Posts Tagged ‘boys’

Philip Zimbardo on the Lives of Boys

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University, gives his take on why boys are struggling:

I think he brings an interesting and valid perspective, but obviously there are more factors as to why boys are struggling in school and in finding a job.

Some of them may be:

  • Schools aren’t adapted to the learning style of boys.
  • Society has a negative view on men.
  • Boys living without their father (and there are many of them) have a hard time finding male role models, especially in school.
  • We lack a vision of what positive masculinity could be in a postmodern world. And when there’s no vision – you may as well play computer games and watch porn.

Concerning Single Young Men

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I have long argued that the strong influence of feminist ideology on Western societies has had profound influence on young men. Growing up with feminism, if you’re a boy, can easily lead to being shamed, having poor self-esteem and being confused about what role you are expected to play in society.

The fact that gender roles evolve is inevitable, so from that perspective the confusion seen in young men of today couldn’t have been avoided. On the other hand, I believe that feminism has unnecessarily put the blame on men for the gender roles of the past, instead of realizing that both sexes co-created the past, and we can co-create new gender roles in the future.

Anyhow, the point is that men have been deeply affected by the change in gender roles and by the influence of feminism on young men and women alike. This is finally starting to be acknowledged in the media, and the other day I came across a very interesting text dealing with this phenomenon. I don’t agree with everything being said in the article, but several of the observations made are interesting, and worthy of discussion.

The article starts out with the following observation about SYMs (single young males):

Their argument, in effect, was that the SYM is putting off traditional markers of adulthood—one wife, two kids, three bathrooms—not because he’s immature but because he’s angry. He’s angry because he thinks that young women are dishonest, self-involved, slutty, manipulative, shallow, controlling, and gold-digging. He’s angry because he thinks that the culture disses all things male. He’s angry because he thinks that marriage these days is a raw deal for men.

The anger of these SYM is palpable:

“Maybe we turn to video games not because we are trying to run away from the responsibilities of a ‘grown-up life’ but because they are a better companion than some disease-ridden bar tramp who is only after money and a free ride.”

“Men are finally waking up to the ever-present fact that traditional marriage, or a committed relationship, with its accompanying socially imposed requirements of being wallets with legs for women, is an empty and meaningless drudgery.”

When young men actually enter the dating scene, they find that the rules have changed, and that double standards abound:

But when they walk to his car, he makes his first mistake: he fails to open the car door for her. Mistake Number Two comes a moment later: “So, what would you like to do?” he asks. “Her idea of a date is that the man plans the evening and takes the woman out,” Straus explains. But how was the hapless social worker supposed to know that? In fact, Doesn’t-Open-the-Car-Door Guy might well have been chewed out by a female colleague for reaching for the office door the previous week.

The cultural muddle is at its greatest when the dinner check arrives. The question of who grabs it is a subject of endless discussion on the hundreds of Internet dating sites. The general consensus among women is that a guy should pay on a first date: they see it as a way for him to demonstrate interest.

It’s understandable that SYM become confused. The current dating scene is a mixture of new ideals (women own their own sexuality and have casual sex, often earn just as much money as young men, and will cry foul if you use chivalry on them) and old ideals (men should pay for the dinner date, be chivalrous, etc). Is it any wonder that young men become bitter if women expect the new ideals when it suits them, and the old ideals when those are more advantageous?

Kevin from Ann Arbor writes. “They want to compete equally, and have the privileges of their mother’s generation. They want the executive position, AND the ability to stay home with children and come back into the workplace at or beyond the position at which they left. They want the bad boy and the metrosexual.”

SYM also feel disillusioned when they discover what kind of men are successful in the dating scene. After having been taught by their mothers and by culture that girls are fragile, kind, moral and non-aggressive (i.e. the opposite qualities that feminism ascribes to traditional old-fashioned men), SYM are in for a brutal awakening when they discover how things really work:

This attraction to bad boys is by far guys’ biggest complaint about contemporary women. Young men grew up hearing from their mothers, their teachers, and Oprah that women wanted sensitive, kind, thoughtful, intelligent men who were in touch with their feminine sides, who shared their feelings, who enjoyed watching Ally McBeal rather than Beavis and Butt-Head. Yeah, right, sneer a lot of veterans of the scene. Women don’t want Ashley Wilkes; they’re hot for Rhett Butler, for macho men with tight abs and an emotional range to match.

