For The Love of Men

The following appeared on Amazon describing a new book:

“In 2019, traditional masculinity is both rewarded and sanctioned. Men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls (a newer phenomenon than you might realize—gendered toys came back in vogue as recently as the 80s). They learn they must hide their feelings and anxieties, that their masculinity must constantly be proven. They must be the breadwinners, they must be the romantic pursuers. This hasn’t been good for the culture at large: 99% of school shooters are male; men in fraternities are 300% (!) more likely to commit rape; a woman serving in uniform has a higher likelihood of being assaulted by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire.

In For the Love of Men, Liz offers a smart, insightful, and deeply-researched guide for what we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity. For both women looking to guide the men in their lives and men who want to do better and just don’t know how, For the Love of Men will lead the conversation on men’s issues in a society where so much is changing, but gender roles have remained strangely stagnant.

What are we going to do about men? Liz Plank has the answer. And it has the possibility to change the world for men and women alike.”

Probably not fair to critique a book solely based on its content pitch.   However, there are a multitude of so called facts or opinions that I find highly objectionable in the summary of the book.  To begin with the book’s author is a women. Not to say that a women should not be able to write about masculinity but it is problematic to assume that she is able to truly understand the inner life of a man. 

The opening phrase that “men grow up being told that boys don’t cry and dolls are for girls” is a cliché that does not reflect how most boys are currently being raised nor does it reflect how men – particularly media and sports stars – behave.  In previous blogs I have addressed this with greater depth and noted that this is often the language that female writers use to describe the message they assume that boys are getting from parents and the media but are hard pressed to come up with specific examples other than from the John Wayne era of rugged masculinity.

 Another statement by the author is based on the prevalence of toxic masculinity.  “What we’re all going to do about toxic masculinity” assumes that toxic masculinity is a major issue in our society.  Yes, there are a small minority of men who behave badly and use social media to debase women but for the most part the “Me Too” movement and the prosecution of high profile individuals has made men far more aware of behaviors that could be considered toxic.  In addition, the data on mass murders represents a small sample of men and has more to do with mental health than toxic masculinity.

The statement that “gender roles have remained strangely stagnant” demonstrates a lack of understanding of why gender roles are somewhat rigid.  Women, despite the gains made by the feminist movement and Title IX, tend to gravitate to pink jobs while men continue to seek blue jobs.  I believe this is more than cultural.  Female energy leads many women to seek jobs that are designed to help others and stress interpersonal relationships while male energy favors jobs that are physically demanding and technically oriented.  It is certainly true that women’s roles are probably somewhat less stagnant given the inroads women have made in medicine, law and research.  However, men are still avoiding teaching, nursing and social work despite the demand for these professions.  

Frankly, contrary to the book summary Liz does not have the answer.

Man Pourri – II


I have been on a quest to define what aspects of masculinity are worthy of pride that are not patriarchical or anti feminine.   A recent article referenced a politician who said that many men have lost their self-confidence and no longer represent “the traditional masculine virtues — things like courage, and independence and assertiveness.”  The irony is that the article was about Liz Cheney.  Again, the dilemma. If traditional masculine virtues can be attributed to a women are they no longer traditional masculine virtues?   What about the willingness to defy convention, and stand up to a crowd and refuse to go with the flow when faced with a core question of right vs. wrong.  Are men more likely to value the aforementioned virtues than women?  Can a man respond to the question, “Why are you proud to be a man?”  by walking the walk and living a life of courage, independence, assertiveness and standing up to a crowd?   Notwithstanding that there are women who take pride in the “traditional” masculine virtues. I believe that men hold these virtues as a more essential part of their male identity that they can be proud of.

Both Ways

After Florence Pugh, academy award nominated actress drew criticism for wearing a gown that clearly exposed her nipples in a Rome fashion event earlier this week, she took to Instagram to defend her bold style choice.

