Challenging Macho Values: Practical Ways of Working with Adolescent Boys

Challenging Macho Values: Practical Ways of Working with Adolescent Boys

Challenging Macho Values: Practical Ways of Working with Adolescent Boys

Challenging Macho Values: Practical Ways of Working with Adolescent Boys


This book takes a highly practical approach that blends the latest theoretical insights with a sound basis of classroom experience. The authors investigate the key social forces that are shaping boys today such as insults, put-downs and sport.


There are good reasons, albeit different ones for women, for men, for girls and for boys themselves, why boys and young men should be challenged and changed. Many girls and women, whether they are sisters, students, friends, mothers or partners, would like to reduce the power of boys and young men, to increase their safety from them, and where appropriate to improve their relationships with them. Perhaps surprisingly, the reasons why it might also be in boys' own interests for boys and young men to change are rather similar-equalizing power, increasing safety, improving relationships. For example, it is well documented that young men are particularly at risk of violence from other young men. From the point of view of men, challenging and changing boys and young men, whether we are brothers, friends, fathers, or whatever, is also a matter of concern. In addition, many men carry with them sadness from their boyhood that they would like to shift in themselves and see shifted in others. For some people, all these issues are complicated by the ambiguous authority that comes from being a teacher teaching boys and young men-and of having to face the question 'What on earth do I do with these boys?'

So how did we get here? How has it come about that the need to challenge and change boys and young men is being increasingly recognized?

Like many stories of this kind, this is a long one. Boys and young men have often been seen as a breed apart, as naturally quite different to girls and young women. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century there was a clear emphasis on the separation and segregation of boys and girls. And although it is easy to overstate the operation of such 'dual spheres', there was certainly a strong pursuit of 'natural' separation, so that boys could be and could become boys. That was the way things were in schools, in religious and paramilitary youth organizations, and even in many workplaces.

This 'natural' regime with its own firm distinctions has remained with us since. Indeed my own schooling in the fifties and early sixties was strictly based on the idea of boys becoming the way they should be, through sport, study and segregation from girls-a strange and inconsistent mixture of nature and instruction. However, by the sixties there were movements towards mixed schooling and mixed youthwork. Interestingly, this mixing was accompanied by the creation of 'youth', 'youth culture' and the 'youth problem', in which the naming of boys and young men was liable to be lost. Despite the fact that 'youth culture' and the 'youth problem' usually stressed what boys and young men did,

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