In the last third of the 20th century, feminism freed women and girls
from the straight-jacket of stereotyped sex roles. No one did the same
for men or boys. This is not women's fault. Women cannot hear what men
don't say. But it does have an impact.
Girls used to be minorities in college and graduate school. Now
women are almost 60% of the full-time graduate students. They are also
54% of the full-time undergraduates and almost 70% of the part-time
undergraduates. In high school, girls are more likely to be in clubs,
student government, on school newspapers, receive better grades, be
valedictorians and salutatorians, win scholarships, and have higher
professional aspirations. In contrast, they have fewer discipline
problems and drop out less.
This change is occurring for many reasons. Our sons are often being
raised only by their mothers, then entering elementary schools with
almost all female teachers. Girls have role models. Boys have gangs.
Yet our daughters are still being treated like disadvantaged
minorities with federal programs like Girl Power focusing millions of
dollars on our daughters' special needs while no program focuses on
our sons' special needs.
Nothing tells the story more dramatically than our sons' and
daughters' suicide rates. As feminism has helped our daughters get
love and respect from being whoever they want to be, our daughters'
suicide rate has declined. Meanwhile, our sons' suicide rate has
soared. Why? Start with the power of our children's first love.
Fortunately, our daughters now have the option to pursue boys and take
sexual initiatives. But our sons still have the expectation. If they
do it too slowly, they are still called a wimp; but now, if they do it
too awkwardly, they are sued for sexual harassment; and if they do it
too quickly, they are a date rapist.
As feminism has helped our daughters have more ways to gain love and
respect, it has also encouraged sexual harassment and date rape
legislation that has given our sons more ways to lose love and
respect. And people who feel unloved and disrespected are most
vulnerable to suicide. So when our sons and daughters are nine their
suicide rate is identical, but by the time they reach their early 20s,
our sons' rate is six times as high.
By focusing on only our daughters, we have identified only the way
our daughters experience low self-esteem and depression. So we catch
our daughters' experience before it becomes suicide. Boys' experience
of depression and low self-esteem is hidden in the cracks. By calling
it aggression or delinquency or drinking or drugs, we skip past the
depression until we stand before his coffin.
The reason boys' experience got hidden in the cracks evolved slowly
over the past third of a century. It started with the shadow side of
feminism the belief that since our sons would grow up earning more
money, they must have more power, privilege, and attention to their
needs. We lost sight of the fact that men had been historically
obligated to raise money just as women had been obligated to raise
children that obligations are not power, but, well, obligations.
We failed to see that womenšs attention to men's needs was
conditional. Few women competed for the man reading I'm Okay, You're
Okay in the unemployment line. It was conditional upon his willingness
to earn money that often a woman would spend while he died sooner.
Therefore, homeless men and gay men did not have women providing for
their needs. It was conditional upon men being willing to die in war.
Few beautiful princesses married conscientious objectors. Women fell
in love with The Officer And The Gentleman, not The Private And The
Feminism helped us become aware of the price of our daughters
becoming sex objects, but not the price of our sons becoming success
objects. We falsely assumed that our sons' greater preparation for
success meant a greater concern for who he was. We missed the fact
that our sons did not become successful by learning to express who
they were, but by learning to repress who they were. Successful men
did not express feelings, they repressed feelings.
This is still the norm in most every American high school. The girls
are most likely to fall in love with our son if he is a football
player. Football players soon learn, though, that being in touch with
their feelings is dysfunctional that acknowledging his pain would
lead to him leaving the game. And then the cheerleader would no longer
cheer for him. She would cheer for his replaceable part.
Our sons need love and approval too much to look underneath the
cheering that her cheering is not for who he is, but for his
willingness to deny his feelings. Our sons are still learning to
receive love by sacrificing their bodies. But instead of calling it
child abuse or prostitution, they call it "becoming a man." Or
scholarship potential. Or identity. Few parents protest. Most applaud.
Our daughters have entered the Era of the Multi-Option Woman while
our sons are still in the Era of the No-Option Man. Our daughters now
have the option to perform, the option to pursue boys, and the option
to pay; our sons still have the expectation to perform, pursue, and
Our daughters are still giving their love to men who perform, and
watching mothers do the same. Worldwide, two and a half billion of our
daughters-as-women are still enough into the fantasy of being swept
away that they were glued to Princess Dianašs wedding. Few of our sons
have castles to offer.
When these fantasies of security become the trauma of divorce, our
daughters demonize the men who failed to save them. They join First
Wives' Clubs. Their fantasy of being swept away has been swept away.
It is difficult for a woman who is rejected to feel a man's feelings.
It is easier to label him a jerk. (It hurts less to be rejected by an
object than by a full human being.) A success object who fails becomes
an object of contempt and the focus of the male-bashing that is
On yet a deeper level, our sons' depression and heartaches get lost
in the cracks because virtually every society had an unconscious
investment in men protecting us. People who protected us had to be
willing to die, not be encouraged to be in touch with their feelings.
It was part of our genetic heritage, then, to select men who were
Our genetic future, though, is dependent on selecting men who are
nurturer-connectors. This will evolve not from a women's movement
blaming men or a men's movement blaming women, but from a gender
transition movement helping both sexes make a transition from
following rigid roles to negotiating trade-offs in a multi-option
world. For the past third of a century, we have introduced our
daughters into a multi-option world; now it is time to introduce our