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Abstract

In this article, I examine a narrative that on the surface could be backlash to gender equality efforts: that after years of policy attention to girls, Kenya's "boy child" has been neglected. Through a content analysis of Kenyan online newspaper texts spanning the past two decades, I chart the evolution of this discourse, finding that it was present as early as 2000, intensified around 2010, and began to produce concrete actions around 2013. I argue that the narrative is a reaction to expanded women's rights, but not always in the sense of negative backlash. Some boy child claims-makers were indeed concerned with a decline in men's power. However, others, mostly women, used the boy child narrative to redirect attention to issues that profoundly affect the well-being of women such as violence and the struggle to find a partner. These results point to the value of a discursive spectrum approach for analysis of potential backlash to gender equality as well as discussions around policy attention to boys and men.

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