The situation of the majority of boys and men is far from privileged.
Posted Feb 26, 2013
What about the emotional lives of most men? Not what motivates the deeds of the few rich and powerful men in the well-guarded offices of their corporate and political institutions, but the experience of blokes. A great deal has been written about the behavior of boys and men, but little has been said about the experience of being male. Boys may be understandably inarticulate about what they are going through, but men’s silence about their inner lives (except for the poets) is another matter. Reports now regularly appear in the research literature and popular press about increasing suicide rates of younger males and even middle-age men, males who are presumably in their prime. College attendance by young men is at an all-time national low of 37%. Very young boys are known to be doing poorly in elementary and secondary schools, and college men are, with the exception of participation in athletics, very little involved in campus life.
Ominous pronouncements are heard about “the end of men” at a time when women are doing better in nearly all areas of everyday life. It is known that men generally avoid seeking help when they are in distress and so it is difficult to know the range and extent of what troubles them, but the unaccountable, unpredicted outbursts of bloody rage by mere boys that now occur, ominously, too often suggest that male troubles run deep. We stop at a distance from which we will see nothing clearly when we point to inexcusable behavior but fail to ask what motivated it. Psychology, in its behaviorist prime, must finally admit that what you see is not what is there. This is especially the case with the puzzle of male experience. There may not be time or inclination to examine the psychodynamics of a boy who cannot sit still in a classroom or an otherwise popular and evidently successful high school boy who hangs himself.
There is no time to waste, however, to register the precarious situation these boys find themselves in and make an effort to understand their inner world. Without assigning boys and men victim status, it is important to give our attention to half the population, most of whom hide under radar they have set up in the name of “the big impossible”—the Fox Indians’ term for manhood—and the scripted protocol of a masculinity that in the way it is defined can never be secured. There is nothing obvious about the psychology of being male. This is unexplored territory.