Boys to men. At least, that's the plan.
Somewhere along the way, we began failing our sons. They don’t know how to become men, adult men, anymore.
I have two sons, almost 23 and 20, respectively, and the younger one reminded me that soon I won’t have any official teenage children. When I was pregnant with him, I swore he’d be a daughter. So instead of a Rachelle or Molly, we have a Daniel. And both of my sons I could not be more proud. My husband and I wanted good men, good adults. I know they’ve each had their experiences in shaping their definitions of masculinity, manhood, and what it means to be an adult human. Neither one played team sports. Instead of Sunday afternoon football or Seahawks colors, you might find one crafting a handmade whip, going for a hike, or the other suggesting a new, extremely well-written show to binge or a German or Russian film. But that is in our little family bubble.
As I expand outside of our world, I’ve seen over the years boys being raised in traditional ways. I even knew one couple, whom I thought were progressive, forbid their young son from getting a kitchen set. There is a growing culture of masculine toxicity, a phrase my friend John Spencer challenged me about a few short years ago, and I felt somewhat guilty for saying it. I shouldn’t have.
For every young, middle-school boy whom I’ve heard call another one another a fag, or gay, or “just playing” serious horseplay just so they could connect without it being questioned or ridiculed, if for one brief, transparent moment I could have them just say that being a boy is tough in our culture. They giggle, punch, jump out of their seats, and aren’t aware of their physicality or allowed to reflect. They’re angry, bored, anxious, and learning how to emotionally and physically punch first so they don’t become the next target.
And it’s dangerous.
If you’re a white teenage boy, you’re surrounded by images of other white men who kill others and often get away with it. You listen to racist drizzle from YouTube “stars” like PewdiePie and troll other gamers disguised as trash talk, but (as a gamer myself) is nothing but a constant stream of vile one-upmanship. The infiltration is as sophisticated as a cult or terrorist cell. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Who is the President now?
Yeah. I thought so.
Yesterday on Facebook a woman stated a comment, and a man continued to badger her by making fun of her first name, trying to bait her into responding. She didn’t, but I wanted to reach through my screen and…
If you’re a teenage boy of color you’re in danger. The news broke today they arrested a Black man who was beaten in Charlottesville by white supremacists because he had the audacity to protect himself. BUT: that is not what happened – but this did:
Okay. You get the point.
A few years ago, I shared this with some friends, and it changed how they viewed raising their sons, it was that impactful:
And with Cult of Pedagogy’s reminder, I am hoping that this documentary helps us all, too, begin to have important conversations: http://therepresentationproject.org/film/the-mask-you-live-in/
It’s available on Netflix and other venues now, the full version. Time to sit down, watch and discuss.
And maybe we can all take off our masks.