I noticed the hashtag on the social media profile of my daughter’s friend: #killallmen. I knew this young woman and thought she was great. This seemed extreme for anyone, but I couldn’t believe it was coming from her. I went to my daughter and questioned her about it. “Oh, Dad. It doesn’t really mean that. It’s just an expression pointing out how women don’t need men.”
I consider myself a strong advocate for an egalitarian view of women and, as such, have welcomed the #MeToo movement and the attention focused on calling out “toxic masculinity” in all its forms. That said, there are certain ways in which I believe our culture has made the words “toxic” and “male” synonymous. While there are certainly important lessons for our sons to learn from all this, there are also some destructive cultural influences they are picking up. Here are 5 destructive lessons our culture is teaching our sons.
1. To Hate Yourself
It’s common currently to see young men as “the problem” and women as “the solution.” On the one hand, I get this. For a long time in our culture men have created barriers to entry to the halls of power and there is so much we lose when women don’t have equal representation at the table. This is inexcusable and must be reckoned with. At the same time, we need to offer young men a way forward that isn’t about self-hatred. We need to model for our sons healthy masculinity that partners with healthy femininity to build a world where everyone can flourish.Hatred is not a helpful response to disagreement.
2. To Hate Others
Not everyone who disagrees with you is your enemy. Hatred is not a helpful response to disagreement. In our culture, we currently have zero value for civil discourse, debate, and healthy disagreement. On the one hand, I don’t want to pretend like our predecessors were much better. Historically, we’ve seen brawls in Congress, and remember that little thing called the Civil War? So it’s not like we once did this well. However, that’s no excuse for our current level of vilifying the other. We need to teach our young men how to avoid these cultural influences and engage those who disagree and, dare I say, love their enemies.
3. To Isolate
The New York Times recently reported on a 2021 survey of 2,000 men in which less than half of them reported being truly satisfied with how many friends they had and about 15% reported having no close friends at all. According to the Survey Center on American Life, this issue is pronounced in young men who are 12% more likely than young women to rely on parents for support instead of reaching out to a friend. With all the challenges against unhealthy gender stereotypes, we still continue to tell men that only romantic intimacy is appropriate. Otherwise, we don’t have a category for intimacy between men that isn’t romantic. We need to model healthy male (and female, for that matter) friendships for our sons so they can push against the cultural pressure to isolate.
4. To Blame
It’s become dangerous to be wrong. No one is allowed to fail any more, especially publicly, without serious repercussions. As a result, we always need to find someone to blame. The problem is, if it’s always someone else’s fault, we never get to learn from our mistakes. Failure becomes career or social suicide, so there always has to be a fall guy. This is disastrous for the development of young men. They need to learn to take responsibility for their mistakes, to own where they’ve failed or where they’ve been wrong, and to change. To use an old word, they need to learn the value of repentance. But this can’t happen if it’s always someone else’s fault.
5. To Lose Hope
There’s war in Europe again, the sea level is rising, and men have nothing to offer but toxicity to the situation. That’s an extreme summary of the cultural message, but it’s not that far off. It can be difficult for our young men to hold out hope that they can offer something of value to the world. And yet, they need this hope like they need oxygen. We need to model for them an attitude of hopefulness about the future and a willingness to work for a better tomorrow. Our cynicism might be cathartic for us, but it’s crippling for our sons.
Sound off: What other destructive cultural influences are impacting our sons?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What have you seen in the media that has made you upset?”