Women’s Month Series: Boyhood Struggles

By Khothatso Kolobe

Photo by Corina Nicolae on Unsplash
Photo by Corina Nicolae on Unsplash
In the previous chapter, Hooks draws examples of his brother and primary bond at a specific time. They both were able to express their feelings earlier in their lives. The brother grew patriarchal during his teenage years. Her lover changed in his early thirties, being rewarded with recognition in his community and at work. To be a man is to be patriarchal. Is this an absolute law?

Chapter 3: Being a Boy

Being a boy is associated with being lovable. From commoners to the royal family, everybody wants an heir to maintain the family name and inherit property. This glorification comes at a cost. The cost of not being loved. Status and entitled rewards cannot be grouped together with love. Even from birth, baby boys express themselves more than girls, crying louder and longer. I relate to this because my mother sometimes mentions that I was such a crybaby. What is disturbing is that some mothers with sexist beliefs have second thoughts when it comes to comforting baby boys out of fear that they will be a weak momma’s boy. This tough love mentality constricts the emotional development of boys, curbing any capacity they may have of expressing and receiving affection. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, authors of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys harp on the fact that boys are more emotional in early childhood because they are not yet contaminated by patriarchal fear and despise of expressing dependence. The above is headlined by a direct quote that informs us that every child, boys included, comes into this world wanting to love and be loved by parents. This is backed by forty years of research on emotional attachment that displays unequivocally that without love, children die or suffer severe emotional damage. Antifeminist women such as Christina Hoff Sommers in her book The War against Boys, is perceived by Hooks as improperly speculating that nurturing boys to be antipatriarchal is resocialising boys in the direction of femininity. Hooks contends that Sommers conveniently ignores feminist thinkers that are as critical of sexist notions of femininity as they are of patriarchal notions of masculinity. Patriarchy springs from socialisation through various mass media platforms and flows from one boy to another through peers. In fact peer pressure thrives from threats of boys not being man enough to try something stupid. In fear of being a wuss, many boys become monsters, destroying their lives and breaking hearts of those who care about them. Feminist thinking has one major failure. The flop is that not only in theory but also in practice, there has been a pronounced shortage of boyhood study that may offer strategic guidelines for alternative masculinity and a new way of thinking about maleness. All we see are critiques without matching solution suggestions. Progressive antipatriarchal folks try their due diligence to ensure that their children grow untainted by patriarchal thought patterns. Given the mass media and peers, it seems to be a hopeless battle where the enemy is attacking the children every hour of every single day. As boys enter their teenage years, it is erroneously believed that it is natural for them to be antisocial, disassociate and disconnect. Contrariwise, recent progressive research uncovers that distancing young males from emotional care is emotionally detrimental. With patriarchy as the picture frame, isolation at the edges and violence at the center, it becomes clear that societies are raising killers. Killers that can join the military and go to war. Some of these killers are half seasoned and end up appearing on evening news for violent acts against women and children. Across all wealth classifications, from the suburbs to the townships, when women talk about abusive men, they describe nice guys who have rage outbursts when disciplining them. They make it appear as if it is the girl’s fault, they portray their violence as an act of love. Can we blame them? Patriarchy preaches to them that rage is manly. I have witnessed a female receive crowd silencing slaps and looked the other way. It is one of those things you see and do not even know how to respond to. I asked the guy why he did it after his anger abated. The reason was almost valid. I felt enraged just listening to it. All I could do was advise him not to do it again. Anger is a default emotion since any other is prevented for boys to feel. It is more favourable than numbness as it promotes instrumental action. Worst of all, it masks fear and pain. Anger is described better by Gary Zukav and Linda Francis in The Heart of the Soul: Anger prevents love and isolates the one who is angry. It is an often successful attempt to push away longed for companionship and understanding. It is a denial of humanness of others and your own. It is the agony of believing you are incapable and unworthy of being understood. With a considerable number of female headed homes and mass media hooting about how single mothers are unfit to raise a healthy boy child, more damage is done. Olga Silverstein tackles this predicament in The Courage to Raise Good Men. She voices how single mothers are particularly scared of producing a sissy son. The fear grows to homophobia, with the underlying baseless notion that feeling boys turn gay. The consequence is boys being treated harshly and isolated. Isolation is dangerous because it is used by terrorist regimes to break people’s spirits. Do not even think homosexuals are safe. Gay men share the same notions with heterosexuals about what constitutes masculinity. Their patriarchal thinking leads them to have desirable sexual behavior beliefs that are aligned to those of straight men. Thus, gay men and straight men are both angry. I remember comforting a gay friend after a beating. Even as I was uttering words of consolation, the greatest shock at the back of my mind was that they had the same problems as heterosexuals. What Hooks is hammering into us is that patriarchy must fall. The last line of the chapter cements it. She divulges that to love boys rightly, we must value their inner lives enough to construct worlds, both private and public, where their right to wholeness can be consistently celebrated and affirmed, where their need to love and be loved can be fulfilled. At every turn, it goes without saying that love is the answer. Spiritual and religious writings tilt towards love. If it is being mentioned by a visionary feminist, it means we are still not doing it right. It must be a little surprising to conservative readers that I issued an example of a homosexual friend. At a certain point, somehow, you have to gather the courage to love and understand. Set yourself free from patriarchal chains. Tomorrow we will be looking into stopping male violence as part of the fourth chapters. I hope our ladies had a blissful women’s day regardless of the weather.