On Craigslist, one guy posted a succinct, albeit somewhat bitter, analysis of how nice guys fare in contemporary culture (post-sexual revolution):

According to a “Recovering Nice Guy” writing on Craigslist, the female preference for jerks and “assholes,” as they’re also widely known, lies behind women’s age-old lament, “What happened to all the nice guys?” His answer: “You did. You ignored the nice guy. You used him for emotional intimacy without reciprocating, in kind, with physical intimacy.” Women, he says, are actually not attracted to men who hold doors for them, give them hinted-for Christmas gifts, or listen to their sorrows. Such a man, our Recovering Nice Guy continues, probably “came to realize that, if he wanted a woman like you, he’d have to act more like the boyfriend that you had. He probably cleaned up his look, started making some money, and generally acted like more of an asshole than he ever wanted to be.”

Ouch.

Carrying on, it seems that many men have made similar observations to what I sometimes address on this blog:

Adding to the bitterness of many SYMs is the feeling that the entire culture is a you-go-girl cheering section. When our guy was a boy, the media prattled on about “girl power,” parents took their daughters to work, and a mysterious plague seemed to have killed off boys, at least white ones, from school textbooks. To this day, male-bashing is the lingua franca of situation comedies and advertising: take the dimwitted television dads from Homer Simpson to Ray Romano to Tim Allen, or the guy who starts a cooking fire to be put out by his multitasking wife, who is already ordering takeout. Further, it’s hard to overstate the distrust of young men who witnessed divorce up close and personal as they were growing up. Not only have they become understandably wary of till-death-do-us-part promises; they frequently suspect that women are highway robbers out to relieve men of their earnings, children, and deepest affections.

I’ve never understood the “take your daughter to work” concept. Why discriminate so blatantly against young boys? Wouldn’t the natural impulse be to take you child to work, regardless of gender? Feminism has indeed been successful in the US educational system.

As the article carries on, it becomes obvious that a substantial portion of young men are ready to pull out of the dating game:

As the disenchanted SYM sees it, then, resistance to settling down is a rational response to a dating environment designed and ruled by women with only their own interests in mind. “Men see all of this, and wonder if it’s really worth risking all in the name of ‘romance’ and ‘growing up,’ ” a correspondent who calls himself Wytchfinde explains. “After all, if women can be hedonistic and change the rules in midstream when it suits them, why shouldn’t men? Why should men be responsible when women refuse to look into the mirror at their own lack of accountability?”

Every action has a reaction. The action taken by feminists during the last few decades, is now eliciting a reaction in SYM; a reaction that can easily lead to men becoming hyper-masculine and more irresponsible:

So, men like Wytchfinde conclude: No more Mister Nice Guy! They will dump all those lessons from their over-feminized childhood and adolescence. They will join what the Boston Globe has called the “Menaissance.” And they will buy titles like The Alphabet of Manliness (K is for Knockers, Q is for Quickies), The Retrosexual Manual, Being the Strong Man a Woman Wants, and actor Jim Belushi’s recent Real Men Don’t Apologize.

Is it any wonder that young men become more narcissistic and less interested in being responsible family fathers and citizens, when Western culture has marginalized the voice of young men?

Conclusion

I believe that the feminist revolution has missed its target for a few different reasons:

  1. Men’s needs, wants and perspectives were ignored
  2. Biological differences between the sexes were ignored, which is a terrible oversight when discussing career choices and partner choice
  3. Feminism focused on changing the negative aspects of the female gender role, while being all too happy about keeping the positive aspects

You ignore biological differences between the sexes at your own peril, as the author of the article notes:

Most of the women interviewed by Jillian Straus say that they’re looking for a man who can be the primary breadwinner. A June 2008 New Scientist article reports on two studies that even suggest that women are biologically attracted to “jerks”; researchers speculate that narcissistic, risk-taking men had an evolutionary advantage.

