Let boys be happy boys

I’ve written a few times here about toxic masculinity, the idea that certain beliefs and expectations are bad for men as well as women. This, by Tim Winton, puts it really well.

Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism.

One of the most worrying things in the world right now is the radicalisation of young men, much of it online. Many young men are lost, and there are plenty of people offering them easy answers. All too often, they’re the wrong answers.

In the absence of explicit, widely-shared and enriching rites of passage, young men in particular are forced to make themselves up as they go along. Which usually means they put themselves together from spare parts, and the stuff closest to hand tends to be cheap and defective. And that’s dangerous.

Recruiters for the likes of the far right know this. It’s why you find them in forums where young men talk about depression, and anywhere else there are vulnerable young men looking for answers. It’s why they amplify the voices that tell people liberals, feminists, people of colour and LGBT people are stealing their birthright.

A man in manacles doesn’t fully understand the threat he poses to others. Even as he’s raging against his bonds. Especially as he’s raging against his bonds. When you’re bred for mastery, when you’re trained to endure and fight and suppress empathy, how do you find your way in a world that cannot be mastered? How do you live a life in which all of us must eventually surrender and come to terms? Too many men are blunt instruments. Otherwise known, I guess, as tools. Because of poor training, they’re simply not fit for purpose. Because life is not a race, it’s not a game, and it’s not a fight.

Too many people are telling angry young men that it *is* a race, it *is* a game, it *is* a fight. And that’s harming men and women alike. It’s right and proper that we call out toxic behaviour and male entitlement, but men are victims here too.

…patriarchy is bondage for boys, too. It disfigures them. Even if they’re the last to notice. Even if they profit from it. And their disfigurement diminishes the ultimate prospects of all of us, wherever we are on the gender spectrum. I think we need to admit this.