Does Telling A Boy to Be a Real Man Destine Him for Prison? A Rant

I try hard, at least I think I do, to stick to the facts about what’s happening in the lives of our boys and to inspire people to fight for them, as we are doing for our girls.  But for a blog or two…I’m going to rant.  It’s my blog and I can rant if I want to…

I recently wrote a column for the Community Section of the Arizona Republic entitled: What AboutEquality for our Boys?  

I received some very nice, even compelling, words of thanks from men and women who have personally experienced the challenges boys face in the 21st Century…and our collective lack of attention to the boy crisis.

I was, however, expecting another response…a response that would lightly agree that we have a boy crisis and then diss the whole boy crisis by saying that our girls are really the ones in trouble.

(By the way, my point is not that we don’t have work to do for our girls—I have two granddaughters I’m fighting for—but that lots of attention is being given to them, along with a lot of good work.  There is little national/collective work being done on the issue of boys.  But there are some who fear that any attention to boys robs our girls.)

I got my response.  The following week this was the title of the column: What About Equality for our Boys and Girls?  The author, a mom of three girls, lightly suggests we need to care about boys but then twists my words to suggest that the real issue is the struggles our girls face in life.  Unfortunately I can’t find the article on line but here are two of the many head scratchers from the column (with more in a follow up post):

Pastor Wright correctly states there are more men in prison than women.  Men commit violent crimes trying to be “real men” and to “man up.”  This is what we teach boys.  Violence is how they prove their masculinity.  Boys are more likely to be victims of violence (as I said in my article…boys are twice as likely as girls to be victims of violence…), but it’s from other men…

Men are taught to betray their values of what it means to be “good,” in order to prove they are “masculine.”

She later says we need to fight to free our girls and our boys from restricting stereotypes…

Like the stereotype about how trying to be a real man or to man up means a man is violent?

1) Does calling a boy to be a real man or to man up automatically set him up for a life of violence and prison?

Or are there other reasons—Like, for example:

Over 85% of the men in prison come from fatherless homes.  Could it be that one result of the father wound is a tendency to act out violently?  Or that the lack of a good male role model might rob a boy of what it means to be a real man who then tries to hide his insecurities as a man behind violence?  (Not all fatherless boys become violent, but the percentage is far higher!)

How about the role of poverty?

Or the fact that boys, because they are increasingly falling behind girls in every level of education from pre-school to grad-school, are undereducated, underskilled, and therefore frustrated because they can’t find work?  Or the fact that the top 17-18 growing job fields skew more to the way a woman’s brain is wired (verbal/emotive)—leading, again, to a lack of meaningful work, which leads to frustration?

These are not in any way meant to be excuses for violent men, but real solid explanations rather than the general statement that trying to be a real man leads to violence.  That’s nonsense. 

Calling a boy to be a real man is a call to nobility, honor, goodness, productivity, heroism, love, and grace.  It is the exact opposite of a violent man.

To buy into the big stereotype that masculinity is inherently violent is destructive to our boys and girls.  But, as the author’s column suggests, many buy into that stereotype and the underlying cure: make boys more like girls.

2) Does the fact that the violence done to boys is at the hands of men lessen the fact that boys are twice as likely as girls to be victims of violence?  That that makes it ok?  That that somehow downplays their pain and makes the violence done to girls even worse?

To quote her: One third of women will experience violence from a male partner.  Men are the overwhelming perpetrators of damaging violence toward others.  This is terrible but it is not the fault of girls (is anyone anywhere saying that it is?). 

Any violence done to any child by a man (or woman, for that matter) is wrong, sickening, and depraved.  It is not done by a man who is trying to man up or be a real man, but by a male pretender—one who is violent for a whole host of reasons, some of them just mentioned.  And again, there is no excuse for it!

Boys need our help.  To suggest so is based on all kinds of evidence, including a 2015 World Health Organization finding that men and boys all around the world are falling behind girls and women.   The call to help our boys is not a call to patriarchy or male privilege.  It is not a call to put girls in their place or to blame girls.  It is the call to fight for our boys the way we have been and are fighting for our girls!

For the life of me I can’t understand why that’s such a difficult concept to get our brains around.

But wait…I’m not done…more to come!