So women want a man who is a risk-taker and a primary breadwinner? Those wishes certainly go against what feminism has taught young men that women want, and also what young women have been told that they are supposed to want.

If they did similar research on young men and what they desire in women, I’m pretty sure that the response would be that they want a woman who will be the primary caretaker of the children, and only focus fulltime on her career once the children are a bit older. And just like women enjoy men who are confident and risk-taking, many men want a woman who can be loving and feminine. This is extremely politically incorrect, but if there is truth to these claims, do we not need to include them in any movement for gender liberation?

Personally I don’t believe that biology can explain the whole male-female sexual dynamic, far from it. We always need to include cultural and psychological factors, in addition to what biology can teach us. But it is clear that due to the three reasons I listed above, feminist reforms have misfired in a number of important ways, and it is up to us to develop a new, more robust version of gender equality. We need a version that defends the equal value of women and men, without claiming that men and women are essentially the same – while also offering a clear path to success for both genders that does not involve a total absence of moral development.

Feminism Shames Young Boys

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Feminism is no longer considered to be just a theory. Most politicians in democratic countries around the world take feminist ideas to be facts, and have these ideas influence public policy in a very real way. In the US, UK and Sweden, feminist thinkers are advisors to the government and directly influence legislation and other decisions.

Feminism has even spread to schools, where boys now are shamed simply for being boys. Nobel prize winner and feminist Doris Lessing, described this phenomenon as early as 2001 in The Guardian:

“I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives.”

Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers has also written about the same tendency; in her book The War Against Boys she exposes how feminist ideas and sloppy research have attacked boys in US schools and turned boyhood into a disease.

Development Matters

So why is this such a big issue? Can’t boys see the wider picture here, and understand that the teacher is trying to correct past wrongs? No, this is exactly what children of a certain age are unable to do.

Children aren’t born with the cognitive capacities of your average adult, and before the age of 11, most children are simply unable to perform abstract reasoning or understand nuances when having a discussion. Instead, children below this age generally see things in either-or scenarios, and divide the world into dichotomies of “good or bad”, “wanted or unwanted”, etc.

The cognitive development of children was described by famous Swiss scientist Jean Piaget, and the fact that children and human beings develop in stages has later been verified by Harvard researchers such as Susanne Cook-Greuter and Robert Kegan, and Theo Dawson who did her research at Berkeley.

The effect of teachers bringing feminism into the classroom, whether they are feminists themselves or simply instructed to do so, is that young boys hear the message: “Girls are good, boys are bad.” Due to their cognitive development, this is the natural interpretation of feminism for young boys (and girls). This creates a sense of shame at a very deep level, and could quite conceivably affect the self-esteem and healthy development of these young boys.

I personally consider it an outrage that young boys are shamed in the name of feminism. First of all I consider feminist ideas to be a very unbalanced take on gender issues, and therefore I don’t even recommend them for adults. However, imposing these ideas on young boys who cognitively cannot help but be shamed and deflated is dangerously close to child abuse.

Let’s have a passionate gender debate amongst adults, but leave children alone, and stop telling them that there’s something wrong with them simply because they were born male.

Generation X, Y and Z

Those of us who are men and around 45 years old or younger, quite probably grew up (or are currently growing up) with feminism around us in one way or other, at least in The West. Being raised with feminist ideas floating around in society,  in our schools and possibly in our own families, means that we have all experienced the shaming I describe above.

As long as we are children who are cognitively immature, we simply don’t have the capacity to argue against feminism or put up any effective psychological defenses, and hence the shaming takes place.

As sad as these dynamics are, I also believe that Generation X and Y will be the generations that change the gender discourse forever. We’ve seen first-hand how destructive and imbalanced feminism can be, and aided by men from previous generations and by women who are sick and tired of feminism, the time has come to speak up and have our voices be heard.


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