“What’s been interesting to watch and witness is just how easy it is for men to totally destroy a woman’s body, publicly, proudly, for everyone to see,” she continued. “It isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last time a woman will hear what’s wrong with her body by a crowd of strangers, what’s worrying is just how vulgar some of you men can be.”

Instead of taking responsibility for triggering an onslaught of controversy with her trashing norms by going to a public event essentially half naked she blames men.  According to her thinking the fact that she sexualized herself with this choice of a gown she is still appalled that some men responded to her in a sexual manner by commenting on breast size.  My message to Florence is that if you do not want to  be treated as a sex object do not so overtly draw attention to your almost bare breasts in a public media covered event. 


An opinion piece in my local newspaper, written by a man, highlighted that historically 98% of mass shootings in the US have been committed by men.  Using this factoid he then writes a diatribe indicting all American men.  ” What’s wrong with American men?  What is it in our culture, in the things we teach them, in the way we socialize them, that so often leaves boys and men with this grotesque sense of entitlement, this ability to decide that because they are having a bad day, because they got their feelings hurt, because life hasn’t gone as they wished, they have a right to whip out a gun and make innocent strangers pay?”

Yes, the mass shooters typically are young angry men who are socially isolated who have not been able to achieve even a modicum of success in their lives.  However, indicating that their motivation is based on some sort of culturally taught male entitlement is absurd.  The evidence indicates that these shooters were often boys who were loners, bullied and raised in a dysfunctional family environment.  They have fallen through the cracks of our inadequate mental health system and the lack of empathy for those who are in  need of  our help that are culture seems to reinforce especially for boys and men.  Don’t blame men for mass shootings.  The problem is far greater than gender.  A lack of compassion and willingness to devote resources to address mental health and well being is the issue we should be talking about for both men and women. 

Man Pourri

Incidental Masculinity

I came across the phrase “incidental masculinity” in a true story about the attraction to a man from a gay women.  She was breaking up with a girlfriend and simultaneously developing a platonic love for a man she met while performing in a college play.  What intrigued me was that despite her sexual attraction to women, there was something about male energy that was so appealing to her. The fact that the attraction wasn’t sexual is of interest.  His manliness fit a need that could not be fulfilled by a women.  In the story she did not elaborate on exactly what characteristics or traits of manliness that attracted her but my guess was his projection of quiet strength, confidence and emotional protection.  Score one for positive masculinity.

Fantasy Sports

The author of the article on the attraction of a fantasy sports league answered his own question,”Why was I there?  The straightforward answer is because my friends were, and I wanted to be with them. The actual draft was secondary to the event’s social function — an excuse to stay in touch, which has become increasingly difficult since I moved to the East Coast in 2012.” A survey quoted by the author found that 81% of fantasy participants were men in the peak of so called friendship collecting years – 18 to 34.  After 34 men become more attentive to work, family and consequently do not have the time and energy necessary to maintain friendships.

This is a process that many people experience and that a body of literature gives anecdotal and statistical credence to the notion that male friendships start to evaporate. “Men Have No Friends,” reads the headline of a 2019 Harper’s Bazaar article by Melanie Hamlett,  “Last year, the Survey Center on American Life found that the number of American adults with three or fewer close friends leaped from 27 percent in 1990 to 49 percent in 2021, with 15%of men having no close friendships at all, a fivefold increase since 1990.  In addition, men are significantly less likely than women to discuss personal matters with the friends they do have.  Frankly, there is no shortage of data to support the myriad of health risks sustained by loneliness. 

“Loneliness can kill you,” reads one especially bleak subhead on a 2020 article from the University of Miami Health System. A November Psychology Today article claims that loneliness can shorten your life, describing side effects that include cardiovascular disease and stroke — even suicide. “Loneliness is as much of a health risk for men as smoking or being overweight,” reads a 2021 article at UCLA Health, citing Psychiatry Research. It “increases cancer risk by 10 percent, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and other risk factors.”

