Sunday, 7 June 2009

Gender gap

The future is female, as some of my female students were keen on declaiming back in the nineties, and the way things are going they might be right. The BBC was full of the survey that girls outperform boys at every subject and every stage after GCSE, including university. The Guardian article says:

The study highlights the fact that boys' school performance began to lag behind girls' at about the time the exams were introduced in the 1980s. It also cites a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in which more than 13,000 15-year-olds sat alternative tests in reading, maths and science. While girls scored better in reading, boys got more correct answers in maths and science. When the same pupils sat GCSEs, however, the girls did better in all subjects.

It may be that boys have suddenly turned stupid and girls turned suddenly brilliant. It may be that those millennia of invention, adventure, thought, articulation of feeling and experience, have suddenly vanished into thin air. I don't suppose it helps that as long as I can remember the arrival of exam results is always illustrated by girls hugging each other with never a boy in sight. It probably is the case that the approach demanded by GCSE is better suited to girls and comes at a critical stage of a boy's life. It might be that education is essentially female dominated. It might be that thirty years of being told they are brutal and worthless has bred low expectations in boys. It might be many things. It might be that boys instinctively vacate the spaces occupied by women and have been encouraged, and often told, to do so, whereas the reverse is admired and encouraged. (I remember being asked to leave the class I was teaching on one occasion - a good fifteen years or so ago now - because the visiting woman writer didn't want a male member of staff present).

The boys have withdrawn, into themselves, into the other places of the mind, into the corner into which they have been painted and into which they anyway have half a mind to go. Boys' confidence is very brittle indeed, and almost all the bravado and, sometimes, idiocy of display is an attempt to impress themselves or their friends in mutual encouragement. I find it rather heartbreaking. In the long run it means trouble for everyone. For now? Well, they're wastes of space, aren't they, Charlie Brooker? They've fouled up the world, he writes. They're good for nothing. He writes this on equipment, on furniture, in a dwelling, in a street, in conditions of health, in an employment produced by technology that is produced by male minds and male hands. Why is everything shit? Why doesn't he live ten times as long as he does now? It's because it's all been messed up. By men. Everything would have been perfect if men had never done anything, never existed. He thinks men are simple.

Except him, of course. He is not simple.


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Should one use that "self-hating man" trope then? Or "vagina envy"?


George S said...

More covetousness, I suspect, Snoop. More a loan. Then tenderly putting it back where it belonged. But then that feeling may be mutual.

Hence the human race.