How Boys Speak When No One Listens
by Warren Farrell, Ph.D.
Virginia Tech, the 2006 Amish and Vermont killings, and Columbine make us cry out, … What’s making our children kill? In fact, it is not our children doing the killing. It is our sons. Yes, violence in the media, the availability of handguns, and poor family values are part of the problem, but our daughters are of the same family’s values, are also exposed to violence in the media, and also able to find the same guns in the same homes. And our daughters are not killing.
What is it with our sons? Start with the common denominator. These homicides were also suicides. When boys and girls are nine, their suicide rates are equal. Between 10 and 14, boys rates are twice girls rates. Between 15 and 19, it is quadruple. And between 20 and 24, it soars to six times. But we only pay attention when guns allow the suicides to also become homicides.
Boys rates go up as boys and girls gender roles intensify. The women’s movement and our schools have offered girls “girl power” and girls suicide rates have gone down. Girls now have the option to ask boys out, but boys still have the expectation; once out, girls have the option to pay for boys, but boys still have the expectation to pay; once dinner is paid for, girls have the option to risk sexual rejection, but boys still have the expectation to risk sexual rejection. And boys suicide rates are going up.
In school, our girls are doing better; our boys are doing worse. Girls surpass boys in reading, writing, verbal skills, civics and the arts. Girls get better grades and more honors; they are elected to more offices, are more likely to graduate from high school and college. Boys, on the other hand, are more likely to be suspended or expelled, need special education, have ADD and ADHD, do drugs, repeat a grade, become incarcerated, be illiterate, drop out and be unemployed.
Is the problem our sons? No. The problem is us. It starts with our mixed messages to boys. We want to have sensitive boys willing to die and kill. Which is why we still require only our sons to register for the draft. Girls, parents and male peers are still cheering for football players who abuse others and abuse themselves for love and respect. We still worship men who kill in war and make a killing in Wall Street.
We can’t have it both ways. If boys get love, attention and respect by disconnecting from feelings, they will disconnect from feelings when they lose love, attention and respect.
When girls had problems in math or science, and were underrepresented in law and medicine, we asked parents, schools and political leaders to take responsibility. Now boys have problems. We need to take responsibility. The problem is even bigger with boys than it was with girls because boys learn to repress feelings, not express feelings. If we don’t discover what’s behind boy’s repression boys will use guns as a form of expression.
Boys and men are losing it. We need our sons and our dads. And we can do for them what we’ve been doing for our daughters and wives for the past thirty years. Then children will have dads and boys will have more mentors and counselors than guns and explosives.
‘Hush-hush’ suicide reporting doesn’t work
Dominion Post, 07 June 2006
Napier coroner Warwick Holmes wants restrictions lifted on the reporting of suicide, to help address New Zealand’s “world record rate of self-inflicted deaths”. He called for the change during a hearing in which four inquests out of the six he presided over were related to self-inflicted deaths.
The “hush-hush” approach to reporting suicide was not working, he said. “We hold a world record for the amount of self-inflicted harm done by males between the ages of 15 and 24.” he said. “We have a genuine problem in New Zealand and the more attention brought to it will help address this problem.”
Parliament’s justice and electoral select committee has rejected calls to lift restrictions on what news media can report. Fears have been raised from education and mental health officials that publicity about suicide causes copycat deaths.
But Holmes believes restrictions on reporting were not working. “We’ve got legislation saying `Don’t talk about it’ and, from my position, I have a problem believing the legislation is doing anything to solve the problem…There is no doubt the problem is chronic. Coroners around the countryside are dealing with this on an almost-daily basis. On the one hand we hush it all up but all we do is create a dilemma.”
What troubles Holmes is the lack of progress being made with the amount of self-inflicted deaths of young men.