Boys and men are disadvantaged in the modern world. This is not a new phenomenon. Historically, both men and women suffered disadvantages due to their sex – but women have been liberated from their disadvantages, some of which have been turned on their head completely so as to confer advantage (rather than equality), while much masculine disadvantage has been entrenched and exacerbated. On top of this, men and boys are subject to an unprecedented level of criticism. The minimum requirement of the boy-child's family is that they act as a bulwark against their sons internalising the toxic feminist messaging that is ubiquitous. Ideally, boys benefit from being members of intact families with high levels of father-involvement, and when families do split up, maintained father-involvement remains critically important in the vast majority of cases.
The rights of men and boys specifically are assaulted by the actions and inactions of the state in the developed world in a host of concerning areas today (which make raising them a more tense prospect than it should be). The education of boys and men, healthcare provision (including mental healthcare) for them, and their victimisation are secondary concerns for governments, compared to the education, health and protection of women and girls. They’re discriminated against via quotas in education and the workplace and they’re discriminated against in the criminal justice system where the presence of a Y chromosome is an aggravating factor that warrants harsher treatment. Worse than all of that combined, there are thousands of loving fathers who are prevented from fulfilling their responsibilities to their children by malicious women and an incompetent, if not ideologically corrupt, family justice system.
As a mother to boys, all of these issues cause me anxiety – none more so than the latter. Personally, I take it upon myself to fight these injustices. I accept the fight as a duty, in fact, because these injustices are entrenched and exacerbated in large part thanks to the lobbying of feminists – who claim to speak on my behalf. The only thing worse that I can imagine than one of my boys being prevented from having a meaningful relationship with his own progeny – is for that to happen and for me to know that I’d seen the problem in their childhood and not tried to help with efforts to reform the system in any way that I could.
Misandry is an epidemic today. Late October, leader of the U.K.’s Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson casually tweeted an anti-Brexit jibe reading “Six white men stuck in the past, conspiring to wreck our future.” On a panel discussion that I took part in at the beginning of November, Rebecca Reid suggested that nurturing was “too complex” for fathers. Shortly after, Mona Elthaway blew this misguided assumption right out of the water by appearing on Australian television advocating for women to use violence against men: “For me, as a feminist, the most important thing is to destroy Patriarchy... How long must we wait for men and boys to stop murdering us, to stop beating us and to stop raping us? How many rapists must we kill? [Not the state because I disagree with the death penalty and I want to get rid of incarceration]…". '
The public sphere is a morass of anti-male sentiment, some subtle, some overt, but so very rarely counter-balanced by pro-male sentiment (or, indeed, even the slightest hint of critique of the female segment of society). I’ve listened to men telling me that they have internalised these messages and that they are tormented by them. I see the disparity in higher education rates and the gender pay-gap for young men and women (often in women’s favour) and I wonder whether young men are being bludgeoned into apathy. On the other hand, I also see the subversive popularity of Jordan Peterson and the growth of pro-male movements, for which I’m deeply grateful, and it strikes me as clear that there is a hunger in men to hear that they matter, that they shouldn’t feel burdened by the guilt of ages and that their masculinity is a positive attribute that they can utilise to improve their lives, the lives of their loved ones and their communities. So, we want to raise our boys to feel that they are just as inherently valuable as the girls in their class.
When family movies trot out the old heroine assaults love interest trope, it never goes uncommented upon in our house. We celebrate masculine virtues like risk taking, competitiveness, physical courage, rationality, problem solving, daring, self-reliance and curiosity. We want them to know that we will support them. It may be nigh-on impossible for them to access mental health services through the National Health Service– and, if they do, they might join the 41% of men globally who have regretted “opening up” to someone, according to The Movember Foundation. So they need to know that we will listen, take them seriously and care about their problems. And we want them to know real history, not popular feminist revisionism. Last year, we celebrated the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918 in the U.K., widely rewritten as herstory and I had to step in to tell our boys that:
It wasn’t just women who were granted the vote (it was also working-class men), That so many of the men who died in World War One (the end of which was the same year) had died without the right to vote, that The Representation of the People Act 1918 may never have happened without their sacrifice That – if the Suffragettes had any impact on the fight for votes for women – it was to hold us back, andThat women’s suffrage was achieved by collaborative action by men and women together.
Although I am continually outraged at the fact that we, as parents, have to battle against the dominant culture to ensure that our boys aren’t engulfed with shame for being born male and that they receive a balanced education; it actually seems to be perversely rewarding. We can see the development of men-to-be who accept nothing on face value, who hear claims, seek out further information and evaluate them. Men-to-be [reckoned with].
Finally, I cannot write about raising boys without raising the unfashionable fact that (as Sonja Shaljean would put it) lads need dads. Father involvement with children is linked to higher educational achievement and occupational mobility, and increases a boy’s chances of escaping poverty in particular. Father involvement is associated with fewer child behavioural problems. Father’s involvement is associated with lower criminality (76% of children and young people in custody had an absent father as compared to the <25% national average. Father involvement is associated with less substance misuse and addiction. Greater father involvement is associated with higher levels of self-respect and self-regulation. Father absence is associated with earlier sexual activity and teen pregnancy. And, children with single parents show increased risks of psychiatric disease, suicide, and attempted suicide. Fathers clearly play a crucial role in children’s development and the very acceptance of this truth is critical to boy’s self-worth. What is happening in our societies now is a travesty. In the U.K. Of >2.8million single parent families 92% of non-resident parents are fathers in the U.K. Less than half of non-resident parents are awarded staying contact with their children. Day visits (without overnight stays) are ordered in 20% cases. No contact, indirect or supervised contact is ordered in 31% of cases. Almost equal caring occurs in 3% of cases at best. For both boys and girls, we need to do better.
Raising boys in the modern world is a task best approached with concern, passion and love (disclosed). While I think that male disadvantage should be attacked with a vengeance, there is no guarantee that society will change for the better for our boys. So, the ultimate line of defence is the family. Parents need to take responsibility for ensuring that our boys needs are met, that their response to the toxic feminist climate is defiant and that they’re nurtured into the fierce men of the future who will nurture others and lead our societies into a bright future.