Why Can’t There Be Organizations Just for Boys?
Recently, on a single day, I read an AP report that the Boy Scouts is now considering not only including girls but actively recruiting girls (much to the dismay of the Girl Scouts organization). Girl Boy Scouts? The article mentioned only in passing that the National Organization for Women has publicly asked the Boy Scouts to include girls. Why? It has not asked the Girl Scouts to include boys (so the article implied) and the Girl Scouts organization has no intention of opening up to boys.
On that day I also received a large, glossy magazine from a formerly all-boys preparatory school to which I have contributed financially—because it was one of the very few organizations dedicated to helping boys—especially boys of color at risk of being recruited into gangs and of falling through the cracks of education and society—as so many boys do. The magazine announced proudly that the school—featured on a prime time network television “magazine show”—will now include girls.
There can be no doubt that boys are struggling in today’s American society. I have heard and read it admitted by top experts in education. And yet there seems to be a great deal more emphasis on helping girls. Everywhere I go around the United States I see notices, invitations, program, non-profit organizations, and buildings for girls only (e.g., “Girl Start”). I see few, if any such, especially dedicated to helping boys.
Every college and university campus in America has some organizations for helping girls who already are, overall, succeeding much better than boys in education and forging ahead of boys and men in many areas of business.
*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*
Whenever I write about this concern for boys (or men’s health) someone responds by implying that I must be against girls and women. Not at all. I am not calling for LESS emphasis on helping girls succeed in life (“make good choices”). I am calling for MORE emphasis on helping boys succeed in life; fewer and fewer are doing that. Help for children and youth is NOT a “zero-sum game.”
Here I am only asking why there cannot be organizations dedicated to helping boys become good men and succeed in life that is only for men and boys.
I think there must be a social attitude at work in America that favors girls above boys. And that thinks it is simply up to boys—in “a man’s world”—to succeed or not. And that thinks boys need to be “fixed” by girls and women in order to become good men.*
We used to call that attitude “emasculation.”
Now, having said that, of course I know, and gladly admit, that there are many impulses in American society toward distorted masculinity—especially in sports, some entertainment, and the military. But what I believe is that when many women (and men) think of “boys” they tend to imagine, picture, the boys and men who display distorted masculinity—the “big bruiser,” the “intimidating bully,” the “swaggering sports hero,” “the sexually harassing boss,” etc. By far the majority of boys (and men) in America fit none of those stereotypes.
Today in America we also have the attitude—common in educational circles and the media—that only girls suffer non-physical bullying. Or at least that is all one hears about.
I recently read an interview with a female expert on gender who talked about bullying among children and youth. She said in the interview that bullying among boys is simple; it’s physical and obvious. Bullying among girls, however, is subtle and mostly unobserved by those who could step in and do something about it. I e-mailed her and told her my own story of being bullied non-physically in middle and high school and told her that I am absolutely certain that non-physical bullying also goes on among boys even if not as often on “social media.” And the educators’ response is often indifference (“Man up!” and “That’s just part of being a boy”). She very kindly e-mailed back and admitted it. But the interview said otherwise. Why?
Her interview in the magazine was about a special program being sponsored by a local school at which she would be the main speaker. It was for parents and educators only about girls.
I have never heard of such a special program about boys. The expert interviewed told me she has such a program about boys, but I have never seen such advertised or announced anywhere or at any time. I suspect she is rarely asked to perform it.
Yes, there is tremendous emphasis on boys in American society but only with regard to sports. The vast majority of American boys never participate in sports (other than as spectators) after a certain age. The vast majority of boys are not big enough, strong enough, adept enough to become “football heroes” or any other participant in organized and sponsored school and other sports activities. The vast majority of boys suffer in the shadows, largely unrecognized and unacknowledged and uncared for. Many are dropping out of even attempting to be successful, contributing members of society. No wonder many of them join gangs, get into trouble with the law, and/or spend most of their time sitting alone or with a friend playing video games most of the time.
Given those facts, why can’t there be organizations dedicated solely to helping boys? Why do all such eventually come to include girls?
One reason I read recently (implied by a Washington Post columnist who wrote a snide essay about the Boys Scouts of America) is that boys will grow up to be better men if they have to be with girls and led by women in every context. (She did not, of course, say the same about girls and boys/men!) She even said that girls should be able to join the Boy Scouts if they want to; she did not suggest that boys should be able to join any girls-only organizations if they want to.
I disagree insofar as she (and others like here) think boys should never have organizations and events just for them led by good men.
Most of the boys in Boy Scouts have mothers who raised them and still are influential in their lives. Most of the boys in Boy Scouts attend co-ed schools; they spend much of their time with girls and women who lead them. What’s wrong with them having their own organization designed to help them achieve what I call “undistorted masculinity?” Or is there no such thing? Does the Post columnist perhaps want to emasculate boys and men? I think so. She (and others like her) would probably never use that word (at least publicly), but her tone and her outright disdain for the Boy Scouts organization imply it.
Boy Scouts of America, please do not admit girls! Not because I have anything against girls; I don’t. There are girls in my life I care about very much and want to succeed at whatever they want to do in life. Girls already have many special opportunities, organizations, reaching out to them to help them succeed in life. I support those. I don’t want them to be harmed in any way and that is also one reason I don’t want the Boy Scouts of America to include girls; it would possibly undermine the Girl Scouts organization.
For those who really believe, as I do, that there should be similar organizations for both genders, there is Campfire (formerly Campfire USA)—a wonderful co-ed organization for both boys and girls. There is also the Boys and Girls Clubs of America—also a wonderful co-ed organization for both boys and girls. I have nothing whatever against such. All I am saying is that for boys who want the experience of a boys-only organization such as Boy Scouts has always been there should be such.
*Some more examples of the double standard I’m complaining about here: Not long ago I saw on television a story about a girls soccer club that included a boy who could not compete with other boys in most sports—including soccer. (He was not bigger than any of the girls; he and they were children.) The girls ALL wanted him on their team and in their club but a certain group of feminists loudly objected and he was forced off the team. At the same time, of course, girls are being included on boys teams all over the country. I have not heard one peep against that—especially from feminists. I also read an article about a certain state’s public school singing competition—for the state choirs. The state music educators organization did not allow a boy to sing mezzo-soprano even though that was his natural range. They did (and I assume do) allow girls to sing any range including bass. The boy had to drop out of the competition entirely. (He was trying out for the mixed choir.)
We hear a great deal about double standards and biases that favor boys—especially in sports. But we rarely hear about those that favor girls. All I am trying to do here is raise awareness that there are such double standards and that boys also need special attention and help—especially those at risk of dropping out and of being completely overlooked. Many of the latter are not interested in sports.
Boys are much more likely than girls to succeed in committing suicide; many boys also suffer sexual molestation silently and never tell anyone. But the signs can be very present. So much attention is being focused on girls and the challenges they face (all of which I support!) with very little similar attention being paid to boys and the challenges they face.
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