As the mother of a very masculine little boy, I spend a lot of time thinking about (and some time blogging about) what makes for a good manly man. In the "what not to do" category, I've been reading Kate O'Beirne's Women Who Make the World Worse : and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports. I expected this to be a light, amusing romp through the insanities of radical feminism, but this well-written book is, in fact, quite depressing. It spells out in careful detail the attacks radical feminists make against men. The justification for these man-hating attacks is that, in the distant past, men did not treat women well. There you have it. Because men historically didn't show women the respect these feminists demand, my sweet little boy is treated like a hostile combatant. I've been gnashing my teeth reading this book, and keep having to take breaks to read fluffy stuff. Still, anguish notwithstanding, I'm not giving up. This book has too much important content to be abandoned because it's an uncomfortable read.
That was my "what not to do" rant. What I really want to blog about is what to do, a subject that keeps coming to mind when I see a nine year old boy in my neighborhood. He is a very manly little guy — athletic and, for that reason, much admired amongst the swarms of little boys in our community. It's not only the boys who admire him, though. The little girls (my little bookworm included) adore him. Why? Because he's already learned the art of cherishing them. When groups of kids start playing, a situation that always has the potential for insult and kid-on-kid violence, he never picks on or attacks the girls. Instead, he protects them. The result is that the girls want to be around this strong boy who always makes sure they're okay. He is the perfect old-fashioned gentlemen, something that seems to be a combination of good parenting and innate people-sense.
I think this boy's relationship with his peers is very telling, and refutes strongly the whole feminist demand that boys be made over into placid, egalitarian creatures. He is a born leader amongst a whole cadre of children because he plays to traditional stereotypes: he's the warrior for the boys, the protector for the girls. Those children who hew less to these traditional behaviors are also less popular than he is.
I realize that this child is an "N" of 1, as is my neighborhood, but there's certainly food for thought in the dynamics I daily see playing out around me.