Sherri Rosen is worried that despite all our advances, we are still not focused on raising boys to be emotionally open and compassionate.
I am worried.
As a grandmother I am worried about how our boys are being raised. Are they being raised to be emotionally literate? I grew up in an age where women were ignored—where they were thought of as only good for being wives, mothers and sex objects. The Women’s Movement changed much of that and allowed women and their partners to become more humane with one another. During this time I was raising four boys, and I so wanted them to not only speak from their head, but be connected to their hearts. I encouraged them to feel. One even got mad at me when he got older, saying, “why did you raise me to be so open?” That was quite shocking to me, to have my own son be angry at me for raising him to be open, but I got it. He couldn’t understand how to have an open heart in a culture that only emphasizes using your brain. It’s very painful and one has to be very courageous.
When I began dating online I would see the same thing happening. Many of the men had no connection with their hearts and would constantly speak to me from a place in their head. If they were open hearted with me it lasted for a short amount of time and then they closed up. I feel grown men aren’t emotionally literate. In the beginning of dating online, I thought it was me. I kept saying to myself each time I met someone new, “this one will be different. He will be able to relate to me with an open heart. He’ll be able to share his feelings.” And if he did, it was exciting, but it lasted for a short amount of time. Most of the men I dated were not used to expressing their feelings.
What I see now is us concentrating on our girls, wanting them to be competitive in the job market, and giving them all of the opportunities available to them. But we are ignoring our boys. I don’t see or hear us encouraging our boys to be kind, gentle, considerate, or respectful. I don’t see us supporting our little boys to have an open heart. We complain that men don’t feel but don’t stop to teach boys how. We seemed to have ignored our little boys by not asking them what’s wrong, but telling them to man up and stop crying. Why aren’t we encouraging them the way we do little girls? Why do we tell girls they can be anything they want to be so long as they are happy and give it their best shot, but boy have to be the best, the strongest, the smartest or fastest before they get our approval?
The old ways of raising our boys aren’t working—and I worry that the advancement of technology discourages verbal face-to-face communication even more. I don’t see how it encourages emotionally intimate conversations other human beings, and I worry it will create a space where boys will fall even farther behind. If we don’t teach our boys to be emotionally literate they will never learn about compassion, and what kind of society will we have then?
I have so many questions and concerns. Although we have made many advances in the way we talk about and teach masculinity, there are still many problems. Boys receive mixed messages daily, “you have to be in touch with your feelings, your feminine side,” comes in the same sentence as, “you have to be strong,” or “man up.” We as a society seem to be confusing the issue of what masculinity is more than ever before. If there is an answer I don’t know what it is. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Photo: Kris Mouser-Brown/Flickr