Friday, March 01, 2013

What Boys Hear Growing Up

(Note that this essay describes what boys hear.  I am not concerned with what is true.  Indeed, most of these societal proclamations are clearly unscriptural.)

You Are Thanklessly Disposable

Men are disposable and women are protected, even when a society no longer faces dangers large enough to possibly require repopulating after a catastrophe. Men are drafted, women are not. Men drown, women get lifeboats. Even young boys are expected to sacrifice themselves to protect a woman.

You are less likely to graduate high school, go to college, earn a degree, find a desirable and willing spouse, and die of old age. No one is working to fix these things, even though society was willing to radically change when women suffered them.

Very few people in a man's life care what he is going through: men who cry in public are ignored or shunned, whereas women are afforded support that men will never know.  The default male-male relationship is competitive (for resources or female attention) unlike how women give each other preferential treatment.

Violence against men is undervalued and not discussed.

You Are Thanklessly Servile

Masculinity is defined by how well men accommodate women. A man is a good husband if his wife is happy; a woman can be a good wife even if her husband is unhappy. In a family where both parents work, the husband is financially successful when he provides well for his family; the wife is financially successful merely by seeming strong and independent. When both spouses work at fixing a troubled marriage, society expects the wife to give the husband a grade of pass or fail.

Men are expected to serve women unconditionally and without expecting reciprocity. Women are excused from serving men they do not respect, and are not even required to express thanks for male service. A husband is expected to demonstrate respect and servility whether or not his wife has earned it ("Yes, dear"); a wife is excused from serving her husband if he has not earned her respect.

Boys are taught to sacrifice any career or lifestyle ambitions that would not lead to supporting a woman. Single men are encouraged to "settle" for a spouse; single women are fed fantasies about finding Mister Right. Single men in their thirties are discouraged (by women their age and older) from marrying women ten years younger despite some obvious advantages for both spouses. Single men over forty are expected to risk much by marrying women their age; single women over forty are allowed to ignore it when they bring nothing to the legal marriage contract and risk nothing.

Men are taught that women inherently deserve respect, compliments, aid, provision, and protection—even women who can provide for themselves, protect themselves and/or have proven themselves unrespectable. Men do not inherent deserve any of these things.

Your boyhood natural learning style that included moving, touching things, and sometimes being loud while learning is an inconvenience your female teachers do not understand or empathize with; it annoys them and so it will be suppressed.  There is almost no research about how to make the classroom more appropriate for you.  In contrast, feminine learning styles such as collaboration, essay questions, and prioritizing interpretation over facts are well-researched and increasingly prevalent at every grade level.

Girls get priority.  They get served food first.  They get seated first.  They sometimes get to go first in line.  When you take turns playing with a toy, your turn is shortened more by a girl's impatience than the impatience of another boy.  When you are smart you may not enjoy using your learning competitively or take pride in your knowledge because that threatens girls: your teachers train you to hide your knowledge when it might hurt a girl's self-esteem.

A "Men’s Project" is something done by yourself and never fun, such as changing a tire. A "Women’s Project" is something fun to do in a room full of people, such as making jam.

A woman's expectations about a future spouse are more esteemed: a man is less masculine for complaining that has difficulty finding a "Quality Woman", but a woman is justified when she bemoans there are no "Real Men" anymore.

You Are Thanklessly Accountable

Men are accountable for their own choices and those of women around them; women can often avoid responsibility even for their own choices. If a career man and housewife have spoiled children this reflects on him, but if a career man and housewife are not earning enough money this does not reflect on her. If a man overcommits he should have known better and is blamed for each failure; if a woman overcommits she is excused as still learning to multitask well and as being too empathetic to wisely say "no" to more requests for her time and and energy.

Uniquely masculine efforts are not appreciated by society and thus cannot be empathically appreciated by women. Men are simply expected to control their tempers, be faithful to a spouse, at work emphasize teamwork and process instead of the goal, etc. Men must apologize for their male desires. Yet uniquely feminine efforts are praised by society, and female desires are praised ("you go, girl!") or excused ("women get to change their mind", "women are mysterious", "women are like that").

Men are inescapably under the motto "produce more than you personally need or perish". Women can escape that burden by having a child, whether or not they love or properly care for the child.

Your entire life the people you care most about pleasing (women) teach you a lie about what they want (being comforting is your only goal, even though being comforting stunts and hides the playfully aggressive self-confidence that both genders find attractive): when you obey their teachings they lose respect for you, shun you, give themselves to people other than you, withhold from you, and divorce you.

You Are Immoral

Feminine virtues (being softly nurturing, empathically compassionate, sweetly considerate, etc.) are extolled. Masculine virtues (stoic independence, aggressive self-confidence, rugged individualism, heroic risk taking, rational problem-solving, focused pursuit of goals, curiosity leading to innovation, thirst for knowledge, insatiable need to create things, attractive physical strength, ambition harmonizing with contentedness with what you have, etc.) are watered down sufficiently for average women to qualify and reframed as gender-neutral virtues. Masculinity is maligned as chauvinism. Suggesting that men may be more naturally capable at some virtues is offensive, even with obviously true examples such as innovation without personal application. 

Men are not shown leniency for masculine vices the way women are shown leniency for feminine vices. Pretending to enjoy masculine vices is seen as immoral (playing violent sports and video games, dreaming up immense building projects, mentioning lustful desires while people-watching women). Men are even shamed for having the mere capacity to display masculine vices.

