It does not take very much wit to discern that boys in Australia are facing some real challenges. These challenges reflect the challenges faced by men.
Men’s lives have changed. Once it was simple: perform, protect, provide. Look after your family, keep a job, play sport. That’s the recipe that men told me kept them going. The territory for men is more uncertain. Women analyse and critique men. Women have the words and pick phrases that they think describe men. Whether these reflect reality doesn’t matter. They have a life of their own as women’s magazines and discussion shows give them credibility.
VIOLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY
Is Australian society becoming more violent? Some say that it is. We have had cases of referees in a group of pre adolescent football game, being hit by a missile.
VIOLENCE AND BULLYING AMONG BOYS
It’s clear that bullying has become an issue for boys. And that means- for boys’ schools.
Cyber bullying is also being mentioned as a problem. As many or most bullies are cowards at heart, it’s easy for them to sit in the safety of their homes and write cruel comments about other boys
DEPRESSION IN THE COMMUNITY
Men are less verbal. Some sources say that women speak two and a half times as many words as men, but this is debated. Men have alexythymia, or lack of an emotional vocabulary. They become emotional around sport. Otherwise men are expected to get on with it. No wonder that men in trouble find it hard to call out to help. I don’t think helplines and websites are the answer. ..if men can’t find the words to use.
DEPRESSION AND SUICIDE AMONG BOYS
It’s hard to get an accurate figure on suicide. We can look at some isolated cases and guess how common they are. The case of Alex Wildman is troubling. He was targeted by a group of Islanders at one southwest Sydney school. Then the family moved to the north coast. Here again he was bullied unmercifully. The school seemed not to know what was happening. The judge noticed that there was a large and voluminous bullying policy document. But it had not worked. It’s all very well to sit and write policies. But what schools DO is the point.
RACISM IN THE COMMUNITY
We saw last June that racist comments are still being used by footballers. The issue was roundly discussed in the media.
A few points have been missed:
Rugby League is funded by the public. The NSW government, in one of Ian Macdonald’s last acts, paid $45m to make sure Sydney keeps the NRL Grand Final. And there is much more given by the public to support the game.
Is the NRL serious about its claims to make the game female friendly? Surely any self-respecting woman would be disgusted by the words used as an insult by the assistant coach of a team which is supposed to represent New South Wales.
What do the NRL’s advertisers have to say about the sexism and racism evident in people closely associated with the game ?
Finally, can we finally stop calling these boofheads role models for our boys? Cockroaches is too grand a name for most of them.
RACISM AMONG BOYS
Now to the boys. If racist comments are made by adults they are surely being made by kids and teenagers. Just when a boy is most unsure of who he i
s, along come racist comments from someone in the school who may have a lot of ability to influence others. A boy who is successful in sport or in some other masculine endeavour can laugh off these comments. A shy boy cannot.
The streets of our cities are dangerous places. There was a case in June of a young man being targeted and hit with a hammer because he apparently stared at someone in a fast food restaurant. Alcohol consumption is an issue. Hotels don’t want to have curfews. But police say binge drinking and long opening hours create trouble.
BOYS ON THE STREET
Ask boys what they want to do on the weekend. Go out! Hang out on the street! And similar. Full of false confidence, they march around in groups. To make themselves safer, they grab a carving knife or a pair of scissors. No doubt they are propositioned by drug dealers on the streets of our cities.