For Our Boys, We Need To Win The Battle of Male Freedom of Expression

The most common problem is that national statistics do not include gender breakdowns, or if they do, gender differences are not considered sufficiently in either the description of reality or the design of future policies. There is a tendency to talk about crime and youth gangs in general, without mentioning that the vast majority of those in the statistics are males and boys. Boys as young as four are already exhibiting the stoic performance of masculinity we demand of them with the help of their culture.

There are more accidents in men’s lives, they occupy more prisons, and they have a higher crime rate, and they are also the ones who make most of the decisions leading to war and conflict. But there’s no need to passively accept what’s going on. This is a fight we can get involved in ourselves, a fight to preserve and grow our kids’ connections in the world.

The question then becomes, Do we socialize women for a culture of peace (their being kind, sharing, moderate, flexible, and communicative)? Should we consider men as risk factors, for themselves, for other men and women, and society as a whole? Are men like dinosaurs, as the British author Fay Weldon suggests? Will they die off if they don’t change? Do men share a culture of violence and war (to be tough, over-decisive, forceful, and aggressive)?

Based on sex-role theory, boys are ‘socialized’ to be masculine. They learn from family, school, and mass media messages and attempt to conform to preconceived notions of masculinity.

What can we do about this? The solution is simple and elegant at the same: We cultivate the relational intelligence of boys. Simply put, we remain in honest conversations with our boys. We talk with them, asking questions and holding space so they can deconstruct what they see everywhere in this culture. These kinds of conversations may seem overwhelming for a little boy, but remember: they are already dealing with them every single day, from interacting with adult society. Very young children are quite able to begin asking these kinds of questions in age-appropriate ways.

The suggestion that gender reform will turn men into women is often greeted with horror: emasculating men, making them weak or soft so that they cannot compete or stand with pride. To resolve the problem of violence and build a culture of peace, we must change the masculinities; however, it does not mean men have to become incompetent or weak.

Children depend on adults, including parents, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, ministers, family members, and other adults in the community, to provide a safe environment for them to belong and feel seen and heard. In contrast to the isolation that bullying creates, this more human approach creates clear, felt experiences about what works and what doesn’t for boys.

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