In one of the university tutorial classes I teach, we had the best discussion this week of the unit so far: the students were engaged, presented different viewpoints, and listened to what others had to say.
Yet, it was, in some ways, the most disappointing tutorial I have ever taught.
Why? Well, of the five men in the class, only one attended. Yet, 9 out of 10 of the women attended.
The topic was gender in the media. It was a look at both historical progression and current challenges.
It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the men in the class were absent: they have had excellent attendance rates every week until now.
Students must attend 75% of tutorials, thus some choose which ones they will miss. Eighty per cent of the young men in the class chose this one.
I don’t know for sure if they were absent because of the topic, but if that is the case, I suspect it could be for one or a combination of these reasons:
a) They think gender equality is women’s business;
b) The topic bores them;
c) They believe the media is already equal, or that, in fact, women have it better;
d) They don’t care;
e) They find talk about feminism intimidating.
I don’t blame them: at the beginning of adulthood, young people are largely a product of what they have observed and learned through childhood.
This made me think about the reason we have so far to go in the media to give men and women an equal voice, to give female journalists the same opportunities to take leading roles as male journalists, and to achieve equal pay across the genders.
It will take both sexes to achieve gender equality, and we desperately need to engage young men in conversations about it, particularly in learning environments such as at university . But how can we do that? How can we encourage young men to take an interest and to become advocates of equality instead of the status quo?