A positive vision for masculinity in a more equal world
Boys and men are struggling. Profound economic and social changes of recent decades have many losing ground in the classroom, the workplace, and in the family. While the lives of women have changed, the lives of many men have remained the same or even worsened.
Our attitudes, our institutions, and our laws have failed to keep up. Conservative and progressive politicians, mired in their own ideological warfare, fail to provide thoughtful solutions.
The father of three sons, a journalist, and a Brookings Institution scholar, Richard V. Reeves has spent twenty-five years worrying about boys both at home and work. His new book, Of Boys and Men, tackles the complex and urgent crisis of boyhood and manhood.
Reeves looks at the structural challenges that face boys and men and offers fresh and innovative solutions that turn the page on the corrosive narrative that plagues this issue. Of Boys and Men argues that helping the other half of society does not mean giving up on the ideal of gender equality.
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.
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.
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.
1/19/23, Public Discourse: Richard Reeves was interviewed about fatherhood and the modern male malaise in this feature.