Three stories in the media highlight some of the struggles facing the male gender. One story talked about teenage male apathy. The authors reported that a good number of teenage boys were adopting stereotypical and somewhat toxic beliefs while the remainder, for the most part, were displaying apathy about their futures and life in general. Neither bodes well for growing into men who navigate life in the best of masculinity. Young men as they mature desperately need guidance in their forming a definition of themselves as men. My suggestion in response is to teach boys about the best of masculinity and how they can be manly while respecting female autonomy. A curriculum can be developed that should be taught at least in middle school and in high school that speaks to being a man in the positive aspects of masculinity. I piloted a course based on the archetypes of masculinity with troubled teenage boys in foster care and the concepts of being a man in the light clearly resonated with them.
Another recent headline, “Top 16 Reasons Why Older Men Don’t Feel The Need to Socialize As Much As When They Were Younger,” for a story indicating the loss of friendship and socialization among men as they age. The authors highlighted data from a survey that showed a marked decrease in men reporting close friendships over time. The reasons articulated by survey participants was that the demands of work and family left little time for socializing with friends. My guess is this is particularly true for younger men who are more likely to participate in the nit and gritty of everyday parenting than their fathers who might have felt more comfortable going out for a beer after work because their wives took on the brunt of childcare. The consequences for men is loneliness and the inability to participate in the unique camaraderie of men sharing their journeys with other men. Men who participate in men’s groups find this a way to connect with other men to build new friendships and receive support and advice from a male perspective. Female partners of men who participate in these groups often comment that the time their men spent in groups was worth it because of the benefits to their relationship and family life.
The last story is particularly disheartening because it speaks to the worst of male behavior and feeds the stereotypes of toxic masculinity. The videos of the brawl at a boat dock in Montgomery Alabama went viral and clearly revealed men attempting to seek power by defying several legitimate requests to move their pontoon boat a few feet forward to allow a large tourist boat to dock at its reserved dock space. When a dock worker attempted to move their boat so that the tourist trip passengers could disembark he was attacked by the guys on the pontoon boat. My assumption is that the brawlers were probably uninhibited by excessive alcohol consumption. Drunkenness seems to fuel a distorted image of boldness leading to defying legitimate authority coupled with physical aggression. The best of masculinity is rarely displayed when men are drunk. The self-control that helps a man seek out the best way to solve a problem, and in this case acknowledge a mistake, and behave with dignity, goes out the window with heavy drinking. The possible silver lining of the video going viral is that men can decry the worst of masculinity and resolve to behave differently.
The message that links these three stories together is that men are in trouble and they face real challenges in their defining their masculinity.