Reviews | Let’s give the boys a “girl drama”

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This lack of emotional and relational education has barely been recorded as a worrying loss for boys. We tend to dismiss and trivialize the preoccupation of adolescent girls with the complexities of relationships as a “girl’s drama.” But as Niobe Way, a professor of psychology at New York University and author of “Deep Secrets, Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,” puts it, “When we devalue things associated with femininity – like emotions and feelings. relationships – boys are missing. “

The imbalance doesn’t just put exhausting pressure on girls and women to carry the social and emotional burden of life – to remember birthdays and wipe away tears and understand that the growing eyebrow twitching. grandma’s more aggressive means she has to be separated from Aunt Susan – this harms boys and men too. They lack the concepts of internalization and learning skills crucial for a connected, moral and psychologically healthy life.

Likely because of this difference in socialization, boys score lower than girls of the same age on virtually all measures of empathy and social skills, a gap that widens throughout childhood and throughout life. ‘adolescence. This has implications at all levels. In first graders, social and emotional ability, including skills to make and maintain friendships, is a better predictor of academic success than family background or cognitive skills. Boys are now lagging behind girls at all grade levels through to college, so providing them with a more nuanced, people-centered emotional world – in what they read and watch, and in the conversations we do. have with them – could help to close this gap.

The impact on boys’ mental health is also likely to be significant. From a young age, girls’ friendships tend to be more intimate, deeper, and more emotionally focused, providing a supportive structure that boys are often sorely lacking. According to the American Psychological Association, this lack of support and the norms of masculinity that underlie it can contribute to a range of serious mental health issues. Teenage boys are also almost twice as likely to die from suicide as girls – so this is an urgent problem.

We’re talking about toxic masculinity as an extreme scenario – the #metoo monster, the school shooter – but it looks more like a specter. We’ve normalized a sort of sub-toxic everyday masculinity, which is as much about what we don’t expose boys to as what we do.

The stories we tell become our emotional role models, what we expect of ourselves and others, and how we engage in our lives. And in the vast majority of situations that we are likely to encounter in a lifetime, there is no hero or villain, no death and no glory, but rather just a bunch of needy humans who wonder who said what. Understanding how to navigate gracefully and competently is the beating heart of human connection.

So let’s work towards a brave new world, in which a boy can proudly commute between two birthday parties, sweating with compulsive people who please. Let’s give the boys a female drama, teach them the dark arts of emotional labor and sympathy. We could all be healthier for it.

Ruth Whippman, author of “America the Anxious”, writes a book about raising boys in the age of #metoo, misogyny and male rage.

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