Will Boys Be Boys?

A few days ago, Sunshine Mary had a great post about the supposed socialization that feminists claim turns pure baby boys into knuckle-dragging, sexist, uncouth rape-monsters.  I was surprised she took the issue seriously at all, but I suppose that just shows that men and women often see things differently, even post-red-pill.  I answered the first question in a comment over there, and then realized her questions would make a good starting point for a long-overdue post.  So here goes:

Do you think boys are being socialized to identify with traditional sex roles which impose a caricature of masculinity on them?

Of course not; it’s just the opposite. But if you follow the socially acceptable belief that we are all blank slates and that everything about our minds is 100% nurture-based, then you must believe that any differentiation between the way boys act and learn and the way girls act and learn has been imposed on them by their environment. You have no other choice.

So even though the feminists have been in charge and raising kids with gender-neutral (read: effeminate) school books and TV shows for a couple generations now, they must claim that boys are still being raised in some sort of caricature of a 1950s environment where they’re given a BB gun signed by the Marlboro Man the day they can walk, and punched if they ever cry (which wasn’t even true back then, but certainly isn’t now). Again, they have no choice but to believe this, because if they admit that boys aren’t being “socialized” to act different from girls, that means they’re born different, and that would be like admitting that the earth is flat for them. Unpossible!

Do you feel (if you are a man) that you have been or are pressured to live up to some kind of traditional standard of masculinity?  If so, are you okay with that or does it bother you?

To the first question, again, just the opposite.  My parents weren’t feminists by any means, but they practiced “show, don’t tell” parenting — they set a great example, but rarely talked about why or how they lived that way.  So while I could see my dad’s masculine example, I didn’t automatically internalize it, and with schools and entertainment pulling the other direction, I wound up way too far over on the “sensitive male” side.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt pressured to be more masculine, but I wish I had been.

Now that I’ve taken the red pill, I feel the need to live up to a better standard of traditional masculinity, and it’s frustrating to be learning that 30-40 years late in the game.  So yes, that’s annoying, but it’s water under the bridge now.

Are the four traits I listed (sexuality, aggression, loyalty to other men, dominance over females) ones that feel oppressive to boys and men?  Or are these really what men enjoy and value?

The first question doesn’t really even make sense from a male perspective.  It’s hard to feel oppressed by being on top of the world.  Do we enjoy them?  I think we enjoy them to the extent that we understand how they are a natural part of masculinity and can be explored without fearfulness.  For instance, a man who’s been taught that aggression is bad may not enjoy contact sports because he will always be holding back.  He has to learn that he can be aggressive in a boxing match and yet maintain control of himself, that his aggression in the ring doesn’t mean he’s going to beat his kids when they’re noisy.  There’s a similar balance necessary with the other three qualities, where they can seem scary and to be avoided when you’ve been taught that they’re inherently bad, but learning to find the right balance of them makes life as a man much more enjoyable.

Do you wish (if you are male) that you could feel more free to show weakness, to cry, to express your emotions, and to take on a female voice or roles in some situations?  If so, do you feel our culture prevents you from doing that?

No, the culture encourages it beyond reason.  This one was a big weakness for me for a long time.  As a Sensitive Guy (nature exacerbated by nurture), I liked the idea the culture presented — that a woman could be my best friend and share all my hopes and fears, blah blah blah.  I’ve always fallen into a very easy emotional rapport with women, where they would feel secure and start pouring their hearts out, and then I would naturally respond in kind to show the same trust level, never realizing that I was freaking them out.  We’re constantly told that women hate it when men are emotionally unavailable and closed-off, so the answer is to meet them at their emotional level, right?  Yeah, not so much.

I suppose when I learned that I needed to keep my Sensitive Guy under wraps around women, I resented it at first, but now I just realize that’s the way it is.  On the plus side, although I have to take care to restrict those emotions, I can be much more free with emotions that I used to suppress around women even when they deserved them, like anger, disgust, and derision.  I used to keep those well hidden away, so I’ve really just scaled back some emotional displays while opening up others, and I think it’s a more honest mix overall.

Is it possible that these four traits are enjoyable to men while at the same time benefiting females, or is this simply an example of the feminine imperative trying to push males into fulfilling a role that females need them to play?

The first one.  Men being masculine benefits women, but that doesn’t mean it’s somehow a plot by women.  Women being feminine benefits men, but that doesn’t make it a plot by men either.  What’s good for the goose really is good for the gander here.

