Mentoring young men is one of the most satisfying aspects of my work as an international educator. I get to do this through coaching athletics (basketball, cross-country running, track & field). Young men have always needed guidance and role models to help them build careers, and become good husbands and fathers. It is even more important today, however, because of the rise of women in education and the workplace. The traditional role of males in our society has changed due to the empowerment of women to excel in school and in a range of career fields. This is long overdue and I am glad to see many countries finally taking advantage of 50% of their population to be productive members of society in more than just child rearing, nursing, and teachers. Society is changing faster than many men can keep up with and schools can help.
I completed Stephen Whitehead’s workshop about Toxic Masculinity (TM) last week. The workshop was sponsored by our regional association, CEESA (Central & Eastern European Schools Association). I was bothered by the term, Toxic Masculinity (TM) as I thought it was another of the new “woke” terms bandied about on the internet. However, after attending the insightful workshop, I understand why it is used. Boys and men are struggling in K-12 and higher education. As Scot Galloway points out in this blog post, the percentage of men enrolled in US universities has dropped to 40% over the past 25 years.
CEESA leadership brought Dr. Stephen Whitehead to our schools because several schools reported male students being influenced by Andrew Tate. He is an influential social media personality that encourages young men and boys to value money and power over all else and treat women and the LGBTQ community rudely. Tate is taking advantage of the fear, frustration, isolation, and confusion of men who are reacting to the rise of women.
As Dr. Whitehead pointed out and from what I see in our school, the majority of males have progressive, masculine attitudes. Thanks to a supportive home and school environment, international school male students have role-model fathers and male teachers to guide their development into functioning adults. There is a significant minority, however, that are wholly unprepared and are susceptible to the ideas of people like Andrew Tate. Many males, especially men of color and poor, are isolated and frustrated because they are being left behind. I learned the term Incel, which means “involuntary celibate”. This is the phenomenon of men not being able to attract women. In part, this is due to a lack of success in school and hence, a lack of earning power post secondary and tertiary education. I also see all of us, including boys and men becoming more socially isolated due to individual digital devices (iPhone + Airpods means you do not need to interact with anyone). Ezra Klein in his podcast interview with professor Sheila Liming, “The Quiet Catastrophe Brewing in our Social Lives” talks about this increasing loneliness in our society.
Dr. Whitehead prescribes to help change the attitudes of male students is to become a school that practices Total Inclusivity. This is a systemic approach that recognizes, values, protects, and nurtures diverse identities. A school where no one is isolated, no one is discriminated against and all belong and all matter equally. He says you can’t cure TM through criticism or negativity, but by giving them the opportunity to love and understand themselves. He defined the concept of “self-love” as a regard for one’s own well-being and happiness by appreciating one’s physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. He also advises showing students that identities can change and deconstruct, what is a “normal” or traditional, male and female identity. Practically, this should start with a focus group of 5 female and 5 male older students that will inform the school on what is going on with social dynamics in the school. This then leads to a Total Inclusivity Group of faculty and older students that advocate for valuing all identities in the community.
He provided a summary of the workshop:
- Males needing help with their identity and role in society is not new.
- The female revolution is unstoppable.
- Men at the end of the TM “cave” need help through education and counseling.
- Most young males are not filled with TM, but see it as fashionable and cool.
- TM males are rapidly becoming unemployable.
- Male backlash against female empowerment is inevitable.
- Traditional masculinity is becoming socially marginalized.
- A Totally Inclusive environment and self-love cures male toxic behavior, bolsters the “immune system of girls” and improve learning for all students in the community.
I am interested in this topic and will conduct a workshop for parents, faculty, and student next school year. The resources I need to read are as follows:
- Becoming a Totally Inclusive School: A guide for teachers and school leaders (Stephen Whitehead)
- Of Boys & Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It (Richard Reeves)
- Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time (Sheila Liming)