Canadian Boys

From March 4 to 5, 2002, in Toronto, the Kids Help Phone, Central Toronto Youth Services and the University of Guelph will jointly host the first national conference on the risks and challenges of growing up male in Canada. The purpose of the conference is to open a national dialogue on the reality of boys’ lives in all their diversity.

Attendees will have an opportunity to hear boys’ own stories, learn about new research concerning boys, and become aware of complex problems and challenges faced by male children as they grow up. Topics will include: violence against male children; alcohol and drug abuse; boys’ mental health; boys in the school system; gay/bi/transgendered youth; teen male parents; street-involved male youth; youth in trouble with the law; bias in research on males; aboriginal and minority male children; and male youth in care.

The event will be the first in a series of annual conferences intended to bring to public and professional attention unique and poorly understood experiences of boys and young men in Canadian society. The conference program and information on how to register are available on their web site or by emailing the organizers at info@open.uoguelph.ca.

Lifted in its entirety from Soapbox Girls


Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s high time that there will be academic discussion about such a topic. When I was a teenager, and perhaps I was exposed more because my Mum works in Child Psychology research, I remember coming across innumerable references to conferences, papers, works on what it was like for a girl as a teenager. In my late teens (and early twenties), I rationalised this as the extension of feminism into the social sciences – all previous studies on teens were focussed on boys, because girls didn’t matter. And that seemed ok. But there was still very little that I found in literature that was a)Not 10-20 years out of date b)Pre-feminist in its approach (ie – it talked about ‘kids’, but meant boys) c)not patronising.

This sounds like a conference that is truly for and about boys – be they fairly regular angst-filled boys or boys with real issues and problems that they don’t know how to face. That teen male parents is one of the listed items is very interesting. I remember an aquaintance of mine, named Jon, who got a girl pregnant. She was taken great care of. He was completely excluded from any care/counselling, was ostracised by her family and his own. While he was already a user, he took to using more to escape whatever it was that he was feeling. So we lost contact. But there wasn’t a network for him, that we were aware of.

Of course, after waxing philosophic about how good this conference is, I wonder just how useful it is. For one, like most social-science conferences,the subjects are not really invited. Registration to attend this conference is $295 – $345 plus taxes. Now, there will be some youth there in attendance as panelists. But what will their roles be post-panel? Will they get to listen, be involved in the various forums? Will be there be ‘casual’ time for interactions between the academics/professionals and them? I am personally interested in the social sciences, and indeed, sociology is an area I’m considering persuing further in grad school. But I’d hate to think that I’d end up like so many, where whatever research I’m doing never reaches the subjects. My brother, who studied youth in unions in the tertiary sector for his PhD, had that same worry. And I don’t know how he addressed, or if he even did address the issue. But Ivory Tower isolation of the social sciences really bothers me, and I wish I knew a solution.