Saturday, June 27, 2015

Boys to Men: Home-grown American Violence

Disclaimer: Some of the following is true for all people, not just for males.

When a boy child is born, a celebration occurs. What happens after birth can result in violence.
We teach boys to play with “gender-appropriate” toys, like guns, trucks or swords. Boys may also choose such toys partially influenced by their hormones. Little boys are often taught not to cry when they are hurt, even as toddlers.

Boys are trained to compete and win whenever possible. Boys may be bullied by larger boys or by parents and coaches whose tones of voice or words can sound condemnatory: Don’t throw (or run) like a girl! Don’t be a sissie! Such words are quite meaningful and powerful to young, formative minds, especially when comparing boys’ skills to girls’.

Another: Don’t be the last one chosen for baseball or football. If boys are not natural athletes, fathers may reprimand or ignore them, even though the sons may perform brilliantly either academically or artistically.

Little boys soak up the words and actions of elders who praise sports celebrities and who watch TV shows and movies where the man takes all. Heroes are CEO’s, generals, coaches and sometimes clergy.

Some boys are abused emotionally, verbally, and physically by older kids, family members and churches. They are taught not to share their negative feelings, so they learn to detach from such feelings until a perfect storm occurs, when they may act out their rage, fear, or pain against others or themselves. We blame them for their “evil” actions.

But, we are also complicit. We prompt boys to play violent games like football and then usher them into the military and into law enforcement where they may act out legally in the name of freedom and safety.

Home-grown American violence is difficult to change because violence is a core value in our American culture. Compete to win no matter what it takes. Spank the bullies who terrorize kids and admonish them at the very same time not to act violently toward others.

Boys become men and some act in violent ways toward women through domestic abuse, sex trafficking and sexual assaults. Some white boys and men abuse minorities.

The good news is that Pat Shea, CEO of the Nashville YWCA, offers a solution. She says that we need to encourage men to help work on these issues of violence. We women have not been able to solve the problem of male violence. It takes men to stand up against violence and teach boys how to treat and respect themselves and others.

If you are committed to help change the violent nature of our society, please contact existing organizations focused on gun violence, domestic and sexual violence, and violence against the marginalized, impoverished, and minorities. Join with organizations like the YWCA, The Sexual Assault Center, the Brady Campaign (to prevent gun violence), and the NAACP, to decrease violence for all Americans. 

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