All-male spaces are now allowed; all-women spaces are valued as needed refuges. Old Boy’s Clubs are justly seen as sexist because they are so liable to view feminine behavior as "rocking the boat" even though the same is true for the much more numerous Old Girl’s Clubs.

Male leadership is inherently suspect, if not evil.

Women are "the fair sex", "your better half", "more spiritual", and sometimes even "innately good". Men are the opposite.

Male sexuality is dangerous and evil.  Young men are never encouraged to explore their sexuality; young women are.  While dating even mild physical intimacy with a girl is taking advantage of her.  Husbands who enjoy sex more than their wives for purely biological reasons are still doing something wrong.

Male successes are unfairly won, so their property should be redistributed.  Male innate immorality hinders a masculine man's betters (women and feminine men) from building a better society.

What You Produce Is Not Yours

Your money is not yours. Alimony was once a sensible solution to repay a divorced woman for giving her most energetic and physically attractive years to her husband and family, but it now applies to women who marry older.

Your marriage is not yours. It is still properly viewed as legitimate grounds for divorce if a married man has a purely physical affair with a prostitute he never sees again even when this has no impact on his children or wife; yet it is becoming socially acceptable for a married woman who finds a more attractive man to have an purely emotional affair, divorce, and after remarrying include physical intimacy.

Your children are not yours.  Whether children you conceive will be born is only the mother's choice.  Whether you get to see any children you have is only the mother's choice.  Yet you must be prepared to financially support all children you conceive even accidentally.  If you have children while married and then divorce, your wife will get the children. If she cuckolds you then you will probably pay for those kids either while married or after divorce through child support. Any enemy can file a false claim of witnessing abuse and have your children removed at least temporarily.

Your creations are not yours. We are taught that society was created by everyone, but how many things in your home were not either invented or built by a man?

Your career is not yours. Any woman can use a claim of sexual harassment to destroy your job.

Your years are not yours. Any woman can use a false claim of rape to put you in jail.

I write the above because I am raising two boys.  I am responsible for teaching my boys how to deal with the burden of What Boys Hear Growing Up.

If you are the parent of a boy you are also responsible for teaching your boy how to manage this oppression.  (Oppression, you ask?  Yes, even though it is apples and oranges compared to discrimination.)

I have faced discrimination as the token white person teaching in an inner-city elementary school, the token male teaching at a preschool, and as a Jew expelled from the Jewish community for believing what Yeshua claimed about himself.  In discriminatory situations the pain is lessened fourfold: (1) the problems are caused by individuals, so the victim knows with whom he or she was dealing; (2) the discrimination comes as a series of actions so the victim can see what to respond to; (3) the victim knows peers like himself or herself who provide understanding, encouragement, and advice as the victim struggles with the troubles and develops self-identity and self-confidence; (4) the victim has memories of how overcoming prior discrimination helped him or her grow, which provides a trust that overcoming the current problem will also make him or her stronger.

The oppression of What Boys Hear Growing Up has a very different flavor.  There was no one person who puts this psychological burden on boys.  It did not appear suddenly as individual actions than can bravely fought and with overcoming cause growth and strength. Instead, it is a weight of things claimed to be wrong with you that no one (even boys or men) understands or offers help managing.

I am sure a mother could compose an equivalent essay about What Girls Hear Growing Up.  I would love to read that.

How do we help our boys deal with What Boys Hear Growing Up?  I can think of four helps.

First, discipleship.  If we are disciples of Yeshua and learn to see the world as he does then we will have proper understandings of ourselves and other people. If boys learn to live as Yeshua did, they will develop the proper and timeless masculine-appropriate behaviors. Having Yeshua's worldview nullifies the psychological burden of What Boys Hear Growing Up.

Second, training in social skills.  Scripture does not teach the social skills specific to a day or culture and we often have trouble learning these from the Holy Spirit. So attentiveness to them helps.  Parents should teach their sons how to be have enough aggressive self-confidence to be attractive without being pushy or rude, how to be focused on a goal while leading proper teamwork among group members, etc.

Third, exposure to appropriate masculine role models for their age.

Fourth, the kind of cooperative development and responsible wielding of aggressive self-confidence learned at places of mild ritual violence: the martial arts dojo, the military academy, the physically demanding team sport.  There they learn about many dynamics of all-male groups: group members being aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses, leadership based on merit, recognition fairly awarded to all group members, repeatedly overcoming obstacles for personal growth, etc.

UPDATE: On a somewhat related note, I came across an interesting study in which researches discovered the prevalence of single women in management created a hiring bias favoring attractive men and women whose appearance is unknown during hiring, and a bias against unattractive men and attractive women.  At least according to that study (which, atypically, involved real job applications instead of simulations, and did not focus on academia) the crux was not gender of job applicant but whether the woman doing the hiring saw the job applicant as a potential spouse or as competition.


Anonymous said...

Excellent work David

Kristian said...

Thank you very much. Well written.

Have read this a number of times. Am continously trying to come up with answers for my son as he is growing up.

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I think it is wonderful to hear this perspective. I think our society is slowly evolving socially and breaking away from our conditioned gender roles. This is unsettling to men and women because the men are embracing their divine "feminine" and the women are embracing their divine "masculine" in the process. Which unfortunately goes against a lot of social norms.

But these changes would make for more balanced relationships.

Props to you for bringing this to my attention as well as others.