What can be done about the fact that we are failing our boys?  Do we need to make them more sensitive, more cooperative, more comfortable with identifying with girls?  Was I wrong to allow the boy I was working with to rewrite the story so that it wasn’t in a feminine voice?

No, you were right.  He’ll get a heaping helping of sensitivity training in his life; you don’t need to add to it.  I was working with a homeschooled boy the other day on his reading, and his list includes Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, which made me cringe a little.  Not that I think boys should only read stories about cowboys and pirates and girls should only read about princesses and ponies.  Some crossover is good, and some books are just plain classics that all kids should read.  But I was glad to see that his list also included several adventure-type books that he’d enjoy, which might not have been on a more feminized public school reading list.

What would be the characteristics of positive masculinity and how could we as a society foster that in boys and men?

On this I’ll riff a bit first on St. Thomas Aquinas, who did the first real scientific study of Christian virtue beyond the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity).  St. Thomas presented the idea that the moral virtues each represent a “golden mean” between two sinful extremes (as opposed to the theological virtues, of which it’s not possible to have too much).  Each virtue is a balancing point between having too little or too much of something.  Modesty, for instance, is a balance between shameless showing off and a bashful false humility.  St. Thomas starts his “family tree” of virtues at the top with the four cardinal virtues (borrowing from Plato through Aristotle): prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.  Every other moral virtue falls under one of these (religion, for instance, falls under justice, because it is just that we worship God and follow His edicts).

All people, men and women alike, should strive to follow all the moral virtues, but some seem more oriented toward men and some toward women.  Of the cardinal virtues, the one that jumps out as being especially important for men is fortitude.  Also known as courage, fortitude is the strength not to quail in the face of dangers and difficulties.  Taken too far, it can become foolhardy risk-taking; not enough of it leads to fearfulness.  The golden mean is to face problems calmly, with faith and strength.  Fortitude gives us the strength to do what prudence and justice have told us we must do: “to flee danger only when appropriate.”

Beneath fortitude in the chart, St. Thomas lists four sub-virtues: magnificence, confidence, patience, and perseverance.  It’s not hard to see how these are critical to masculine virtue (and manly attractiveness):

  • magnificence — the willingness to tackle great and noble deeds
  • confidence — probably the most attractive virtue a man can have in dealing with women
  • patience — endurance of hardship, strength of will, and refusal to be buffeted by the storm
  • perseverance — constancy to the end, a stability one’s family can count on

From a Christian perspective, I would say those are the most important characteristics that we can try to instill in boys and men — partly because they are masculine virtues important to men in every age, but also because they’re so neglected today.  We live in an extremely un-magnificent age, where we’re more likely to drag the magnificent down in the mud than try to rise out of it to join them.  Confidence has been beaten out of men.  Patience and perseverance are for losers — if you’re in pain or unhappy, take a pill or go do something different.

So how can we instill these values again?  I can think of a few ideas to start with:

  • Have your boy read adventure stories: Huck Finn, Jules Verne, Hercules, and so on.  I think the emphasis should be on the classics, because modern heroes too often have a feminist twist to them; even if it’s not obvious, I just don’t trust them.  Bonus points if he reads something like Huck Finn and then goes out and tries to emulate it by sailing a raft down the river.
  • Challenge him — mentally, physically, morally, and spiritually.  Don’t let him coast in any of these aspects of life.  If your boy is an A student, find side projects for him to work on that will make him think hard.  (And for pity’s sake, homeschool him!)  Give him a basic exercise regimen early (do it with him for your own sake) and teach him to eat right; don’t be like many parents who let a kid live on cereal and pop tarts and then try to change him when he gets chubby in his teens.  Call him on immoral behavior, and make sure he understands why you live the way you do.  Challenge him to keep going deeper in his prayer life.  Show him that there are rewards for following the virtuous path: some in this life (better health, better job, better family) and some in the next.  Offer rewards of your own for overcoming particularly tough challenges.
  • Don’t coddle him.  Pain does build character, as long as it has an end and a purpose.  Let him get skinned knees and fall out of trees.  Don’t let him win at games and sports; let him lose, even badly, so he’ll want to get better and beat you someday.  Teach him to play through pain, embarrassment, and ridicule, so he can learn that none of them are permanent.  In all these things use moderation, of course, but most parents are way over to the coddling end of the scale.

I’m sure there could be more things on that list, but that’s a start.  If most parents raised their boys that way, instead of treating them as rambunctious girls, we’d have a very different society in a generation.

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