Building Boys Bulletin 12-16-19

Do boys need MORE masculinity?

According to writer Suzanne Venker, “men and boys aren't suffering from an overdose of masculinity; they're suffering from a dearth of masculinity.”

What do you think?

One thing I’ve noticed over my many years of parenting and writing about boys is a lack of agreement regarding the term “masculinity.”

According to an online dictionary, the word simply means “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of men.” That, of course, is where it gets tricky, because many of the qualities and attributes regarded as characteristic of men are socially defined. The dictionary suggests “virility, manliness, vigor, strength, muscularity, ruggedness, toughness [and] robustness” as synonyms.

We know today that women and girls can be strong, vigorous, rugged, robust and tough. (I’m going to go ahead and claim each of those adjectives for myself!) But historically, those words have been predominantly associated with males while words like gentle, sensitive and caring have been predominantly associated with females.

That’s where the problem lies, in my opinion: We’ve been restricting humans’ development and expression for far too long. We’ve been laying our expectations of how a girl or boy should behave on the shoulders of our children.

Note: I am not saying that boys should not be strong, rugged, or tough. I’m saying that they can also be gentle, sensitive and caring. And I’m saying that I will fight as hard for a boy’s right to be strong, rugged and tough as I will for his right to be gentle, sensitive and caring.

Ms. Venker — and many others who have left comments in opposition of the recent CBSN documentary RaisingBoys — seem to assume that there’s a movement afoot to erase masculinity and feminize our boys. That’s why she asserts boys need more, not less, masculinity.

I say, Let our boys be. Let them be their beautiful, glorious, wondrous selves, in all their many incarnations.

In the News

Redefining Manhood: How to Promote Healthy Masculinity Among Boys


  • “By reframing as positive assets those traits that are typically looked down upon, boys and men can overcome problematic learned behaviors and become more accepting of who they are.” 

  • “If you want to effectively understand males, you have to understand shame…It’s not only how boys and men experience shame externally but also how internally they shame themselves.” 

  • “It’s important for young men to understand that masculinity looks different for each individual.” 

  • “The [current] rules of society dictate that men have to censor what they express, which means that boys essentially have to convince themselves they aren’t really feeling what they’re feeling. This often leads to numbness and detachment.” 

  • “Counselors should first suspend their own judgment and stereotypes when working with boys and recognize their own gender role biases so that they don’t transfer them onto their clients.” 

Let’s Stop Stressing Out Our Kids with Career Choice Pressure by Janet Edgette


  • “Efforts to rig our children’s futures in favor of assured gainful employment are creating a new monster.”

  • “At its extreme, imploring kids to pick early and pick ‘right’ (the ‘sensible shoe’ equivalent of career choice) turns college into little more than a dressed-up trade school. This is no knock on a trade school education. It’s a knock on using a classic liberal arts education, which has a distinct purpose, to prepare students for a single job or career rather than inviting exploration of the humanities and facilitate discovery.” 

  • “Pressing kids to make decisions about majors and careers before they are ready robs them of the opportunity to build this mental muscle and take advantage of all that our post-secondary educational system can offer.” 

  • “What should we tell our kids instead? How about this: that their lives are rich with possibility, and some of the bigger questions they’ll face will involve balancing their need for security with a respect for whatever it is that puts a smile on their face.”

More Teen Time on Social Media, More Eating Disorders? — U.S. News & World Report article


  • “The presence of disordered eating behaviors in boys...was nearly four times higher than found two decades ago in another Australian study.”

  • “Among the students studied, strict exercise, skipping meals and other behaviors associated with eating disorders were reported by 45% of boys.”

ON BOYS Podcast

Personal Hygiene for Tween & Teen Boys

If you’re sick of fighting with your boy about hygiene, this episode is a must-listen!

Jennifer talks to Your Teen about teenage boys

I recently had to the chance to talk to Sue & Steph, the founders of Your Teen media, about raising teenage boys today. Listen in and tell me what you think.

Here’s to building boys!