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June 27, 2007

Boys WILL Be Boys: Get Over It!

Kristine:

The author of The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn Iggulden, says that when he wrote the book, "I wasn't trying to please anyone else. I was just trying to free boys to be themselves again, the way we were when my brother and I were growing up."

That's just as well, because plenty of people are NOT pleased with his book. I can tell you, as the mother of two boys (now 19 and 21) that there really IS a war on boys behaving like boys, as Christina Hoff Sommers writes in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. Boys are considered defective if they don't behave like girls in the classroom, if they think games ought to have a point to them (when they played T-ball, my sons always kept track of the score. So did every other boy, probably; we all knew who'd won each game, even though we weren't supposed to notice), and if they prefer rough games over dolls.

When I reviewed Christina Hoff Sommers's book a few years ago for Citizen magazine, I described what happened when my sons received, in a pair of Happy Meals, not the the advertised Hot Wheels, but miniature Barbie dolls:

The boys reluctantly took the Barbie twins home, and it wasn't long before they began to find unconventional ways of playing with them. They placed the Barbies on our sloping driveway and strapped on their Rollerblades. "Two points!" Trevor hollered as he raced down the drive and bounced over Barbie No. 1's plastic torso.

When they tired of playing Hit 'n Run Barbie, they boys offered the dolls to the dog as chew toys. Both dolls underwent radical plastic surgery when Trevor and Travis discovered they could reshape pert Barbie noses with nail scissors.

The boys genuinely mourned when the Barbie twins disappeared. They had pounded one of them into the ground with a croquet mallet and couldn't locate her afterwards. The other doll was reduced to pink plastic chunks by the lawn mower.

My point was that both my sons grew up with a strong sense of right and wrong, and playing violent games as children did them no harm and probably did them a lot of good.

When Trevor was about 16, a young lady he was dating began receiving offensive emails from a boy at school. The school couldn't do anything about it since the emails were being sent from the boy's home, and the boy refused to stop sending them despite numerous requests--until the day Trevor confronted him about them and punched him in the nose. The principal suspended him for a couple of days (with great relunctance, I might add--he told Trevor if it was ever necessary to do such a thing again, to please do it off school property so he wouldn't have to punish him). Even some of his female teachers applauded his action and offered to bake him brownies to enjoy during his suspension.

Trevor and Travis also came to the rescue when two of their female friends were being bothered by several aggressive young men at a shopping mall. They got the girls to a safe place, called the police, and later escorted them to their front doors. Their parents were extremely grateful.

So while my sons may have set fire to Barbie's hair as youngsters, they have grown into the kind of young men who respect women and come to their defense when necessary. Their dad and I are proud of them.

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Comments

Steve

I am currently reading "The War Against Boys" (My son is 2). I'm enjoying it (the book. My son gives me much more joy). I hope to raise him to respect women (as your sons do) and to use his masculine energy, creativity, uniqueness, etc. etc. to make life better for those around him. (Being a parent is difficult. :))

Kristine

Anne, your post made me laugh -- this was exactly why I would get so mad if my mom let my brothers play with any of my Barbies when I was at school. It also reminded me of playing Matchbox cars with a male relative near my age when I was little, long before I had brothers of my own. My Matchbox car playing always involved dividing the cars into two families, with one family's sons driving over to take the other family's daughters out on dates. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls!

I have no problem with allowing boys to be boys while they're young. But there comes a time (13 or 14 or so) when they need to quit acting like little boys. Otherwise, they're perpetual boys far into their 20's and early 30's. I've seen far too many guys in my generation (I'm in my mid-20s) live stagnant lives from their teens years on because no one ever taught them to grow up. That is the bigger tragedy, IMO.

Steve

*Blank*,

I'm not sure what you're getting at. What do you mean by 'acting like little boys'? And what do you mean by 'live stagnant lives'? What does 'grow up' mean?
(in this context)


Steve,

What I mean is, males in my generation (for the most part) tend to gravitate towards video games and living with their parents until they're in their 30's and not taking their responsibilities seriously. Nor are they overly interested in being the spiritual heads of homes. Therefore, we have a generation of adolescent young men who would rather spend their time on the couch playing X-Box or surfing the internet than building a career or a family.

There are many women my age who are not married because the men of our generation are too busy continuing to be little boys with no responsibilities instead of modeling Biblical manhood. That is a tragedy.

Steve

I thought that might be what you meant (video games etc).
But, I think it misses the point. Or should I say, in a way, it makes the point...
Responsibility, integrity, selflessness, bravery, (Gladiator movie quote/classical virtues: "Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude"), Love, honor - etc. - These should not be virtues 'suddenly placed on boys shoulders to help them grow up'. Boys don't grow up - not because they aren't taught how to grow up - but because they are taught that their virtues aren't virtues, or what they love is unlovely, or worse, what they *are* is unlovely. (Then... they disengage).
A boy should be taught, and should be shown, how to be virtuous - not 'how to grow up'. That will come. It is wise men, not grown men, that do not waste time on video games.

In a sense, we're both saying the same thing - a boy and a man are the same except in age. The aged wine maturing and developing what was always there.

Dan Knight

*Blank*
You've made two wonderful points that articulate extremely well the "tragedy" of the castration of yours (& the next) generation of teenage boys..As you stated:
"I've seen far too many guys in my generation (I'm in my mid-20s) live stagnant lives from their teens years on because no one ever taught them to grow up"
"There are many women my age who are not married because the men of our generation are too busy continuing to be little boys with no responsibilities instead of modeling Biblical manhood."

I submit your observation of your "generation" is the result not of "boys being boys", rather is a result of boys being made into girls. The very point of the original post.
The boys of your generation sit on the couch and play video games because they - as males - crave a fight to fight or a battle to be waged; they crave something to fight for. Yet they have repeatedly been trained by a feminized culture to "play nice" to not be competitive; that "winning" is not important. So they retreat from the hard route: from competition, be it workplace or scholastically; from relationships, which require committment and work. They retreat into a virtual world, where they can indeed recapture their manhood, all be it only in make-believe.

Their lives are stagnant. They are more likely to be the "agressive young men at the shopping mall" than they are the ones who come to the rescue. I bet Anne's boys were scared spitless, yet thrilled to pieces at the same time, during their "rescue mission" she described; Because that kind of thing is what makes boys know they are men.

Your generation lacks men! And sadly, they don't model "Biblical manhood" because society has replace MANhood with PERSONhood and the Church has followed suit. Our typical church service lacks any illusion to God as a warrior or defender or shepherd that is armed and ready to do battle for the flock; instead we sing "jesus is my boyfriend" type songs and hear sermons on the friendship of God.

Your generation can't model what it hasn't seen.
Your generation of males needs to be re-educated to be boys who in turn become men. Then they will be able to live Biblical manhood.

Brian

Boys who sit at home playing violent video? Boys who sit at home flipping through Maxim and Sports Illustrated magazines? Boys who sit at home ordering pizza because they don't know how to cook themselves .... this is the result of "feminization"? Could you please elaborate some more because that does not make sense to me.

I know a few immature guys and I know a few guys who aren't yet growing up ... I certainly don't see a supposed feminization of our culture as the problem there.

Cristián

I don't see anything wrong to see an responsible adult to behave like a little boy, it's pretty funny and healthy indeed...

jason taylor

To say anything in human affairs comes from one source is the mark of pseudo-social science. Nevertheless their is a point to what is said. I remember a job debriefing for FedEx where they show a video of a female stevedore wearing a T-shirt bearing the motto "safety first". Boy am I glad to know that if I work there they, at least won't make me wear that shirt!

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