Do teenage boys give a damn about anyone else?!

Clearly, with a provocative title like that, author John Gilbert must think they do give a damn right? Well, sort of.

“eskimosoup’s purpose is to achieve social good through creative marketing. We are running two amazing ongoing projects through which we give a voice to young people on social issues affecting their peers. As things grow I’m noticing a gender imbalance.

Before I appear to have a go at the teenagers, I should probably mention that this is part of wider society. As a purpose-driven organisation working on topics such as relationship abuse, mental health and sexual exploitation, we seem to attract more women. For example:

  • For both applications on spec and responses to job ads approaches from women outstrip men at roughly four-to-one.
  • Of the past ten work experience applications, nine have been girls or women.
  • Of the seven of us employed by eskimosoup; I’m the only man… although many of our associates are male; so they are socially driven some of the time at least.
  • For our socially-orientated projects with young people, twice as many girls engage online as boys do and the ratio of female to male volunteers is around four to one.

So, why is this? Is it nature?

  • Apart from with some species of fish, in the animal kingdom females tend to the care giver.
  • Amongst humans, 95% of empathy-absent psychopaths are male.
  • Nursing, social care and childcare are still dominated by women.

Or nurture? Is being in touch with your feelings too cool and not manning up enough?!

Yet, there are more than a few (socially) good men out there! I have worked with some of the most empathetic and dedicated people, many of them are men.

I’m really interested in the social significance of men working together for social aims. I distinctly remember my boyhood curiosity upon seeing the Society of M.I.C.E (men in charitable endeavour) at the Lord Mayor’s Parade in Hull’s East Park and I suppose there are modern equivalents such as Andy’s Man Club and Paul for Brain, both of whom seem very proactive and gravitate around health and social issues.

So, where is there for the teenage boys to flourish socially and achieve some social good?

It’s been a passion of mine for some time to create to a trusted social media with young people to help them create debate and content around the issues facing people like them in Hull. Led by NHS Hull CCG, the leaders of public services have backed us to trial this and to achieve true young people-led participation we’re in the process of transferring power to young people.

We have an amazing Editorial Board. Though as I sit in Board meetings along with colleagues from eskimosoup, yep, I’m the only male in the room! We do have young males helping us shape the direction we are taking, though they seldom attend this type of meeting.

I ask myself, would teenage me have got involved in Got Your Back? Quite honestly, no I wouldn’t. It just wouldn’t be for me.

So, what changed that I’d devote my career to this kind of work when there are so many easier ways of making a living? That’s a long story, though it is certainly influenced by some personal experiences, the sense of purpose I found in helping others, increased maturity and becoming a dad.

Whilst I’m not advocating an increase in teenage dads for the city(!) I do think that we need to recognise that boys, like many girls, will reach a social conscience maturity in their own time and in their own way. Increasingly I meet people (following their social awakening) for whom helping others has become is a key ingredient to their personal success.

Or to put it less naff; doing good feels good.

Going back to the specific project mentioned above. We’re still recruiting members to Got Your Back’s Editorial Board as well as trialling new ways to try to engage the less engaged. As a marketer, I can’t bemoan our target audience by asking “what is wrong with them so that they don’t buy into our offer?”, but rather we ask: “how do we co-create the right offer?”

In the meantime, if you do know of a teenage male who lives, works or studies in Hull please let them know about Got Your Back ( and they can join something that helps others, as well as growing their skills and confidence.

So teenage boys, I know many of you do give a damn about others though for all kinds of reasons it can be hard to show this. If you happen to read this, please consider joining in with Got Your Back.

Oh, and for those of you for whom this appeals; at the very least joining a social marketing cause can be a great way to meet girls!


PS: I’m aware that gender is more than male or female, though that’s something else we are looking at as a topic for another day.

PPS: I’m not seriously advocating joining social causes to meet girls, though I am insinuating that some men have done this!”

Pictured: John’s soon-to-be teenage sons cradle their second cousin.

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