The de-Tom Sawyering of American boys

Is it ok tell boys to “be a man”?

AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a beautiful response to the (somewhat feminist) documentary trailer below. She claims the film ignores the real differences between the sexes.

She says,

The energy, competitiveness and corporal daring of normal males are responsible for much good in the world. No one denies that boys’ aggressive and risk-taking tendencies must be socialized and channeled toward constructive ends. But the de–Tom Sawyering of the American boy should not be anyone’s agenda.

Even though our culture may have abused the phrase “be a man”, isn’t it more damaging that we now tell boys to “be less of a man”?

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20 comments

      • Mr. Perfect

        I think men can be men at the same time without buying into the “be a man ploy” that kids are indoctrinated in to….ex. as a kid the worse thing somebody can say is you fight or play anything like “a girl”, accepting sexism shouldn’t be part of being a man….having robotic molds for men and women makes me understand why so many commit suicide.

  1. Terence Boyle

    All kids should be encouraged to be what they want to be. Adults have a responsibility to prevent kids from bullying each other but not to enforce preconceived ideas about masculinity or femininity on them. I have been a male my whole life, no amount of rough and tumble between me and my friends ever prevented me from denying the existence of my own feelings. Although I don’t remember a time where me or my young male friends felt we needed more time to express our feelings to each other. We were too busy devising our next mud covered, knee scraping adventure for stuff like that. But I did have friends who ran in to trouble in their lives and with their troubled families, we were always there for each other and no one was bullied in to doing otherwise. This video is sad. It is sad that adults want to abuse children by preventing them from having a natural fun childhood. It makes me realise how lucky I was by just being left to be a normal healthy boy – mud, scraped knees and all.

  2. da

    “Be a Man” isn’t a threatening statement, on the face of it. It is someone challenging another to do that which is expected of men. Real men. Real men are socially conscious, selfless, willing to sacrifice time and talent, for other people. But when a punk says “be a man!”, the first thought I have is “Be the Man … that you aren’t”. Walk away, tattle, correct the errors. Those are “manly” things.

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  4. Dan McInerney

    Instead of eliminating the ideals of masculinity, would it be better to try to show them how to be better men? In this video, boys complain about bring alone when things are worse., not having friends in high school, needing to talk and express themselves, etc. What about trying to teach them to be loyal, generous, courageous and supporting? If you want friends, be generous; give, really give and ask for nothing, them people will want to be a friend. If things get worse and your friends abandon you, your friends might lack loyalty. Stick your neck out for someone, show courage. Teach boys to be men, and better men. Don’t tell them to act like women.

  5. Ray Cardinal

    To tell a boy to “be a man”, often is a parenting short cut. If true masculinity is taught, and more importantly , lived out before the boy, then to say, “be a man” may have some value. If not, then the boy will pick up cues from the culture. The culture portrays masculinity as just physicalness, when in truth physicalness is how a boy express what’s gointg on inside. When they get their cues from the culture then masculinitybecomes a mask.
    BTW, masculinity is not about stuffing feelings, but more about mastering your feelings.

    • cheeflo

      “BTW, masculinity is not about stuffing feelings, but more about mastering your feelings.”
      A straightforward and satisfying remark. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

  6. Edward Ruffin

    I had the pleasure last night of listening to my two daughters – 15 and 20 – rant for a half hour about how guys nowadays need to “grow a pair”.

    My youngest considers a willingness to try jousting a positive feature of the “want, but don’t need” variety. She’s willing to accept broomsticks on bikes in place of the traditional horse and lance, but the principle remains the same – a willingness to engage in risky, stupid behavior.

    The eldest has, over the years, demonstrated the ability to tolerate a fellow for as long as two weeks before kicking him to the curb. It doesn’t say much for either the guys or the prospect of grandchildren in my future. The cause seems to be the general uselessness of millennial male.

    Feminism is robbing women of decent men.

  7. Sarge

    It used to be simply assumed that when one said “be a man,” the implication “be a GOOD man” was so obvious that it didn’t need to be said.
    Apparently, the concept of basic social goodness (fairness, compassion, honor, dignity, honesty) is now so foreign to many people that one can no longer assume that’s what’s meant.
    This is a poor reflection not on the concept of ‘manliness,’ but rather on the assumptions of those who would attempt to deride it.

    • David Jones

      Yes. This. Precisely.

      From the time I was a boy, I remember that when people talked about “being a man,” what they were referring to was a whole bundle of virtues coupled with moral strength. It is sad to me that somewhere along the way we seem to have lost this concept.

  8. thegermanegyptian

    maybe we need to look at the social areas outside of school, boy scouts, women are trying to run it, I used to belong to the FFA, future farmers of america, yeah vocational training, the “smart people” pushed girls into it, well boys like girls but not all the time, they need to be alone with other boys to develop male social skills, and need adult males to learn from, now over half of ffa advisers and maybe one third of boyscout leaders are women, my wife tried to be a scout leader, her first complaint, they are so ruff and wrestle so much, why can’t they behave, in her mind act like girls, I convinced her to quit before she did more damage. boys need MEN around them in school in social activities and home, there comes a time for the “women (feminist)” to butt out

    would love to see the reaction if boys tried to take over girl scouts, the feminazies would explode

    • Common Sense Isn't

      “would love to see the reaction if boys tried to take over girl scouts”
      I agree. I was both an advisor for Explorer Scouts and an assistant to the Girl Scout troops my daughters were in during the early to mid-80’s. Although Explorers (ages 14-18) were co-ed, I read all the Scouting info as it morphed from Boy Scout’s to Scouting USA because lawsuits were threatened if girls were excluded. Yet at the same time the Girl Scout organization was crowing that they won a lawsuit allowing them to exclude boys ‘as girls need a place where they can interact with each other without worrying about boys being there’. Hmmm…

  9. Forbes

    Trailer is full of feminist (and statist) pop psychology, and a waste of time. Telling someone to act like a man or to man-up or stop acting like a pussy are an observation–a corrective reminder/instruction, and/or a criticism of the moment that is context specific intended to influence someone else’s behavior. The trailer, and some of the comments above, act as if such comments are as kryptonite to Superman–universally devastating and debilitating. The power of suggestion ranges from ineffectual to constructive, even commanding, but to indict words as morally culpable is to ascribe the long-discredited Blank Slate theory of human development. But as with most all Lefty propaganda, the Utopian belief in social engineering is both simple-minded and toxic–as if humans are drones awaiting computer programing, and Leftists–such as the film maker–knows the computer code. As juvenile and it is pathetic in thought.

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