Thursday, April 13, 2006

Boys And Blokes In A Class Of Their Own

By Jane Fynes Clinton

OK, girls, we can back off now. This wee, The Courier Mail revealed that all-girls school were the stand outs in the academic rankings of the state's school. Sisters are loudly and proudly doing it for themselves and leaving boys in their scholarly dust. Good on them. Bravo. Well done.

But while we bask in the glow of yet more signs that women are thriving, and celebrate more wins for womankind, maybe we should stop for a thick and wonder whether it has all gone a bit far. What about our boys? Shouldn't we be deeply troubled about them and their overall lackluster academic performance?

In her book The War Against Boys, American author Christina Hoff Soimmers raised the alarm five years ago that the correction of what was thought to be a very real imbalance against girls had gone too far. Girls were thriving in school, in opportunities and in life, and boys were being bent out of shape and out of the picture. Sommers even had the audacity to question whether there was ever a real girl crisis in the first place.

I think the information revealed on Monday is symptomatic of broader problem - one that women have created in their relentless agitation to make everything even, equal, better and fair. As a result, in many areas men and boys are now viewed as second-class. We women have done so well and reaped so much that our boys and men are being rendered a shell of their former testosterone-fuelled, hunter and gatherer selves.

We've left them with nowhere to go. Why is it unacceptable when a boy wrestles, but acceptable when a girl fits in the dainty, feminine model? How did we get to the point where a girl is allowed to be sensitive and girly as well as practical and smart, but boys' masculine tendencies are considered socially problematic and any sign of sookiness is also beyond the pale?

The picture for blokes isn't pretty, more men die on he roads, more men commit suicide, proportionally more men get prostate cancer than women get breast cancer, their death rates in every disease category are higher, and men occupy nice out of 10 cells in our prisons. Boys' literacy and numeracy rates are abysmal, they are shown to have lower selfesteem and higher incidence of behavior problems than girls.

The Federal Government's revival of its ad campaign reminds the public that "To Violence Against Women, Australia Says NO". And we should be reminded that to violence against men, Australia also shakes its head. Women's violence is on the rise - it may be less often physical, but there is more than a handful of women with razor sharp tongues and honed needling skills.

The World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report, which rated 58 nations in 2004, revealed that things are pretty balanced in Australia in terms of economic opportunity and participation, political opportunity, educational attainment and health and wellbeing. It states that Australia has the ninth smallest gender gap of the nations rated. On the whole, women are happier with their lives and feel they have made more progress than men.

Maybe it's time we started remembering the men need love and respect too. The pendulum of discrimination has swung in woman's favor in many areas and men have been told too long to...Well, not to be men.

I am a man fan. My husband and son are guys' guys and I would not have it any other way. What is wrong with loving men because they are masculine,capable and strong? Of course, my guys can cook, a meal, iron a shirt and they certainly have emotion and compassion. These are parts of the whole and masculinity is no less or more of it.

In advertising, we are too often presented with the hopeless fella; the lovable but indecisive blocke who can't commit and sneaks off to be with his mates: "Tee hee, chortle. Isn't his hopelessness cute." Enough, I say. These are not the ideal men of our era. This is not what we women should be pleased about creating. We got what were were after, girls: the gender imbalance in almost every realm has been more than righted. Men have been beaten.

In the search to find another cause to fight for, it would do us well to remember those attributes that women as a group seem to have lost touch with: compassion, a sense of fair play and love four our men.

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