Part 1 of a 2 part series blog post exploring how boys, young men, and men are changing in a society that now requires different things from them. How are they handling it?
We only pay attention when it's personal.
I have an invested interest in this topic. As a mother to a 3 yr old boy, I can't help but be concerned.
When my son was born we lived next door to two boys who seemed to be out of touch with reality and immersed in video games. I hoped right then that my son would never lose his youth to an alternate reality.
When my son had a speech delay, I worried he might suffer from one of three syndromes that boys are predominately at risk for: Asperger's, ADD/ADHD, or Autism. Every step of the way, I have something to be concerned about raising my son.
It's no secret that our boys are struggling. Some more than others. From lower college attendance to mass shootings, the failing male has become society's problem rather than merely a mother's concern.
Two weeks ago my son and I went to a children's story group at out local Barnes & Noble bookstore. After the session, I noticed a man walk into the store. He had a duffle bad containing long objects. Not books. Ordinarily, people frequently bring backpacks (students) into the store or packs (the occasional homeless).
What appeared odd was he never once looked at books, but only looked at people from behind a central bookshelf in the store. I decided it was time for us to leave and as we left I noticed the young man leaving and getting into his car. He didn't buy any books or do any homework at the café, and he had a car! I wondered why he needed the duffle bag if he didn't do anything with it.
Suddenly I had an epiphany. Do any of us know how many of these young men practice a mass shooting before actually committing to it? How many want a taste of the power associated with killing anybody they please? That must be a thrill to an isolated man in our society.
My keen sense isn't out of fear, but a reality that all of us face. Within 1 half hour of my city, there have been two shootings (Troutdale, OR Reynolds High School Shooting & Clackamas, OR Clackamas Town Center Shooting) by young men. Within three hours, there was the most recent: Roseburg, OR Umpqua Community College Shooting.
Whether we believe there were signs beforehand or it was a complete shock, we must realize in all cases these young men planned ahead of time. Possibly like the young man I saw in the book store.
A changing society has led our boys into unknown territory.
I'm also a mother to an 8 yr old girl. I see her driven personality and I admire her intelligence and tenacity. I secretly brag to myself 'Wow, I've done an awesome job raising a strong young lady', but truth is her path is paved with ease. Ironically, it's easier raising a girl in man's world than a boy. On TV, and other media, women are a great source of power and inspiration- it's definitely their time to shine!
I look at my son and I say 'How should I raise him?' His path is unsettled and gravelly, not paved.
Hoping my husband would be of great assistance in this department, he says 'To be honest, I'm winging it'. He never knew his father and was raised by a single mother. Fatherless generations of boys isn't uncommon.
The single mom phenomena or modern woman movement, whatever you want to call it proclaims that women can do it all with or without a man. They are even praised for it! I'm a strong woman, but you can bet I don't believe in any movement that tears down another group to build themselves up.
The modern woman has taken her place in the man's world. She's taken her place, his place, and our boys are now displaced. While many men have become increasingly involved in family lives (as women require more of them at home), there are droves of young men who are not fitting into their new role and as a consequence are having major issues.
For the first time in history men are not deemed necessary for exclusively male traits. Women can have babies, women can do what men do, but what can men do exclusively? Do you want to know what that does to a man, believing he's not needed? It kicks the oomph! right out of him. No aim. No purpose for some of these guys.
But in fact he is needed! Fatherless children are more likely to suffer from depression, commit suicide, drop out of school, be a victim or perpetrator of a crime, run away, and have behavior problems.
A respected Psychologist explored this subject in depth. Philip Zimbardo , author and Professor at Stanford University, wrote a book titled, The Demise of Guys several years ago. And since, his predictions and explanations for the male in today's society, are accurate.
He claims, "guys seem to be flaming out academically, wiping out socially with girls, and as they mature, failing sexually with women".
Also, "other factors emerged such as the role of being fatherless for boys who are living their lives isolated, playing video games and watching internet porn. But the societal issues involved are really monumental and must be more widely recognized and discussed," states Zimbardo.
His suggestions on how to counteract this phenomena is first, mass recognition- as a society, we need to not only be aware but realize the consequences.
Also, reversing the trends is part of the solution- not as much access to computers and gaming systems. The sad thing is, parents are overly busy and substitute their time for that of a tech gadget. Hey, I've seen it even at a pre-school level- the 4 yr old with a gaming toy or mom's phone.
~ Boys account for 70% of D's and F's in school
~ The average teen boy spends 2 hours a week watching online porn and 13 hours a week playing video games
~ 87% of video game users are male
~ 97% of mass shootings are by men, 79% young, white male.
Will my son be one of these- will he be a perpetrator or a victim? We won't have a basement for him to come back to at age 30 because I have every intention of keeping him on track even if the social trends have gone a little haywire.
"Asking what’s wrong with these young men or why they aren’t motivated the same way guys used to be isn’t the right question. Young men are motivated, just not the way other people want them to be. Society wants guys to be upstanding, proactive citizens who take responsibility for themselves, who work with others to improve their communities and nation as a whole...
The irony is that society is not giving the support, means or places for these young men to even be motivated or interested in aspiring to these things. In fact, society — from politics to the media to the classroom to our very own families — is a major contributor to this demise because they are inhibiting guys’ intellectual, creative and social abilities right from the start." (Phil Zimbardo. The Demise of Guys. May 23, 2012. Psychology Today online)
"Hollywood has caught on, too, to this awkward bunch of dudes, who appear to be tragically hopeless. Recent films such as Knocked Up, Failure to Launch, the Jackass series and Hall Pass."
I'm not sure if you're a mother or a father to a boy but we all need to be concerned about our young men. Get their heads out of the virtual world and back into contributing to a world that still needs them.
PART 2: A CHANGED MAN
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!