Conversations that expand our understanding about masculinity

The tragedy (2.14.18) of 17 people, most of them teenagers, being shot dead at a Florida school has put important conversations in motion and I am not just referring to the much needed and to be applauded protesters who took their plea for tougher gun laws to the Florida House of Representatives.

A recent NYT column, “The Boys Are Not All Right” by Michael Ian Black in a must read. In a nutshell, Black makes a compelling case for the need to start having conversations with boys that will best support their movement toward the complexities of manhood. He says “too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured by strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others.”

The conversations the women’s movement gave voice provided women the language they needed to talk about all things female and we can see how it has served them well. There is no such equivalent for men and young boys.

Reading is one of the best ways we accumulate the language needed to talk and think about complex issues and feelings. There is a direct relationship between the empathy a reader has for the characters they meet and self knowledge. To understand another is to better understand the self. To experience the wide range of emotions found in the best of stories help us relate to our own complexities. The best of stories introduces us to one character we might recognize but are not always eager to know better: ourselves.”

In my work with young boys and men I see their difficulty to express their feelings and especially feelings they don’t fully understand. Reading to our sons and having the conversations that seem to come more naturally with our daughters, won’t solve the trouble many boys find themselves in, but it is a step in the right direction. Let our sons be the recipients of conversations that will help them understand and develop all aspects of self—pushing against the boundaries about what defines masculinity.


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