The news cycle is dominated by stories of bad behavior by men. The “Me -Too” movement has exposed countless examples of sexual abuse and harassment by men especially by men in powerful positions. It has galvanized women to become more involved in politics and to add new energy to gender equality issues – equal pay, paid maternity leave, etc.. The call to finally put an end to male supremacy in all walks of life is again at the forefront of the feminist agenda. Nothing mentioned should be opposed by thoughtful men who respect the best of their masculinity However, there seems to be unintended consequences.. According to the LA Times, only about half of all boys expect to work in well-paid professional jobs when they grow up, compared to nearly three quarters of girls. In other words, we’re somehow teaching young boys that either learning is ‘girl’s stuff’, or that there’s no point in being aspirational.
There appears to be an enormous disconnect between the beliefs and behavior of adult men – the patriarchy – with the beliefs of boys. Yes, a small percentage of men have looked to the retrograde “manosphere” to reinforce their attitudes about male supremacy. On the other hand, the vast majority of adult men, without feeling overly defensive about their masculinity, have rallied to support gender equality and championed the end of sexual abuse not only in the workplace but in all aspects of society. But what about our boys? Does the data reported in the LA Times suggest that many boys have simply given up and see manhood as being subjugated by matriarchy? What will the result be if boys have given up? One could easily make the argument that the school shooters are non-aspirational lost boys who have channeled their powerlessness into pointless violent acts. If we ignore our lost boys we not only increase the risk of violent acts but lose the potential that these boys can contribute to our society. Educators and parents need to make sure that we are not losing our boys and find ways to help them take pride in their gender that is not based on the diminishment of women.
Hopefully we can expand the conversation about male dominance and gender equality to include the impact on those men young and old who are struggling to recalibrate their attitudes about their masculinity. Girls are rightfully being given the message that they can achieve their fullest potential without fear of sexual abuse and gender discrimination. What message are we giving our boys?