Mom of two sons, Elissa Strauss, wrote this in an op ed to CNN: Since my sons were born, I've tried to speak openly about gender. I've taught both of them, now ages 5 and 9, how to spot the ways the world holds girls and women back. I've also taught them about gender norms in toys and clothes, and why it is OK for both boys and girls to break them. I thought I was being proactive in my approach until recently—when I realized there was a large, hiding-in-plain-sight, missing piece in everything we discussed. We never once spoke directly about masculinity or dug into what it means to be a boy or a man…
… The problem is my boys and their friends are lovely, sweet and not at all toxic.Why would I start a conversation with my boys about "boyness" on such a critical note? Doing so might result in silencing or shaming my sons for behaviors or traits they don't have.
Elissa is not alone in trying to find the storyline for her boys. With masculinity increasingly stereotyped as toxic, harmful, dangerous, and even unnecessary, it’s no wonder moms, dads, educators, religious leaders, and the media have a hard time coming up with a positive storyline or vision for our boys.
Add on top of that the known—but unseen—challenges our boys face in the 2 Century:
· Since 1982 boys have fallen behind girls in every level of education from pre-school through graduate school.
· On average, boys receive 70% of the D’s andF’s and only 40% of the A’s.
· For every 100 girls suspended from elementary and secondary school, 250 boys are expelled.
· For every 100 girls expelled from school, 355boys are expelled.
· 85% of stimulant-addressing meds in the world are prescribed to US boys.
A headline on NBC News asks this question: Boys need better access to mental health care. Why aren’t they getting it?
If you were to ask the average person, what is a good man?or what does it mean to be a man? or what is the purpose of a man? you’d likely get several deer-in-the-headlights looks.
But as Elissa says in her op ed, and parents and grandparents and educators and coaches and therapists all around the world know: Boys are awesome!
But for our boys to grow into awesome men our society needs to reclaim the important role men play in our society: a vision of men, joining with women and all those on the gender spectrum, in building a better, healthier world. Testosterone, the primary hormone of men, is a get-it-done, let’s-build-this-better, let’s-fix-it, gift that men can offer the world.
Quest stories offer us a tool to inspire our boys to be good men. From Harry Potter to Percy Jackson to Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee to my new character, Toby Baxter, theseQuest stories hold up models of what character, service, compassion, confidence, and love look like.
We would do well as adults to read or re-read these wonder-filled boy stories, and to read them with our sons and our daughters.