This report concerning the increasing distance between boys and girls and young men and women across the Australian education system interested me.
As someone who has always held strongly feminist views, it required some reorientation on my part to digest the main thrust of this article (written by a female journalist working for a left of centre news outlet). I admit that as a male and a feminist, I have an ingrained bias against males. Or perhaps what I mean is, a society dominated by males and male stereotypes – and I know as a traveller who regularly crosses the invisible border line between the western liberal democracies and the rest of the world, what such societies look like. Where corruption, oppression, poverty, injustice and dictatorship – and rule by men – is the norm. Time and again, it has struck me that underyling these societies – the base of the pyramid of oppression as it were – is the oppression of women and girls.
It’s one thing to travel and experience other very different cultures, but its another thing to ignore what the reality of life for most people in these countries is; how they are governed and what their ideas and expectations are. And once one crosses the border between tourist and traveller, a different level of experience emerges.
After reading this article, I did a bit more research on the subject of boys falling behind in the education system – which turned up similar results in the case of other western liberal democracies. in other words, this was not an issue unique to Australia by any means.
All rather ironic: in those nations in the world which have made the most effort to address the gender gap traditionally favouring men, now find themselves confronted by a strange condundrum: it appears that the efforts to advance the cause of girls and women has resulted in boys and young men losing out.
As this article and many others indicate, the problem seems to be that boys learn in a different way than girls. Their ‘frontal cortex’ develops more slowly. They need a more structured environment as well as positive male role models – an environment now missing because firstly, the education system has moved away from a highly structured environment to a more fluid one requiring more personal initiative, and secondly, because the number of men working in the education system has decreased dramatically over the last decades (the revelations in the media of sexual predators possibly creating a stigma). Furthermore, the number of boys growing up in a single parent families – often in the care of the mother – is also a way in which the male role model has been undermined.
Girls not only mature more quickly than boys, they are better at communicating, read and study more conscientiously and are more independent. Even in areas where boys usually perform well – maths and science – the girls are making steady inroads.
There’s a side of me I have to confess that says:
‘Bad luck for the males. Girls and women have been denied the chance to develop their talents – not to mention being oppressed and intimidated – for so long that our first priority must remain to advance the role of women in every sphere of our work and life and politics. As a male who knows what it a harsh male dominated world looks like, there is on my part an ingrained belielf that gender liberation is a Cause which must be waged – all over the world. The point of this article is that no group should be allowed to fall behind. On the one hand we must advance the cause of girls and women and yet at the same time recognise that we cannot leave boys and men behind. This of course is common sense and yet….I wonder how many people realise that put into the global context – or just take a long hard look at Australia’s neighbours in Asia -, that it is also a luxury problem; the problem of a society where the most obscene injustices were banished long ago.