My first meeting with Cole was in an afternoon. I was late and saw a tall white teenager sitting outside the library, nervous and restrained. He would stand up straight, lower his voice to emphasize that he is a man, and at the same time talk to me awkwardly about him in the fleet, at school, and dating.
I spent two years discussing masculinity, sex, and love with more than 100 boys from 16 to 21 years old from different parts of the United States—the tangible and intangible forces that shape them into men. Almost all the interviewees held a relatively equal view of women, and felt that the female students around them were smart and capable, both good in character and learning, and enthusiastic about campus public welfare. These boys have female friends, and many of them also have gay friends. Compared with 50, 40 or even 20 years ago, this is a huge change. They got rid of the shackles of male chauvinism and paid attention to social hot news: sexual harassment, campus bullying, domestic violence, mass shootings, etc. I interviewed a famous rugby player who sneered at the term “macho”: “Everyone knows what it is.” This really surprised me.
| What is a “man” |
However, when asked “how to be an ideal man”, these boys’ answers seemed to go back to 1955: aggressiveness, dominance, rationalism, tall posture, strong sexual ability, good at sports and making money . These qualities are not bad, but compared with the diverse concept of success of contemporary women, for today’s boys, the road to successful men is too narrow and single.
One-third of the interviewees said that when they feel sad or scared, they have to suppress their feelings and must force themselves to be “more like a man.” More than 40% of boys believe that when they feel angry, people around them will encourage them to fight. Another survey of young men in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Mexico showed that they are under social pressure related to sex, and having sex with women has become the standard for “successful people”; Teach your female partner should be controlled.
Feminism provides women with another clear path besides becoming traditional women, as well as a language system that can describe themselves. This is precisely what men lack at the moment. The definition of masculinity seems to gradually become narrow and conservative.
What’s so good about being a boy? Faced with this problem, most boys’ brains are blank. “Interesting, I have never thought about this problem. I usually hear a lot about what is wrong with boys.” Sophomore Josh murmured. Although following the inherent script does bring social and work convenience to men, the survey shows that those who strictly enforce the “manliness code” are not only more likely to bully others, they are also more likely to be victims of verbal or physical violence. By. Compared with other people, they are more likely to be unhappy, depressed, and more difficult to make friends.
Of course, it cannot be generalized. Andrew Semuel, a psychologist who has thoroughly studied the history of Western maleism, said that at the end of the 19th century, the image of an ideal male was a compassionate watchman, but this quality was gradually eroded with the process of industrialization. The Boy Scouts system established in 1910, whose creed requires Boy Scouts to be loyal, courteous and friendly, is to some extent in response to this dehumanization trend.
Samuel believes that the further distortion of masculinism stems from the anti-feminist thinking that lasted for nearly a century. During World War I, women proved that they could contribute to economic development like men, and then won the right to vote. In order to resist the feminist wave, American leaders have deliberately “raised” the threshold of male power, demonstrating the natural superiority of men in rule, and emphasizing that only more rational talents are sufficient to lead the country.
However, by the second half of the 20th century, the traditional “man’s road”-early marriage and early raising of the family-had gradually become narrow, and some good qualities seemed to become less important. Nowadays, many parents are confused about how to raise a boy. An adolescent culture that blends super-rationality, sexual conquest, dominance, and praise for male violence is poisoning these boys.
For many boys, this distorted masculinity has become a reference standard for their decision-making. Even in many things that seem to have nothing to do with male identity, they will follow this set of guidelines. When Cole was in high school, he and his teammates proposed to maintain a vegetarian diet for a period of time to prove that athletes can also adopt a vegetarian diet, but everyone else said: “Come on, this is stupid, we will become the worst. One batch.” “We do have to get the fat and protein needed by the human body from meat, but for people around me, the reason why this proposal is undesirable is that not eating meat looks awkward.” Cole Recalled.
|”Boys are not allowed to cry”|
There is no gender difference in the needs for physical contact and emotional expression of infancy human beings. In fact, some evidence suggests that baby boys are more expressive than girls. However, from the beginning, the image of the boys who lacked emotional expression skills was fixed.
