top of page
  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Help boys aspire to 'heroic masculinity'

Boys need to know that masculinity isn't "toxic," writes Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. They can aspire to "heroic masculinity," using their strength to protect those who are weaker.

Heroic masculinity "is almost entirely taken for granted, even reviled, until trouble comes and it is ungratefully demanded by the very people who usually decry it," she writes. As a group, men "are larger, faster, and stronger than women." Each man is faced with a moral question: How will he use his strength?

Richard Fierro, a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, went to a drag show at a Colorado Springs club last year with his wife, daughter and friends, Flanagan recalls. A man opened fire with a rifle. Fierro ran toward the gunfire, pulled the killer to the floor, seized the shooter's second gun, a pistol, and pounded the man's head with it over and over, screaming, "I'm going to fucking kill you." Fierro explained: "My family was in there."

If we don’t give these boys positive examples of strength as a virtue, writes Flanagan, they will look elsewhere for role models. They may find men who define masculinity as the ability to abuse women.

McCaffrey Blauner writes about the boys who surf subway cars in Queens, riding the rooftops of above-ground trains to get video they can post to their social media feeds. "They’re usually between 13 and 16, and they’re almost always black and Latino," he writes. It's dangerous. "Sometimes, they die."

"Kids have been doing stupid, jackass things like this forever, but the numbers are going up," he writes. "Between 2021 to 2022, the number of subway surfers jumped 366 percent."

A "cohort of directionless and bored young men," often without male role models, are "prodded into doing, thinking, and saying idiotic things by the mobs of other young men."

Once upon a time, these boys would have been absorbed by other things: a boxing gym; a basketball court; a church; a job; a classroom; their apartments overflowing with siblings, cousins, friends, their mother in a cramped kitchen making dinner. Young men in search of themselves had a degree of freedom to try out different groups or tribes or personalities within the relatively safe confines of their community. It was hardly free of violence or danger. But there was a way things were done. There were guardrails.

Young men from affluent families also need to demonstrate their manliness, but they do so through sports or adventure trips -- and then put it on their college applications, writes Blauner. They have guardrails.

In Douglas Murray's weekly column on poetry worth remembering, he quotes the famous lines from Tennyson's Ulysses. The aging adventurer urges his crew to set off once again:

Come, my friends,

'T is not too late to seek a newer world.

. . . Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Good stuff!

2,829 views3 comments
bottom of page