Fantasy sports can be a partial antidote to increasing male friendships but there is a downside.  On one hand meeting with your league partners- especially if can happen face to face – does offer a satisfying sense of camaraderie but without intimacy.   Better than loneliness but insufficient to make up for the friendships of an earlier stage of life.  Unfortunately, if the particular league goes virtual there is no chance for intimacy and in fact the online occupation with the fantasy world could easily divert men from the time and energy to form close friendships.   A better and more sustainable road to friendships is joining an on-going men’s group.

Aspirational Masculinity

A new way of talking to boys about being boys is being promoted as aspirational masculinity.  The idea is that we need to talk to boys about their gender without focusing on the negative qualities that men have been associated with – toxic masculinity and the rigid man code. According to former professional football player Don McPherson — who is now a writer, activist, educator and the founder of the aspirational approach – is that previous efforts in communicating about masculinity to boys has failed.  A big reason for this failure is inadequate vocabulary. Parents and caregivers to girls can rely on the word “feminism” should they want to frame girlhood as both positive and dynamic. Calling one’s daughter a “feminist” allows for change and progress without limiting girls or criticizing femininity. With boys, there was no such term.  McPherson explains the concept as follows, “We need to stop only asking boys and men to make space for others and instead ask men to make new spaces for themselves that aren’t confined to the narrow definitions of masculinity.”  Sounds good but nowhere in the description of his program does he address the notion of pride in being a boy/man that doesn’t simply mean making boys more aware of feminine needs and characteristics.  The assumption seems to be that fighting against patriarchal behaviors will automatically make better men.   What about defining for boys the virtues of being a man in the light rather than simply being an apologist for men in the shadow.

Hegemonic Masculinity

The authors of new research on masculinity have previously found that the endorsement of “hegemonic masculinity” – an idealized form of masculinity – was associated with support for Donald Trump.

They wrote,  “In collaboration with my advisor, Dr. Theresa Vescio, we found that the endorsement of hegemonic masculinity, or the belief that men should be high in power/status, should be tough, and should be nothing like women, was related to support for Donald Trump in both the 2016 and 2020 U.S. Presidential elections.”

In addition, the participants who completed the Male Role Norms Scale and who scored high on this measure of hegemonic masculinity were more likely, in general, to vote for conservative candidates.   

I must confess that this is the first time I have come across the term “Hegemonic Masculinity.”  It seems that this descriptor is similar to “toxic masculinity and hyper masculinity” but it appears to be used exclusively with the Male Role Norms Scale (MRNS).  Another term used to validate the MRNS results is “TMI – traditional male ideology” which has been used in research articles that report an association of high scores with an adverse effect on a man’s mental health. 

I was obviously prompted to explore the MRNS items to see not only how I would score but to form my own opinion as to its validity in attempting to define masculinity.  The scale has several forms with the 21 item short form deemed most useful to mental health professionals.  Each item is to be scored from 1 – 7 with 7 meaning strong agreement.

I will share some items from the scale with my comments.

1. Success in his work has to be a man’s central goal in this life.

(Does the word work mean one’s overall purpose or occupation?  If I interpret work in the broader sense I would rate it a 7.  If strictly an occupation I might be a 4.  Could we substitute person instead of man and get the same response? If a stay at home mom saw child rearing has her work she would rate this as a 7.)

2. The best way for a young man to get the respect of other people is to get a job, take it seriously, and do it well.

( Why is doing your job, whatever it might be, seriously and with excellence a hegemonic notion?  Not taking you job seriously is a sign of weak character not non-masculine behavior.)

5. A man always deserves the respect of his wife and children.

(The ambiguity is how we interpret deserve.  If we are a good mother or father we always deserve respect.   If we are lousy parents then we don’t.  Again I do not see the link with hegemonic masculinity)

7. A man should never back down in the face of trouble.

( If one interprets back down as being physical it has an aggressive feel.  However, if back down means not dealing or not confronting trouble it is an entirely different interpretation and in my opinion equally unappealing for a man and for a women.)

