Friday, September 25, 2009

Boys to Men

By Shawn Vuong

In the current society, men and boys are having a hard time defining themselves and fitting into their gender role.  What does it mean to be a man?  

It is said that nearly one fourth of all American children live in mother-only families.  At school they are more than likely taught by a female teacher.  Boys are growing up without a solid male role model.  This is a problem, as research shows that fathers tend to be more tend to be more challenging, prodding, loud, playful, encourage risk taking, and physical when compared to mothers.  This is important for children, and especially boys who are looking to their father for what it means to be a man.

In a world where being a woman is celebrated, it may be difficult for boys to figure out their gender role.  Women these days do a great job banding together, groups such as Women At Work, Women In Medicine, Women's Health Group, YWCA, and the many many organizations are devoted to celebrating what it means to be a woman.  Yet, you do not see similar things for men.  This could be that men only groups seem sexist and are discouraged, or that men just do a poorer job defining their gender role.  Either way, this lack of men groups in conjunction with a lack of male-role models may be making it hard for boys to understand what it means to be a man.  


By Richard P. Holm MD

For men, there is always something about our Fathers.  I heard it today in my office coming from a very hurt, yet extremely successful businessman how his father had always told him that he was too soft and would never amount to anything.  His Dad always expected way too much.  He could never do enough… never do it right.  His Father was never satisfied with anything he did…  Never!

On the other end of it, some would suggest that much of what is wrong in our society comes as a result of inner-city boys growing up without Fathers, or Grandfathers, or male role-models.  Without mentoring, these angry boys make the world a very dangerous place.

Robert Bly, a Minnesota poet, is one of the leaders of what has been called "the expressive men's movement," and he tells us that a “man’s work” is to not deny his inner suppressed “wild man”, and at the same time learn from older men principles such as the work ethic, honesty, justice, and especially respect.

They say that a boy growing up needs to experience, from older men, a ritualistic initiation, a robust challenging physical experience with nature.  This could be at basic training, at a work setting, or during a football or sports experience.  There should be a separating time from Mama when a boy becomes a mature man and learns about his responsibility to protect, not harm.  He needs to learn that virtue and justice is the goal, never violence, betrayal, or abandonment.

My own Dad had been a Sergeant in the Army during WWII, and if I dropped the ball on something, I learned to say, “No excuse, Sir.”  He challenged me to work hard, and demanded the truth from me always, calling me on it big time when I deceived him. 

Certainly he had his failings, and every son sees these things in his Father, but my Dad taught me the “golden rule” and proved it by the way he treated others.  And somehow I always sensed that I was safer from whatever bad there was, when he was around. 

He has been gone for seventeen years this month, but I still feel him protecting me.


Jennifer Myers said...

I love this post, and couldn't agree more with the topic. After reading "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge, I learned that men are hunters & warriors at heart, and that as a boy grows to be a man in today's society, he becomes greatly emasculated. It has also helped me relate and communicate with my husband and son's so much more.
Thanks for the great post!

Shawn Vuong said...

Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for commenting on this one. Hope you continue to enjoy the blog!