Letter: Crime: working-class pride and middle-class prejudice

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CONTRARY to Nick Cohen's report of the conference on families, children and crime, organised jointly by your newspaper and the Institute for Public Policy Research, no one was seeking to blame men for crime.

The issue at the centre of discussion (in which more men than women participated) was the way boys learn to be men; how they see themselves and how they feel they should behave in order to establish their identity as 'real' men. Traditions of masculine behaviour and rites of passage to manhood are not God-given or immutable, but socially constructed and susceptible to change. They help to explain why males rather than females are responsible for the vast majority of criminal offences and, more importantly, suggest alternative ways of tackling crime when other strategies have failed. They do not condemn men as natural deviants and troublemakers.

The failure to distinguish between men and masculinity, amply illustrated by Cohen's report, is a significant part of the problem that the conference sought to address.

Anna Coote

Institute for Public Policy Research, London WC2