Last year The American Psychological Assoc. (APA) released new “guidelines” on how psychologists should begin to deal with men and boys. They claim that their research proves “traditional masculinity” is causing men and boys to do a plethora of terrible things.
On the heels of that very disturbing release was a new commercial by Gillette, a razor manufacturer, shaming both men and boys for unbecoming actions. Masculinity is being attacked as toxic; the reality is toxic is a behavior not a characteristic of masculinity.
As a male, a facilitator, and evidence-based researcher (working with males) I find this unacceptable!
Toxic masculinity isn't why a boy would walk into a school and begin shooting or what causes a man to abuse a woman. Those men, those actions truly are an indication of sickness.
Masculinity is by definition:
“A set of attributes or qualities regarded as characteristic of men. Words like virility, manliness, maleness, machismo, vigor, strength, ruggedness, robustness and testosterone are often associated.”
Masculinity is what makes a male a man; just as femininity makes a female a woman!
The APA noted (in their research) this change has been occurring since around 1950; realistically the change began much earlier! The processes a father and son shared in a healthy rite-of passage ended with The Industrial Revolution (1900-1950); it took fathers out of the home to work in factories, offices, and sales. The APA failed to mention something very fundamental; the importance of time a father spends with his son to witness and pass on his wisdom was LOST!!
It’s time we begin to ask ourselves, "why are" men and boys behaving differently.
Since the Industrial Revolution, systemically, each generation is losing a little more of the knowledge and wisdom a father imparts to his son.
For the last several generations (of men), boys have had to rely on each other to “figure out” how to be a man. It’s an issue!
In my experience with 2000 boys since 2000 who graduated The Quest Project®, there was never a time masculinity was the issue. The issue was, most of these young boys didn’t have an engaged father teaching “traditional masculinity;” it’s the absence of the father that has cost us!
A healthy engaged father teaches his son "how to" be a man and what it means to be a man. He teaches masculine attributes associated with males and how-to best channel those. He guides his boy innately on a rite-of-passage to be a man by providing:
- Healthy male role model/example.
- A safe place to discharge his feelings.
- Support of family and community.
- Sense of achievement, importance and change.
- Ritual to honor his work in transition from boy to man.
Fatherlessness (physically, emotionally and systemically) is an epidemic. Without the father boys are teaching each other how to be masculine. In many cases, they're learning from violent movies, social media, YouTube and video games, which are given to them by a parent. These boys grow up and become fathers and the cycle repeats itself, in an even more disturbing version.
Put the responsibility where it belongs, the Dadthat's working 80 hours a week, or the divorced Dad that didn't pick his son up last weekend! He needs to spend more time (3-5 hrs. a week) with his son.
Mom’s role is to support the father-son relationship as much as possible. As long as there is no threat of physical abuse or potential for being severely irresponsible (unsafe) encourage and honor this stage of boy transitioning to man by a man!
Assertiveness and aggressive behaviors are present in both the young and old; in male and female, the masculine and the feminine!
Men and boys are being unfairly lumped into a general category labeled "bad."
In cases where the father is not available and is not going to be available, look to grandpa, uncle or healthy male example/role model. A program like The Quest Project® a modern day rite-of-passage, that takes young men through processes and character building similar to what a healthy male typically provides his son.
Finally, let’s be careful attacking the male and get more focused on what they’re missing in order to be happy, healthy and responsible!
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Clayton Lessor, PhD, LPC founded The Quest Project in 1996 and has since helped 2,000+ boys turn their life around to become the next Generation of Men. He is the author of two books, “Saving Our Sons-A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Boys for Success” and “Generation of Men-How to raise your son to be a healthy man among men.” Dr. Clay is an expert in childhood trauma and male adolescent development.