Response to Boys’ Empowerment

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(The Vancouver Sun, July 2001)

Well, if you ask, you shall receive is the lesson we’ve learned this week! For those of you that didn’t catch our column on the need for/lack of empowerment programs for boys last Monday, we ended the article by asking whether you thought boys were being left out when it comes to empowerment. We have since been inundated with feedback (even more that our homosexuality and teenage sex articles!) on this issue and would like to share some insightful comments from our readers. First, however, we would like to stress that we strongly believe that boys, as well as girls, are in need of all the empowerment they can get. Really, if the goal in all of this is to create a healthy, respectful, society free of violence, what good will it do to work on only half of the equation?! Our program is "Go Girl!" and not "Go Boy!" simply because our expertise lies in the area of girls’ issues (we are girls, after all!). This is not to say that boys issues are completely different to these. In fact, when we facilitate workshops in schools, we often work with both boys and girls together—topics like body image, assertiveness, decision-making, and healthy relationships are not gender specific. Having said that, here is a brief summary of the wise words of our readers.

A female reader stressed that all children, regardless of gender, should be helped to identify their goals and reach their full potential. She noted that the "girls rule, boys drool" T-shirts that kids are wearing (we’ve seen them!) just makes matters worse. Another reader pointed out that there aren’t many empowerment programs for boys because of perpetuated stereotypes that boys should be able to handle their problems "like a man" and get over them alone. Several readers made reference to recent articles and research on the success, emotional health and life challenges faced by boys vs. girls, concluding that boys are not doing as well as we think. So has the pendulum swung too far in favor of girls? Tough question to answer. How about we, as parents, educators, big sisters and brothers, counselors, health care professionals and friends make an effort not to ignore one gender. Let’s celebrate and appreciate their differences, yet be sensitive to both their needs for guidance. By the way, any volunteers for "Go Boy"?!.