Judy Zhao, a lecturer in human biology at Stanford University, studied the psychology of boys from pre-kindergarten to the first grade and found that young boys have a keen understanding of emotions and desire to establish intimacy. But from the age of five or six, they have to learn to erase this sensitivity: not being weak, not playing with girls, and socializing with boys of the same age in a hierarchical manner. Harvard University psychologist William Pollack said that boys in this period often have a “fear of shame”, thinking that talking about personal privacy is a manifestation of loss of dignity. “I’m talking about heaven.” Many boys confessed that all their emotional expressions are always denied by boys of the same age, girlfriends, teachers, coaches, social media and even their fathers.
18-year-old Rob revealed that when he encountered difficulties in school or baseball training, his father would only tell him to “be like a man.” “That’s why I never talk to anyone about my problems.” Rob always thought that if I can’t solve these difficulties by myself, then I am not a man. Rob broke up with his girlfriend of three years, “I don’t talk to her anymore, I have completely forgotten her.” But forgetting how simple and unrestrained is a person. I asked him who he had talked with about broken relationships, and he shrugged helplessly, because if he told his friends that he never forgets a girl, they would just say “Don’t chirp like a maiden.” Rob is very depressed, and the only person who can let him off his guard is his girlfriend, and now he has lost the opportunity to talk to her.
Girlfriends, mothers, and sisters are the most often mentioned confidants of the boys I meet. It is of course a good thing to have someone to talk to, but mothers often impose their thoughts on boys. They told the boys that women are solely responsible for emotional work and are responsible for dealing with men’s emotional lives, which to some extent hinders men from independently solving emotional problems. This kind of education makes it difficult for men to correctly recognize and express their feelings, and then it is difficult to maintain a long-term adult relationship with others.
Rob was upset after a broken relationship. One night he “emotionally broke down” while chatting with his mother in the kitchen. “I’m going to collapse,” he said. “The trivialities in class, my girlfriend…” He couldn’t describe what kind of “collapse” was. He repeatedly emphasized only one sentence: “I didn’t cry, I really didn’t cry.”
This is a common reaction of boys when they mention crying: they want to cry, but don’t cry, don’t cry. For most boys, this is a rare humiliation, like a dangerous crack in the base of a carefully constructed building. A sophomore boy said that when his parents divorced, he couldn’t cry, “I really want to cry, I need to cry.” For this, his solution was to watch three films about the Holocaust in a row over the weekend. movie of. When boys confide in a person about crying, or even cry in front of that person, it is an adventure for them to entrust their precious privacy. Tears are evidence of their fragility and their desire to show themselves. What a bitter reality this is.
| The discriminatory “buddy culture”|
Most boys believe that sports are their favorite part of being boys. They recalled the days of playing on the sports field, romantic and warm. But at the same time, many boys have given up their favorite sports because of teammates or coaches.
The most extreme example I have heard comes from Ethan. He is good at playing lacrosse and expected that he would encounter a culture of “rogue brothers” when he entered the school team, but he underestimated the influence of this culture. “Mouths are full of sex and sex boasting, even the coach supports’slut humiliation.” Ethan said, “I won’t be like this in the class or in front of others, but as long as I enter the locker room…” He shook his head “This is the most painful experience in my life.”
As a freshman, Ethan could not challenge the authority of these predecessors, not to mention that he did not have the support of his coach, so he chose to withdraw from the lacrosse team. Not only that, he simply transferred to another school. “If I quit the team but still stay in school, I will endure the resentment caused by quitting the team, and I will have to bow my head to see those guys without looking up. There will be no such troubles when I transfer.” At the new school, Ethan never did. Did not participate in the lacrosse team and other sports clubs.
Veteran sports writer Robert Lipchter regards this “athlete culture” (which my interviewee calls “buddy culture”) as the dark underbelly of the “enclave” of patriarchal rule. This culture is not only popular in sports, but also in boys’ schools, fraternities, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the military. Even if this culture makes the team more connected and achieves the glorious goal, it cannot erase the ugly fact of its control of the boy’s concept: treating all non-self races as enemies. The only exception among women is direct blood relatives, but in principle it is still “brothers are like siblings, and wives are like clothes.” Loyalty is the most important thing, and the so-called masculinity is based on misogyny and homophobic speech.
Kerr and his teammates said “fuck” most often in the locker room, almost every word, and they would call each other “stupid” and “bitch”.
“So what about’dead gays and’ niggas?” I asked.
“No.” He shook his head very surely.
“Why are you not allowed to scold’dead gay and’ nigger, but you can scold’stupid’ or’bitch? Isn’t the latter two so ugly?” I asked.