13. Nobody respects a man very much who frequently talks about his worries, fears, and problems.

(Frequent whining and complaining is equally unattractive regardless of gender and has little to do with masculinity.)

I could analyze a bunch more of the questionnaire items with a similar conclusion that the items are skewed to favor a knee jerk response about masculine stereotypes.  The fact that there are higher scores among conservatives may simply mean that these men have a positive reaction to a more traditional belief system – the definition of a conservative  – rather than a true reflection of masculine behavior.

Gender Politics

I am dismayed but not surprised that masculinity has become so politicized.   On the right, Tucker Carlson and others have decried the “snowflake” man and found positive role models in authoritarian leaders and our former president’s tough talking approach.  A recent article in a local newspaper did a great job in illustrating how the theme of weakened masculinity has considerable historic precedence. 

“In the early years of the 20th century, Europe experienced something of a masculinity crisis. Popular writers….began to fret that many young Englishmen, Frenchmen and Germans had become soft after so many uninterrupted years of peace.  …..Margaret MacMillan traced the currents that coursed through European society in the years before the Great War.  Francis Coppee, a French nationalist, worried that “Frenchmen are degenerating…too absorbed in the race for enjoyment and luxury.  In Great Britain, General Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts in part because he feared the emasculation of England’s youth.”

Today we have Vladimir Putin attempting to showcase his masculinity by launching an invasion of a sovereign nation and China banning “effeminate men” from TV.  Is hyper masculinity the only response to the changes in women’s status?  Men and boys who have seen the rise in girl and women power often feel left behind.  However, calling out men as sissies and looking for ways for men to engage in  old school macho behaviors is not the way we can help boys and men meet the challenges of a gender equal world.  Pride in practicing the best of masculinity is what needs to be taught and reinforced.

I found some personally alarming statistics in a Sunday New York Times article about the new LGBT culture war.  Almost 21% of Generation Z identifies as LGBT compared to 3% of baby boomers.   Some would applaud this as a sign of acceptance of LGBT folks, and there is probably some truth to this.   However, with the rise in anxiety, depression and suicide among adolescents and young adults I wonder if gender confusion has contributed to this phenomenon.  Coping with so called gender fluidity and the myriad non-binary labels now in use is a frightening prospect for youth trying to establish an identity separate from their parents.  Parents choosing to have their children choose their gender and the practice of administering puberty delaying hormones represent the extreme in fostering gender confusion that is more based on social engineering than science.  As I articulated in an earlier blog, except for a very small number of truly intersex babies, boys are born with a penis and girls are born with a vagina and the hormones that produced these body parts.  A girl can be aggressive and enjoy playing in the mud without being labeled anything different than a girl.  Boys can hate sports and prefer creative arts and still be boys.   Why do we need more labels to add to the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood?  Again I am not talking about sexual orientation which is different from gender roles. 

Unfortunately, gender identification has also become politicized.   The left seems to be endorsing gender issues that are not supported by many otherwise liberal folks while the right is passing legislation in many states that can easily be interpreted as an attack on the LBGT community.  Let’s have a common sense dialogue without undue labeling and use science and history as guidelines for rational discussion and the formulation of public policy which promotes gender equality not gender neutrality.        

Will Smith – Real Man?

I wasn’t eager to discuss the Will Smith Chris Rock altercation because of all of the media attention it has received during a time when there are far more important issues facing us – Ukraine, Pandemic, inflation, etc.  In addition, there is a fine line between disapproval and understanding and any attempt to explain Smith’s behavior might be wrongly interpreted as an excuse.

Let me be clear, Smith’s behavior was wrong.  Resorting to violence as a response to anger is not the best of masculinity.  Furthermore, his behavior was public and disrupted an event that was of importance to many of the participants and to the audience at large.  Subsequently, after all of the negative press, Smith has apologized and has resigned from the Academy.  Further consequences are coming and there is speculation that the Will Smith brand has been seriously tarnished.

