Features, Feminism

Daily Life’s Boy-Bashing Clickbait Reaches New Low

When Daily Life came onto Australia’s media scene in 2012, I used to read it with bemusement, sometimes morbid fascination. About a year after it launched I started blogging in response to some of its articles, but since 2013, I’ve mostly ignored the publication. One gets tired of clickbait.

Tabloid magazines have been around for a long time and yellow journalism dates back to the nineteenth century. Daily Life has certainly not created anything new. It is also understandable that The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age need to bolster their dwindling readership with cheap and easy commentary on the latest “hot topics”, including those that involve gender and feminism. In the context of the disruption caused by the Internet, it is not a scandal that a media company would do this.

Yet since the public relations fiascos of 2014 and 2015, such as Shirtstorm, and the Tim Hunt affair, it’s also increasingly difficult to become animated by gender politics. From where I sit, the culture war is largely over. No-one serious pays any attention to the likes of Clementine Ford or Lindy West. And Jezebel, the blog that launched it all, has just been sold for a meager price — much less than its former value. Confected outrage has become passé.

Another reason not to care about gender politics is due to the fact that many “men’s rights activists” appear to be just as petulant as third-wave feminists. Engaging in the same kind of toxic identity politics and underhand tactics, it can be hard to take their complaints seriously. However, this week, an article was published by Daily Life, which trivialised boys who underperform in school, and while I don’t sympathise with men’s rights activists generally, when articles such as this one are published, it’s hard not to see their point.

In How to help boys do better at school: stop giving them a leg-up in the outside world — boys’ under-achievement in school is blamed on patriarchal privilege. The author, an “education expert,” Jane Caro, writes:

I find it a little hard to get as exercised as many people appear to do about the relatively poor performance of boys at school. Part of the reason I am fairly relaxed about this may be entirely selfish – I have daughters. But part of it is because I cannot help but notice that this lack of academic prowess in no way seems to hold the male gender back when it comes to the world of work.

She then goes onto say:

I can tell you in one word why I think boys do worse than girls at school, and here it is; patriarchy. Think about it. Boys are not stupid, they look at the world and they see that their gender gets a relatively easy ride thanks to patriarchy. They kick back at school a bit because – quite sensibly – they see that they simply don’t need to work as hard to get ahead.

It is quite a remarkable argument. According to the theory, little boys are so tuned into social realities that they calibrate their school effort according to how easy they expect to have it later in life. Any boy capable of this level of abstract reasoning most likely will succeed later in life. But we all know that for most little boys this proposition is fanciful.

Such arguments would make sense if boys who did badly at school actually went on to have impressive careers. But they don’t. Boys who struggle in school often drop-out, find it difficult to gain employment, and often end up at the bottom of the social pile; these boys are also much more likely to come from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. For any  parent to be unaware of this is surprising. But for an “education expert” to be unaware of these facts is a serious failing.

The tendency of feminist writers to collapse class privilege into gender privilege, without acknowledging that life might actually be hard for men on the bottom, is myopic. Notwithstanding these failures in logic, the article received a warm welcome from its online audience:

The article, and its reception leads one to ask the question — just exactly how did feminist analysis get here? Who decided that it was acceptable to conflate class with gender and to trivialise the struggles of school-boys simply because there are more men on corporate boards than women?

How did it become acceptable for “experts” and writers to give such little thought to real social problems? Hand-waving about the patriarchy is not an analysis. When we know that boys are at much higher risk of ADHD, autism and language delay than girls, it should not be acceptable to place the blame of boys’ underperformance at an imagined sense of entitlement.

It might just be that casual prejudice has become so commonplace that many of us don’t even notice it anymore. Have all the avenues of male-bashing now been so exhausted that it must be extended to children? One would sincerely hope not.


Claire Lehmann is the editor of Quillette. Follow her on Twitter @clairlemon.


  1. Well you’re retarded this has been feminists foundational premise, all feminists see are high class men the MRA has always made this clear, men are being measured against the top and women are being measured against the bottom, you are truly dumb if you missed this or just bigoted, I’m going with bigoted.

      • “You do realize you’re making the author’s case for her re: MRA’s? Right?”

        No. He’s truly dumb. And goes well with bigotry.

