In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, there has been non stop media coverage about possible solutions to mass shootings in America. This is not one of those articles. I have no intention of igniting a debate about guns, especially when you can find that anywhere else online. To put it simply, I am a gun owner but I also think it’s high time we implement some sensible gun laws by closing loopholes involving gun shows and private transfers, and denying access to individuals that fail mental health assessments and/or have a history of violence. Instead I want to open the conversation up about something related to mass shootings and school shootings, but much more related to parenting and the culture in which we are raising our boys.
I have been consumed with the news over the past week, not quite as hyper focused as I was after Sandy Hook but focused nonetheless. These instances are becoming too frequent, too familiar. I remember Columbine like it was yesterday. It was only two years after I graduated high school in the suburbs of Atlanta. At the time everyone was shocked. Not so much anymore.
I am happy with our choice to homeschool daily for educational reasons, but at times like this it makes me so grateful that we found this path primarily for safety reasons. Just this week two of our local schools were in lockdown due to threats of violence on campus. Mass shootings in general have become a giant issue for our country, and a lot of the time it is the innocent children of America that pay the ultimate price. What the hell is the problem? Guns aside, what is the driving force? Obviously mental health problems are an issue, but where do those issues stem from? Why are literally all of the perpetrators of crimes like these boys or men and never women?
I read an interesting article in The New York Times the other day by Michael Ian Black titled The Boys Are Not All Right. He makes a very valid point. Every single mass shooter has been male. Why? What is it about our glorified American culture that creates these homicidal monsters? What is it that lies deep down inside their psyche that makes them want to inflict the most damage on the most amount of people? What happened to them? To take it a step further, these males want to be present and SEE the carnage with their own eyes. They want to be the one to inflict the damage and not just leave it to a bomb that they can detonate remotely. They want to be in control for once, since they seem to feel helpless and out of control in their own lives on a daily basis.
In the article I mentioned above, Mr. Black discusses how over the past 50 years girls have been raised with a feeling of empowerment. Faced with many obstacles, women have marched forward and prevailed. They were taught that they can DO anything and BE anything. The feminist movement forged a supported path and opened many doors for women, but left little boys behind. Who was on their side? If they weren’t getting the support they needed at home, it’s doubtful they would get it elsewhere or even ask. Asking for help if you’re a man is thought of as weak. Think about this, how hard was it for your mother or grandmother to get her husband (your Dad or Grandad) to ask for directions before GPS was so easily accessible? We live in a culture of Randy “Macho Man” Savage (yes, I grew up in the 80’s) and perceived examples of ultimate manliness. Men are taught as tiny boys to “man up” and that “real men don’t cry”. In most cases they have been conditioned from an early age to bury or ignore any emotion or feeling that they experience, unless it’s sexual. Only if it’s heterosexual sex, that is.
If you have a 5 year old boy, a 5 year old girl, and they both fall off of the swing and get a boo boo why is it frowned upon to comfort the boy with hugs in the exact same way it is assumed the girl would be comforted? Why should the little girl get a hug and the boy has to “get up and dust it off”? It’s not fair. We have failed our baby boys. We have taken away their ability to be human and experience life free of judgement. They won’t shed a tear out of fear of being called a pussy, even in the most tragic of situations. They won’t confess to certain hobbies because they’ll be deemed as “gay” or “a girl”. They won’t even say “I love you” to their mothers much less their wives or girlfriends in front of other men for fear of backlash from other men. The only two socially acceptable ways to express emotion for men is to fight or f**k. Rage or straight sex. They have to be a MAN at all times and keep that resting poker face. It’s bullshit, it’s sad, and it must be emotionally exhausting.
I remember a conversation that my husband and I had early on when our son was a toddler. I’ll give you a little background. My husband was born as a first generation American along with his siblings. His parents are US Citizens, but they brought the whole Hispanic machismo ideology from Colombia with them. Between the cultural influences of his heritage and being raised in America, he got a double dose. I remember specifically a time when the children were playing outside, and they crashed their little power wheels police car into the fence. Gabriel was only 2, and it scared him. He came to me crying. I raised him up to my lap, hugged him, and kissed his forehead. My husband watched silently for a minute or so. Then he told me I was going to make Gabriel “soft” by “coddling” him. Needless to say, that particular conversation didn’t end well for my husband. Fast forward years later, and he understands now. While he himself still isn’t 100% at ease with displays of emotion due to his own upbringing, he now gets that these are natural occurrences in humans regardless of gender. At 8 years old, Gabriel has no issue whatsoever showing his emotions just like my girls. I’m fine with it. It’s healthy and that’s how it should be. We are human!
Before I bring this to an end, I’d like to point out that my intention is not to demonize feminism. I am a feminist. Our girls are strong and can overcome any setbacks or barriers. Historically men have always had the upper hand and more advantages than women. African American males were granted the right to vote in America years before any women were (with the exception of Wyoming which allowed women to vote and hold office the same year-1869). I guess it was assumed that boys didn’t need help. We lumped our boys in with the men instead of teaching them to become better versions of their fathers or grandfathers. It turns out what they needed the most was unconditional love and nurturing without adhering to antiquated ideas outlining who they should be, the exact same support our girls have received for decades. It’s time to bring them back into the fold and raise them to be decent, healthy, emotionally functioning, well meaning members of society. They need to be able to experience the roller coaster of life without drowning in the heaviness of being emotionless masculine robots. You evolve as a person by living and learning. Our society as a whole has left no room for that when it comes to American boys. It’s time for a change.