Got it.  He made a serious error in judgment.  But why?  I think there is a teachable moment about masculinity that can be explored.  Protection is an important component of masculinity and when expressed appropriately we admire men for this trait.  My sense is that Smith on a gut level experienced Rock’s comments as an attack on his wife.  There is a context for this since Rock has made negative comments about Jada Pinkett-Smith on previous occasions.  Some have written that she didn’t need his protection since she is an intelligent capable woman.  True, but that misses the point that a man will, on a visceral level, attempt to protect his wife no matter how capable she is.  In fact a recent poll quoted on a news show indicated that 56% of women felt that Rock was more wrong than Smith.

I do not believe that Chris Rock acted any better than Will Smith in the context of the best of masculinity.   He used his position of power as a presenter and a comedian to deliberately disrespect Jada with full knowledge that this was a sensitive subject for her and her husband.   He essentially baited Will to act.  Interestingly, Smith did not punch Rock but chose to slap him instead.  I find this a significant choice that expresses a sentiment beyond just blind violence.  Rock essentially challenged Smith’s manhood and Smith responded with a “bitch slap” – which the  Urban Dictionary defines as, “to open handedley slap someone.  Denotes disrespect for the person being bitch slapped as they are not worthy of a man sized punch.” There remains no question that Will Smith could have made a better choice.  If he confronted Chris Rock privately and let him know how he felt about he and his wife being disrespected that would have been the most rational choice.  However, we know that when anger boils up we often to not make rational choices.  This is especially true when a man’s protective instinct is challenged.  The fact that Smith slapped Rock instead of punching him demonstrates that on some level a choice was made to disrespect Rock not physically harm him.   Therefore, when all is said I choose to give Will somewhat of a pass and acknowledge that although flawed he acted like a real man.


Rather disturbing of late is the media attention to the so called incel world.  First let me offer how the  media is defining incel. An incel, an abbreviation of “involuntary celibate,” is a member of an online subculture of people who define themselves as unable to get a romantic or sexual partner despite desiring one. Discussions on incel forums are often characterized by resentment and hatred, misogynymisanthropy, self-pity and self-loathing, racism, a sense of entitlement to sex, and the endorsement of violence against women and sexually active people. The American Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described the subculture as “part of the online male supremacist ecosystem” that is included in their list of hate groups. Incels are mostly male and heterosexual, and are often white.  Estimates of the overall size of the subculture vary greatly, ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of individuals.

At least eight mass murders, resulting in a total of 61 deaths, have been committed since 2014 by men who have either self-identified as incels or who had mentioned incel-related tropes in their private writings or social media postings.

What occurs to me is to what degree incel thinking and behavior existed before the label incel and are we looking at something on the rise or just an existing phenomenon that has been enhanced by the internet?  Thinking about my coming of age sexually and the stories I have heard facilitating men’s groups many men have had non-violent incel periods in their lives.

I remember a time between 13 – 16 where I was desiring a girl friend and meeting little success.  I had a difficult time talking to girls and started feeling self conscious about my appearance. I was not alone with these feelings and except for a few of my peers most of us were terrified of rejection and therefore did not cross the room and ask a girl to dance at a social function.  If there were an internet I might have felt some affinity towards incel postings.  Often men going through divorce will voice dislike of women and feel that there is a gender conspiracy against men when dealing with the legal aspects of divorce. Subsequently,  even though they are desirous of a sexual relationship they avoid post divorce dating and could be labeled as having an incel moment in their lives. 

My point is that if we remove the strong hatred and desire to be violent aspects of being an incel,  many men will attest to having incel feelings at some point in their lives.  Frankly, given the sense that women are more open about their sexuality and more likely to reject previous norms about casual sex, I wonder if  the incel movement is really growing?   My take is that instead of focusing on incel as a phenomenon we should focus on the best ways to deal with violence against women and enhancing the importance of men’s work to assist men in gaining the self confidence to seek female companionship in a respectful and healthy manner. 

