Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Boys are Not Alright. So What Can We Do About It?

In the wake of yet another mass shooting at a high school in Florida, a popular opinion piece has been circulating connecting the dots between violence and men and boys.  It's main point: America's boys are broken.

The piece, titled "The Boys Are Not Alright," by Michael Ian Black, exemplifies this connection by stating that men and boys are suffering from an outdated model of masculinity and society is paying the price.  Men and boys are the main perpetrators of most violent crimes, including gang violence, intimate partner violence, mass shootings, and gun violence.  Additionally, boys are four times as likely to complete suicide than their female counterparts.  Our boys are experiencing a crisis.  And Tahoe SAFE Alliance believes there is something that we can do about it.

For years, Tahoe SAFE Alliance has implemented a Community Outreach and Prevention Program that teaches true gender equity.  The agency attempts to navigate the complexity of gender-based labels through education at the schools and through its Youth Empowerment groups.  Through this community education, Tahoe SAFE Alliance allows youth to examine the constructs of traditional gender roles defined by a patriarchal system.  Additionally, youth are encouraged to consider how these roles are damaging to society and to themselves.

With boys' Youth Empowerment, Tahoe SAFE Alliance specifically focuses on what it means to be a boy/man in today's world and the struggles and pressures that boys and young men face to fit into constricting and outdated gender roles. Furthermore, the participants are incited to redefine what masculinity means in a manner that allows for the full human expression of emotions and experiences.  These empowerment groups provide room for boys to express vulnerability, love and compassion while challenging the stereotype that male value relies solely on strength and having power over others.  When you allow men and boys to show emotion without emasculating them, you provide a safe space for them to reach out for help when needed without being seen as weak.  You also grant courage to stand up to violence and allow for the full human experience that boys also deserve.

The continuous struggle for gender equity is on all of us, as it affects all of us.  The only way we can truly face today's challenges such as gun violence, gender-based violence and suicide, is if we dismantle a patriarchal system that keeps us all in stifling and subordinate roles.  Tahoe SAFE Alliance continues to fight for gender equity and the rights of all people in the community, however this also needs to be reflected at home.

We hear all the time, "What can I do"?  First, let your sons cry, tell them its okay, boys do cry and there is nothing wrong with that.  Second, have conversations with all of your children about gender equity and what that means in today's society.   As Mr. Black poignantly points out, "To be clear, most men will never turn violent.  Most men will turn out fine.  Most will learn to navigate the deep waters of their feelings without ever engaging in any form of destruction.  Most will grow up to be kind.  But many will not."   Lastly, show your boys that they can ask for help and it doesn't make them less of a person.  And give them just as much patience and tenderness as your daughters, they deserve it and need it now, more than ever.

Contributed by Emily Abrahams
Community Education and Prevention Educator

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