Thursday, October 3, 2019

Boys: Afraid to talk masculinity

Growing up in Cleveland, I don't ever remember talking about masculinity. Heck, I hardly remember talking about it at all until the last few years, and this a crucial subject that needs more attention. At least, that's what I see with boys in the classroom.

Lewis Howes' 2017 book The Mask of Masculinity breaks down the most popular roles that men mimic in a response to their gender. Some popular masks are the Aggressor Mask, the Athlete Mask, the Joker Mask and the Know-it-All Mask. I read this book earlier this year and already wrote about it here, so feel to check out a more in depth review.

My cause is to help our boys, but it is not easy to do that because what I'm talking about is a cultural shift. I have two daughters, ages 14 and 12, and I believe that they are much more mature emotionally than boys of their age. My fear is that the boys will never catch up. If my daughters choose to marry (and they certainly don't have to do that), they will be looking at a pool of immature boys.
So I have written my own book Advice to My Future Son-in-Law: Understanding Men and Improving Relationships in the 21st Century. Masculinity, and boys' understanding of it, is part of the equation. Are boys being genuinely who they are, or are they subscribing to the toxic expectations of society?

The connection that I make to men's problems is not difficult to see, but rarely approached the way I'm doin git. At about the age of 8 or so, boys frequently are told to "not cry and be a man." This stifles a child's emotional health. The child then succumbs to that mantra and is stunted emotionally.

By the time the boy becomes a dating age, many of his "interactions" come from online sources (yes, hint), and he can have major difficulties dealing with actual human beings. It is a difficult recipe that hurts men and their relationships, but I want to keep hope alive.

I believe there is hope if we, first, understand the culture and not feed into it. We also should embrace conversations on masculinity and get this on the radar of our boys. If human skills will indeed be a premium in the marketplace and life in the future, this conversation is crucial.

Our frequent simplistic views on masculinity need to improve, and I commend Howes for getting The Mask of Masculinity into the world.

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