Monday, November 3, 2008

A(absent).. D(dad)... D(disease)

"Hello Mrs. T, as you know little Johnny sure does have a lot of energy, hes curious, active, and quite talkative, he must be quite a handful at home." "I know, his Dad died young and Im finding Im just not up to the things he would love to do." "I totally understand, its a good thing hes the only boy in the class without a father, Im not so sure I could handle too many boys with that kind of energy."

So many years have passed since I was that age. I am saddened to see that there are many more boys who have to live with what I did. Now not all fathers have died, and this is what makes it even more tragic. Some just dont care enough to be active participants in their sons life, and others, because of their situations are denied their rights as fathers. What these situations are doing is creating a generation of drugged up kids(Ritalin). Now I know what I am suggesting is controversial but I think we need to ask ourselves, "are the boys of today physiologically challenged because of Nature or because of Nurture(lack of men)?" I know that how I respond to the world is very different than how my female counterparts respond. I also know that as a male if we are not allowed to express our inherent natures then it will surely come out in some other dysfunctional manner. This nature has to be nurtured not only by our mothers but most importantly by our fathers. How we as boys learn to traverse the road from boyhood to manhood is lead primarly from our fathers.

Now I have these questions, In the pursuit of equality for Women have we unintentionally discriminated against our boys? Has the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? Are we feminizing are boys?


Luke said...

i always marvel that the people i hold in the highest respect amongst my peers are also sons of single mothers. hell, i'm voting for a son of a single mom tomorrow!

great book btw: Absent Fathers, Lost Sons.

I tend to have swung the other way. i feel that i have been feminized but through this process has opened up my mind to the possibility of a fully realized gender. meaning i can throw the pigskin and talk about how i feel. it's a contradiction, a paradox, and it's incredibly hard to articulate in this forum.

the framework which i wield is not a duelistic "male/female" dichotomy but a spectrum aspect articulation. certainly there are biological differences in males and females but to what extent are the emotional responses culturally defined? who says a man can't be in touch with his emotions on issues outside of sports? who says a woman can't be the bread winner? what would it mean to have a culture that supports and affirms equality of both genders?

i feel the pendulum has swung WAY to far either way... what we need to recognize is that we put the pendulum there in the first place. we must deal with each child on a case by case basis and NOT on some gender-defined paradigm. it left me out and it looks like it left you out as well.

great post.. i will have to sit and think on it some more!

Tit for Tat said...

Hey Luke

My challenge is rooted in the thinking that if I am Loving, nurturing and caring that I have feminine traits. Those traits are not exclusive to women, we as men(generally) just express them differently. My issue is that maybe we are subconciously being told that our expressions as men are not as valuable as the way women express themselves. As a father of a daughter, I have first hand awareness of how boys and girls typically act in relation to their gender. Trust me on this, its a rare girl who goes up and punches her friend in the arm as a display of camaraderie. Now this is not a blame game on either gender, I think its a mutual display of ignorance. There are aspects of each gender that is typically expressed. Maybe that is why we are seeing ADD more commonly diagnosed in boys. So Luke does that mean that youre "Artsy", or as Arnold would say a "girlie man " Rotflmao

Luke said...

exactly! the expression of emotion is inherently different, but what makes them different? nature or culture? i would posit that it's a both/and not an either or. my nephews express their emotions quite readily but it's more physical than word-based, but they still use words with their actions. however, the oldest one, max has started using less and less words with his actions... and now is starting to use less and less actions to express himself. why this is, i can only imagine is negative conditioning from somewhere in his environment... definately not at home, school?

what i mean by fully realized gender is acknowledging our culture's expectation of gender.. i'm not shocked to see male nurses or female mechanics (my mom was one!). gender roles for my generation are being redefined in the work place... but there still are gender roles and acceptable expressions for male and female emotional expression...

and i have no problem being called artsy... but needless to say there's a reason i don't live in california ;-)

freestyleroadtrip said...

