I have four children: two boys and two girls. My eldest most recently started recognizing the imbalances in how the media considers boys and girls. She asked me why so many magazines and news articles focus on "raising boys right," while girls seem to get a free pass and are celebrated no matter what they do.
My daughter’s question led to a very important discussion that needs to be openly addressed in our society.
Media Bias against Boys
Any online search will display the gender bias being pushed in the media. It’s in TV shows, movies, and even songs. Endless articles are published about raising confident happy girls. This is a great goal for any parent, but, unfortunately, most articles published about raising boys center on “how to handle” them, combating “toxic masculinity,” or “raising boys right.”
This creates a wide divide between the sexes during a time when “gender equality” is supposedly a high priority. When girls are taught to love themselves, be more commanding, and find success it’s empowering, but these qualities are being lost on young boys everywhere as they are constantly villainized, mislabeled, or completely forgotten.
Psychologist Mark Sherman Ph.D. wrote about the complexity of an obsession with re-educating boys to leave behind their masculinity while encouraging girls to behave more like boys. He wrote, “The problem for boys and men whose masculinity is being subject to attack is that many studies have shown that both women and men who scored higher on the masculinity (than the femininity) scale were more likely to have higher self-esteem (which often correlates with success).”
Masculinity is linked to higher self-esteem. If this is a result of the “patriarchy,” then why do women benefit from it as well when they display more masculine traits?
Men who are raised to embrace their masculinity grow up more confident.
Either everyone, women included, is sexist against women. Or maybe, part of femininity and womanhood is being somewhat self-conscious. Women are more social, and therefore, more apt to care what others think. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
Men who are raised to embrace their masculinity grow up more confident because aggressiveness is a masculine trait that leads men to not care as much about what others think. But when boys’ masculinity is constantly threatened or villainized, instead of becoming more caring and docile, they’re more likely to lash out and become violent. Lauren Vinopal recently noted on Fatherly.com that “The only consistent truth about masculinity has been this: Men have always feared having it taken away.”
So what happens when a male has their masculine nature repeatedly attacked or punished?
Young men become more violent and extreme. This is the specific demographic that societies are most concerned about. Basically, by constantly focusing on these boys’ masculinity and controlling it, we’re creating a bigger issue that pushes young men to embrace the “toxic” elements of masculinity instead of those which are helpful for everyone.
In areas of Europe with the highest rates of “gender equality” domestic violence is also significantly higher. Boys are just as self-conscious as girls when they’re young, if not more so, and how we treat them and their masculinity determines how they will develop their masculine habits in adulthood.
The “Gender Paradox”
Dr. Jordan B. Peterson details the issue of “gender equality” programs and why they don’t offer the returns that many people would expect. On his website, he noted that “The more egalitarian and wealthier the country, the larger the differences between men and women in temperament and in interest.”
Most equality movements preach that we’re the same but hold men to a completely different standard.
This is where identity politics fall apart. By forcing through ideals that men and women are the same and not focusing programs to nurture our differences equally, males and females grow even further apart. At the same time, most equality movements preach that we’re the same but hold men and boys to a completely different standard than women.
The hypocrisy is almost as bad as the irony of it all.
What Boys Really Need
All children need to feel supported by the families, their communities, and society. Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D, states a simple solution on PsychCentral: “Our boys need to be involved in activities that are meaningful and that keep them involved with other kids who are constructively occupied. Teenage boys need their parents to keep actively parenting even though they may be bigger, speak in grunts, and would just as soon keep us on the fringes of their lives.”
Like girls, boys need to feel valued and to engage in valuable activities. They need to be allowed to explore their masculinity with guidance and love instead of hatred and ridicule.
By overly emphasizing the need to “raise boys right,” we are, in fact, stunting their confidence and their ability to explore their masculinity with healthy lifestyles. It’s ironic, but we can’t help young men grow into successful adults by treating them as if they’re defective for simply being male. Boys need just as much confidence as girls. It’s time we offer them that.
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