What is happening with so many of our boys and men? Economists lament inexplicable drops in male labor force participation. Public health officials point to disproportionately male “deaths of despair” from suicide or overdose. Parents see their sons struggling and worry what it means for their future.
In Of Boys and Men, Richard Reeves provides a groundbreaking diagnosis of the contemporary male malaise. Many of the rapid economic, social, and cultural changes over recent decades pose new challenges to boys and men—especially those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Black boys and men face the most acute challenges of all.
Politicians on both left and right have failed to engage constructively with the problems of boys and men. Views on what it means to be a man in the twenty-first century have hardened along partisan lines. But as Reeves writes: “We can hold two thoughts in our head at once. We can be passionate about women’s rights and compassionate toward vulnerable boys and men.”
Drawing on years of deep research as well as his personal experience as a father of three sons, Reeves offers a compelling diagnosis of the problems of boys and men—and a bold set of solutions.
Richard V. Reeves is a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he directs the Boys and Men Project and holds the John C. and Nancy D. Whitehead Chair. He is the author of John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (2007) and Dream Hoarders (2017).
Preface: Worried Dad to Worried Wonk
Part I: The Male Malaise
Part II: Double Disadvantage
Part III: Biology and Culture
Part IV: Political Stalemate
Part V: What to Do
The subtitle of this book lays out the three areas the book explores: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It. Reeves surveys a wide range of social science scholarship on the issues men and boys face in the contemporary US to argue for a gender politics that can accommodate their specific needs. Rather than treat men as a monolithic identity, Reeves breaks down the problems men face by race, class, and education level to underscore the different challenges they encounter. Reeves’s sensitivity to the impacts of race and class on masculinity sets this book apart from other titles. Though Reeve’s project of rehabilitating American men might lend itself to anti-feminist efforts to roll back the advances made for women, Reeves encourages readers to pursue liberal gender politics that achieve greater opportunities for men and women by being sensitive to their unique needs.
When Beauvoir was writing her manifesto on the plight of women, she noted that “the most mediocre of males feels himself a demigod as compared with women,” and that “a man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male.” Nowadays, there are many such books. Self-doubt has broken through the supposed imperviousness of masculine self-belief. Reeves’s book is only the latest; it is also one of the most cogent. That’s not just a consequence of his compelling procession of statistical findings. It’s also due to the originality of his crisply expressed thesis: that men’s struggles are not reducible to a masculinity that is too toxic or too enfeebled but, rather, reflect the workings of the same structural forces that apply to every other group.
Throughout most of Richard Reeves’ excellent new book, Of Boys and Men, I wasn’t just nodding along, I was foot-stomping. Too little has been written about the troubles of boys and men.
In some ways the world remains male-dominated, yet many men are falling behind, says the author. Boys do worse than girls in school in many countries, and are more likely everywhere to end up in prison or kill themselves. He suggests practical, incremental reforms, such as having boys start school a year later.
Of Boys and Men has garnered widespread praise, and for good reason. Reeves isn’t content to simply point out a dispiriting social problem and be on his merry way. He offers solutions…. Reeves has written a tremendously thought-provoking, well-researched, and convincing book on the plight of the modern man. As a policy wonk, he proposes policy solutions.
Addressing the kind of male disadvantages that Reeves catalogs does not mean ignoring or excusing inequalities that favor men over women. It’s possible, Reeves writes, to “hold two thoughts in our head at once.” Indeed, it’s urgent that we do so.