  2. Jane Caro’s refusal to incorporate even the most basic application of intersectionality when discussing gender is typical of these kinds of binary discussions. The intersection of race and class, not to mention the dynamics of politics and the prevalence of western culture’s obsession with male emotional toughness, combine to put boys and girls alike at risk. How we can casually dismiss the struggles of any in our society is nothing short of mind boggling. We are all interconnected.

    • This is what identity politics have become; most people don’t like things to be complicated. They prefer social outlooks that are more self-serving and easy to understand. Thus, all men are privileged over all women, all white people are rich and all black people are poor, all men are sexual predators and all women are sexual victims, etc. This is the identity politics of the 21st century; an ideological perspective that has now noticeably diverged from a basis in reality.

    • Thor from the north says

      Truly a comprehensive argument anonymous. Methinks you are enraged by a man daring to have an opinion that doesn’t agree with yours. Good. Good let the manhate flow through you.

  3. I sense great resentment about the fact her genitalia developed internally.

    Judith Potts

  4. Kali says

    That is an interesting theory that I’ve never thought about. Caro also mentions that:

    “Girls are not stupid either. They look at the world and see that if they want to get ahead at all they are going to have to work their guts out to prove their worth. They can’t just be as good (or as bad) as the boys, they have to be much better. That’s a big incentive to put the required effort in.”

    It could also be that boys are just staying the same (not doing worse necessarily) but the girls are putting in more effort and doing better.

    • Paul says

      Yeah or it could be the effect of observed disparities in ability for academics between boys and girls. The idea that five year old boys and girls are going “I have to work hard/not work at all because boardroom membership is split against/for my gender” is delusional.

      It passing as the semblance of a point is a savage indictment on a large section of the populations critical reasoning capacity.

      I notice as well on Twitter, after literally victim blaming young boys for academic failings, this caro twerp is playing the victim. She’s getting trolled according to her. In reality she’s getting push back for breath taking display of bigotry.

    • The notion that girls in third grade are seeing the world through the lens of third wave feminism is ludicrous.(though there are some who are working on getting them indoctrinated that young) Nor is it reasonable to suppose that they’re thinking ahead to future careers as CEOs at that age.

      The difference between the performance of girls and boys lies in the way schools and teachers treat girls vs. how they treat boys, and the refusal of educators to accept that there *are* basic differences in the way boys and girls; both in how they develop, and how they interact socially.

  5. Assume that girls are the same, and that they calibrate their efforts economically. The accompanying assumption is that they will be disadvantaged in business. They could either stop trying, because it’s not worth the effort. Or they could work extra hard. The latter would form a habit (call it second nature) of facing adversity and an adaption to (having) to work harder than men. (By “adaptation”, I mean the individual, though one should consider whether constant hardship, more severe than that of men, would cause a sex difference that would make women the “more hardened sex”.)

    Yet, unfortunately for feminists, no such thing is apparent. Quite the opposite. Women are more sensitive, feminists try to do away with contract negotiations, try to get companies to headhunt women because women are too “shy”/”fragile”/ to apply themselves (-by the way, “headhunt” may be scary-), try to teach women to imitate male body language, etc. In other words, feminists treat girls (the female sex) like soft creatures, while girls’ supposed experiences should actually have hardened them. No such thing. Instead, the privileged boys seem to be the rough and hardened ones, despite their easy life (of leisure and privilege) and sweet prospects. Either environmental factors are the opposite of what feminists claim, which means that men have it harder and are thereby hardened. Or the environmental aspects are sort of what feminists claim (comfy for men), yet evolved sex differences mean that men are hardened by nature, and women softer by nature, respectively.

    Evidence flies in the face of the supposedly hardened girl and her habit of having to work harder. It even shows something like a male habit of having to work harder:

    “Feeling like one exerts more effort than others may influence women’s feelings of belonging with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and impede their motivation. In Study 1, women STEM graduate students perceived they exerted more effort than peers to succeed. For women, but not men, this effort expenditure perception predicted a decreased sense of belonging, which in turn decreased motivation. Study 2 tested whether the male-dominated status of a field triggers such effort expectations. We created a fictional “eco-psychology” graduate program, which when depicted as male-dominated resulted in women expecting to exert relatively more effort and decreased their interest in pursuing the field. Study 3 found emphasizing effort as expected (and normal) to achieve success elevated women’s feelings of belonging and future motivation. Results suggest effort expenditure perceptions are an indicator women use to assess their fit in STEM. Implications for enhancing women’s participation in STEM are discussed.” – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233788528_When_Trying_Hard_Isn't_Natural_Women's_Belonging_With_and_Motivation_for_Male-Dominated_STEM_Fields_As_a_Function_of_Effort_Expenditure_Concerns (Note that these women are already “self-selected”, thougher than the average.)

