Boys themselves should feel empowered. Boys who have a good sense of self are less likely to seek fulfillment in unhealthy ways, Rubin said. “We have to raise them to like themselves, and to do that, we have to treat them with love and respect,” he said. “We have to appreciate their uniqueness. We need to validate their feelings; we need to empathize with their pain.”
Steele believes that the acquisition of two 18th-century paintings by American millionaire Henry Huntington started turning the tide in favor of pink being a girls' color. "The Blue Boy" depicted a boy dressed in blue, and "Pinkie" portrayed a girl in pink attire. Huntington's purchase was widely publicized in the American press, Steele said. People started thinking that for hundreds of years, blue had been for boys and pink had been for girls. But this wasn't true, she said. "If you look back, little boys in the 18th century wore blue and pink, and grown-up men wore blue and pink, and ladies and little girls wore blue and pink," Steele said.
Globally, India has one of the largest cohorts of young men between the ages of 13 to 26 years. Their situation within the country, however, needs to be addressed. Far too many of them are under-educated, under-employed, and stuck in a low equilibrium. Far too few of them have positive role models and secure family lives. In addition, most of them wrestle with the perception of masculinity, which, in a feudal society like ours, is very conditional. It is commonly believed that you are not masculine enough if you are emotional, sensitive, or compassionate; that you are not “man enough” if you are not strong, if you are not the breadwinner in your family.
When we teach boys that there are “boy’s toys” and “girl’s toys,” and that they ought to complain if they get the wrong one, we teach them gender-based entitlement. When we teach girls that it’s okay to play with toys designed for boys and to dress in clothes designed for boys, but we teach boys that it’s wrong for them to wear dresses or play with “girl’s toys,” we erase girls from social relevance. Ultimately, it becomes easier for companies to just make what boys and men are willing to use, because girls and women will be willing to use them, too.
I wonder whether, in our work to empower young girls and women, we are ignoring one half of the problem, and therefore underestimating one half of the potential solution. If there is a morally undeniable societal goal of sarve bhavantu sukhinah – “May all be happy” – then we need to think about the situation of the 200 million young men in this country. And we need to turn to them with as much urgency and focus as we spend on the millions of young women, and their multiple needs.
Pupils educated at all-boys’ schools are also “significantly more likely” than their peers at mixed-sex schools to express “strongly negative attitudes” towards learning about sexism, according to a survey of over 1,500 secondary school students. The research, commissioned by the National Education Union (NEU) and the women’s equality pressure group UK Feminista, found that over a third (37 per cent) of girls at mixed-sex schools have been sexually harassed while at school.
They talk about how poor dad is going to go broke with so many girls in the house, because all girls love to shop. And, of course, girls are naturally going to emasculate, manipulate, and henpeck the father of the family — just being around so many girls is going to sap the manliness right out of him. Essentially, this version of "poor dad" purports that every obnoxious stereotype about women and girls is true.
Regardless of whether gender differences in adult behavior arise from conscious or unconscious psychological processes, one thing is clear: boys grow up in a world inhabited by a narrower range of emotions, one in which their experiences of anger are noticed, inferred, and potentially even cultivated. This leaves other emotions—particularly the more vulnerable emotions—sorely ignored or missing in their growing minds.
Jackson Katz, an author and filmmaker who studies gender and violence, said giving boys more positive role models and getting them to think critically about gender stereotypes is a key component to violence prevention. “Boys growing up in the U.S. are taught from the earliest ages the quickest way to gain respect is through violence,” Katz said. “For boys … who have had no access to validation and respect, violence is the quickest and most accessible means at proving your manhood.” If these definitions of manhood and strength are redefined and expanded, and boys see those traits in men, violent images of manhood could fall away, he said.
The GEMS classes succeeded in bringing a marked shift in attitudes and mindsets, of not just girls but also the boys in school, siblings at home and parents, teachers and neighbours in the community. Things that were so far considered taboo were now being practised. Boys and girls began sitting together on the same bench, playing games in the sports grounds and fields without being segregated by gender, families mustering the courage to say no to dowry and boys helping with household chores.