To the editor:
Our boys and young men are faced with many challenges today when defining what it means to be a man. While there are wonderful things about being a man, far too many of the characteristics hold our boys hostage while negatively impacting their ability to develop into healthy and respectful men. Today’s notions of manhood teach boys to be disinterested in the experiences of young women outside of sexual conquest. They teach boys to deny feelings of pain and hurt. They teach boys that asking for help is a sign of weakness and that anger is the only emotion they have permission to express. Our boys are challenged to not be soft, don’t be a punk, a sucker, too nice, too friendly, too gentle, too kind or loving. These lessons and challenges are the ingredients found in our society’s construction of manhood, but what are the consequences of building men with this social recipe?
It’s vital that we as men envision the positive world we want for our daughters, granddaughters and girls that we love to grow up in. With this vision, we need to ask ourselves how we want to see our boys and young men behaving. The positive behavior we want for our boys and young men will not come about by chance, rather we as men have the responsibility to guide boys on their journey to manhood.
I know that our boys not only need guidance from men, they respond well to it. As men we have a responsibility to create an environment where boys and young men feel comfortable sharing their feelings, expressing their fears and most importantly asking for help. Such an environment will require us men to model what we teach, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, sharing openly and demonstrating love and compassion. When boys and men learn love and respect, women and girls are valued and safe.
I remember asking a twelve-year-old football player how he would feel if his coach told him in front of all the other players that you’re playing like a girl. When asking the question I thought the boy would say “I would be mad or sad,” but to my surprise his response was “it would destroy me.” Such a response leads me to question, what are we as men teaching our boys about girls? Furthermore, what are we saying about what it means to be a girl?
Envision a football coach at the end of a practice surrounded by forty boys all on one knee looking up at him with undivided attention. At that moment he’s more important than their mother, father and possibly anyone else in the world. It leads me to wonder, what if at that moment we took time to talk about something other than football? What a wonderful time to have a conversation with our boys and young men about being men of integrity, substance, and character.
Co-Founder & Co-Director
A Call To Men