It’s time to acknowledge our boys and young men. Observed this May 16th, International Boys’ Day is a new movement we should all be excited to get behind. Find out how you can celebrate.
The History of International Boys’ Day
International Boys Day was started in 2018 by Dr. Jerome Teeluchsingh, a professor of history at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. You may recognize the name because Dr. Telluchsingh was also responsible for reviving International Men’s Day in 1999.
A long time researcher of racial and gender dynamics and their evolution in the Americas, he saw the need for a day to bring attention to the boy crisis. He first saw boys being left behind in the Caribbean, resulting in lives of poverty, crime and violence, but he quickly recognized that it was a global problem.
He decided that just like girls, boys needed a day to raise awareness for their challenges.
Why Do We Need International Boys’ Day?
Boys are getting left behind in today’s society—in education, in employment, in the legal system, in everything. Just consider these facts:
- Boys are half as likely to meet literacy standards as girls.
- Boys are more likely to be the victims of violent crime.
- Boys receive 70% of the Ds and Fs given out by teachers.
- Boys are much more likely to commit suicide than girls.
International Boys’ Day first and foremost is meant to draw attention to these issues and bring some focus to boys’ and the struggles they face in our society. As the organization states:
“Too many of our boys are invisible and forgotten. Each boy is important and in this race of life, nobody should be left behind.”
International Boys’ Day serves a secondary purpose as well, though. Recently, misandrist rhetoric has become very popular around the world, especially in the West. Men are portrayed as evil monsters who are responsible for everything from wars to global warming.
Most heinously, this has been applied to young boys. For example, schools have forced boys to “apologize” to their female peers. What kind of effect do you think this has on their self-esteem?
International Boys’ Day aims to send boys a more positive message. It aims to celebrate them and their potential by highlighting all the great contributions of men and boys in society and showing boys their potential.
Issues to Address This International Boys’ Day
The Boy Crisis in Education
Boys around the world have been falling behind in education for the past several decades. High-school dropout rates are nearly twice as much for boys as girls, and boys consistently make worse grades than their female counterparts.
Not surprisingly, their college attendance and graduation has been steadily decreasing. While men represented 58% of college students 50 years ago, they now only represent 44%. Even fewer finish their degrees, with only about 40% of college graduates being male.
This is due to a number of factors. For one thing, multiple studies have found considerable bias against boys from school teachers and universities, often giving boys lower grades for the same work. Additionally, women made up an increasingly large percentage of the teaching population, and education has become less conducive to boys’ learning styles as a result.
Instead of trying to understand and adapt to boys, the education system just diagnoses them with ADHD and drugs them into submission. Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder as girls, and ADHD medication prescriptions have shot up by 800% in the last 20 years.
Suicide has always been committed primarily by men, but the discrepancy has only increased recently. This is true around the world, with American men about 3.5 times more likely to commit sucide than women, three times more likely in the UK, four times more likely in Argentina and Russia, and more than twice as likely in Japan.
The situation is especially grim for teenage boys. In 2017, the rate of suicides in teens aged 15 to 19 was more than three times that of girls at about 18 per 100,000, rising a startling 14.2% in 2015 and 2016.
Not only will raising awareness help get boys the help they need, but more positive rhetoric celebrating boys will certainly improve their mental health.
It’s well known that men are disproportionately represented in prisons. In the US, 2% of all men are incarcerated versus 0.2% for women, and they represent 93% of the prison population despite being only 49% of the overall population. A big part of this is bias in sentencing. In the US, judges give men 63% longer sentences for the same crime.
Unfortunately, this trend begins before adulthood. Boys make up an even larger percentage of the juvenile detention system than men do prison and are sentenced into it five times more than girls.
One main focus of International Boys’ Day is the importance of fathers. Whether it’s incarceration or failure in school, all these problems are more likely and exacerbated when a boy doesn’t have a loving father to guide him. As a society, we’ve begun ignoring fathers and creating a system that makes it more difficult for them to be active in their children’s lives, from discrimination in family court to welfare programs exclusively for single mothers.
Let’s Celebrate Boys!—How to Get Involved
If you care about boys as much as we do, there are plenty of ways to get involved. At the very least, you can help spread the movement by celebrating it openly and informing your friends and family, whether on social media or in person, that May 16 is International Boys’ Day. Announce the accomplishments and contributions of the boys around you and mention the issues they face in today’s society.
If you’d like some more hands-on ideas, visit InternationalBoysDay.org to learn more about the organization, see how you can support the movement, or even donate to the cause. Also remember that since fatherlessness is one of the major problems facing boys today, participating in community events where you can act as a father figure for boys not fortunate enough to have one is always a great idea.
Let’s show the boys in our community that they’re loved and have our support. In the long run, this will raise stronger, more compassionate men who can continue the cycle. Boys are awesome, and with our help, they can have a bright future for generations to come.