"We need more Maps to Manhood."

A few days ago, the following slide was brought to my attention via a tweet from Steph Guthrie via Jeff Perera who regularly speaks about gender roles, specifically, masculinity.

It reminded me of a conversation Archer and I had about "motherhood." It reminded me of a conversation Archer and I had about violence. It reminded me of many conversations Archer and I have had. About not wanting to play a sport. About growing up and what it means to like "boy stuff." And then it made me think of how segregated these conversations are. Like sex ed and how the boys had to leave the classroom when it was the girls' turns to learn about their bodies. How the girls had to leave the room when it was the boys' turn... Because girls and boys bodies worked differently and it wasn't our business learning about the other sex when it came to sex?

...I vividly remember being 12 years old and an adult calling a bunch of us around to join him to drool and ogle at the bra section of the Sears catalogue. We stood around as if participating in a no-frills manhood-rite-of-passage, awkwardly knowing to nod and smile approvingly on cue. Ideas of Social norms and cues come from individuals in our lives as well as from the world around us. While girls struggle to understand how to handle the attention that comes with developed breasts or long legs: Boys struggle to understand what it is that they are supposed to be and not be in romantic, sexual and everyday encounters.


Growing up, I always assumed that girls were the insecure ones. That it was the girls who struggled internally. Because, ironically, the girls were the ones who were talking about their internal struggles. We were allowed to, expected to - we played truth or dare and telephone and all the games that little girls played so that we could share openly with one another.

I learned later that boys weren't supposed to come to boys' birthday parties  in the way girls do, with arms open and dresses pressed and let's braid each other's hair. Boys don't get invited to girls' birthday parties, either--at least not in our experience. Archer has never been invited to a birthday party by a girl in his class. Not once in four years. Meanwhile, Fable has been invited to four boys' birthday parties SO FAR THIS YEAR. That sends a message. Even if we don't think it does. And, yes, girls' birthday parties are usually gender specific. But do you know how many boys complained that there was a princess at Fable's party? Zero.
photo-2 Bo and Revi with Archer's best friend who is amazing

And just like having daughters has changed the way I look at myself, having a son has changed the way I look at boys. At men. At their struggle. At their emotional complexity and how unfair it is that society tells them repeatedly to hide that away. To bottle it up. To fake it. To act out and show off in order to be accepted. Make friends. Be included. That caretaking is for girls. That affection is uncool.

For the workshops, I delivered almost exactly the same session for the boys as I did for the girls. I talked with the young women about the pressures and expectations placed on boys to walk, talk and act a certain way and how that impacts upon girls and women. I showed them a video of spoken word artist Shihan performing Love Like and we discussed their reactions to seeing a male who is excited and enthusiastic about love and being in love. I asked the girls what would happen to a boy who expressed enthusiasm about love in their school hallways, during recess or in the neighborhood: a boy not trying to play it cool and act all hard, but openly enthusiastic and happy. They said he’d be made fun of. I asked If they would laugh at a boy who acted or felt this way, half of them put their hands up. I asked if this was an example of how they would want their partner ( regardless of sexual orientation) to feel about love and being in love.
I know this is just scratching the surface as usual, and that I've become a bit of a broken record a la "lets empower our sons as well as our daughters", but I found this so eye-opening, even though I feel like my eyes are pretty open to this subject, so I couldn't not pass it on.

In the words of Jeff Perera, "we need more maps to manhood."

Or better yet, we need to provide a better landscape from which our sons can draw their own maps. Because this shit be crazy on both sides. Because girls perpetuate the myth of masculinity as well. Mothers. Sisters. Evite invitations. Let's please keep talking about this. With our sons AND our daughters and ourselves.

For more on Jeff Perera go here. Also, please check out It Starts With You, which is a Canadian organization that rules. (This video is a much-watch for all, I think. Especially children.)

I started a masculinity/raising sensitive sons "boy power" pinterest board, here, and would LOVE to include any articles, posts, or talks you have to recommend on the subject. Thanks in advance.