PaulC wrote, in part, in response to this post:
"This is a well written article but it misses the mark when it comes to the greater societal problem of boys and men. Where is the societal conversation about what it means to be a man?"
My first response was a defensive one, along the lines of Rita Mae Brown's "If you don't like my book, write your own" — in other words, don't accuse me of missing the mark just because I didn't write about what you wanted — write it yourself!
On a deeper level, I was annoyed by the reminder that men's problems are so much more important than women's, even in a post about violence against women, on a blog targeted toward women.
Fortunately, I got a grip before firing off a response, because he has a good point.
I got this gig in part because of my essay "The Velvet Underground" in Andrea Buchanan's It's a Boy. The essay described my father's efforts to beat my brother's softer, artistic tendencies out of him, and my own subsequent struggles to help my son embrace his own "anima" against the backdrop of a culture that punishes boys who don't conform to the standard definition of manliness.
PaulC is right, the pressure on boys to quash their sensitivity is enormous, and heartbreaking. It is another example of how patriarchy hurts us all.
But I think expecting women to take all of this on is, in some ways, another expression of male entitlement. I did my best to raise a kind, compassionate, respectful son. I fought stereotypes on his behalf, at school, on sport teams, and in my extended family. I worked to nurture his musical abilities and resisted pressure to force him to abandon this "frill" in favor of more serious studies when he struggled academically. And he has emerged an amazing, thoughtful, sensitive person who has friends of all ages and genders.
Now it is on him, and on PaulC, and all the other men who have experienced and resisted the crush of patriarchy to keep the struggle going. I am an enthusiastic ally, and will be thrilled to support your efforts as I continue to write about my own specialty, women's issues. I know you are up to the job.
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