It is always a great thing when respected leaders take a stand for the male of the species, especially for our young boys. Sadly, the vendetta against men and boys seems to be gathering momentum. ‘Toxic masculinity’ seems to be the buzzword of the moment.
In her book, Sommers criticises programs which had been set up in the 1980s to encourage girls and young women — largely in response to studies which had suggested that girls “suffered through neglect in the classroom and the indifference of male-dominated society”.
Sommers argued in The War Against Boys that such programs were based on flawed research, pointing out that it was just the other way around: boys were a year and a half behind girls in reading and writing, and less likely to go to college.
The outgoing headmaster of one of Australia’s top boys schools has taken aim at the public debate on modern masculinity, describing the growing tendency to denounce “male behaviours” as “toxic”, divisive and marginalising of young men.
Timothy Wright, who retires in December after 17 years running the Sydney Church of England Grammar School, commonly known as Shore, said he welcomed discussion around what it meant to be a man in the 21st century but not in a manner that unfairly generalised against half the population.
“It’s hard to have a conversation about this issue without people conjuring up issues of sexual harassment or domestic violence or ‘toxic masculinity’,” Dr Wright said of the term popularised by the latest wave of feminism. “Attach that description to any other group in society and people would be outraged.”
With 1600 boys and young men under his watch, Dr Wright has tried to tackle the topic over recent months, dedicating his weekly assembly addresses to “Conversations about Manliness”. Manliness — a term he preferred to “masculinity” and its accompanying baggage — was not about having a gym-sculpted body or being able to do 100 push-ups, but rather hinged on the virtues one possessed and acted upon, he said.
It was about honesty, wisdom, courage and self-restraint, and rejecting the modern inclination for people to “do as I please, and as it pleases me” at the expense of others and the community.
“Manliness is about having honour, dignity and being unwilling to exploit others,” he said. “It’s the opposite to how masculine behaviour is often portrayed, as bullying or sexually exploitative.”
As the educator has tried to impart on his students, all human beings fall short of moral and personal perfection. Despite a popular view that people were either good or bad, he said, experience would teach us that everyone was flawed and we all made mistakes.
He said there were people who would commit violent crimes, “who rape and abuse others — and we can’t pretend there aren’t”.
“But one of the problems with many of our cultural debates is the notion that ‘me and my tribe are perfect and you and your tribe are not’. It’s not helpful.”
He said the use of broadbrush statements, such as “toxic masculinity”, and a tendency towards dogmatism, prevented a constructive or nuanced debate.
“I have seen a situation of a hardline view of feminism being presented to boys and it just closed down the debate,” he said. “It left the boys thinking that they’re terrible.”
With most of his 34-year career spent in boys schools, Dr Wright believes there are benefits to educating boys in a single-sex environment. He pointed to “compelling” research from New Zealand, conducted by Victoria University of Wellington, which found superior academic results and higher university entrance rates compared with those boys at mixed schools.
The advantage was greatest for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Dr Wright said there were cultural benefits also that were contrary to the stereotype of many boys schools. “I find boys (at boys schools) are more likely to get involved in music and the arts,” he said. “There’s a real sense of openness and playfulness.”
Let’s encourage our boys to be boys, and use their energy in productive and positive ways. Boys and girls are different. Let’s champion boys for who they are, and not try to turn them into second-rate girls for the sake of malevolent politically-correct ideology.
So, the homework for this week — take your boys outside and play games with your boys that they enjoy. Our boys need affirmation from their dads, and dads who want to play with them.
They need you as a dad to support them in their quest to become men of value.
You will never regret it, and neither will our boys.
Yours for our Boys,
PS: We now have only 16 sleeps until International Men’s Day on Tuesday 19 November 2019. Watch this video for more information. Get ideas on how to best observe International Men’s Day at the website, and let’s make sure we celebrate our boys!
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