Above: an image of the school where the massacre took place. A media source later confirmed that all the schoolchildren killed in the attack were boys.
On Tuesday the 16th of December, an attack by the Taliban on a high school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, killing around 132 children and at least 9 teachers, sent shockwaves throughout the world.
First and foremost, A Voice for Male Students would like to express its deep shock and outrage at the attack and send its condolences to the families of those killed. Whilst it may seem insensitive at a time like this to cavil at the news coverage, almost all news reports have ignored the fact that the great majority of those killed were boys, despite the fact that the school teaches both boys and girls.
Indeed, the only mention of gender in many reports was the fact that one of the teachers was female. One of the few reports to mention the gender of those killed wrote that 123 of the children killed (i.e. over 90%) were boys. However, there are a couple of caveats.
- The school taught both boys and girls, but we do not know whether the gender split in the school was roughly 50:50. We do know that the school taught the sons and daughters of army personnel and I imagine that this section of Pakistani society does value the education of girls. It is likely therefore that girls made up at least a substantial proportion of those enrolled.
- Just because over 90% of those killed were boys, we cannot be sure that they were specifically targeted. We can be pretty sure that the classes were single sex and this imbalance could occur if the boys were all being taught in the wing of the building that the Taliban happened to attack.
What we can be sure of is that, if the gender balance had been reversed, no-one would care about any such caveats and would be condemning the massacre as specifically a massacre of girls. Social media would be ablaze with the like of #saveourgirls, just as the abduction of roughly 200 girls by Boko Haram earlier this year gave rise to #bringbackthegirls, and politicians would be lining up to characterize it as a warning by the Taliban that girls should stay at home in their traditional role.
The fact that there has not been a similar outcry is not necessarily because people do not care, but because they are simply not allowed to know. The fact that they are not allowed to know is not necessarily due to conscious bias, but because we have become so used to treating men as disposable that we simply do not notice when boys are targeted in this way.
It is this blindness which this blog seeks to change.