Rerouting the Masculine Repertoire
"The Miseducation of the American Boy" by Peggy Orenstein
The Atlantic, January 1, 2020
For two decades Peggy Orenstein has been writing compellingly about gender, and her latest piece in The Atlantic is a worthy synthesis and call to action. Boys, she explains, "are relegated to an impoverished emotional landscape," "unable to identify or express their own emotions, and ill-equipped to form caring, lasting adult relationships." Quoting boys from numerous recent interviews, Orenstein notes the tragedy and often the ironies of "bro culture" and "the dark underbelly of male-dominated enclaves" wherein many boys are longing for a different paradigm of masculinity. They have learned to use "weaponized" language to talk about sex, to disregard feelings, and to be silent "in the face of cruelty or sexism." While girls draw strength from the conversation and culture around feminism, she explains, seeing "many ways to be a girl," there is no equivalent for boys who describe "just one narrow route to successful masculinity." Thankfully, Orenstein describes an accessible and attainable way forward for educators (and everyone in society, really): "engage young men in authentic, long-overdue conversations about gender and intimacy," "emphasize emotional flexibility" in how we teach and raise them, and "purposefully and repeatedly broaden the masculine repertoire for dealing with disappointment, anger, [and] desire." While the content of this article won't surprise most readers, it is nonetheless essential reading as a powerful contemporary overview of a challenge at the heart of education and society more broadly.