“I have a friend who said that we shouldn’t use swear words, but is there any word that can replace these swear words? We can’t think of more exciting words than them,” he replied.
“Energetic?” I was a little at a loss.
“Yes, for an analogy. Someone scolded me during training:’Fool! Quick! You fucking move! This is very effective. But if you say:’Quick, Cole! Don’t be so weak! Be strong! This won’t burn so deeply in my mind.” Cole paused, “I don’t know why, maybe I just don’t want to think about it so much.”
| Is it a joke or a worry? |
These boys will also be immersed in sweet and beautiful love, but why are their words so harsh? The content of the conversation in the locker room has nothing to do with sex in nature. The stories they tell are actually about power: use the language violation of women to confirm whether the chat partner is heterosexual, or show off in front of other teenagers that they are the best in terms of sex.
As evidence, we can look at the scandals of American colleges and universities in recent years, such as Harvard, Amherst, Columbia and Yale University’s infamous chorus scene of the College Brotherhood in 2010: “Girls said’don’t do it,’ said they’re going. It means’you can have anal sex.’ In the spring of 2019, Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, which has always been politically avant-garde, published publicly its student publications in the past few years of the school’s fraternity meeting minutes, most of which were pornographic insults to women. joke. After the minutes of the meeting were released, the brotherhood involved was disbanded. After the incident, the relevant departments questioned the boys. They usually think that this is just “fun”, an extension of a child’s shit, pissing joke, a means of testing the moral boundaries of language, understanding the structure of the human body, and gaining fame among peers. .
But just like the “locker room chat” in sports, their jokes can also be used to cover up sexism. It may not hurt for a 10-year-old boy to ask his friends what is the difference between a childbirth and bowling, but at the age of 16 he is still discussing what women and bowling have in common, which deserves our reflection.
We don’t know if these boys will tell jokes that insult women, blacks, gay groups, or the disabled in the future, will they “slut humiliation” the raped girls and share them with friends, mocking those who are in love Companions, or listed the names of girls who had soaked up on the wall of the dormitory at the age of 18, compare with friends who have more girlfriends. Some very good, smart and polite big boys I have interviewed have done such things more or less.
“Booing” is a grand excuse for the boys to ignore the feelings of others and themselves under the package of playing together. When a boy feels that his behavior violates the ethical code, the “booing” anesthetic can both numb their conscience and make the accusations against them appear excessive and outdated. “I’m just joining in the fun! Isn’t it wrong? “Boys may even know that this is wrong, but out of social courtesy or fear of isolation, they have to follow suit, otherwise they will be marginalized and even become the object of collective ridicule.
| Listen to the voice of the boy |
The “Me Too” feminist movement created an opportunity for boys to take advantage of this shareholder spirit to participate in the belated conversations about gender and intimacy. This is not an easy task. Back in the early 1990s, parents would worry about their daughter’s insults. These girls who dare to stand up to defend their rights will be squeezed out by their peers because they are too eye-catching. Although there are still many problems to be solved, the situation is different for girls.
Now is the time to reconsider how to educate boys. We need a new masculinity standard that emphasizes emotional and mental health. Rationalism is valuable, and so is free expression. Toughness and tenderness can coexist in one person. We cannot underestimate the misleading of adolescent boys by the wrong culture. Real change requires the continuous and unremitting efforts of parents and teachers to achieve.
We must focus on broadening the definition of masculinity to help boys face disappointment, anger, and desire. We can’t just say what we don’t want boys to be, but what we want boys to be. It is not enough to tell them to respect women and not let women get pregnant.
“Keep silent”-this has left many American boys in a state of confusion or even on alert. In order to protect themselves, they can only reduce themselves to savages thinking in the lower body. Cole told me that after studying the infamous Mei Lai village massacre during the Vietnam War in high school history class, he decided to join the army, “I want to be a commander who can give orders to prevent such acts.” Is such a lofty goal still worthwhile? Isn’t it enough for us to oppose sexism? If Cole didn’t try to stand up and didn’t think of a way to defend and share his values, what kind of person would he be?
“In the machismo culture, we often use’stupid’ bitches and’maggots to curse people.” Cole said, “It is wrong to equate maggots with women to prove that men are powerful, and our self-strength should not be established. On top of the insult to others. I don’t understand, maybe I should become some hero to stop this kind of thing.” Cole was silent. “Perhaps I’d better be a handsome adult,” he added, frowning. “I want to be a role model. The world needs to change.”