Disabling the patriarchy by focusing on boys

Is it better for schools to be co-ed or gender specific? I used to think co-ed schools could make better and more equal future citizens because students grow up with the opposite sex, and the hope would be to neutralize differences between genders. Co-ed environments also expose students to a wider and more diverse network of teachers and peers from a young age. Outside K-12 education, universities and the workforce are all gender-neutral. Therefore, allowing students to appreciate the intermingling of genders that they will face after high school may be beneficial and a better learning opportunity than only going to school with one sex. However, by prioritizing co-ed schools, we may miss out on an invaluable opportunity to achieve gender equality – focusing on boys.

Jack Myers, the author of The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century, argues that the women’s movement cannot move forward without the active support of men who accept gender equality. Myers advocates for societal changes and a shift in how we view traditional male roles or “brotherhoods.” These harmful notions about a “real man” are largely entrenched in the minds of boys from birth. A “real man” can’t show emotion; he can’t cry or ask for help; he shouldn’t enter traditionally more “feminine” careers such as teaching or nursing. As Myers says,

“Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are tapping into what I’m calling a “Lean Out” generation of young, discouraged and angry men—men who are feeling abandoned by the thousands of years of history that defined what it meant to be a real man: to be strong; to be a provider; to be in authority; to be the ultimate decision maker; and to be economically, educationally, physically and politically dominant. A growing percentage of young men are being out-earned by young women, as women capture 60% of the higher education degrees required for success in today’s economy.”

These masculine goals create an environment where boys are left out at school, in the job market, and in relationships. For a male, feeling a loss of power or being unable to feel like a “real man” can lead to not only an unwillingness to support female movements, but also an attempt to regain control within relationships, through the use of violence or power imbalances. Domestic violence is rooted in displays of power and strength. Many times, the only acceptable “male” emotion is anger, depicted as violence – all other emotions detract from masculinity.                         

Single gender schools have the power to change difficult and harmful masculine ideals. Boys can be exposed to role models of responsible, competent and caring husbands, sons and fathers. They could be encouraged to take part in more “feminine” classes – such as art, dance, and cooking.     

Gaming and online learning can be introduced to classes and physical education can be expanded. We need to allow boys to step out of the path towards becoming a hard, emotionless real man, and to explore their other interests and facets, making them more comfortable with showing signs of “femininity.”

By prioritizing and focusing on boys through single-gender school systems, there could be a very powerful shift in not only the treatment of women, but also in the support of women’s movements.

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