A recent quote from a female journalist, “Today’s boys are being raised in the middle of the biggest redefinition of male gender roles in recent history. ” She continued, “Should I (a boy) be kind and sensitive or distant and aloof when trying to win a partner over?” When I started to read the quote I was pleased to see the acknowledgement that boys are being raised in the middle of the biggest redefinition of male gender roles. However, after reading the second part I started to laugh. The dilemma of whether women prefer the nice guy to the bad boy has been grappled with men of all ages for decades. Nice guys who respected women and were good listeners were often bewildered when a women they were courting told them they were great friends but then sought romance from the charming scoundrel. Some women seem to outgrow their attraction to the so called “bad boy” after being burned and then look for the nice guy who has been waiting patiently in the wings.
The additional dilemma for today’s boys is far more confusing than the nice guy vs. the bad boy scenario. The role models that help shape gender identity for boys has become extremely disparate. About 40% of boys are being raised in homes without a father limiting their ability to experience male role models on a daily basis. LGBTQ advocates have garnered considerable publicity for gender non-conformity as a socially acceptable lifestyle. On the other extreme social media has provided forums for men on the toxic masculinity spectrum who advocate patriarchy and a mythological man code. In addition, there are parents who are pushing gender neutrality to the point of not identifying the gender of their child in order to allow the child to pick a gender. No wonder boys are increasing confused about their masculinity.
Educators and parents need to pay more attention to the struggle that boys are facing. As I have blogged on numerous occasions, boys and young men are falling behind girls and young women in every measure of emotional, vocational and academic achievement. Schools should provide curriculum and instruction for boys on the societal value of the best of masculinity while altering teaching methods that are more suited to male energy. Some years ago, with sponsorship from my men’s group, I was able to conduct workshops with teachers on how they can better tailor their teaching styles for boys. They were well received.
It appears that the “metoo” movement and the focus on diversity, albeit important, have put the issues of losing our boys to the back burner. Can we really afford to neglect 50% of our population. We are capable of advancing both agendas.