How to Talk to Boys: A Response to Danielle Campoamor

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Photo via Emil Athanasiou

The attack on manhood begins early. Those who want to shame men and turn us into lumps of quivering goo know enough to start when we’re young.

For evidence, see this romper.com article by Danielle Campoamor. The article captures the attempt to reprogram men’s nature into something that more easily fits within the progressive agenda.

Look at how it begins.

As a socially conscious person, I make it a point to watch what I say and how I say it. I value the thoughts, opinions, beliefs and feelings of those around me, so I don’t say whatever comes to mind and with complete disregard of others.

What’s this paragraph telling you?

It’s letting you know that what the author is about to present is the official program of the “good people.”  If you dissent from the ideas she presents, you automatically put yourself outside the bounds of polite society. In just a couple of sentences, Campoamor employs a powerful, manipulative technique to prevent people from criticizing her ideas.

Join me, if you will, beyond the pale and let’s do it anyway.

Campoamor proceeds to lay out ten phrases we all must stop saying to boys. What unites these phrases, apparently, is that saying them to boys might lead to men who believe them. And men who believe them are, of course, obstacles in the progressive quest.

Let’s examine a few of the phrases Campoamor recommends we cut from our speech.

First, she recommends we stop telling boys to “suck it up.”

Men, Campoamor claims,

are chastised for having any feelings that haven’t arbitrarily been deemed “masculine,” i.e. anger or courage.

Campoamor makes this claim because feminists’ descriptions of men’s supposed psychology and experience are based on their fantasies of what men’s lives are like, not on reality.

I’m a man, and never in my life have I been chastised for having “any feelings” not deemed tough.

Never.

Instead, I have been chastised for my behavior. For letting my fears and worries dominate me to the point where I failed to do my duty and let down a team, a friend, a co-worker, but never for the feelings themselves.

Moreover, Campoamor’s claim demonstrates tremendous ignorance about men’s relationships. The best, most compassionate training I have ever had in becoming an emotionally mature adult has come from other men, men who understand duty and the necessity of rising, in spite of our feelings, to the challenges the world throws at us. Not once has any of those men thought the problem was my feelings. Instead, they routinely pointed to my choices and asked me to make the one that required the greatest bravery, risk and character.

This fact is easily visible online. Just check out Ed Latimore. Or Mark Braivo. Or Neil over at This Dad Does. All those guys are dedicated to helping young men grow into their best selves and I can’t imagine any of them every telling a boy, “You need to stop having feelings.” I can easily imagine every one of them telling a boy that sometimes we have to put our feelings aside and do the hard thing before us to reap the reward. That’s not abuse. It’s leadership.

Campoamor mentions courage as a feeling boys are “allowed” to have. Her confusion is again evident here. Courage is not a feeling. It is a virtue, and as such it is a repression of feeling. Courage is the practice of doing one’s duty in spite of one’s emotions.

Doubtless, Campoamor is glad to live in a world of male courage, a world where firemen rush into burning buildings, policemen handle dangerous brutes and soldiers defend against invasion. She probably takes all this courage for granted and fails to see how her encouraging emotional weakness in men undermines the very courage she, and the rest of society, depends on.

Let’s move on:

Campoamor complains because, she says, people say to boys “Don’t Act Like A Girl.”

She writes:

“My son acts no differently than my friend’s daughter. Literally, there is no difference in how they play or how they learn or how they interpret their world.”

Anyone who reads this has got to wonder how closely the author is paying attention. Sex differences emerge early because they are a product of biology. A situation where there is no discernible behavioral difference between a boy and a girl likely results not from liberation but from repression. Boys in their natural state act very differently from girls. The only way to stop this is to punish, even subtly, those behaviors that characterize masculine youth.

Another explanation is that Campoamor is a very young mother who has been steeped in feminist ideology and never offered another perspective. Checking out her blog, this seems to be the case. Given that, it’s equally likely that her son does behave very differently than little girls his age, but that Campoamor’s feminist blinders prevent her acknowledging it.

The truth is that instead of boys being told not to act like girls, the overpowering cultural message sent to boys is “act like a girl.” Boys are asked to sit still all day in school. Their natural urge to be up and doing, exploring their environment is suppressed. Teen boys are constantly told to cover up their emerging sexual interest in female classmates in order to create non-threatening, neutered environments where everyone exists as a gender neutral “human” rather than as men and women. On and on, our culture reinforces the notion that women are the superior sex and that any man who desires approval from the system had better start falling in line with their expectations.

Saying to boys, “Don’t You Want To Grow Up To Be Big And Strong?” is, according to Campoamor, also damaging. One can only wonder if she believes saying to boys, “Don’t you want to grow up to be puny and weak?” would be better.

This is another example of where the author  misunderstands the male mind. People ask boys that question because they know the answer. They know that yes, boys want to be big and strong. No boy ever sets his sights on growing up to be unable to open a jar of pickles in front of a girl. No guy ever wants to be the last one picked for a team. No boy wants to be unable to fight. That is not social conditioning stemming from images of idealized male physiques. That’s nature.

When people ask this question, it’s often to try to get boys to eat their vegetables or to undertake some other healthy practice. The subtext is always something like “I know you want to grow up big and strong, and this is how you do it.” The core of this message is not shame, but instruction.

Feminists like to claim that men’s bad behavior is excused by saying “boys will be boys.” Campoamor is no different. As someone who actually once was a boy, I can say definitively that my behavior was never excused on the grounds of my being male. In the small, Midwestern town where I grew up in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, the opposite was more likely true.

As a boy, the expectations about how I would conduct myself were probably higher because of my sex. That’s not altogether bad if you accept that young men have to be held to a high standard of conduct since our natural impulse to aggression can lead to serious damage if left unchecked.

Finally, Campoamor believes boys are told constantly not to cry, something I have already written about. You can read that post, I won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say that the reality is much more complex. Everybody knows it’s okay for men to cry sometimes. And, I now know, the moment after reading an article about what not to say to boys is definitely one of those times.

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