Home' Independence : Independence Vol 38 No 2 Oct 2013 Contents VOL 38 NO 2 OCTOBER 2013 INDEPENDENCE 37
wider range of behaviours for boys
that can be still coded as masculine.
It's the same deal for girls. At an all-
girls school, the girls are playing sport,
running the student government, editing
the school newspaper and so on, but at
large co-ed schools they often don't get
the same opportunities.
At large co-ed universities now that
gender division has completely broken
down: women run all of the major
organisations, they play sports just
as much as the boys do. But that old
division has not been broken down
by boys. It's been broken down
by girls' ambition and the girls'
leadership -- which have, of course,
been nurtured in their schooling.
WHAT are the developmental challenges
for girls and boys in the West today?
What has happened in Australia, in the
US and in Europe over the past 40 or
50 years, is that women have changed
the definition of what it means to be
a woman. Women now know that
as well as being nice and pretty and
smiling, they can also be ambitious,
assertive, sporty, etc. They can be
nurturing and loving mothers and
ambitious in the work place. Women
have laid claim to a whole range of
human qualities while men have
remained pretty much locked into the
old traditional idea of masculinity.
The challenge now is to look at
what guys think masculinity means
because -- while men are eager to
express a range of qualities -- they
often find themselves inhibited from
doing so. We need to explore what
it means to be a 'good man'.
There are timeless ideas about being a
good man, that is, man as a protector
and nurturer with an internal moral
compass set to the kind of values
schools teach -- honour, integrity,
trustworthiness, compassion, care for
others, respect for diversity and so on.
But then there's the other part, which is
what I call masculinity, which pertains
to the performer, to the act that we put
on. This is the part that is constantly
being scrutinised and watched by others.
When talking with boys about this
issue I try to help them tease out the
difference between that 'good man'
and the act of masculinity. What I want
them to see is that sometimes what
we've been asked to do to prove our
masculinity contradicts those ideals of
manhood. So, if I was going to take the
emotional temperature of most young
adolescent boys or young men, I would
say the dominant emotion among them
today is anxiety: 'Am I doing it right?'
Through their schooling and though
their university years we want boys to
become more comfortable in their own
skin. We want them to become more
comfortable with reaching or striving
for those ideals that we've always held
out to them. We want them to be less
anxious as a result of growing up. If we
could do that, we would be doing a lot.
AND for girls?
I don't think that girls have the same
pressures about being feminine as boys
do about being masculine. Girls police
each other far less than boys do now.
Think, for example, about your own
kids. Was your daughter ever called a
tomboy? Who cared? But was your son
ever called a sissy? Can guys -- or their
parents -- be so easy about that?
If we ask a girl now, 'What does it mean
to be a woman?', you know what she'll
tell you? 'I can be anything I want. I can
be a brain surgeon, I can be a mum, I
can be a soccer player.' But you ask guys
what it means to be a man and they put
their hands at their sides really rigidly
and pose like a body builder. It's hard
for us to imagine being a man and being
a loving dad or a great husband. So
our job as educators is to open up the
possibility of a fuller range of human
experiences for boys.
WHAT advice would you give to the
leaders of independent schools in
Australia about developing young
people, in terms of gender?
I would ask the Heads of boys' schools
to consider the prepositions they use
to describe what they do. Obviously,
from demography we know that you
are a school of boys, and probably at
your most perfect performance you
think of yourself as a school for boys.
I would challenge these leaders to
create a school about boys, to become
a school that actually considers how it
teaches -- for example, in the material
that they teach, in the way that
they teach, and in raising questions
about masculinity and gender.
Boys will leave these schools and go
into the most co-educational, gender-
equal world that human beings have
ever encountered. So we need to prepare
them for that conversation. We do them
no favours if we ignore that conversation
because, believe me, independent
girls' schools have been running
programs about gender and leadership
for their students for some time.
In co-ed schools the notion of equality
and mutual respect is less abstract and
more tangible. But there is a disjunction
between young people's behaviour
in and out of school. During the day,
they're very egalitarian, they're very
respectful; but outside of school it's like
they revert to the 1950s! This is also an
issue for single-sex schools. We need
to prepare young people to be able to
take their gender equality outside the
classroom as well.
Dr Michael Kimmel is Distinguished Professor
of Sociology and Gender Studies and Executive
Director of the Center for the Study of Men
and Masculinities at Stony Brook University,
New York, USA. His books include Changing
men: New directions in research on men and
masculinity (1987), Men confront pornography
(1990), The politics of manhood (1996),
Manhood in America: A cultural history (1996),
The gender of desire (2005), The history of men
(2005) and The gendered society (fifth edition,
2013). His most recent book is Guyland: The
perilous world where boys become men (2008).
Professor Kimmel's current topic of research
is 'Angry White Men', a comparative study of
the extreme right wing, white supremacists and
neo-Nazis in the United States, Germany and
Professor Kimmel is the Founding Editor of Men
and Masculinities, an interdisciplinary scholarly
journal, and a founder and spokesperson for the
National Organization for Men Against Sexism
(NOMAS). He also lectures widely and consults
regularly with the Ministries for Gender Equality
in Norway and Sweden.
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