For too long, as in, most of human history, women have been subjected to various forms of sexual abuse at the hands of men. Most of this is in the form of harassment, some of it is groping and the like, and some…is rape. As the father of a beautiful baby girl, I’m glad to see the amount of attention that is being brought to this now, and the effort being put into combating this. After reading Faith Salie’s Time article, “How to raise a sweet son in an era of angry men”, it’s clear that many women only see half the problem. There isn’t much in this article with which I disagree, but what isn’t said is very troubling. It is troubling because I know from personal experience that she could be setting up the “sweet boys” of today to become the “angry men” of tomorrow.
How Boys Become Angry Men
Salie addresses many of the problems with how boys are raised. They are taught to be “tough”, and not allowed to be “sweet.” They are taught that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. The contrary holds true, however. As Salie explains rather hopefully, “Sweet boys grow up to be men who recognize the strength in being vulnerable and empathetic.” This is, indeed, a strength. But here’s what Salie completely neglects to consider.
From about the 90s onwards, boys grow up in conflict. Their dads tell them to toughen up. TV tells them that such macho men make fools of themselves, and that the sweet guys are wiser. So, some boys listen to Dad. Others, with a rebellious streak, spite Dad and listen to TV. I’m sure Salie is hoping for the latter. But the latter, little does she suspect, can become the very angry men she fears.
Here’s how it works.
The boy grows up being “sweet”. As a teen, instead of hitting on the girl he likes as a typical teenage boy, watching her bend over and wolf whistling, and the like, making his innuendos, moving in, copping a feel, etc. – instead, he is “sweet”. He respects the girl he likes, holds her books for her, buys her things, complements her makeup, pretends to like the same girlie shows or chick flicks she’s into. The sweet boy soon finds himself in the “friendzone.” Regardless of ideology, biology is what it is. And girls are attracted to what they’re attracted to, especially when they’re raised permissibly. As Gloria Estefan once sang, “Bad bad bad bad boys, they make me feel so good!” A timeless truth.
While mutual friendship between boys and girls, men and women, is healthy; the “friendzone” paradigm is toxic. This toxicity is part of the problem.
As the sweet boy grows up, he watches the girls he likes going with the wrong kind of guy, over, and over, and over again. As he starts thinking and debating, and complains to the average feminist, what does she tell him? “You’re not entitled to a woman’s body! Her body, her choice!” Gee, thanks, that’s very helpful. Consequently, the “sweet boy” is filled with righteous indignation at the injustice! I did what I was supposed to do! I respected women! And this is what I get?! The most extreme of these might be the next “Elliot Rodgers”, and go on a killing spree. Some of them become rapists. A larger portion simply start pushing the boundaries. They stop respecting women, they start hitting on women as their colleagues did as teenagers. And guess what? Sometimes – it works! But any woman attracted to that, will never make him happy, nor will she be happy herself.
So should we raise “bad boys”?
I can’t blame fathers who care about their sons for raising them in such a way that they will thrive in this world, including in their dealings with the opposite sex. But as a society, we can do better than this. Many aspects of our biology are simply outdated, such as a man’s instinct to be overly macho, as well as a woman’s instinct to be attracted to such machismo. Fortunately, there are some wise women out there who know better. My wife is one of them, and I’m a very lucky man. Sadly, our happy marriage is very much the exception, rather than the norm.
It’s a two way street, ladies
We are emphasizing raising boys to respect women, yet girls are raised to do whatever feels good in the moment because “girls can be anything boys can”. In so doing, we are raising the angry men of the future.
If we want a future with the kinds of relationships built on mutual respect, vulnerability and empathy, and where a relationship and marriage is a partnership where each complements the other; then we must raise our boys and girls accordingly.
We need to teach our girls that the guy their instincts tell them to put in the “friendzone” because he’s “such a sweet guy”, he’s the guy who will treat her right. We need to teach our girls the danger of going with the guys who excite them. Get them out of the “Dirty Dancing” mentality.
We need to raise the kind of girls who will seek the kind of boys that Salie is raising. We need to teach our girls that they teach others how to treat them, and that actions have consequences. “Pussyhats” and promiscuity are not empowering! But too often, this is exactly what I see from this generation of females. I’ve seen a group of girls in a public place exchanging gifts that included some very explicit sex toys. I’ve seen them take pictures of each other pretending to perform sexual acts on each other. Then I’ve watched them suddenly become shocked and appalled that some random guy shouted a comment at one of them that was maybe half as crude as the behavior that preceded.
We have to raise our girls better than that. How can we expect boys to respect them, if they don’t respect themselves?
I had a wonderful grandmother who was crucial to my upbringing. And she taught me, not by words, but by how she lived her life, what a strong woman truly is. She told me about her and my grandfather when they started dating. He was shy. She approached him. She initiated their first hand holding, their first kiss, etc. He was in many ways a strong man. Abuse one of his daughters, get your lights knocked out. But apparently, he was rather shy approaching the opposite sex when he was single. My grandmother even at a young age was wise enough to appreciate a sweet boy, who became a sweet man.
My grandmother also understood modesty. She had no problem calling a “slut” a “slut”. She had no problem saying that women who were scantily clad, out late at night, drunk, etc. were likely to get raped. My grandmother was of the generation that overcame the Great Depression, won the greatest war the world has ever seen, and put America on top! She was the New Deal Democrat who also liked Ike. Her generation had no more time for petty partisanship than they had for vitriolic gender wars. They were left an America in decline, and they were not going to accept that. They decided to do better.
Raising Girls To Become Truly Empowered Women
I plan to raise my daughter to be as much like my grandmother as possible. If we raise our daughters to be strong yet modest, tough yet compassionate, and wiser than their primitive biological instincts, then Salie’s efforts to raise “sweet boys” will not be in vain. If, however, a generation of women raise their daughters on their own insecurities, projecting their pain caused by the wrong kind of men onto their sons and daughters, then we’re just raising another generation of broken, angry men, and vulnerable, abused women. There is no empowerment in going with “bad boys” because it “feels good.” Girls are not “fighting the patriarchy” by subjecting themselves to their baser instincts, and then blaming the “sweet guys” for the consequences. If my grandmother’s generation can overcome America’s greatest challenges and put us on top, then we can do better than our parents have over the last few decades. Like America’s greatest generation – we can do better!
“If we really want to make America great, we do it together!” – Hawk Newsome (BLM organizer)