I’ve been the mother of girls longer than of a boy, and being the mother of both continues to be an edifying experience. It makes me notice how people are raising both genders, particularly the boys (because people love to hassle me about the imaginary trials of raising a boy with several sisters). The most interesting and fruitful way to make mental notes is the anthropologist way: observing how boys and girls interact, and surprisingly one has noticed many angry little boys. In the paediatrician’s office, in classrooms, at birthday parties, on a sports field—boys are angry, and make no bones about. It seems like not many people are listening to them either.

There are two narratives we employ for little girls and little boys. Girls are nice, foremost. Girls are gentle; girls tinker with kitchen utensils and wear big bows even if they have four hairs on their head. We call them “princess” and “doll”. We shush them when they scream. Little boys are men. They are given plastic guns and swung upside down from their ankles until they scream. Little boys should scream, snatch things, push when needed—they are taken as signs of assertiveness, and all little boys should be troopers like that. We tell them boys don’t cry. We call them “sher” and “prince”. Now what happens when all the children are put together in school? The boys are still pushing, still yelling, still pretending they don’t have any feelings except anger. The girls are trying to be nice, trying not to cause trouble and not get dirty. We all know human emotions are on a broad spectrum—we are happy and sad, angry and frustrated, anxious and ecstatic. We are many things at the same time too. And yet we operate like we’re in some American sitcom from the fifties where the women are always smiling and sweet and the men are taciturn and wear ties.

When the only emotions one allows boys are aggression, then that is what they use to express themselves. Sad? Angry. Nervous? Angry. In love? Also, depressingly, many times, angry. In school, you lose a match and are so disappointed you could cry? You get angry instead. And when a child is angry and upset, they lash out in ways which are almost always violent. Angry children are the biters, the kickers, the arm-twisters. The angry children are the bullies, the one who make fun of others before someone makes fun of them; who hurt others before they get hurt. This goes for boys and girls, but is more especially problematic because in patriarchies men have more power, and angry little boys will grow into furious, thwarted men. Who marry and have families, and the cycle begins again.

Karachi is being terrorized by a lunatic on a motorcycle who is racing around slashing at women and girls with a scalpel. Imagine how angry and frustrated one would have to be, to take to the streets stabbing innocent women who are just minding their own business and going about their day. Who made this man like this? Why is it even possible that someone can even think of doing something as horrible and pointlessly vicious? Our society makes it possible, that’s why. Nobody in this man’s house has noticed that there is an angry man in their home, or has done anything about it. It probably isn’t their fault, because we are inured to men’s rage. It’s meant to be manly, surliness. There’s a reason why most serial killers are men and not women—because men are trained to accept violence as their birthright, a marker of their identity. Boys don’t cry, but they can land a punch instead. It’s better to lash out than be upset. Why can’t parents understand how dangerous this is? How much this kind of rhetoric damages a child’s ability to connect to his humanity?

Superheroes are all violent, distressed, messed-up…men – being idolized by scores of children. Batman is a brooding, unhappy orphan. The Hulk’s power is derived solely from his literally monstrous rage. They all deal with their anger by going out and beating up the villains. It becomes acceptable because they are meant to be working for the greater good, but someone like this Karachi scalpel stabber probably thinks he’s doing a public service too by “encouraging” women to stay home.

The crux of the matter is allowing our boys to just be themselves. To make it all right to have their feelings and to own them without being made to feel ashamed or foolish for having them. And this is a group effort; it will take the entire village to do it. It will take all the moms, standing up to the incredulous grandmothers and aunts and uncles. It will take all the dads, who might learn a thing or two along the way themselves. It will take the teachers and the mamas of the girls. We all benefit from raising children who are kind and have empathy. We all benefit when we teach our children how to manage their emotions productively and how to express themselves in a peaceful and respectful way. That is how we diminish domestic violence, road rage, acid attacks (notice how most of these things involve men doing vicious things). This is how men like the scalpel stabber don’t reach this level of hate.