“What About the Boys?”

April 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

While reading Michael Kimmel’s essay, “What About the Boys? What the Current Debates Tell Us- and Don’t Tell Us- about Boys in School,”  I couldn’t help but feel disheartened.  Kimmel argues that “masculinity…is the key to understanding boyhood and its current crisis” (374).  I agree with this statement because I have witnessed a lot of it first hand.  Kimmel gives an example from his childhood about the “flinch” game.  In order to win the game, “being a man meant never flinching” (378).

This past summer, I was a camp counselor and my group consisted of third & fourth graders.  Time and time again, the young boys were constantly trying to one-up each other and prove who was the strongest of all.  They would set up their own races, sprinting from tree to tree to see who could run the fastest.  On pool days, they always wanted to have contests to see who could hold his breath the longest.  I noticed that it was always a competition with the boys.  They were never content when we played non-competitive games.  In fact, whenever we would sit in a circle to play Down by the Banks or another similar game, the boys in my group would complain that they didn’t want to play one of the “girly” games.  Once we began to play, it was obvious that the boys liked the sit down games just as much as the girls, but felt they had to pretend not to in order to look cool.

Another issue that often came up was crying.  Since we were outside every day, some falls and scrapes were unavoidable.  If a girl fell down, it was okay for her to cry and hug a counselor.  When one of the boys took a tumble, however, he fought back the tears as long as his friends were around.  I always told them that it was completely alright for them to show their feelings when they were hurt, but they would just shake their heads and hobble back to the game.  I think society is to blame for this idea that “real men don’t cry.”  It goes along with Kimmel’s argument about masculinity.  I wish society would realize how much it is crippling boys with these ridiculous standards surrounding “toughness.”



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