theory caught on and has hung around, with The Good Men Project explaining that:
“Boys have had a new style of living handed to them; one of having all their needs taken care of, and of being able to enter fantasy worlds with little to no hassle. They have little conflict, little problem, little to drive them. Now, I do understand that so many kids are hassled, one way or another, and have to fight it out. I completely respect that. I’m suggesting that many of these boys may not have the drive to push them “to the next level.” They aren’t developing ambition.”
It is interesting to note that while feminism (which is relentlessly full of praise for the female of the species and sympathy for the struggles we apparently face) is acclaimed for raising expectations and self-esteem in girls; the attitude taken to boys who are underperforming is to belittle their struggles and to suggest that their biggest problem is their entertainment. If we are worried about self esteem however, we may want to try to mitigate teacher biases against boys that have been proven – and shown to impact on boys’ performance. We may want to reassess the “milieu if disapproval” that Christina Hoff Sommers diagnosed in her book, ‘The War Against Boys’ (2000), who quoted Martin Spafford, a London secondary school teacher, as reporting that:
“Boys feel continually attacked for who they are. We have created a sense in school that masculinity is something bad. Boys feel blamed for history, and a school culture has grown up which is suspicious and frightened of boys.”
Whereas the people who know and love boys best – their parents – can be blamed for tolerating boisterousness in boys which translates into disruptiveness in schools; an alternative idea may be that it is schools who should expect a reasonable level of boisterousness from (mainly male) students. Perhaps, schools should even accommodate it – through increasing breaktimes (that have decreased over decades) and accepting that some rough and tumble is a natural and healthy part of typical boys’ play styles that helps them to learn to regulate their behaviour and emotions while also enhancing cognitive and language development.
Boys are almost twice as likely to be victims of violent crime than girls and yet the U.K. (which is again, typical of the Western world) has only a Strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls. As William Collins pointed out, in ‘The Empathy Gap’ (2019):
“The dominant gender narrative will generally react to these observations with unconcern, citying (correctly) that men and boys are also the majority of the perpetrators of these offences. The implications seems to be that this observation somehow neutralises any need for concern or compassion for the victims. This is about as clear an example of victim blaming as one could have”.
Boy victims deserve both concern and compassion. Boy perpetrators – more likely to:
- Have been taken into care,
- Have experienced child abuse,
- Have seen violence in their home,
- Regularly play truant from school, been expelled or excluded from school,
- Have suffered from all manner of mental illnesses (including addiction) and to have attempted suicide,
- Been raised ‘dad deprived’.
Boys are significantly more likely to commit suicide than girls despite being less likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder. In The Samaritans ‘Men, Suicide and Society’ (2012) report, Amy Chandler put forward the view that “suicide might be related to the failure of hegemonic masculinity” – another example of victim blaming that pits the ideals and aspirations of men and boys against their own self-interest.
In ‘The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology’ (2019) however, Martin Seager and co took aim at the idea of gender as a purely social construction, which they branded a ‘political fashion’ rather than a scientific theory and suggested that viewing masculine characteristics as archetypes rather than stereotypes can help us to achieve ‘more scientific and humane’ responses to men in distress. As the American Psychological Association proved beyond doubt in their ‘GUIDELINES for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men’, the psychological community conventionally pathologises masculinity rather than adapting to the needs of boys and men.
Taking just these problems into consideration – which is to overlook many other critical issues for boys, such as fatherlessness, the anti-male dominant feminist narratives in wider society, and male genital mutilation – it is really amazing that most of our boys are alright. A testament to their willfulness, stoicism, and the creative energy that drives them, this International Boys’ Day we should honour them, their characters and their passions. So many boys are rejecting the misinformation that malevolent elements are attempting to indoctrinate them with.
Within the two years before the 2021 publication of ‘Men Who Hate Women’, Laura Bates had seen boys responses to her ideological conditioning changing with them no longer accepting her claims. She called them ‘angry, resistant’ and I salute them! And, in Hope Not Hate’s 2020 ‘State of Hate’ report, Owen Jones reported a similar phenomenon, including an anecdote wherein:
“at a school in Norfolk I saw a small group of boys hound a teacher for “hating men”. The teacher was rather bemused as to why she was being accused of this, so the boys explained. In a previous lesson she had mentioned that she believed in gender equality and would consider herself to be a feminist. They explained to her that feminists hate men, want to oppress men and it was appalling that the school would allow “someone like her” to teach”.
Meanwhile, Jordan Peterson is reaching 3.7 million subscribers just on his personal YouTube channel (YouTube being a platform whose users are more likely to be both young and male) and nearly all boys are gaming – an activity that promotes:
- Improved decision making,
- Hand-eye coordination,
- Accelerated analytical ability,
- Stress relief,
- Team building,
- Boosts creativity,
- Aids reading ability and other educational skills,
- Strengthening memory and attention,
- Train you to multitask,
- Enhance brain speed and flexibility
- And encourages sociability.
So, let’s teach our boys well – and in turn be taught by them. And, hey, give them an extra hour with their games today!
Thank you, A Voice for Men readers, for reading this piece – which is also my inaugural post on the Messages for Men site blog. Much remains under construction on my beautiful new website but please bookmark the address to return to!