The successes of feminism have led to greater opportunities for girls, by challenging stifling stereotypes about femininity and broadening the understanding of what it means to be female. While boys have travelled alongside this transformation, narrow definitions of masculinity and manliness haven’t faced the same degree of scrutiny. Whether they’re being urged to “man up” or warned that “boys don’t cry,” young men are subjected to damaging messages about manliness: they must muzzle their emotions and never show weakness, dominate girls and compete with one another.
Boys: What It Means to Become a Man examines how these toxic rules can hinder boys’ emotional and social development. If girls can expand the borders of femaleness, could boys also be set free of limiting, damaging expectations about manhood and masculinity? Could what’s been labelled “the boy crisis” be the beginning of a revolution in how we raise young men?
Drawing on extensive research and interviews with educators, activists, parents, psychologists, sociologists, and young men, Giese–mother to a son herself–examines the myths of masculinity and the challenges facing boys today. She reports from boys-only sex education classes and recreational sports leagues; talks to parents of transgender children and plays video games with her son. She tells stories of boys navigating the transition into manhood and how the upheaval in cultural norms about sex, sexuality and the myths of masculinity have changed the coming of age process for today’s boys. With lively reportage and clear-eyed analysis, Giese reveals that the movement for gender equality has the potential to liberate us all.