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Boys will be boys

The old adage and its place in toxic masculinity explored through the works of Reg Mombassa. ...

Many of us would be familiar with the adage ‘boys will be boys’, but in light of recent global movements – such sentiments only highlight the absurdity of this way of thinking. Let’s start with what’s happening in our own backyards.

The role of what a man is and how that is defined is often a rigid structure beginning from the time they are young. They are told not to cry should it risk them being seen as ‘soft’, they are given toys conforming to gender stereotypes and their heroes are often depictions of strong, superhero men.

In Australia, the way the role of a man is defined, and the expectation of how they should act can create a toxic culture around masculinity. Men are often stereotyped as only being interested in sport, enjoying a beer, being tough and generally dominant. But what happens to men that don’t conform to this standard?

While this is an issue that spreads around societies and cultures globally, this mentality often starts with our upbringing and within our households. In a Sydney Morning Herald article, Clementine Ford notes that there are important links between the conditioning of gender in young children and the consequences as they then grow older.

Artwork by Dinusha Soo
Artwork by Dinusha Soo

Reg Mombassa, a designer for one of Australia’s most iconic brands of the nineties, Mambo, often refers to the toxicity of Australian masculinity in his work. He uses his design work as a platform to showcase this – challenging the standards we often confine our men to.

Several of his artworks feature Australian animals holding iconic items such as a football, beer cans or stoking a BBQ – all generally associated with the stereotype of being an Australian man. He notes in a Sydney Morning Herald interview that he “realised he was a low-status male”, creating self-portraits to present ways in which not all men fit into this pre-defined image.

“When you make art and read books, you realise that you’re on the outside of society. I started to resent being bullied by more powerful males. That’s how society has been structured. I think a lot of men are questioning it and realising that it’s not such a good thing,” Reg says to Sydney Morning Herald.

As a student body, it’s pivotal to reflect on the role of Australian masculinity – whether we are benefiting from it or perpetuating it. We must consider how we could change the stereotype around men in Australia to be all encompassing and this starts with teaching the youth, our sons, little brothers, nephews and our communities.

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New survey shows how young people feel

By TILEAH DOBSON Young people in Australia today are dealing with copious amounts of stress. From social, physical, financial, and now a pandemic was ...

By TILEAH DOBSON

Young people in Australia today are dealing with copious amounts of stress. From social, physical, financial, and now a pandemic was thrown in, it’s no wonder most of us are anxiety-riddled messes.

New research conducted by the Monash Centre for Youth Policy and Education (CYPEP) has found that youth people are experiencing more financial worries than ever before.

The 2021 Australian Youth Barometer, which had been conducted by CYPEP, surveyed over 500 Australians between the ages of 18-24. The report focused on the views of young Australians on topics such as education, employment, health and wellbeing, finances, housing, civic participation and Covid-19’s impact.

One of the biggest concerns found in the study was security for young Australians. 69 per cent of young people felt it was the government’s responsibility to ensure access to affordable housing for everyone. Their biggest concern in this area was whether or not they’d be able to afford a house in the current market.

22 per cent said they were struggling financially, with food and housing their main priorities. Young Australians with a disability were 1.7 times more likely to report financial difficulties.

Director of CYPEP, Professor Lucas Walsh, says the findings have highlighted the complex picture of what it means to be a young Australian.

“The Barometer highlights a mix of positivity and resilience amongst young people, while also showing deeper challenges related to their futures,” Professor Walsh said.

“The survey findings showed the pressures some young Australians were under and provided an insight into understanding what ‘the new normal’ might look like post-COVID and how we can collectively build thriving communities and sustainable futures for the benefit of all Australians.”

With a variety of issues and obstacles in their path, it’s a wonder why young Australians struggle under the weight. Photo: Western Sydney University/Facebook.

Although the reported buy-now-pay-later services like Afterpay have a negative impact on their finances, 53 per cent are reportedly using them on a regular basis. Social media was given mixed feelings by the participants, despite their stereotypes.

29 per cent of people, just under a third, reported having poor or very poor mental health. Chair of CYPEP Advisory Board, Katrina Reynen OAM, attributes these results to young Australians experiencing ‘unprecedented’ times and continuing to make up the new normal as they go along.

“We can all learn so much from young people who own the responsibility of ensuring that their world and policies reflect their needs,” Reynen said.

“The Youth Barometer is a brilliant way to amplify the voices of young people and is underpinned by the world-renowned research capability of Monash University. This important work has laid a baseline of youth voice which will enable future evaluations to track youth sentiment, anxiety, attitudes, hopes and dreams.”

Despite living through a pandemic and switching to online learning, the survey found 58 per cent of young people were satisfied with online learning. This hugely outweighs the 14.7 per cent that was unsatisfied with the new switch to learning.

Tileah Dobson is an editor for W’SUP and the news editor for the Sydney Sentinel.