    (I apologize for any errors in wrting and style [hey, I did correct “environmetal”], and any seeming lack of due appreciation for the fine[r] sex. I blame time constraints. Don’t blame me.)

  6. Corinac says

    Where social class disadvantages are present, they manifest on lower class boys and girls equally. Those boys that come from disadvantaged backgrounds have sisters who are as affected by the same factors as their male counterparts.

    If we compare girls and boys from the same social class, the problem of boys lagging behind persists.

    The reason could indeed be a greater prevalence of ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, video games addiction, alcohol and cannabis addiction. There is also the fact that boys tend to enjoy reading less, and are more sensitive to peer pressure of the type “studying is for losers, we’re too cool for school”.

    The problem isn’t that one feminist said she’s not concerned and another feminist agrees. Feminists didn’t create this problem for boys, we can be annoyed at them for not working to solve it if we want, but the problem persists and the question is: what do we do? Aside from blaming the other gender, what is there to be done?

    • Anonymous says

      “Feminists didn’t create this problem for boys”

      In fact, they did.

      Read The War on Boys by CH Sommers.

      • Corinac says

        At first only boys could get an education, it was thought it would be useless for girls. Then girls were allowed in, and they proved better at it without the system being changed to suit girls. The system remained the same for boys and girls.

  7. “Feminists didn’t create this problem for boys (…).” Possible. Doubtful. Feminists have a problem with accomodating boys.
    If sex differences are the root cause of these differences in performance, imposing the view that no sex differences exist, and shaping policy accordingly, means shaping problems, creating a bigger problem.
    Even if it merely leaves sex differences be, why should recources given to boys and girls, respectively, not be used in sex-specific ways? If there is a right to redistribution, then there’s a right for each recipient (or group, such as boys) to use their share as suits them best. In that case, imposing gender neutrality (“one use fits all”) is a violation of rights, which is “creating a problem”. It comes down to compelled association. That’s the essential problem of feminism, in terms of liberty. Feminists claim a right to compel association.

  8. Male distributions always show more extremity than female distributions for sound natural selection reasons – sperm are cheap, eggs are expensive. Evolution can take risks with men. And women, of course, extravagantly reward risk taking in males and those who wash out on the bottom just lose. Men overpopulate both the top and bottom of distributions. Feminists also ignore mate markets – both incentives and opportunities. Men are at the top because women reward in mating the efforts that take men to the top (and can much more easily and often marry in to options, that is, men will subsidize a woman’s work-life balance preferences far more than a woman will subsidize a man’s).

  9. LF Patriot says

    Wonderful piece. I’m stealing this:

    “The tendency of feminist writers to collapse class privilege into gender privilege, without acknowledging that life might actually be hard for men on the bottom, is myopic.”

    In Western nations, there is clearly no longer a need for feminism. Feminists: you won. Women are better educated, their incomes are on the rise while men’s are in decline, and they even live longer. And of course, women continue to enjoy their privilege in the sexual/mating marketplace, as they always have.

    Feminists need to stop whining about some stupid celebrity’s misstatement or tweet and focus on issues that really matter: the prevalence of gang rape in India, the utter absence of women’s rights in Muslim countries, female genital mutilation in Africa, etc.

    • Melissa says

      Absolutely and a similar situation for human rights in Australia.

  10. Whyaxye says

    “Boys are not stupid, they look at the world and they see that their gender gets a relatively easy ride thanks to patriarchy. They kick back at school a bit because – quite sensibly – they see that they simply don’t need to work as hard to get ahead.”

    If this were a reason for boys’ underperformance in school, then we would expect their efforts, and achievements, to be less where “patriarchy” is stronger. But when patriarchy was stronger – before women enjoyed as many social, legal, financial, and cultural advantages as they currently do – boys often outperformed girls at school. In the UK, for example, the “gender attainment gap” prior to the 1980s meant the underachievement of girls.

