The ‘progressive’ rejection of the very concept of masculinity is harming young men and painting them as a problem to be solved, writes Gus Carter in the new issue of the Spectator. Here’s an excerpt.
The polling company YouGov found that just 8% of people have positive views of white men in their 20s, by far the lowest of any ethnicity or age group. Males are routinely presented as inherently dangerous, aggressive and animalistic, incapable of controlling their own instincts. You can see it on public transport, where government adverts announce that staring is sexual harassment. Us blokes can’t even be trusted to use our eyes properly.
Teenage boys are routinely disciplined by their schools for even the most minor infractions of an insurgent sexual politics. A friend’s son at a smart English day school was recently hauled up for the crime of unprompted communication with a girl. The boy had sent a message introducing himself to a student from another school. There was, according to the friend, no sexual element to the message. It was a simple greeting. No matter. That kind of behaviour is unacceptable.
This moral shift has been encouraged by social media and an expansive higher education sector that delights in tearing down the old order. Things we once took for granted are merely ‘constructed’ – and anyone who disagrees is a misogynistic privilege-hoarder. The new believers are able to muster online, forcing their revolutionary worldview into the wider culture and on to institutions that simply want a quiet life.
Look at the ‘Global Boyhood Initiative’, which is writing a new curriculum – currently being piloted in a couple of London schools – on gender equality for children. Last year the GBI published a report on the state of U.K. boys that starts by suggesting that gender is “not tied to sex organs” and then goes on to call families “gender and heterosexuality ‘factories'”.
A cottage industry of ‘toxic masculinity’ tutors has emerged following the Everyone’s Invited scandal, a wave of anonymous allegations of sexual impropriety at Britain’s top private schools that began in 2020. One such company is Beyond Equality, which sells its services to hundreds of U.K. schools, putting on workshops in which they tell boys to strip themselves of the “restrictive, burdensome armour” of masculinity. The reason, they say, is to create “communities that are safe for everyone” and to put a stop to “gender-based violence”. The implication is clear: men need to be reprogrammed.
“Boys are now seen as potential perverts,” explains one female former teacher, who quit the profession last year. “There was this obsession with the victimisation of women. I thought we had been getting somewhere with sex and relationships, teaching the children to treat people with respect, but that has been totally set back.”
A few weeks ago, a school in Essex sent a letter to parents telling them that their children were to be prohibited from having any romantic relationships with fellow students. All physical contact was to be banned, including a simple hug. In the letter, the school said the policy was designed to “keep your child safe. If your child is touching somebody else, whether they are consenting or not, anything could happen. It could lead to an injury, make someone feel very uncomfortable, or someone being touched inappropriately”. Who on earth really believes that children might injure themselves by holding hands?
This frantic prudery is a result not of a resurgence of conservative values, but of a progressive fear of men. Appalling behaviour is apparently everywhere. In 2021, Ofsted compiled a report that found 79% of schoolgirls said sexual assault happened “a lot” or “often” at their school. But there seems to be an inability to hold two notions in our heads: that sexual assault is bad and that treating men as inherent sex pests is also bad. A reasonable worry about assault appears to have morphed into an institutional misandry. There is a lack of recognition that, as with all crimes, the proportion of perpetrators is vanishingly small. The awful behaviour of a few is leading to the mistreatment of all.
Another teacher, working at a London college, agrees: “The new sexual framework reaffirms the gender roles that boys are these really strong, insensitive masculine beings and girls are these wimpy things that need to be careful. We seem to be saying: ‘You’re a girl, you’re going to be taken advantage of, you need to be scared.'” There’s a failure to contend with the idea that the awkwardness of young manhood – the playground scuffles, the stilted attempts at courtship – are the necessary growing pains of becoming a well-adjusted grown-up.
The result of all this over-policing is boys who feel uneasy, anxious and angry. Since 2017, the NHS has found that the proportion of boys with probable mental health issues has increased by more than 50%, now at nearly one in five. The suicide rate for boys aged 15 to 19 has more than doubled over the past decade. The child psychologist Julie Lynn Evans supported the Everyone’s Invited movement, seeing it as a necessary response to decades of dodgy male behaviour. But now she worries the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. “The boys came out of lockdown into this slightly hysterical atmosphere of ‘Don’t touch, that’s inappropriate, that’s assault.’ They are being treated as guilty until proven innocent. They can hardly move for fear of doing something wrong.”
Gus goes on to note that the unemployment crisis is particularly acute for young men, a problem exacerbated by the fact that women are frequently the beneficiaries of discriminatory employment practices aimed at ‘equality’ despite already outperforming men in education.
Worth reading in full.
Isn’t the Equality Act supposed to ban the unfavourable treatment of innate characteristics like sex? Being male is a protected characteristics as much as being female and should not be subject to discriminatory narratives that paint it as a problem. But then as we’ve seen with the constant woke problematising of ‘whiteness’, these anti-discrimination provisions only ever seem to cut one way. Perhaps the Government should amend the Equality Act to make completely clear that its provisions cover being male and white as much as being female and non-white. Should be obvious of course, but it clearly isn’t. Existing provisions should also be tested in the courts – school boys should sue their school for treating their sex as a problem and making them feel demeaned on account of being male.