Dear Everyone Who Isn't a Middle or Upper Class White Boy—I'm Sorry
One reaction to the new education program in Australia
At only 14 years old, Royce Mann from Atlanta, Georgia, brilliantly and articulately summarized what is arguably society’s biggest failure.
In his poem “White Boy Privilege,” Mann identifies the unfair and ingrained privilege afforded to white males, opening his piece with a deep and thought provoking apology “Dear women, black people, Asian-Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants, who come here seeking a better life; dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper class white boy — I’m sorry.” You can watch Mann’s recital of his poem here.
It is an honest and scathing criticism of society and its inequalities. And this is exactly the issue the Victorian government has attempted to address in its recently developed Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships program.
The $21.8 million program is being rolled out across public schools in Victoria aiming to encourage gender equity in relationships and challenge gender stereotypes, which it claims are key drivers of violence against women.
As part of the program students will be taught about “male privilege” and how “masculinity” encourages “control and dominance” over women. They will be taught concepts of pay inequality, anger management, sexual orientation and the dangers of pornography.
Primary school students will be exposed to images of both boys and girls doing household chores, playing sport and working as firefighters and receptionists.
High school students will be taught the meaning of terms including pansexual, cisgender, and transsexual and the concept of male privilege. Year 11 and 12 students will be introduced to the concept of "hegemonic masculinity" which "requires boys and men to be heterosexual, tough, athletic and emotionless, and encourages the control and dominance of men over women."
Some feel this is exactly the fix Australian society needs. On average, at least one woman is killed each week by a partner or former partner in Australia. Australian women are at least three times more likely to experience violence from an intimate partner than men. These are horrifying facts and certainly something drastic must be done.
However evidence has emerged that the program risks alienating men, by presenting all women as “victims” and all men as “bad.” This point was brought up in a report evaluating a pilot of the program in 19 schools last year.
Jeremy Sammut, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, called the program “taxpayer-funded indoctrination” of children. “The idea behind this program — that all men are latent abusers by nature of the ‘discourse’ — is an idea that only cloistered feminist academics could love,” Dr Sammut told The Australian. “A lot of evidence suggests that like child abuse, domestic violence is a byproduct of social dysfunction: welfare, drugs, family breakdown.”
Like it or loathe it, you can’t argue with the reasons behind the program. James Merlino Minister for Education stated “This is about teaching our kids to treat everyone with respect and dignity so we can start the cultural change we need in our society to end the scourge of family violence.”
Whether this program is the correct approach or not is yet to be seen, as is whether a primary root cause of domestic violence is a result of “male privilege.” What is certain however is that the Victorian government should be applauded for taking important steps in bringing out Australia’s deep dark problem with domestic violence, and doing what it believes will minimize the number of victims. Hopefully the other States and Territories follow suit and implement their own educational program and with this collective action, here’s hoping we start to see some real change.