Albert, Willie, Vito & Rick

On the wall of my study, over my desk, I hung pictures of four men.  They were not acquired at the same time nor was there any significant forethought about their selection.  Yet, I have come to realize that collectively they convey to me the unique and disparate qualities of masculinity.  Somehow, subconsciously, I have chosen representations of the elements which constitute, for the most part, my gestalt of manliness in its most actualized forms.

          On the upper left, no particular thought went into their placement, is Albert Einstein.  The photograph is a head shot of the Einstein of later years with the unruly mane of white hair, the bushy mustache and the large doe eyes. Despite the fact that the name Einstein has become synonymous with genius to the point of cliché, I can not think of another man who so clearly embodies creative intelligence and rationality especially when mediated by a powerful dose of humanity.  The power of pure reason, with its reliance on empiricism for seeking truth, is an essential aspect of a man’s dedication to problem solving as a primary strategy in meeting the challenges of life.

          Next to Albert is Willie Mays in the follow through stage of an apparent home run swing.  The bat is held only in his powerful left hand while his head is raised, peering at the flight of the ball as it heads over the center field fence.  Willie’s greatness came before the mega-buck contract environment of today’s athletic world.  Unlike our current generation of “prima donna” sports figures, Willie played his game with an unparalleled exuberance while simultaneously realizing the full achievement of his enormous natural ability.  To me, Willie exemplifies a man’s pure and joyous expression of energy.  Willie perfectly symbolizes the unfettered yet directed physical force that is one of the core ingredients forming the male identity. 

          Under Willie is a fictional man.  Don Vito Corleone of  “Godfather” fame.  The photo shows Marlon Brando in a tuxedo holding a small cat which he is stroking.  There is a telling contrast between his right hand gently petting the animal and the hardness of his face.  Deep set eyes hidden in shadow peering unwaveringly.  The lips are slightly parted and the head is tilted to the left.  Overall, it is an expression of absolute resolve.  A countenance which communicates certainty of decision tempered with the wisdom of knowing that every choice has its consequences both positive and negative.  Unlike Hamlet, trapped in indecision because of his hyper-awareness of consequences, Don Corleone understood that one must act and then deal with the outcomes of that choice in order to assert control in the world.  He wielded his power with purpose and honor.  Not an honor which conforms to conventional morality, but rather one that adheres to a more primitive ethic that accepts the fundamental truth that some men are naturally more dominant than others.  Therefore, it is implicit that the ability to assert ones will over others carries a concomitant responsibility.  If they remain loyal, those who yield to the hierarchy will be protected.  Brute force is only utilized when other alternatives fail to achieve the desired goal.  Family always comes first and protection of its interests transcends political or other externally imposed values.  The character of Don Corleone, as constructed by Coppola and Brando, is my archetypal representation of a man’s assertion of power as he attempts to control his environment.

          To the right of Don Corleone is a photograph of a scene from he movie “Casablanca.” Rick and Ilsa are standing next to the piano while Sam is seated by the keyboard.  Rick is pouring drinks with his eyes focused on Ilsa.  Ilsa has her head down, seemingly unable to meet Rick’s eyes.  Rick, as portrayed by Bogart, is the consummate “man of the world.”  He is masterful, but not in the same way as Don Corleone.  Mastery is different than control and power, because it involves an amalgam of characteristics that is driven by the ability to make one’s way even when power is not in one’s grasp.  Rick is savvy, sensual, courageous and world wise with an underlying vulnerability that protects him from arrogance.  He navigates his way through life with the belief that he will find a way to get what he needs.  He is a realist and a survivor but still open to sentiment.  Not always honorable, sometimes cynical yet still possessing a strong personal sense of right or wrong.

