About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny

In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherds Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight

I dont have any grand theory about masculinity. But I know a bit about boys. Partly because Im at the beach and in the water a lot.

As a surfer you spend a lot of time bobbing about, waiting for something to happen. So eventually, you get talking. Or you listen to others talking. And I spend my work days alone, in a room with people who dont exist, so these maritime conversations make up the bulk of my social life. And most of the people in the water are younger than me, some by 50 years or more.

I like the teasing and the joking that goes on, the shy asymmetrical conversations, the fitful moments of mutual bewilderment and curiosity. A lot of the time Im just watching and listening. With affection. Indulgence. Amusement. Often puzzled, sometimes horrified. Interested, but careful, of course, not to appear too interested. And the wonderful thing about getting older something many women will understand is that after a certain age you become invisible. And for me, after years of being much too visible for my own comfort, this late life waterborne obscurity is a gift.

There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I cant tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. Theres so much about them and in them thats lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either dont notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, theres great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.

Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if theres only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. Theres a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say its not just men pressing those kids into service.

These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.

What Ive come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If its well-meant its often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men dont always stick their necks out and make an effort.

True, the blokes around me in the water are there, like me, for respite, to escape complexity and responsibility for an hour or two, to save themselves from going mad in their working lives, but their dignified silence in response to misogynistic trash talk allows other messages, other poisonous postures to flourish. Too often, in my experience, the ways of men to boys lack all conviction, they lack a sense of responsibility and gravity. And I think they lack the solidity and coherence of tradition. Sadly, modernity has failed to replace traditional codes with anything explicit, or coherent or benign. Were left with values that are residual, fuzzy, accidental or sniggeringly conspiratorial.

Weve scraped our culture bare of ritual pathways to adulthood. There are lots of reasons for having clear-felled and burnt our own traditions since the 1960s, and some of them are very good reasons. But Im not sure what weve replaced them with. Weve left our young people to fend for themselves. We retain a kind of indulgent, patronising, approval of rites of passage in other cultures, including those of our first peoples, but the poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding.

What are we left with? The sly first beer your uncle slips you. The 18th birthday party where the keg is the icon. Maybe the B&S ball, if you live in the bush. First drink, first root, first bog-lap in your mums Corolla. Call me a snob, but that strikes me as pretty thin stuff. This, surely, is cultural impoverishment. And in such a prosperous country. To my mind, thats salt rising to the surface, poisoning the future.

In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And thats dangerous.

Toxic masculinity is a burden to men. Im not for a moment suggesting men and women suffer equally from misogyny, because thats clearly and fundamentally not true. And nobody needs to hear me mansplaining on the subject of the patriarchy. But I think we forget or simply dont notice the ways in which men, too, are shackled by misogyny. It narrows their lives. Distorts them. And that sort of damage radiates; it travels, just as trauma is embedded and travels and metastasizes in families. Slavery should have taught us that. The Stolen Generations are still teaching us. Misogyny, like racism, is one of the great engines of intergenerational trauma.

A man in manacles doesnt fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as hes raging against his bonds. Especially as hes raging against his bonds. When youre bred for mastery, when youre trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, theyre simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, its not a game, and its not a fight.

Can we wean boys off machismo and misogyny? Will they ever relinquish the race, the game, the fight, and join the dance? I hope so. Because liberation a process of disarmament, reflection and renewal isnt just desirable, its desperately necessary. In our homes, in business, and clearly, and most clearly of all, in our politics.

Boy
The poverty of mainstream modern Australian rituals is astounding, writes Winton. Photograph: Andy Andrews/Getty Images

Children are born wild. And thats beautiful, its wondrous, regardless of gender. Even when theyre feral creatures, kids are reservoirs of tenderness and empathy. But some do turn into savages. And sadly most of those are boys. Theyre trained into it. Because of neglect or indulgence. And when we meet them in the street, and have them in our classrooms, and haul them into the courts, we recoil from them in horror and disgust. Our detention centres and jails are heaving with them. These wild colonial boys, theyre a terror to Australia. Real and imagined. But I worry about our revulsion for them, our desire to banish them from consciousness for their noncompliance, their mistakes, or their faithful adherence to the scripts that have been written for them.

Boys need help. And, yes, men need fixing Im mindful of that. Males arrive in our community on the coattails of an almost endless chain of unexamined privilege. I dont deny that for a second. But patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if theyre the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.

But before we even get to that point, we have to acknowledge the awkward, implacable fact of their existence, especially those who most offend our sensibilities. We should resist our instinct or our ideological desire to cross the street to avoid them, our impulse to shut them down and shut them out and finally lock them up. We need to have higher expectations of them. Provide better modelling for them.

