Where are the boys?
By: Asna Ali
As the story of the attack on Malala Yousafzai unfolds and journalists chew on its many angles while Malala herself fights to live, the question that has been nagging me is: why aren’t there more boys like her? No teenage male bloggers are recounting their experiences of living in Swat or elsewhere. No brave young men telling their stories and winning peace awards. A quick Google search of news stories did not yield many names nor did an informal survey of acquaintances.
Malala was making headlines long before she was attacked and acted as a role model for other teenage girls (and perhaps boys) who might want to have their stories heard by the world and make a difference. Her departure and the silence left behind, as one more voice of reason has been gunned down, is alarming. Not just because of the heinousness of this attack, though that is cause enough, but also because of the conspiracy spin being put on this news story and the ease with which it is being accepted. With Pakistan’s population becoming increasingly youthful and very prone to believing conspiracy theories, the lack of young people speaking out against extremism is sad to see.
You might ask: why should more boys be expected to be like Malala? A look at our literacy rate statistics reveals that it is currently 69.4 percent for men and 44.7 percent for women. Pakistani men are generally more educated, have more opportunities and resources available to learn and grow their intellectual capacity than women. There is no lack of male journalists in the country, so the lack of young men speaking out independently through blogs and social media is both surprising and worrying to see. Teenagers and young adults are more likely to get their facts from websites like Facebook or Twitter, rather than more serious news sources. Unfortunately, the social media scene in Pakistan is more populated by deluded individuals spreading their insane conspiracies rather than sane young voices willing to condemn our society’s ills.
There are only two ways to explain this situation. Either young men like Malala are just not getting the attention that they deserve from the media or that there simply aren’t any who are concerned enough to speak out. Neither one of these scenarios is ideal, nor both are probably true to some extent. Young women facing challenges associated with their gender in addition to the trials and tribulations that sometimes come with living in Pakistan make for more compelling and sympathetic figures than young men. It is assumed that they have more of an uphill battle to get to the top therefore they deserve more applause and news coverage.
Though one would expect educated individuals to take more of a stand on important issues, most Pakistanis have sunk into a state of apathy where we are roused from our stupor only for a few days even after the most garish displays of violence. We purposely avoid mingling our ‘real’ life with the news of what is happening ‘out there’. Perhaps the only ones who do care after a news item goes stale are girls who have to use what few chances are available to them to carve out a niche for themselves in a largely misogynistic society.
Whatever the reasons may be we need more young people like Malala; both boys and girls. Though parents’ maynow be more vigilant of what their daughters write or talk about, fearing for their lives, someone has to take a stand and become the voice of reason and of hope. Malala has done her part; it’s time for the boys to step up.