Little boys who love openly and cry easily – over lost Thomas the Tank Engine Trains, over the injustice of not being allowed to eat ice-blocks for breakfast, over lost teddy-bears. They are little boys who are curious and exhausting and loving and soft and who love to tumble around crashing and banging and laughing.
And I’m incredibly worried for them. I’m worried for where they are going to be in a decade. Fifteen years. Twenty. Forty.
Because this past week it hit home to me that something is very broken in the way we are raising our boys.
Watch: Ann Marie Houghtailing explain why raising men is the most important thing she can do in her life at TEDxSanDiego. (Post continues after video.)
In the past week my heart was strangled with stories about violence and misogyny perpetrated by men. An innocent teenage boy was killed by a coward punch to the head when a group of male strangers decide to attack someone for their own amusement. A father decides to kill his two little boys as well as himself when he drives off the Port Lincoln Wharf.
A cricketer decides it’s okay to call a female sports commentator “baby’ and ask her out live on air. A grandfather stabs his wife, daughter and two-month-old granddaughter. The baby later dies.
A woman is punched in the pub where she works. The attack is unprovoked – not that it matters. This – all this – occurred over a matter of days.
Yet what is most shocking is that these stories aren’t unique. I mean, they’re not. Right? We’ve grown used to them. They are constant. They keep coming. These stories of physical violence, sexual violence, suicide, murder-suicide, misogyny. All of it at the hands of men.
In the aftermath the conversation routinely turns to alcohol abuse, lockout laws, mental illness and the cancerous culture of “boys being boys”.
But isn’t it bigger than that?
Noted family psychologist Steve Biddulph’s book Manhood reminded that:
- Boys are most likely to get in trouble for acting out in schools. Boys are also more likely to have learning difficulties.
- Men are most likely to be the perpetrators of violence against men.
- Men are most likely to be the perpetrators of violence against women.
- Men are most likely to be on the receiving end of violence (from other men).
- Men are four times more likely to take their own lives.
- 92% of prisoners in jail are male.
So here’s the thing. While men still hold the majority of power in our society, there are no winners here.
None of us are winning.
It’s at this point that I wish I could offer you the answer. I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. I wish I could publish a handy little list of 10 dot points on how to raise a son who isn’t going to take his own life or coward-punch another man late at night.