But before any of that is possible we need to attend to them. Yes, boys need their unexamined privilege curtailed. Just as they need certain proscribed privileges and behaviours made available to them. But the first step is to notice them. To find them worthy of our interest. As subjects, not objects. How else can we hope to take responsibility for them? And its men who need to step up and finally take their full share of that responsibility.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/09/about-the-boys-tim-winton-on-how-toxic-masculinity-is-shackling-men-to-misogyny

12-year-old girl commits suicide after teacher harassed her for period stains

A 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu, India, has committed suicide after her teacher shouted at and shamed her for period stains on her school uniform.

According to the girl’s mother, the girl had gotten her period while in class, and was unprepared because she had had just begun puberty two months prior, Tamil Nadu publication the News Minute reported.

When the girl’s teacher realized she had stained her uniform, she chastised the girl and sent her to the principal’s office, where she was “mocked and scolded” for not preparing for her period. In India, menstruation still carries a heavy stigma; 88% of women use items like cloth, ash, wood shavings, and even cow dung in place of sanitary napkins because they can’t afford period products and the government doesn’t take menstrual health seriously.

“Her friends pointed out that she had stained her uniform and so she asked her class teacher…for help,” the girl’s mother said. “The teacher did not even take into account that there were boys in the class. She asked my daughter to lift top of her salwar up and then gave her duster cloth to use as a pad.”

Prior to the girl’s suicide, she had missed a week of school after she got her period, and missed a test as a result. Her cousin, who is also her age, told News Minute that the administration had since scolded and chastised the girl for it.

Police are investigating the allegations, the Guardian reported. Meanwhile, activists say the girls’ suicide is indicative of schools needing to make education accessible to adolescent girls having their periods.

“The school did not have sanitary pad-dispensing machines,” Dev Anand, the district child protection officer, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, via the Guardian. “They did not even give the girl a regular pad. These are questions that the management needs to answer.”

For more information about suicide prevention or to speak with someone confidentially, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) or Samaritans (U.K.).

H/T the Nutcrack

Read more: https://www.dailydot.com/irl/period-shaming-suicide-india/

Teenage boys wear skirts to school to protest against ‘no shorts’ policy

Dozens of pupils at Isca academy in Exeter stage uniform protest after school insists they wear trousers despite heatwave

Some had borrowed from girlfriends, others from sisters. A few had gone the extra mile and shaved their legs. When the Isca academy in Devon opened on Thursday morning, an estimated 30 boys arrived for lessons, heads held high, in fetching tartan-patterned skirts. The hottest June days since 1976 had led to a bare-legged revolution at the secondary school in Exeter.

As the temperature soared past 30C earlier this week, the teenage boys had asked their teachers if they could swap their long trousers for shorts. They were told no shorts werent permitted under the schools uniform policy.

When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school no doubt joking said the boys were free to wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday, a handful braved the giggles and did so. The scale of the rebellion increased on Thurday, when at least 30 boys opted for the attire.

Quite refreshing was how one of the boys described the experience, pointing out that if even Royal Ascot had allowed racegoers in the royal enclosure to remove their jackets, then the school ought to relax its dress code. Another said he rather enjoyed the nice breeze his skirt had afforded him.

A third, tall boy said he was told his short skirt exposed too much hairy leg. Some of the boys visited a shop on their way to Isca the name the Romans gave to Exeter to pick up razors to make sure they did not fall foul of any beauty police.

Ironically, the temperature had dropped in Exeter to a more manageable 20C, but some boys said they had enjoyed the freedom afforded by the skirts and that they might continue.

The school said it was prepared to think again in the long term. The headteacher, Aimee Mitchell, said: We recognise that the last few days have been exceptionally hot and we are doing our utmost to enable both students and staff to remain as comfortable as possible.

Shorts are not currently part of our uniform for boys, and I would not want to make any changes without consulting both students and their families. However, with hotter weather becoming more normal, I would be happy to consider a change for the future.

It was too late. The revolution was picked up by media organisations across the globe, and Devon county council was forced to help the school out with inquiries. A spokesperson said: About 30 boys arrived at school this morning wearing school skirts. None of the boys have been penalised no one was put in isolation or detention for wearing a skirt.

The mother of one of the boys who began the protest said she was proud of him. Claire Lambeth, 43, said her son Ryan, 15, had come home earlier in the week complaining about the heat. He said it was unbearable. I spoke to a teacher to ask about shorts and she said it was school policy [that they could not be worn]. I did say this was exceptional weather, but they were having none of it. If girls can wear skirts, why cant boys wear shorts?