          What have I concluded?  Manliness is a strong positive value for me that is measured by benchmarks which I have constructed from four real and fictitious images of men.  Reason, physicality, power and mastery tempered by wisdom, sensuality and vulnerability form the package.   I know there are unanswered questions.  Can women possess these qualities and to what degree?  How can we best encourage pride in masculinity that doees not impede gender equality. Important stuff for the next chapter.  For now, “Here’s looking at you kid.”

Toxic Masculinity

The label “Toxic Masculinity” has become a descriptor of men displaying masculinity which is perceived by some to be somehow harmful to women or fitting negative masculine stereotypes.   Of course there is some truth to the fact that toxic masculinity does exist.  In “incel” forums, for example, rather than working through the pain of being sexually rejected, men lash out at the women they feel they deserve — occasionally resulting in horrific violence. In a recent interview, the actor and activist Sean Penn is quoted, ” I don’t think that being a brute or having insensitivity or disrespect for women is anything to do with masculinity, or ever did. But I don’t think that [in order] to be fair to women, we should become them, he also said.” Unfortunately, Penn was not asked how he defines masculinity other than not being feminine.   Not real helpful in understanding when it is appropriate to classify an incident as toxic masculinity.

The problem of course is the attributions we place on labels.  Often this leads to over simplification which inhibits thoughtful discussion.  Even though our brains are hard wired to put our experiences into categories or boxes which helps us make sense of the chaos of our lives, the downside is that we over label and do not do enough to refine our boxes. 

As an example, a review of the movie “Power of the Dog” labeled non physical bullying behavior by a group of men as toxic masculinity.  Does this mean that verbal or social media bullying by women is toxic femininity?  Never heard of toxic being applied to a women’s behavior even though it is the same action exhibited by both genders.  Bullying is obnoxious and harmful but it has little to do with toxic masculinity.

Bad behavior – gratuitous violence, lack of empathy, insensitivity – is bad behavior.  Statistically, probably more men than women behave this way, but is not an attribute of masculinity.   Rather it is a minority of men who have distorted the archetypes of masculinity and have consequently earned the label Toxic Masculinity. 

Gender Confusion

It’s difficult to get an exact number but the media has highlighted numerous instances of parents allowing their children to choose their gender.   Being a long standing critic of the concept of gender neutrality while still strongly advocating gender equality I am appalled at the notion of gender choice.  Let’s get real.  Except for a very small percentage ( 0.02% to 0.05% ) of individuals who are born intersex most of us are born with a penis or a vagina.  By definition those with a penis and the hormones that created that organ are called male. Those with a vagina and the hormones that created that part of the anatomy are called female. That is not a choice or subject to parental decision making. The non-binary and the myriad of other politically correct identifiers for those with intact sex organs is meaningless.  You are born either a male or female and that doesn’t change unless you have participated in a surgical and hormonal sex change process.

I have no problem with a boy wanting to be a ballet dancer or a boy who wants to dress up a girl doll or a girl wanting to play in the mud and participate in contact sports.  They can still call themselves he or she.  Certainly there are social and cultural norms that effect how we express our genders.  Telling your son that not wearing a pink dress to school is not going to harm his self esteem as long as you simply explain that boys wear certain types of clothing in our society and that conforming to a dress standard does not inhibit his choices about interests and activities.  Conversely, if a girl prefers short hair and a flannel shirt she can still be a girl pursuing her interests without shame or redirection.   It is possible, and we are getting better, to expand gender roles without the confusing myriad of “woke” gender labels.   Let me be clear.  I am not talking about sexual orientation.  Being gay does not change the fact that you are a male or female.

I believe that the labels to describe one’s sexual identity are causing a great deal of stress especially for adolescents who are trying to come to terms with their sexuality.  In my opinion gender confusion is one of the many factors to explain the sharp increase in mental health issues among adolescents and young adults.  Parents, please understand that you are not going to do psychological damage to your children by maintaining the gender identity they were born with. Instead, give them the freedom to pursue their interests without adding the demands of confronting the non-restrictive social norms associated with gender.   I will repeat my mantra, you do not have to be gender neutral to be gender equal.