An Insight Into the Male Experience

Geezers need excitement
If their lives don’t provide them this they incite violence
Common sense, simple common sense

(‘Geezers Need Excitement’- The Streets)

 In a previous post, I argued that the English curriculum is hyper-feminised. Since writing the post, I’ve become more sensitive to the way we discuss masculinity in the school environment and the post that follows is written with the hope that, having read it, people may be more aware-or at least more sensitive- to the complexities of the male experience.

I want to tell you two stories.

When I was 14 years old I found myself sitting in a fast-food establishment of questionable quality, eating what was advertised as a ‘meat kebab.’ I was minding my own business and eating a kebab. That was all. As I was half way through my meal, a group of boys from my school entered the shop. They were about 4 years older and about 4 stone heavier. One of the boys took an instant dislike to me and proceeded to, as I remember it, ‘rip the shit out of me.’ Totally unprovoked, these four lads rounded on me, a boy 4 years younger, for absolutely no reason at all. I was scared and I was upset and I left. The kebab stayed on the table. I vividly remember getting home; I was fuming. I was humiliated and angered by the injustice of it all.  Since that incident, I’ve grown older. I aced my GCSE’s, nailed my A-Levels and worked damn hard to get a damn good degree at a damn good University. I read prolifically. In fact, I’m so well educated that society has deemed it okay for me to educate other people. So how do I feel when I think back to that incident in the kebab shop, 16 years ago? I feel shame. And anger. Burning anger.

Last week, I was in the gym and another bloke in the gym took an instant dislike to me. He couldn’t stop shooting aggressive stares in my direction and later on he shoulder barged me as I passed him. That is, he rammed his shoulder into my chest for absolutely no reason. Some time after, friends of his turned up and they all tried to intimidate me any way they could. If I haven’t told you already, I’m well educated; I read books and I watch films and I go to the theatre. I know what to do to avoid smashed teeth and a criminal conviction: Flight, not fight. So that’s what I did; I walked away, when all I wanted to do was smash some faces up. I went into the changing rooms, sat down and rationalised the situation. My thoughts went something like this:

  1. I’m more educated than they are, obviously. Educated people don’t go round picking on people.
  2. It’s brave, walking away
  3. Walking away is the right thing to do
  4. I’ve got lots of good qualifications and they, presumably, haven’t
  5. Aren’t I brave…walking…away….

And there’s the rub. There I was, hiding in a changing room, angry with myself for walking away, humiliated and emasculated,  and they were out there, laughing at my flight, blithely unaware of  any harm or upset they might cause to anyone ever. And I still feel it now. Walking away has left me ashamed. I don’t feel morally superior, nor do I feel as though I did the right thing. What irks me more, is an awareness that it is more than likely that my education-the fact that I read lots- has rendered me more susceptible and sensitive to the injustices of the situation.

I will always walk away. I like my face too much and I never want to go to prison. But, as a man, I feel an acute sense of shame-genuine shame-every time I think back to a time where I’ve ‘walked away.’ And I’m educated and well-rounded and my parents have done a sterling job in raising me. As teachers, we need to be aware of the complexities of the male experience. In the playground, its the boys who fight who rule the roost and those that read books hold no sway. Unless they can fight also. And this counts for adulthood too.

What does this mean? If I’m honest, I don’t know. But I’m open to suggestions.

I will always tell the boys I teach ‘to walk away and be the bigger person’ and I’ll tell them this because  engaging in physical fighting can kill. It can end lives. But can I sincerely and honestly tell these boys that they’ll feel good for walking away? Not at all. Quite the opposite.

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Author: PositivTeacha

Whole School Literacy Coordinator and Lead Practitioner

12 thoughts on “An Insight Into the Male Experience”

  1. I love this, I totally do. I think you are right about the male experience – but I do think that we all feel the shame of walking away. For a woman, it might not be the violence that you describe, but there are those situations we feel we should have faced, and did not. We walked away and have to learn not to feel shame.

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  2. The shame is all theirs. The shame of not being educated, which they suppress but which rises when they sense intelligence in others. The alpha male in each group you describe is probably most sensitive to it. Possibly there is something in the way you look back that communicates that you are judging him? It’s beside the point. There doesn’t need to be, because the shame is in him. It is released by catharsis, by reiterating the cliché of might is right, reasserting temporary power over a world in which he is powerless.
    The shame should also be theirs after the event. Of course, without a moment of clarity on their part it can’t be; The idiot knows not his stupidity.
    So there is this shame, inherent to the situation, which, failing to attach itself where it should, seeks to attach itself where it can. On the victim.
    What is this feeling, though? A desire to lash out because of a latent violence of your own? A desire to abjure your education for a good scrap? If either of these is true, then education means nothing. It’s a means to an end: developing alternate power structures that circumvent or tame violence. That makes of education nothing but a mask, a fake.
    I choose to see it otherwise. The shame you feel I have felt and no longer feel. What I feel is a vindication of my choice to be a teacher, to educate. I think of education as an end in itself. As you rightly point out, it is your education that means you know that responding with violence is wrong. That isn’t a cover-up of your nature, but the acquisition of a better one. As a teacher, you can and do point students into a path to education, a path to a better nature.
    You see, in the end, you do fight these guys. You do it every day, but not on their terms, on your own. You don’t fight them, but you do fight violence. Because words are mightier than swords, and you speak words to power. You speak them to children. You teach.

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  3. I have a vivid memory of observing a small group of year 1 boys several years ago.. They teacher and the girls in the class were discussing little red riding hood. The boys were more interested in who could get closest to the pipes next to the carpet! There was a silent war going on in the classroom!
    Last week I took a year 7 group for drama and the girls focussed on the story.. The boys focussed on the action! But they were happy and engaged!
    As teachers we need to channel that energy..look for the hook for the boys..especially in books and reading..or we will turn them off slowly and deliberately from a very early age..

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  4. This a powerfully honest blog. Walking away is by far the most sensible option. The odds were staked against you and you would have come off worse. The niggles you are feeling stem from your deep sense of Injustice from the first time and now compounded by the second, and you know you would not behave like that. Retaliation is never the best option. You stayed true to your values. I loved the clarity of truth in this blog! Thank you.
    “An eye for an eye, will make the whole world blind.”

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  5. We need to teach our pupils, male or female, to do things when they don’t feel good. Otherwise they will be slaves to their moods and emotions.

    Doing your duty often feels horrible. We can’t let emotions rule us. A human being is superior to an animal because we can make free, rational decisions which are not based on our feelings.

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