by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 16 Feb 2006)
I was born into a world where little boys had so much promise and little girls, regardless of their intellect or potential, were treated with indifference regarding their role in society. Because of this, I try to bridge the gender gap whenever possible to show how important it is to have a world where both men and women are able to operate at their fullest potential.
After just a few decades of aggressively pursuing gender equality, it seems there is a turn-around of sorts. That is not to say that women are in fact on equal footing as men yet; indeed there is still so far to go. There are parts of the world where women are still considered property, not allowed to have a say over their own lives and bodies and must live their entire lives to please someone else – usually a man.
Even in countries where women are considered equal, there are still significant gaps in political representation and pay rates for the same jobs held by a man. Though these and other inequalities are still present, I truly believe that within the next decade or two we will have made even more substantial advances that will bring gender inequality to the brink of extinction.
However, I am now concerned about an alarming new trend that could prove to be problematic in regards to gender equality – it is what a recent Newsweek cover termed as “The Boy Crisis.” In a gist, there has been a considerable plunge in male academic performance in the last decade.
The cause of this decline is not fully understood as yet, some attribute it to the introduction of video games, others to the lack of male role models in the family unit and still others to the development of a teaching process structured to allow the girls (who just a few decades ago were given equal access to education) to catch up to the boys in the classroom. My guess is that it is probably a mixture of all of these factors.
Guyana is not exempt from this new gender issue either. In a December 06, 2005 article, “Four to one -- Females outnumber male UG graduates” the Guyana Chronicle reported that of the 169 graduates from the Berbice Campus of the University of Guyana, only 39 were males. This is indeed an alarming figure, especially when one considers that, according to the article, of the 179 who enrolled at the campus at its establishment, 149 were males.
I know there are some who believe that those who strongly advocate women’s rights are in actuality anti-male, but this concern is no more than just ignorance of the issue. My stance is for gender equality, which means that if boys are now the ones in jeopardy, then as a society, we need to take every step necessary to help them re-establish themselves in the academic world.
I have noticed this trend first hand with my own children. I have four children, two boys and two girls, and my boys have always struggled in school – even the one who has the IQ of a genius. As a mother, this has been quite frustrating for me because it is difficult to see all of this wasted potential in my own son.
I recently started taking a closer look at my children and their friends to see if there are any correlations that suggest that boys are indeed falling behind and I found something quite interesting. My daughter, who is a freshman at a university in the Midwest, has a boyfriend who is absolutely brilliant, but has chosen (at least for the present) to not attend college. Instead, he is working at a fast-food restaurant as a cook.
This is also the case with many of the girls she knows and their boyfriends. It seems that with this small group of children, most of whom I have known for years, the girls are choosing to get a higher education and the boys are not.
I finally persuaded my “genius” son to attend college (after much pleading, yelling, crying and reasoning). He is attending a community college a couple hours drive away and he has a girlfriend who attends a nearby university. Last week we were talking about how school was going and he told me that he has made friends with several other guys who are also attending his community college and have girlfriends who attend the renowned university.
In this case, the girls are the ones getting a first rate education while the boys are attending a community college – mostly because their parents are forcing them to do so. I know my examples are just a small representation of this bigger problem, but my family seems to clearly demonstrate the crisis highlighted by the Newsweek article concerning boys.
My advocacy for gender equality has always been to bring women up to the same standard as men – academically, socially, politically, spiritually (I believe women should also be religious leaders such as pastors, priests, Imams, etc.) and in any other way necessary. I have been such a staunch advocate of gender equality because I truly believe this world will be a better place when both genders are allowed to contribute with their full capacity to society.
This is also why we cannot allow the boys to fall behind academically. The consequences could be just as disastrous to the world as the thousands of years of feminine repression. The goal in gender equality is balance. When one gender is allowed to overtake another gender, the outcome will always be an imbalanced and unhealthy society.
It is of utmost importance to find a way to help bring the boys back into the educational institutions with a willing spirit to learn. Men and women may not be physically or psychologically the same, but both genders play a significant role in shaping the political, economic and social landscape of the world - and neither gender should be refused that opportunity.