  11. moderndrummer says

    We may have the most educated women in all of time yet the most ignorant women when it comes to understanding males and the male experience.
    Feminists have no clue what their talking about when it comes to boys and men,yet they believe very strongly that they do.
    Their ignorance is only rivaled by their arrogance.
    Most feminists don’t advocate for or believe in equal rights,they believe in ‘women’s rights’
    They remind me off the legalistic religion I grew up in that would cause the problem and then present themselves as the solution to the problem they caused.

    • Anonymous says

      “We may have the most educated women”

      We don’t. Schooling and credentialism are not education. Calling women who receive advanced degrees in Marxist bullshit “educated” is an assault on reason.

  12. Frank says

    Maybe… Just maybe it has to do with girls maturing earlier than boys? To suggest boys are lazy in school because of some male patriarchy is one of the single most stupid things I have ever heard.

    When I was in school the LAST thing I was contemplated was what will I do when I leave year 12 or what job I wanted. Hell I didn’t even think about that until I got to half way through year 10. All I cared about as a young boy was playing sport and hanging with friends and trampolining with the girl up the road that I had a crush on.

    Jane Caros brain is so fogged up by looking through glasses of male hatred and misogyny that she honestly believe this tripe?? What a stupid woman.

  13. Lindsay says

    I agree wholeheartedly. Clemintime Ford and clickbait are irrelevant and the SMH is full of it. Glad to read these comments as I was wondering if I was one of only a few that was annoyed by it. I used to email Ms Ford, but discovered the truth to the statement that one can’t win a debate with stupid people because the are ….. well, too stupid.

  14. James says

    Claire’s points are all valid and I’ll add another. Over the last 20 odd years education doctrine has moved away from testing towards continuous assessment. Boys have been shown repeatedly to perform better than their usual under competitive test conditions, while girls have been shown to perform better when having to juggle the multiple deadlines and constant work required under continuous assessment. The relatively recent emergence of higher education performance among females at school in recent years can much more directly be correlated to this one shift.

    So yes, another example of a media personality seeking to make money through lame controversy at the expense of sensible discourse.

  15. Claire Lehmann – We don’t want you to “sympathize” with us. Clearly, you care about boys because you recognise that they are human beings, so save your sympathy for them. They can be saved!

    When I first came into Men’s Rights, I was appalled by the reactions of many commentators and supposed MRAs. In fact, at one point, I almost backed out. However, what I came to realise was that many of them were once little boys who grew up in the most appalling of circumstances. As a boy, one guy I met was made to live in the shed by his step mother who was having sex with his sisters. How would you expect him to turn out as adult?

    They are human beings.

  16. Santoculto says

    School is a feminine environment. In the same way women workers do better in factories than men. They tend to be more quiet, conformist and gentle. Nothing wrong about it. But…

  17. Boys doing less well than girls in school is not patriarchy – quite the opposite. Feminists have forced men out of the teaching profession in droves, whether through quotas or the fear of being falsely accused of pedophilia, thus depriving boys of positive role models. Women teachers show a well-documented bias against boys, giving them lower grades for the same answers and reporting them for discipline problems more often. Teaching methods are increasingly geared towards girls, de-emphasizing and discouraging individual achievement and forcing children to sit quietly and work together for prolonged periods. In the US, normal boyhood behavior is increasingly pathologized, diagnosed as ADHD etc. and boys are doped with powerful psychotropic drugs such as ritalin to feminize them and make them more manageable. And yet feminists are still screaming “patriarchy”! They are living in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

    • Enquiring Mind says

      Female teachers are aided and abetted by meddling moms in the classroom. What should be a benefit through greater resources just turns out too often to be more thought control and personal delivery of preference and a different dysfunctional hierarchy.

      “My kid deserves to get into Harvard Medical School, and if some other kid distracts the teacher, then that obstacle must be eliminated.”

      They want the upside but won’t share in the overall burden. Otherwise, they’d be clamoring for all those glamorous blue collar jobs that only boys are seen fit to do. Boys and girls deserve a place to learn, not a place to be molded into little third-wave terrorists. Nobody wins in that world.

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