Tackling toxic masculinity at Cheadle Hulme School

Bestselling author Caitlin Moran offered parents a number of ideas to support men and promote positive conversations with teenage boys during a recent talk at a Greater Manchester school.

Caitlin, who is a feminist, journalist and broadcaster, recently spoke at Cheadle Hulme School on a range of subjects to teachers, pupils and parents, including the hot topic of modern masculinity and the challenges boys and men face in 2023.

In her latest book What About Men, Moran tackles the issues around controversial influencers such as Andrew Tate, and proposed that society needed to find new role models for the young men and boys of today, highlighting a certain local Mancunian as one example.

She said: “We are still surrounded by good role models. Someone like Marcus Rashford; look what he’s achieved, where he comes from and the people that he represents. The problems that he’s seen and to come up with a solution, and all whilst being an amazing footballer, as far as I understand [she said jokingly].

“Keanu Reeves was someone that came up time and time again when I researched this. Andrew Tate sees the film The Matrix as proof of a conspiracy theory to crush men, whereas the guy who was actually in The Matrix is the complete opposite to Tate’s toxic masculinity. If we could all be a bit more Keanu and a bit less Tate the world would be a better place.”

She suggested that the current generation of young men now needed to begin outlining what new role models should look like. Caitlin said: “I think it’s an interesting project for any group of young men. Let’s talk about all of the different types of male role models, throughout history as well as now. 

“Let’s discuss what types of role models we’d like to see. Let’s invent a hero, someone you’d like to see in the next 5 years.”

Another tip Moran offered was approaching teenage boys to have serious discussions, which she suggested are much more difficult to have with boys than girls.

“Young men can find direct questions hard to cope with. Something where you don’t have direct eye contact can help. For example when you’re in the car and they are in the back seat, or, if you are doing something together; going for a walk, fishing, mending something. 

“It’s about engineering those scenarios, which is hard for busy parents. Especially with teenager’s sleeping patterns [she said jokingly].”

Her third tip was put back on parents, and fathers in particular. Moran highlighted how, in her research for What About Men, she found that men talk a lot less about their feelings to friends than women do. She went on to say how this can negatively affect young boys.

“I realised that 90% of what you are teaching them [your children] comes from them just watching how you behave and go about your life. This is specifically the case with men and boys. 

“One in five men over the age of 50 said that they have no close personal friends. Men don’t seem to do the organised friendship stuff that women do. 

“I think that a lot of the problems in boys not being able to talk about their feelings with their family and friends comes from not seeing their dads doing that. If they’re not seeing their dad returning from seeing their friends and discussing what they had said, they’re less likely to approach it themselves.”

The evening was hosted by headteacher Neil Smith. He said: “On behalf of CHS, I’d like to thank Caitlin for sharing her experiences, and insight with us on what was a very thought-provoking, intriguing and entertaining evening.

“Parents have a very difficult challenge because the pressures that are prevalent today simply weren’t apparent when we were teenagers. I particularly liked Caitlin’s keep-it-simple, honest approach to starting conversations. 

“We hope that every pupil, parent and teacher in attendance were able to take inspiration from the evening and into their futures.”

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