Great post. Most of mine are political these days so it is nice to read something that is not. As the father of two boys, I do think too often they are expected to be feminine at the expense of their masculinity. After all, the feminine way of acting in the world, whether it is culturalized or inherent Luke has pointed out, is more prone to order and less violence. That is why the way we do school, I believe, is more advantageous for girls than boys. Boys are expected to behave like girls in the classroom. Which may be why there is more ADD in boys. If school was set up around boys, maybe there would some sort of disorder more prominent in girls because of it. John Elderedge in Wild at Heart and The Way of the Wild Heart speaks to this very well.

Cliff said...

I came from the traditional home with MOM & DAD but I now watch my son who is also in a traditional role with his own family and yet I see him as a much better father because he and his wife are much more on an equal footing then my Mom & Dad were. I gladly take some credit for that but my hopes are for a future where nurture and nature have a much better balance and the idea of getting in touch with the feminine side is more acceptable for the little boys of our future. Good post.

Redlefty said...

Hmm... I don't think I have anything to contribute to the conversation as this is something I haven't considered much. But I will.

Thanks for the post.

Will said...

"This nature has to be nurtured not only by our mothers but most importantly by our fathers."

I believe that Nurture almost exclusively shapes us. The only Natural thing that affects men (that I can think of) is testosterone. Can testosterone really affect the way a man think? Probably to some degree, but it doesn't make a man sexist, but can make him a sexual being. It can make a man aggressive, but it doesn't chose who we fight. It maybe makes a man physically stronger, but it doesn't make us natural leaders, natural money makers or natural pants wearers.

Nurture and culture make men believe that it is okay to subjugate women, and promote patriarchy and be "just boys" and that "boys will be boys"

Lastly, why make this a question of gender? Is the boy white and his hyper activity is considered being a natural explorer? versus being a Native child, where he may have ADD/ADHD? What about economic concerns? I think just limiting it to gender maybe helpful to simplify an problem, but a lot of factors have to be looked at.

My girlfriend is a feminist major, so I hear/read a lot of gender questions. She always has a different way of looking at a question. :)

Luke said...

"Boys are expected to behave like girls in the classroom." -freestyle

here's where the "teaching modes" need to be employed. everyone learns differently, not just based on gender lines either but social context and class status both have roles to play. a good resource is

"Can testosterone really affect the way a man think?" -Will

that's the million dollar question... in Robert Sapolsky's book "The Trouble With Testosterone" he gives us some insight into how testosterone works... and the truth is, we don't know! Does it cause an anger reaction, a quicker anger response and less patience in men vs. women, or does it sustain the anger once the responce kicks in? There's really no way to tell at the moment. It's a really great book that also talks about the skizo-typical behavior in religious rituals, the constucts of nature vs nurture (it's both he argues), as well as gender paradigms. Wonderful read! Love that Sapolsky!

societyvs said...

"Has the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction? Are we feminizing are boys?" (John)

I hope so - women have been treated by mean with such disdain in the past that we need to develop a paradigm where we learn from women also.

I have a tough time seeing men being feminized - although it likely exists - and as you point out the ADD phenonmenon amongst young children. Maybe their is a fear of rambunctious children in general - so we got lazy in this society - and figured drugs was a 'cure all'?

I think you are partially right though - and I just ran into this a few days ago - a situation I would say that seemed to be about the feminization of the workplace.

Me and 4 of my friends (all guys) were joking around with one another for about an hour or so - and as guys we were taking some of our jokes over the line. Apparently there was a girl in the room that was deeply offended by our humor - which had nothing to do with her except she actually heard all the jokes.

As men, none of us sure of how to take this - we all were quite surprised someone was offended. Needless to say we were not totally aware of a women's sensitivity as compared to ours.

AnneDroid said...

Interesting. I certainly think education as it is in this country isn't serving boys at all well. I have one son and three daughters and my son has really struggled with school. He's a very bright lad, but basic things like sitting still for hours are still beyond him though he's 11 and in his last year of primary school. At least now they are allowed to choose books in reading time so that's helped a little.