The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

The Difficulties Faced by Boys and the Changing View of Masculinity...

As Scotch College  celebrated  Men's Health Week, it allowed the boys to reflect upon their physical and mental health. When doing so, we soon realise that boys are faced with many challenges and that there is still a stereotype of what defines a "real man". An underlying tone to this stereotype, is an unrealistic expectation to be perfect and to carry on when times are tough. However, a spotlight is being shone on the importance of Male Mental Health. The view of masculinity is beginning to change,   but can only change if we continue to encourage boys to talk about their thoughts and feelings. If boys are not encouraged to talk about their thoughts and feelings, it solidifies to them that they need to try and meet the unrealistic expectations that have been portrayed to males for generations.   

But how do we do this?  

In various ways, the boys at Scotch College are already encouraged to engage in this reflection. The senior school boys were encouraged by their Year 11 peers during Men's Health Week to have a chat about how they have been feeling. They also engage in wellbeing classes throughout the year and are encouraged to speak to their House Heads, the Director of Wellbeing and School Psychologists.  Additionally ,  we can also encourage the boys to review what it actually means to be a man. There is strong support that we move away from the notion that males should only engage in "traditional masculine activities". But instead, should be supported to engage in activities that they find fun and enjoyable. Boys should be able to play football if they want to, but then also sing and engage in the arts. In the past, being creative was not seen as stereotypical male behaviour. This is already showing that there are steps towards a change in the view of what it means to be masculine.  

Boys also need to be encouraged to not feel ashamed when they fail at things, realistically everyone will fail at something or not excel at everything. Some tasks  we can learn from and then eventually master the skill with practice, others may just never be our strength and that is ok. Slowly but surely, it will soon become more acceptable for males to break down the  mo u ld  of what a stereotypical male is and should be. Strength is now viewed differently and is not definitive to just physical strength or wealth, but the ability to stand up for what one morally believes in and enjoys. This is regardless of how "un-masculine" it may feel. This is how the view of masculinity is changing.  

From reading this, if you decide to have a conversation with your son (or think it is better for him to read this), there are a few take home messages. Firstly, ask your son to reflect on what is means to be a man and then let him know that it is:   

  • Ok to not be ok  
  • Ok to not conform to stereotypes  
  • Ok to talk about it  
  • Ok to ask for help  

There is no correct definitive answer of what being a "real man" is, but an underlying factor is that a boy should feel comfortable to do as he pleases, to make mistakes and to genuinely feel happy in being himself.  

Mr Jon Marginis  
Senior School Psychologist