By: David French – nationalreview.com – January 7, 2019
Yesterday afternoon, immediately after the Dallas Cowboys’ hard-fought victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Fox’s Erin Andrews interviewed Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. She asked Elliott what he thought when he saw Prescott take off for a key run that set up the winning touchdown.
“It’s simple,” Elliott responded, “He’s a grown-ass man. That’s what it is. That’s how he played today, and he led us to this win.”
That’s a phrase you hear a lot in sports. “Grown man.” There’s grown-man football. There’s grown-man basketball. It speaks to a certain style of play. Tough. Physical. Courageous. Overpowering. It’s also fundamentally aspirational. It’s quite safe to say that millions of young boys desire to become a grown man — a person who is physically and mentally tough, a person who can rise to a physical challenge and show leadership under stress. In fact, that’s not just an intellectual goal, it’s a deeply felt need. It’s a response to their essential nature.
But becoming a true “grown man” — while a felt need — isn’t an easy process. It involves shaping and molding. It requires mentoring. It requires fathers who are themselves grown men. Turning boys into grown men means taking many of their inherent characteristics — such as their aggression, their sense of adventure, and their default physical strength — and shaping them toward virtuous ends. A strong, aggressive risk-taker can be a criminal or a cop, for example. To borrow from the famous American Sniper speech, they can be a sheepdog or a wolf.
And if you’re a father of a young boy or spend much time with young boys — especially if you coach boys in sports — you’ll note a very human paradox. Even as they want to become the grown man they see in their father or in their idols, they’ll often fiercely resist (especially at first) the process. They’ll find the discipline oppressive. Building toughness requires enduring pain. And who likes enduring pain? Effective leaders have to have a degree of stoicism, but it can be hard to suppress natural emotions to see reality clearly.
Nothing about this process is easy. Some fathers default to cruelty as a teaching tool, with disastrous results. Others are deeply intolerant of differences, rejecting or even bullying those boys who don’t conform to masculine norms — thus driving them into deep despair.
But while the process of raising that grown man isn’t easy, it is necessary. Evidence of its necessity is all around us. While a male elite thrives in the upper echelons of commerce, government, the military, and sports, men are falling behind in school, committing suicide, and dying of overdoses at a horrifying rate, and their wages have been erratic — but still lower (in adjusted dollars) than they were two generations ago.
Men still make more money than women, but to see the differences in wage growth, compare these two charts from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Here are male wages since 1979:
Contrast that chart with the positive story of the female economic revolution:
We are in the middle of an intense culture war focused around men, dominated at times by two kinds of men-as-victim narratives. On the populist right, you’ll get those voices — such as Tucker Carlson — who see these trends and rightly decry them, but then wrongly ascribe an immense share of the negative results of immense social, economic, and cultural changes to the malice or indifference of elites, with solutions wrongly centered around government action.
Carlson has triggered a critical debate on the right, but then — just in time to remind us that well-meaning people from all sides of the political spectrum can propose solutions worse than the disease — along comes the American Psychological Association with its first-ever “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men.” The APA sees the challenges facing young men and rightly seeks to overcome those challenges, but then diagnoses the wrong cause. As Stephanie Pappas notes on the APA website, the new guidelines conclude that “traditional masculinity — marked by stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression — is, on the whole, harmful.”
The guidelines themselves argue that “traditional masculinity ideology” — defined as socializing boys toward “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence” — has been shown to “limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict,” and negatively influence mental and physical health.
Yet as we survey a culture that is rapidly attempting to enforce norms hostile to traditional masculinity, are men flourishing? And if men are struggling more the farther we move from those traditional norms, is the answer to continue denying and suppressing a boy’s essential nature? Male children are falling behind in school not because schools indulge their risk-taking and adventurousness but often because they relentlessly suppress boys and sometimes punish boys’ essential nature, from the opening bell to the close of the day. Especially in fatherless homes, female-dominated elementary-school experiences often mean that boys are exposed to few — if any — male role models, and male restlessness is therefore viewed almost entirely as a problem to be solved rather than a potential asset to be shaped.
It is interesting that in a world that otherwise teaches boys and girls to “be yourself,” that rule often applies to everyone but the “traditional” male who has traditional male impulses and characteristics. Then, they’re a problem. Then, they’re often deemed toxic. Combine this reality with a new economy that doesn’t naturally favor physical strength and physical courage to the same extent, and it’s easy to see how men struggle.
To see the remainder of David’s article, click read more.