Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece by the writer and his selected contributors, and it doesn’t reflect the views of beijingkids.
A recent report in Global Times about parents sending boys as young as 5 to “masculinity school” has provoked fierce debate, on Chinese social media and among the international community.
Since its opening six years ago over 20,000 boys have attended Boys’ Club, where they are subject to military-style discipline and undertake sports such as wrestling and martial arts as well as normal school subjects. They also recite a “declaration of manhood”: “A man should safeguard his nation, honor, and dreams. A man should be confident, diligent, and make efforts to be sincere and kind. A man should control his emotions, language, and behavior. A man must have success, applause, and glory.”
This follows previous instances of concern about a “crisis of masculinity” in Chinese boys, with pop stars and social media idols coming under criticism for being too androgynous. We asked educators in international schools for their views on the issue. Do boys need to be taught masculinity? Is there a crisis, in China or worldwide, in masculinity? Should boys and girls be taught differently? Do we need more male teachers?
Anna Sedova agrees that there is a masculinity deficit in China.
“Apparently boys here are not taught to treat girls as a ‘weaker gender,’” she told us. “They don’t offer seats to women in public transport, there is no ‘ladies first’. Traditionally a woman was not regarded highly in China. Then, with the new China, came freedom and equal rights and now a man and a woman are seeing as equal beings. (And I would agree that in terms of rights yes, but not roles. Here I am showing my Christian view on gender roles.) Perhaps they see masculinity as some sort of Western ‘chivalry’ and don’t think they should adopt it as part of their culture.”
However a teacher who asked to be identified only as “Lorelei” disagrees strongly.
“Qualities such as kindness, compassion, and being a ‘good citizen’ are far more important qualities for children to develop, especially in this digital age where technology facilitates most of our interactions,” she said. “’Girl’ and ‘boy’ interests are less important than what an individual’s choice is. Traditional gender roles are obsolete as family dynamics change and public tolerance blurs the lines previously set. Nurses can be male; bodybuilders can be female; women can be the sole ‘breadwinners; and ‘stay-at-home-dads’ are becoming more common. Financial needs are more of a priority, making change a fact of life depending on what role gives a person the best advantages in life. First & foremost we are ‘human’ before we are organized into ‘male’, ‘female’ or ‘other.’
“I don’t feel there’s a ‘crisis’, so much as traditionalists feel lost and are fighting against the changeover,” she continued. “That being said, not everything old is bad, not everything new is better. Sometimes things are just different and we, as people need to adapt to thrive.”
However, A. Wesley Hemmans considered that boys do indeed need to be taught masculinity.
“Testosterone makes males generally superior in size, strength, and aggression relative to females,” he said. “Boys need to be taught to accept this as a responsibility, rather than an attribute (or detriment). The goal should be to create a world where men most often use these traits to help others. Today’s current international stage is filled with leaders who verge on becoming bullies. They use the traits listed above to hurt others instead of uplift.”
He argued for different approaches to teaching boys and girls.
“Boys are not merely girls with male parts, and vice versa. Their are specific needs for cultivating productive males, especially in navigating the changing dynamics of gender roles, family, dating, emotional expression, etc. Also, boys and girls need safe spaces to be able to ask questions without fear, and also be chastised without embarrassment from the opposite sex.”
And he sees more male teachers as essential to achieving this.
“There are many documented studies showing young males in school have fewer behavioral issues when more male teachers are present, and they perform better in school. Male teachers are a model for their behavior and understand better how to communicate with male students. Also, there is a large body of research showing female teachers prefer literature and teaching material that skews slightly to the the interest of girl students, which leads boys to a higher chance of disinterest in learning, which in turn leads to greater chances for behavioral issues.”
What’s your view? Do we need to teach boys to be men? Or is gender just a social construct? Let us know, by commenting below!