Masculine Identity is a Myth
It’s time to teach children about power dynamics, not gendered views of what it means to be a man
It seems like a lot of men have the maturity of middle schoolers. I don’t have any empirical evidence to prove so, but when I listen to the young teenagers who live in my house, the things they say sound a heck of a lot like the rhetoric I hear from some of the grown men on cable news.
That means either my kids are gifted, or many adults are stunted. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. My children still exhibit a developmentally appropriate lack of basic executive function skills — they can’t remember to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, to close the front door, or to strap on a face mask before heading to school. They’re far from achieving adult consciousness.
This week they’ve been complaining about “cancel culture.” I don’t know where they heard the term, probably YouTube, maybe Discord or TikTok. I guess an algorithmic internet rabbit hole is a real thing — coercive and packed full of propaganda. My children must be echoing the influencers in their digital bubble.
How else does one make sense of a privileged thirteen-year-old’s concern that a person can be professionally ostracized, or culturally exiled for saying the wrong things? My kids say the wrong things all day long — at school, online, when talking about cancel culture at the dinner table — and each time it’s met with patience, responsiveness, clear feedback, unconditional love, and I’ll admit, maybe a little bit of patronizing exasperation from their proudly feminist father.
For elite white boys like mine, the cancelation bar soars so high that their distress is unfathomable as anything other than peer-pressured conformity. Maybe they’ve heard the absurd notion that it’s a hard time to be a boy — that American culture no longer respects cisgender men. Some people believe that because subjugated and oppressed communities have leveraged digital media to shine a bright light on the inequity of the mainstream social hierarchy, it’s suddenly difficult to be the ones at the top. In her book, For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity, Liz Plank calls this “masculinity moral panic.”
For elite white boys like…