Why are boys now falling behind girls?
Gender equality debates have historically focused on women and girls: their performance at school, participation and progression at work, and the gender pay gap. But growing evidence suggests we should also be worried about boys and men. Boys perform worse at school, at every stage, are more likely to be socially excluded, to commit suicide, and more likely to have experienced wage stagnation in recent decades. The question is what we can do about it.
In his landmark new book, Richard V. Reeves, a scholar at the Brookings Institution in the US, analyses the crisis of masculinity affecting boys and men in Western societies, and sets out steps for how governments can respond. As he argues, feminism has done a huge amount of good in the world. This “in conversation with” event will explore why boys and men are being left behind at school and in the workplace, the parallels between the US and UK contexts, and what policymakers can do to create a positive vision of masculinity that allows boys and men to flourish in modern societies.
Boys are 50% more likely than girls to fail at all three key school subjects: maths, reading and science.
In the US, the wages of most men are lower today than they were in 1979, while women’s wages have risen across the board.
In the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45.
Boys are falling behind at school and college because the educational system is structed in ways that put them at a disadvantage. Men are struggling in the labour market because of an economic shift away from traditionally male jobs. And fathers are dislocated because the cultural role of family provider has been hollowed out. The male malaise is not the result of a mass psychological breakdown, but of deep structural challenges.
Structural challenges require structural solutions, and this is what Richard V. Reeves proposes in Of Boys and Men – starting boys at school a year later than girls; getting more men into caring professions; rethinking the role of fatherhood outside of a nuclear family context.
Feminism has done a huge amount of good in the world. We now need its corollary – a positive vision of masculinity that is compatible with gender equality.
‘In this courageous, compelling, and urgently needed book, Reeves argues for dispensing with the damaging narrative of “toxic” masculinity, and offers concrete suggestions for how to support boys and men, and leverage the positive aspects of masculinity for a more peaceful and just society’ – Carole Hooven, Harvard University and author of Testosterone: The Story of the Hormone that Dominates and Divides Us
‘Too often critics dismiss the plight of males by noting that men continue to prevail at the highest echelons of business, government, and education. In this judicious and meticulously researched book, Richard Reeves reminds us that most boys and young men are not contenders for a leadership position at a Fortune 500 or a professorship at MIT … Instead of blaming men for their predicament, or pathologizing masculinity, Reeves points to sensible, humane and practical solutions’- Christina Hoff Sommers, Senior Fellow Emeritus, American Enterprise Institute, author of The War on Boys
‘Finally, an analysis of the crisis among men and boys that adds more light than heat. In Boys and Men, Richard Reeves takes on the issues facing males today with courage and compassion, and offers solutions that are both workable and agreeable across the political spectrum. A much-needed book’ – Arthur C. Brooks, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, and #1 New York Times bestselling author
‘Important, timely, well-balanced and thoroughly researched, Of Boys and Men effectively outlines the rapid economic, psychological, social and educational decline of males in our society and then proposes a set of practical policies that offer a positive masculinity for our sons, brothers and fathers. If you are worried about rising suicide rates, addiction, educational declines, depression and mass shootings, Reeves offers crucial insights, fresh diagnoses and practical approaches to these social ills’ – Joseph Henrich, Harvard University