12/22/2014 Malcolm James

The Peshawar school massacre – a massacre of boys?

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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Comments (7)

  1. Thanks for this piece, Malcolm. And it brings an interesting question: does society treat gender issues this way because it does not know about men’s and boys’ issues, because it does not care? Is it one or the other, or cycle of both?

    I fear that the more depressing answer may be the correct one – that many people simply don’t have the same spirit of inquiry about boys’ issues not because they are uneducated, but because they don’t care. To lack an education is a state of being that may be beyond one’s control. To lack a spirit of inquiry, however, is a problem of the self.

    • Trevor Smith

      It sickens me that even when there is blatant examples of inequity against men and boys it is completely ignored by most organizations. This slaughter of boys is one example, I work in the construction trades and review the quarterly injury reports from the workers compensation board. Almost all of the workplace deaths and injuries in every quarterly report are male, glaring gender bias in terms of which gender can acceptably be sacrificed, and yet virtually no mainstream organization acknowledges this. Conversely, I recently noted a labor organization that is starting seminars on the unique gender issues concerning women and safety in the workplace, such as their unique response to toxins in the workplace. No mention of the gender imbalance on workplace deaths relating the publicly available workers compensation quarterly reports I referenced. The hypocrisy is so absurd it is sickening.

    • Thanks for the link, Joe. I’ve added some text under the picture at the top to clarify this for readers.

    • Malcolm James

      We need to be careful with this statement. This was a rolling nws report and thefirst report was at 1.14pm of only about 15-20 dead. Any statment at 1.41 will have been based on partial information, since the situation was still unfolding. The figure of 123 out of 132 seems more reliable. It may seem a quibble, but, given that there are plenty of people ready and willing to jump on us for inaccuracies, we must be very careful to get our facts right.

  2. Allan Kirk

    Further to the discussion of the reporting of the Peshawar massacre, there is a very dark way in which the ‘male disposability’ thing might be involved: what if editors–whose stock-and-trade is to maximize circulation/impact–felt the story WOULD NOT CAPTURE THE SAME ATTENTION IF PEOPLE KNEW ALMOST NO GIRLS HAD BEEN TARGETED/KILLED???

  3. disqus_ArQv6e31it

    Just more of the same selective reporting from the feminist media! It’s disgusting and inhumane to use the death of children to forward their ideology! Their hatred of boys and men knows no bounds.


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