In the era of Harvey Weinstein, mothers of sons are told two things: we have a responsibility to raise our boys to be better than the likes of Weinstein and every other man; and our sons are destined to become predators no matter what we do.
That’s not just the view of radical feminist writers like Kate Morgan, who wrote on Twitter last week: “BE WELL ADVISED WORLD, IF YOU HAVE A PENIS YOU PROBABLY DESERVE MURDERING.” A tad extreme; Morgan eventually deleted the tweet, but the man-hating pervasive on the feminist Left has gone from the fringe to the mainstream.
In fact, the vitriol against men is mainstream enough to dominate the pages of the New York Times last week.
Writing last weekend, Stephen Marche argued, “If you let boys be boys, they will murder their fathers and sleep with their mothers.” In the Style section, Bee Shapiro profiled teenage boys whose “eye makeup is way better than yours.” The only way for a boy to be a boy and not be a murderer, according to the Times, is for him to act like a girl.
Where does this leave the rest of us parents wanting to raise sons to become the respectable young men we know they can be?
All of this man-hating isn’t coming completely out of left field. The number of sexual assault and harassment stories from major figures on both the left and right in the media, politics and entertainment continues to rise. It’s easy, even for men like Marche, to write off the entire male species as inherently flawed. It’s disheartening to see men who only recently were decrying misogyny, as broadcaster Charlie Rose did when allegations of abuse by Game Change author Mark Halperin emerged, then turn out to be abusers themselves. We’re left to wonder if any man is safe or immune from this behavior.
Our only hope is for the future, to raise young men and boys to be better. And yet, this climate of man-hating is making it all but impossible.
When the culture implies that boys are likely to become predators, abusers, or harassers, how exactly are they supposed to understand themselves? If we want our boys to be better, we have to raise them with the expectation they can be better, not tell them constantly that they are monsters-in-training.
Most women with good men in our lives know that a boy growing into a harasser or abuser is hardly a fait accompli. There are good ones out there and we know it: we’re married to them and we’re raising them.
But the challenges facing parents trying to accomplish the latter are just piling on. Our culture is hypersexualized, and yet we wonder why it is that so many men view women as merely sexual objects. Music, television and movies teach our children that sex is cheap; and then villainize our men for treating women’s bodies as commodities.
This toxic view of masculinity is manifesting itself in more disturbing ways every day. This week in Indiana a nurse lost her job for writing on Twitter that the sons of white women “be sacrificed to the wolves,” according to hospital officials. She was, thankfully, fired, and never had contact with patients, and thus was never able to put this sick view into action. But it’s a frightening story; it’s no wonder the bizarre words of what is presumably an educated healthcare professional have made headlines around the country.
How does this kind of rhetoric manifest itself in the psyche of American boys, hearing not only that they are inherently sexual predators and deviants, but also that they are not even deserving of life?
The wives, daughters and mothers of good men everywhere can rejoice that mankind aren’t going anywhere; we will (thank god) never be a female-only species. We need men, no matter how much society is trying to prove the contrary. Our culture undeniably has its issues with how some men express their sexuality, and we’re learning about just how much this toxicity has permeated our society.
But talking about men as born predators, and labeling all men as such, risks creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we want men to be better than the parade of horribles we see in the news, we must first acknowledge that they can be, and that most already are. If we want to raise a generation of boys to become good men, then we should target toxic messages, not masculinity itself.
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