Any talk about masculinity today can easily veer into predictable patterns: a left that paints with uncritically broad brushes, and a right that gets defensive and in the process dumbs down its beliefs. But Richard Reeves’s book Of Boys and Men avoids predictability, blending statistical insight and easygoing wit to craft a fruitful exploration of male malaise.... [Reeves] bookends Of Boys and Men by presenting the educational, economic, and cultural challenges men face, and he proposes policy and social solutions for each. They’re all insightful and (unsurprisingly) subject to debate, especially, in my view, his discussion of fatherhood and marriage. But one of the most important lessons of the book—which Reeves introduces to reassure readers that they can care about both women’s equality and men’s struggles—is that ‘we can hold two thoughts in our head at once.’.... Of Boys and Men has a point of view, but Reeves doesn’t close off the possibility of exchange or criticism by making a caricature of his opponents. This is the sort of book that not only exposes an often ignored issue, but elevates the quality of our conversations about it, even amid disagreement. That is perhaps its most impressive feat.
The modern male is struggling. It matters, and we must do something about it. In Of Boys and Men, Richard V. Reeves explores the issues so many males face in silence. His research has led to surprising revelations regarding men and health, the social sphere, education, and the age-old nature-versus-nurture debate. He pushes back on ideas that have been widely accepted with little examination, such as “toxic masculinity,” and puts into words what so many have observed, which is that boys and men are ignored as society and its social constructs continue to evolve. What is going on with our boys, with our men? Without political partisanship, Reeves brings this question to the fore of modern discourse, and in doing so, does a service to us all.
Boys and men are in trouble. Compared to women, relatively few boys or men enroll in or complete higher education. Boys and men don’t participate in the workforce up to their full potential. They’re disproportionately dying deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdoses and substance abuse. Parents worry about their sons’ futures. While recent cultural and economic changes have created problems specific to boys and men, most liberal and conservative politicians alike fail to acknowledge the crisis or do anything about it. Brookings Institution scholar Richard Reeves offers concrete suggestions that can help men without damaging women’s hard-won advances.
Speaks to our hearts as well as our heads. A powerful and important book.
Finally, an analysis of the crisis among men and boys that adds more light than heat. Richard Reeves takes on the issues facing males today with courage and compassion, and offers solutions that are both workable and agreeable across the political spectrum. A much-needed book.
As a feminist who is deeply committed to gender equality and a mother of two young men, I highly recommend Of Boys and Men. Reeves offers real, practical, solutions to create a world that would be better for all of us, across the gender spectrum.
Judicious and meticulously researched. Instead of blaming men for their predicament, or pathologizing masculinity, Reeves points to sensible, humane and practical solutions.
An authoritative overview of the problems faced by boys and men—and most importantly, bold ideas to solve them.
In this courageous, compelling, and urgently needed book, Reeves argues for dispensing with the damaging narrative of 'toxic' masculinity, and offers concrete suggestions for how to support boys and men.
Important, timely, well-balanced and thoroughly researched, Of Boys and Men effectively outlines the rapid economic, psychological, social and educational decline of males in our society and proposes practical policies that offer a positive masculinity for our sons, brothers and fathers.
Richard Reeves has the rare combination of writerly flair, analytical skill, and unflinching focus on problems that partisans would rather dismiss. Just as Dream Hoarders forced Americans to question our mantras about social mobility, his work on men and boys is provocative, timely, and rich with real-world solutions.
Recommended with enthusiasm, this book did not disappoint. After decades of expending lots of resources to promote equality for girls and women, the author, Richard V. Reeves, argues that boys and men are being left behind in some very significant ways – especially in school, at work, and in finding a purpose at home. Reeves is careful not to suggest that women and girls have surpassed men in all measures of equality. He doesn’t believe that at all. But he does provide strong arguments holding two beliefs that 1) women and girls still need support for equality in some areas and 2) boys and men are lagging behind in others where systems and structures are serving girls and women much better. The book is definitely non-partisan. Throughout the book, he talks about why the solutions proposed to the crises around the well-being of many boys and men are not being addressed well by progressive or conservative policies.
11/15/23, The American Conservative: Brad Wilcox and Elizabeth Self offer a piece entitled “Male Malaise Is Not Just About ‘the Culture’: Big Business and Big Education have a hand in our boys’ failure to thrive” and the book is included in the article. Link: https://www.theamericanconservative.com/male-malaise-is-not-just-about-the-culture/