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'People At Large' photo (c) 2010, Tony Alter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

How do boys learn to be men? By seeing what other men do.

Yet what if there are very few men around?

Recently, on the blog Traditional Christianity, Alte wrote this about her son:

Within our family men still play a strong role, and the Catholic Church still has male leadership, so we are lucky. But other than his male relatives and the priests, men are a complete no-show. He can pass them in the street, or see them drive by in their trucks, but that is about all. Men are increasingly an oddity; a bit of a freak-show.

Women are the norm, and boys are limited to measuring themselves against their mommy or mommies, which leads to effeminacy (emulating women) or machismo (doing the opposite of women), rather than the healthy and balanced masculinity that men once handed down to the youth. This is the precise opposite of the manner in which the sexes used to be separated and mommies were useful for figuring out what women are like.

My son’s catechism teacher, his gym coach, his school teachers, choir leader, his swim coach, his bus driver, etc. are all women. Every last one. Even our “mail man” is a “mail woman”. The only non-family man he interacts with is the milk delivery man, and I suppose it’s only a matter of time before men are driven out of that business, as well. There used to be a man next door whom he’d help with wood-chopping or playing with his dogs, but his wife has thrown him out, so he’s gone now too.

I do think that this is a problem, and I’ve written about it before. Our church has instituted “Plan to Protect” rules to keep kids safe from potential predators, but also the church safe from lawsuits. And the hoops we have to jump through are excessive. We can’t drive kids in cars unless two unrelated adults of opposite genders are present. We can’t teach kids unless two unrelated adults are in the room. Etc. Etc.

I think what this does is make men less likely to want to volunteer. It’s a hassle. And would you always want to be under suspicion? So why would a male go into teaching primary school? Or why would a male volunteer anywhere with kids anymore? You may as well put a target on your back.

I know there are good safety issues for many of these things, but let’s not pretend that what we’ve created is good for kids, either. It is not healthy for boys to grow up in an almost entirely female world.

I don’t have boys, but I’m curious what some of you who have boys think. And when we look at how much more disengaged boys are becoming from school, I do fear for our future.

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