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Of Boys and Masculinity

September 8, 2015

I am feminist because I love men.  A revolutionary kind of love.

The kind of love bell hooks talks about when she writes that “the soul of feminist politics is the commitment to ending patriarchal domination of women and men, girls and boys. Love cannot exist in any relationship that is based on domination and coercion

As a feminist I believe that if we fix the world for boys then we will have also fixed it for all of us.

I am the mother of two sons.  Daily I struggle with what it will take to raise boys who are strong AND gentle. To not continue framing the world as one where boys need to be strong strong BUT gentle.

Chimamanda tells us that “by far the worst thing we do for males, by making them feel like they have to be hard, is we leave them with very fragile egos”.  In our framing of masculinity “we teach boys to be afraid of fear”.

The Representation Project talks about the mask we make boys wear. Boys who have to swallow their feelings and who are dying on the inside. How we drive boys to homicidal or suicidal violence.  It makes me weep what we do to boys.

As a feminist mother with the overwhelming responsibility of raising boys into men, how can I raise my sons to not feel the need to be ‘hard’ but rather to embrace the full spectrum of their humanity?  And in a world determined to force them to prove their masculinity in narrowly defined terms.

How do I raise sons who will be disgusted by the Mollis rape affair (trigger warning!) ?  How does one raise boys who would also have the character to not just walk away from a scene of violence, but actually stand up to stop the violence?

Does that gentleness I seek to retain in my boys mean that they can’t be strong?  Surely we still need men who will deploy their strength and power to stand and defend the vulnerable.

Oh, and how do I do this without being a helicopter parent?!

This thing feels rigged against me!


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