I think most of you who follow this site are aware that I wrote an article for the blog of a religious, women’s journal called, Segullah, which was subsequently picked up by a larger website called, LDSLiving. There were a variety of comments on the article itself as well as all over social media. Some were complimentary and some made it clear how much work still needs to be done. My favorite comment, though, actually came from my childhood dentist.
Books like Men on Strike, Manning Up, Save the Males, Manliness, The Trouble with Boys, to name a few, indicate there is a deep cultural undermining of boys. A great maternal relationship appears to be key, but also a great paternal relationship. As a society I doubt there can be much improvement, but individually there certainly can.
I absolutely agree we can all improve our individual abilities to support the boys and men in our lives. Clearly I think about this all the time. But after I read my dentist’s comment, I sat back and wondered to myself, “Is he right? Is it even possible for society to improve? Is this a fruitless mission I’ve begun?”
I’ve decided the answer is change starts within individuals, but individuals inspire societal change all the time. We’ve made huge progress in how we think about women. I read this the other day in a book called, “Suffer and Be Still: Women of the Victorian Age:”
Although the duration of the menstrual period differs greatly…it will be within the mark to state that women are unwell from this cause, on the average of two days in the month, or say one month in the year. At such times, women are unfit for any great mental or physical labour. They suffer under a languor and depression which disqualify them for thought or action, and render it extremely doubtful how far they can be considered responsible beings while the crisis lasts…In intellectual labour, man has surpassed, does now, and always will surpass woman, for the obvious reason that nature does not periodically interrupt his thought and application.
When the doctor who said this was speaking, no one jumped up and contradicted him. The book reported no outrage from the audience. Perhaps because the belief that men will always intellectually surpass women was, more or less, the prevailing notion in the 1800s. The idea is laughable now because society has changed.
Is it realistic to believe we can move the needle with men too? Can we improve the deep, cultural undermining of our boys? OF COURSE!
But no one can do it alone. I can’t. The authors of the books my dentist mentioned can’t. In order for an entire culture to change, an idea must reach critical mass. With the help of the internet, I am optimistic that it won’t take 200 years to move the needle in how we think about the emotional lives of boys, but it might.
So I’m asking you to help me. Start talking about this. Like or share anything you see that resonates with you. Have courage. There will be people who disagree, but that’s the nature of change. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Boys need us to recognize their emotional needs. Girls need us to recognize the emotional needs of boys (See HERE and HERE if you’re not sure why). Recognizing and supporting the emotional experiences of boys will benefit everyone.
Let’s get to work!