(Read 51) Of Boys and Men
Release year: 2022
Author: Richard Reeves
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When I decided to read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg , a book that discusses “women, work, and the will to lead”, I felt it would be interesting to follow it up with a book that explores “why the modern male is struggling, why it matters, and what to do about it.” It seemed to me like an interesting juxtaposition. If women suffer from imposter syndrome, what are modern men suffering from?
In his introduction, the author mentions that “in the current political climate, highlighting the problems of boys and men is seen as a perilous undertaking.” I would certainly agree about that. Daring to add some nuance to the goals and outcomes of the feminist movement seems to me like one of the few subjects even I would never dare speak about openly, out of fear of looking like I’m saying something against the progress that we have made as a society in the past century. I can’t imagine how scary it could be for politicians to give the author’s argument an honest look. It’s the type of things that might sound good behind closed doors, but that you wouldn’t want to be quoted on.
Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with social movements like the manosphere, pickup artists, “men going their own way”, and such. It breaks my heart, because I feel that a lot of men are being misguided and taken advantage of, yet I feel unequipped to talk about it. I know that there is nothing I could say that would change the mind of anyone from those movements. In fact, I would probably be (rightfully?) labelled as a blind Leftist, which, as scary as it is to admit, is one of the things the book made me realize I might have been for some time. Holding a balanced argument about these topics is just… really hard.
In my opinion, the author does a wonderful job of providing a truly balanced argument, backed with more data than he needs to make his point. It is both surprising and ingenious: let’s start boys in school a year later than girls (aka “redshirting”). Because boys' brain develop at a slower pace than girls (which seems to be an observation that most scientist agree on), the author argues that this would be a more equitable educational program for everyone. With systems thinking in mind, it’s interesting to think how this one tweak might indeed change everything.
I think there’s something there worth exploring for our policymakers. As the author writes, “When almost one in four boys (23%) is categorized as having a ‘developmental disability’, it is fair to wonder if it is educational institutions, rather than boys, that aren’t functioning properly.”
⭐ Star quotes
- When almost one in four boys (23%) is categorized as having a “developmental disability”, it is fair to wonder if it is educational institutions, rather than boys, that aren’t functioning properly. (p. 8)
- Life has not always been rosy for man in traditional families. There is a certain desolation in life that is designed for you, a potential hollowness. (p. 34)
- The success of the women’s movement has not caused the precariousness of male social identity, but it has exposed it. (p. 37)
- The true cause of the male malaise is not a lack of labor force participation but cultural redundancy, a sense of purposelessness that has suicidal men describing themselves as useless and worthless. (p. 63)
- “Ontological security” is exactly what many men are seeking; a more solid social anchor, more certainly about how to be in the world. (p. 67)
- Culture has played a particularly important role in channeling the energy of men toward positive social ends, especially by teaching them to care for others. But this behavior, being leanred, is fragile and can disappear rather easily under social conditions that no longer teach it effectively. (p. 97)
- Average differences between groups should never influence the treatment of individuals. (p. 98)
- To be a grown-up means learning how to temper our own natures. The child is still in us, he is just not in charge anymore. (p. 102)
- The “toxic masculinity” farming alienates the majority of non-violent, non-extreme men, and does little to address the grievances, or counteract the methods that lure susceptible individuals to the far right. (p. 108)
- Natural differences between men and women have often been used to justify sexism. This is mostly an outdated fear. In recent years, most of the scientists identifying natural differences have, if anything, tended to stress the superiority of women. (p. 111)
- The pandemic was bad for women in some ways, and bad for men in other ways. We can hold two thoughts in our head at the same time. (p. 114)
- “Boys and men are struggling because the left hates them” is a powerful political message, because the first part is true, and the second part can be made to sound plausible given the tendency of many of the Left to pathologize masculinity. (p. 117)
- Masculine supremacy, like white supremacy, was the neurosis of an immature society. It is good for men as well as women that women have been set free. That genie can enver be put back into the bottle. (p. 128)
- The iron rule of politics is that if there are real problems in society, and responsible parties don’e deal with them, the irresponsible parties will jump on them. (p. 129)
- When there are differences in starting conditions, treating the same (i.e. equally) is not the same as treating equitably. (p. 134)
- An equitable education system will be one that recognizes natural sex differences, especially the fact that boys are at a developmental disadvantage to girls at critical points in their schooling. (p. 134)
- If we are serious about expanding the role of fathers, equal leave is essential. The signal policy makers need to send is that paternal care matters as much as maternal care. Anything short of full equality blunts that message. (p. 175)