Dear Mr. President,
As a man who has raised a daughter and as a grandpa of two granddaughters, I want to thank you for your thoughtful, inspiring essay on girls and women in Glamour Magazine on August 4.
I’m especially glad to see you celebrate the huge advances made by and for women over the last 50 years. All too often we miss the many good changes that people—men and women—have fought for on the front lines of equality. As you said, there is much to celebrate for our girls and women early in this new century. Or to quote you directly: “This is an extraordinary time to be a woman.”
I also want to applaud you for saying that it’s absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism, too.
And this is where I’d like to insert a polite “but…”
As a man who has worked on issues challenging our boys in the 21st Century, I’d like to suggest that the equality we all aspire too is hard to fully experience currently because our boys are being increasingly left behind on several fronts:
- Boys have fallen behind girls in every area of education from pre-school through Ph.d’s
- 70% of all D’s and F’s given in school are given to boys
- The average reading skills of a 17 year boy have declined over the last 20 years
- The overwhelming majority of our inmate population is male (and most of them from absent father homes)
- For every 100 girls suspended from elementary and secondary school, 250 boys are suspended
- For every 100 girls expelled from school, 355 boys are expelled
- 85% of all stimulant addressing drugs prescribed in the world are prescribed to US boys
It’s difficult for boys to fight for the equality of girls when the boys themselves are increasingly growing up in a world where they are no longer being treated as equals. And they tend to compensate either by dropping out (becoming passive) or by becoming overly aggressive.
While I certainly don’t advocate stereotypes, I do take the nature of boys and girls seriously. There are over 100 differences between a boy brain and a girl brain. Boys and girls are different and equal at the same time. But when we fail to take seriously the uniqueness of boys (and girls), we end up missing the richness of the differences and equality diminishes.
We’ve lost the imperative to raise boys into men. Boys increasingly don’t have Dad around to pour good masculine energy into him. As a result, many of our boys are growing up with no compelling vision for what it means to be a good man… a man who understands the power and responsibility of masculinity. The power and responsibility to:
- Serve others
- Fight for what’s right
- Be a good, engaged father and husband
- Protect those he loves
- To be a man without having to apologize for it
In your essay, you talk about your own journey into manhood and the struggles you had figuring out how to be a man. Thankfully your story ended up well. (Very, very well!) That’s what we should all want for all of our boys.
I both appreciate your advocacy for your daughters and daughters everywhere. Surrounded by good women and your daughters, the issues of girls and equality are around you all the time. In fact, the last time we had a young boy in the White House was back in the 1960s: President Kennedy’s son John Jr. Since that time the young children in the White House have been girls.
We tend to see what’s in front of us.
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