Ryan came up with the idea of wearing a skirt, so that evening we borrowed one. He wore it the next day as did five other boys. Then this morning I didnt expect it to take off like that. The school is being silly really this is exceptional weather. I was very proud of Ryan. I think it was a great idea.

Another mother said: My 14-year-old son wanted to wear shorts. The headteacher told them: Well, you can wear a skirt if you like but I think she was being sarcastic. However, children tend to take you literally, and because she told them it was OK, there was nothing she could do as long as they were school skirts.

A third mother said: Children also dont like injustice. The boys see the female teachers in sandals and nice cool skirts and tops while they are wearing long trousers and shoes and the older boys have to wear blazers. They just think its unfair that they cant wear shorts in this heat.

There were signs that the revolution might be spreading. The Guardian has heard of at least one more school in Wiltshire where one boy turned up in a skirt, although it did not go down quite so well with his friends.

And schoolboys were not the only ones making controversial dress choices because of the heat. Michael Wood, who works as a porter at Watford general hospital, claimed he was facing disciplinary action from his employers Medirest for rolling his trousers up to try to cool down. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on the case, but said: The health and safety of our colleagues is always our number one priority.

What happened to summer school uniforms? Matthew Easter, managing director of the schoolwear supplier Trutex, said they had become less popular for reasons of economy. Its really up to the individual school to decide, but the headteacher is in a difficult position. A decade or so ago, summer wear was more popular, but theres been a change recently to try to make uniforms as economical as possible. Summer uniforms are only worn for a matter of weeks.

If parents havent bought uniform shorts, then some children may feel disadvantaged, so perhaps the decision in this case is simply down to fairness.

It may be that the weather will solve the problem for the school. The Exeter-based Met Office situated up the road from the school predicts pleasant, but not searing, temperatures over the coming week.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/jun/22/teenage-boys-wear-skirts-to-school-protest-no-shorts-uniform-policy

Top journalist sues Time magazine for sex and age discrimination

Catherine Mayer says she was fired from US publication after being sidelined by senior staff

The co-founder of the Womens Equality party, Catherine Mayer, is suing her former employer, Time magazine, for gender and age discrimination, making the weekly favoured by President Donald Trump the latest major media company to be embroiled in accusations of institutional sexism.

The case comes soon after publication of BBC salaries provoked outrage at both gender and race gaps in pay, and a year after a series of high-profile sexual harassment cases plunged US TV giant Fox News into turmoil.

It pits one of Britains most prominent journalists, who wrote a controversial biography of Prince Charles and was shortlisted for the Orwell prize, against one of Americas most famous magazines, nearly a century old and with millions of readers. Times brand is so powerful Trumps golf clubs were decorated with mocked-up covers showing his face. Mayers suit, filed in a New York court, covers the final three years of her employment at the title, and her dismissal in 2015.

The problems began soon after she was appointed Europe regional editor, after eight years of outstanding performance and appraisals, court documents allege. The suit alleges that Times foreign editor appointed Matt McAllester, a younger male colleague, as her deputy, without an open selection process and in violation of promises that she could choose her team. Mayer says McAllester began a campaign to undermine and supplant her, even though she repeatedly raised complaints.

Ultimately, Mayer claims, the company took away her responsibilities as Europe editor the year after she took on the position, then forced her to relinquish the title, which the company gave to McAllester. In April 2015 she was fired.

The suit, filed on 24 July, said: Time has violated [anti-discrimination and civil rights] laws by operating a system of male cronyism, by which men, especially former war correspondents, were favoured over women in recruitment, dismissal and promotion decisions.

It alleges that McAllester, now editor-in-chief of Newsweek, poisoned the atmosphere in the London office so much one employee was afraid to be alone with him and eventually resigned without having another job to go to. This was not the result of a tough but fair work regime, but from bullying some subordinates and favouring others. Non-macho men and women who did not conform to traditional expectations of gender roles did not fare well, the suit claims. Staff in London quickly concluded that McAllester was trying to oust plaintiff.

Mayer claims that when she raised concerns with the international editor, Jim Frederick, he did not provide support. He responded simply, You are two of my favourite people and I am sure you will find a way to work things out. Her treatment triggered serious health problems including depression, migraines and insomnia, Mayer alleges. She also claims the timing of her dismissal was particularly damaging because it coincided with publication of her controversial and high-profile biography of Prince Charles. [It] had a negative impact on book sales and her reputation, since many assumed Time had terminated her because her research for the book was defective or for other performance-related reasons, the suit said.

Mayer claims she contested her dismissal immediately. There was never a point when I accepted this was a valid redundancy, and never a point when I didnt fight back, she said. Of course money is relevant to this, but also they were doing me reputational damage, because of the timing of the decision.

