According to Diane Abbott MP, boys and men in our society are more likely to commit suicide, do badly at school, and end up homeless. They are “isolated and misdirected”. They revere Viagra and porn – but pride, and a conspiracy of silence, stops them talking about their woes.
The response to Ms Abbott’s statements has been interesting. Tony Parsons, in the Daily Mirror, makes a typical pithy tabloid comment: “There is not a lot wrong with British men that couldn’t be put right by less porn, more fathers sticking around to raise their kids and enough economic growth to provide jobs for the boys – and the girls, too.”
The Huffington Post reported, “Britain is facing a crisis of masculinity, which celebrates heartlessness and normalises sexism and homophobia . . . A generation of young, dissatisfied men, raised on diet of pornography and consumerism . . . no longer ask themselves what it means to be a man. The transit generation of men can find themselves trapped in a perpetual adolescence, with the priorities and anxieties of a teenager.”
“Too many British men and boys who need the space and support to talk about manhood, expectations and boundaries from an early age, at schools, with other boys, and with their parents . . . remain silent.”
It seems obvious to us that this is an issue about how we are educating and ‘socialising’ boys and young people in general, and to what extent Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) of any quality takes place in our schools.
One of our favourite picture books for young children is “The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek”, in which the Bunyip emerges from a muddy pool and asks, “Who am I? What am I?” These are fundamental questions for all of us, and we each answer them in our own way, either consciously or unconsciously.
Unless we, as teachers and parents, help our children to address these questions from the youngest age, we have little chance of enabling them to become the best human beings they are capable of becoming. It’s not a question of giving them an identity (masculine, feminine, etc) – it’s a question of helping them move ahead with the lifelong task of creating and recreating their own identity, their self-image and the necessary self-confidence to live their lives in the most productive, self-actualising and satisfying ways possible. It’s a question of enabling them to develop all of their multiple intelligences – intellectual, personal, social and spiritual, as well as enabling them to achieve high levels of emotional literacy.
- We need to talk about masculinity | Laurie Penny (guardian.co.uk)
- PSHE Education “Not Yet Good Enough” (3diassociates.wordpress.com)
- Ofsted: teach about pornography in sex education lessons (telegraph.co.uk)
- Abbott warns of ‘masculinity crisis’ (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Crisis of masculinity’ harming Britain, Hackney MP Diane Abbott warns – Hackney Citizen (hackneycitizen.co.uk)