American Horror Story: Supreme Court

Brett Kavanaugh is not the problem currently gripping our political sphere, nor is it the divide between those who want him seated for life on the Supreme Court and those who don’t. I’ve no doubt he’s got experience and training that might be beneficial to that position. Lord knows I didn’t ever agree with Antonin Scalia but I respect that he had the presence, decorum, and experience for his position.

The problem is multifaceted and begins far before Kavanaugh was ever a glimmer in Mitch McConnell’s shell. It begins before he was a frat guy and all of the questionable decisions he made during that time that countless other frat guys are making at this very moment. Hell, it likely started before he even threw his first little league baseball (I’m assuming he played little league but it’s probably on his calendars someplace if you want to know for sure).

No, this goes back to how he was raised and I don’t need to see into his past home to know exactly how he was brought up.

And that’s the problem.

A father's point of view on toxic masculinity and how it impacts parenting boys

Privilege is as privilege does

The word “privilege” gets tossed around a lot in the modern United States-ian landscape. Everyone accuses everyone else of having some sort of privilege; white privilege, male privilege, cis privilege, etc. There is definitely a hierarchy in the U.S. that makes it so straight, white men are implicitly trusted, respected, and just plain given a better shake at life. Why don’t white, straight women have the same level of power? Well, they certainly have an easier time than other minorities in America, but when someone of absolutely no value like Milo Yiannopolous commands more respect than female senators, you know something is amiss.

We as a country raise our boys to think that they’re above reproach. We expect young women to tip-toe around boys’ egos. When someone’s son bullies someone’s daughter we say bullshit like “he just likes you”. Why don’t we say that when a bully treats another boy like crap? Why are women supposed to be flattered by the oafish machinations of some kid?

Well, because that’s the framework in which we raise our children. Girls mature faster, so they are forced to bear responsibility for boys’ emotional responses. Girls are forced to cover up their legs and shoulders and bra straps because boys find it “distracting”.

On the flip side, we treat little boys like each one is Perseus or George Washington, that their heroic self-narrative is absolute. Boys who are good at sports are elevated to a heroic status that carries them through mediocrity in other aspects of their lives and that’s a disservice to everyone else as well as our sons themselves. How many young women have been assaulted and ignored because their assaulter was good at football? How many girls don’t come forward because they don’t believe anyone will take them seriously? How many commit suicide because they feel as if the world is against them?

Toxic masculinity poisons the well actually

My son will be 5 within 17 days of me writing this, and that’s pretty intense. He’s growing into a little man, and there’s a lot about his natural inclinations and behaviors that are, well, traditionally masculine. He loves action, wrestling, dinosaurs, and super heroes. He also likes My Little Pony and Barbie, and a part of that is because we told him it was okay to like things outside of traditional gender norms, because traditional genders norms are stupid. I’m not suggesting we force our boys to wear dresses or our girls to be mechanics, but the minute you tell kids that they can’t do something or they have to do it a certain way, you’re constraining them. Why do that? What if Marie Curie was told science was only for boys listened when she was told science was only for boys?

By not holding boys accountable for their emotions and by telling and demonstrating that they’re entitled to whatever they want, you end up with man-children. Not in the sense that they love video games and cheese fries – video games and cheese fries are wonderful. No, I mean man-children in the sense that they blame “affirmative action” because they lost a job to a woman or a person of color. Or that they feel they need to fight another man who hits on them to prove they’re not gay, as if that’s a horrible thing. That they think women who don’t respond positively to cat-calls or harassment on dating sites are prudes or sluts or something else demeaning.

That they cry and yell and lose all sense of decorum because they might face reproach for possibly sexually assaulting a woman/women. The root of this whole Kavanaugh thing is that he was raised to believe he was special just like millions of other white boys. Those other white boys are his cheering section, and their indoctrinated wives are right there with them. And it’s probably pretty obvious that I’m extremely progressive – I believe as a species we are all important and should be autonomous and treated with dignity. In addition, I believe that things like climate change and theocratic autocracy are huge threats to humanity as a species (and to the planet).

With that said, however, I want to stress that this blog post isn’t meant to be partisan, nah political whatsoever but another part of the problem our boys face is that treating humans with dignity and not choosing profits over the planet and the lives of other people are considered partisan issues in America. That will hurt all of us if it continues unchecked, and that’s a fact.

Building Better Boys

I just talked quite a bit about what’s wrong – so how do we make sure our kids don’t grow up in a world that’s unfairly and stupidly dominated by entitled brats?

  • We need to teach our sons – and probably reinforce it for ourselves – to be responsible for their own emotions. No woman owes them or us anything; not their time, not their emotional support, not their understanding. Being hurt by rejection is understandable; being a completely vile, hateful monster is a choice.
    • While it’s co-opted a lot by idiots, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a really good read to understand aflictive emotions, how they arise, and how to control them. It’s also good at analyzing your place in a world that – surprise – isn’t actually revolving around you.
  • Our sons need to know that masculinity means protecting and sacrificing for our circle, our tribe. It doesn’t mean chest thumping and “alpha” bullshit. A real “alpha male” is the one busting his ass to support his family, taking time off to help his friends move, watching out for his neighbors and loved ones. It’s not the shithead at the bar wanting to fight you because you “looked at him weird”.
  • Listen to women, to people of color, to any and all marginalized people. Know when to stop talking, stop blaming, and do what you can to assist them. If a person trusts you enough to confide in you, don’t assume they’re lying or “just want attention”.
  • Instill a genuine sense of community – not jingoistic flag worship but a real sense of who your neighbors are. Civic engagement and volunteering are a great way to teach actual Christian principles if you’re into that, but it also creates an other-mindedness that is crucial for higher level thought and empathy.
  • Don’t make their life all about what you want for them – if you missed your chance at the big football trophy in high school, don’t force them to follow your dreams. Likewise, if you were the nerd in high school who got bullied, don’t put your insecurities on them. Let them choose their way and be there to help.

Don’t just pass your biases and beliefs onto your children without first examining them. It can be mentally and emotionally painful to look at how you probably are biased, have some inherent racist or sexist tendencies, how you probably dismiss other peoples’ pain as being “too sensitive”. It’s a constant struggle to look outside of the framework we’re raised in, but being mindful of that can help us all raise children who are empathetic, sensitive (to other people), confident, and aren’t afraid to stand up for others, or their own ideals. While these are all traits that should be cultivated in all humans, they’re often twisted in toxic masculinity, so please do all of us a favor and join me in building better boys.

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