However, the case has come to light only after she decided to sue. Mayer said that despite her prominent position as an advocate for gender equality, she had hoped to keep her personal battle with Time quiet by reaching a private settlement. Im not going to try to pretend that I started out doing this for other women, she said. Absolutely initially what you want to do is move on with your life.

Mayer chose to take legal action in New York, where Time and its senior management is based. She is a dual citizen of the US and Britain. After two years seeking a settlement, legal deadlines meant she had to go to court or drop her case, she said. But under the US system, that meant the suit would be public.

Mayer said that having the case made public has a silver lining. She can now discuss her personal experience, and how it forced her to confront wider problems across the profession. If this is happening to me, what is it like to be someone less well-defended than me? she asked.

Time did not respond to questions about the lawsuit and Mayers claims. Matt McAllester declined to comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/aug/05/catherine-mayer-time-magazine-sex-discrimination-lawsuit

‘The system’s violating everyone’: the Canadian trans parent fighting to keep gender off cards

Baby Searyl has a health card with no gender marked but for trans parent Kori Doty it is a small win in a broader battle

A parent whose baby has been given a health card that does not specify a gender believed to be a world first has said the aim is to allow the child to discover their gender on their own.

I think were starting to understand that gender identity is not directly attached to genitals, Kori Doty, a non-binary trans person who does not identify as male or female, told the Guardian in an interview.

I dont want to put them in a box where they only get to wear pink and ruffles or they only get to wear blue and trucks. Im just trying to leave that space open, so that when they can say who they are, that they dont have to say your guess was wrong.

Canadian authorities have issued baby Searyl Atli a health card that does not specify male or female in what campaigners describe as a victory in the fight to have gender omitted from government documents.

But since giving birth to Searyl at a friends home in November, Doty is still fighting to have the babys gender kept off the birth certificate. The fight is part of a broader, years-long push. Doty is one of eight trans and intersex individuals who have filed a human rights complaint against their home province of British Columbia, pointing to their personal experiences to allege that it is discriminatory to publish gender markers on birth certificates.

At the heart of their complaint is the presumption that only two genders exist and that babies must be slotted into one of these at birth, regardless of what gender identity they might develop later in life. Doing so leaves some struggling to contend with incorrect assumptions made about them at birth while others face a logistical nightmare of carrying identification that fails to accurately reflect who they are. In 2015, the human rights tribunal of British Columbia agreed to hear their complaint.

I think really this is about recognising a structure, or a system, that is violating everyone, said Doty, 31. The binary gender system causes problems for everyone, including people that find ways to fit and conform in it. It is a disservice to all.

Doty would instead like to have gender seen as part of a spectrum a view that would not only benefit trans and intersex people but also every boy who is cut off from their emotional wellbeing and told to suck it up and not cry and enculturated into toxic masculinity, said Doty. It also serves every girl who is told she shouldnt want to make things or be good at math or be strong.

After Searyl was born, the province refused to issue the child a birth certificate, pointing to the requirement that gender be noted on the document. In response Doty filed a legal challenge, citing the protection of gender expression in the provincial human rights code as well as in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Recently the province issued Searyl a health card marked with a U for gender assumed by Doty to mean undetermined or unassigned allowing the child access medical care. Despite the card arriving without explanation or comment from the ministry, Doty described it as a victory but noted: Its just not the end of the game.

Without a birth certificate, Searyl is listed as a non-citizen in the provinces system. The court case is expected to be heard in late autumn, said barbara findlay, a human rights lawyer who chooses to spell her name without capital letters and is working with Doty on the court challenge.

There used to be a reason to put sex on birth certificates. You used to need to know that because only men could vote, only men could own property, only men could sit in the Senate, and so on. Those days are long gone, said findlay. And just as we used to have race on birth certificates, but we dont any more, its time to take sex off birth certificates and treat it, like race, as a private matter.

As Doty pushes forward with the case, the parent has heard from both supporters and detractors. I know that Im being discussed in mens rights activist forums, I know that there are articles written about me and the way that my parenting practices are tantamount to abuse.

But the cost of doing nothing is too high, said Doty, pointing to polls that suggest as many as 40% of transgender people in the US have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. I want to raise my kid in such a way that whatever their gender is, it doesnt have to give them angst.

While the health card was a step forward, the ultimate goal is to have gender markers taken off all government documents, said Doty. Were talking about what is essentially a large-scale systemic change. Not just in the way that offices that issue documents function, but also in the way that our culture understands who we are, to ourselves and to each other, Doty added. That kind of change, it isnt a one-step game.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/06/the-systems-violating-everyone-the-canadian-trans-parent-fighting-to-keep-gender-off-cards