By: Ben McEachen

Is there a problem in Australia with young men?

Key points

  • Not every boy or teenager should be lumped in the one basket, says expert.
  • “Unhealthy” messages promoted through social media are a key factor.
  • “I think character formation is everyone’s business and we should all be about it.”

Amid the shocking surge of violent attacks upon women by men this year, related and disturbing incidents have emerged in our schools.

From threatening behaviour experienced by female teachers, to the male students in Victoria expelled for creating a spreadsheet to rank female students, “sexism, sexual harassment and misogyny are rife in Australian schools“.

Not every boy or teenager should be lumped in the one basket. But the picture developing of how our young men relate with women is an ugly, lamentable sight.

Daniel Principe is a youth advocate and educator.

He travels Australia to champion boys and challenge the culture which harms them and their relationships.

Every week, Daniel talks with young men and women. He listens. He encourages. He pushes back. He promotes positive change. Alongside our school students, Daniel wants to help them be better. Together. For each other. And themselves.

In our interview, Daniel addressed what is going on for our young people, the obvious issue, and being part of nurturing better adults.

Boys are not the problem

“I would categorically say there is not a problem with young men,” Daniel said.

You might be surprised by such a firm, clear statement. But Daniel rejects the generalised allegation that boys or male teens are a “problem”.

He did not want to downplay or ignore any “ugly, criminal” incidents we have been dismayed or outraged by, in recent months and years.

As he speaks with school students across Australia, Daniel meets plenty of young men who are “insightful, empathetic, courageous boys wanting more for themselves and their relationships”.

His simple point is that it is unfair and incorrect to label every Australian boy as a “problem”.  Also, it is a psychologically damaging message to send, that all of our young men seek to denigrate or abuse women.

“Boys aren’t innately built like that,” Daniel said. “That’s a tragic thing to utter or suggest. They’re built with every capacity for great character or virtue as every other human.”

We already know the cause

Daniel has no doubt about what the actual problem is when it comes to how young men treat women.

“What is our culture saying to our boys about being a man, relationships, women, sex and sexuality?” Daniel asked. “Are these good messages or harmful messages? The problem is: What are we showing boys it is to be a man and how can we help them unpack that, so we don’t see some of these problems which are rightly being identified and confronted?”

Daniel identified “unhealthy” messages promoted through social media as a key factor. Sexualised content and prominent influencers such as Andrew Tate permeate, with internal algorithms rewarding the most shocking or controversial content.

“Unhealthy” messages promoted through social media are a key factor.

During the past year, Daniel has had to discuss and challenge one meme that every single boy in Australia seems to know. Based on Patrick Bateman, the lead character in novel American Psycho, the meme celebrates men who are “reclusive, ‘lone wolf’ sociopath who is removed from society”.

Whether or not people creating this content believe and condone the messages they are sharing, Daniel said the impact is sadly predictable.

“If that is their mental diet and cultural spring they are bubbling up in, that’s not going to produce good fruit,” Daniel said.

Given what they are exposed to, are we surprised at what some young people are developing into?

Be part of the solution

Connecting with so many boys and girls around our country fills Daniel with heart and hope.

Without suggesting any quick fix or idealistic platitudes, Daniel believes everyone can be part of improving the cultivation of Australia’s emerging generations.

“How do we guide young men into healthy manhood? We first have to model it, don’t we?”

Admitting his own mistakes, Daniel said that it is not about trying to be perfect in the eyes of boys or girls.

Instead, our own quest to improve our treatment of others should be broadcast and shared.

“I think character formation is everyone’s business and we should all be about it.”

“You want to be known as more loving, caring, respectful, empathetic, courageous when you need to be.”

We should celebrate such attributes, upholding those who seek to be better versions of ourselves. Daniel also recommended uniting behind a defined system of core, positive values.

“Young people don’t really know what it is our culture is telling them to be. I feel like boys default into passivity or toxic, dominant hierarchies. But did you know there is another beautiful path for you?”

“I think character formation is everyone’s business and we should all be about it.”

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

Feature image: canva pro