Sunday, August 4, 2013

Masculinity: A State Of Confusion. Raising A Boy In Today's World

I've blogged about issues surrounding my daughter, but I think it's fair to say that boys also have to face a lot of gender issues. My husband recently shared the following blog post with me:

What happened when my son wore a pink headband to WalMart

M. sporting his pink lei

I can relate to the horror this mother feels. We live in Indiana.  A state not known for it's tolerance and enlightened view points. My son (age 11)  loves purple and pink. He often asks for shirts and jackets in those colors. His favorite shoes are purple. He constantly has to defend his choices to some of his "friends" that live in our neighborhood. It makes me sick to think something as trivial as a colored shirt can make him a target of bullies.

I honestly don't understand. Boy's today seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Some in the media with more conservative, "traditional" leanings have started beating the drum against the loss of masculinity in our youth. They decry our culture is emasculating and feminizing our boys.  On the other side of the spectrum they sport the mantra that masculinity is a bad thing and to be masculine means you're a misogynist and hate women.

Picture via gingerpig2000

But my question is: Why must we stick to these preconceived notions of what it means to be feminine or masculine?

Truthfully, I don't think masculinity is the issue here.  It's the Boys Will Be Boys mentality that has been the norm for centuries, or as the American Prospect terms it  toxic masculinity:
It’s a masculinity that defines itself not only in opposition to female-ness, but as inherently superior, drawing its strength from dominance over women’s “weakness,” and creating men who are happy to deliberately undermine women’s power; it is only in opposition to female vulnerability that it can be strong. Or, as former NFL quarterback and newly-minted feminist Don McPherson recently put it, "We don't raise boys to be men. We raise them not to be women, or gay men." This starts in childhood for many boys, who are taught young that they’ll be punished for doing anything “girly,” from playing with dolls to crying, or even preferring to read over “rough housing” outside.

I'm not an expert. I'm just a mom. My children will likely grow up and have their own issues (don't we all...) Still, I say let's raise our children to be happy, to love themselves, and not be ashamed of what they like or how they play.  We need to stop trying to fit them into a societal mold, and simply make sure they have the skills they need to be stable, and dare I say it...happy adults.


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