I’ll never forget a family session in which a father berated his son for crying about not making the basketball team. “Get over it. Don’t be a sissy,” the father said.
The boy was clinically depressed. I tried to explain how corrosive it can be for boys to stuff their emotions. It didn’t go well. After all, the father said, I was biased as a female shrink.
Then there was the time I conducted a school in-service training about gender issues. The male coaches ridiculed me for not “getting boys” when I discussed the importance of supporting boys in discussing feelings of vulnerability. That was rocky, too. And I’m not sure a facilitator from the NFL would have fared much better than I did — because he’d be a guy wanting to give a gender-bias in-service. Suspicious, huh?
In 1998, William Pollack wrote a book entitled Real Boys: Rescuing Our Boys From the Myths of Boyhood. He described the boy code as the requirement that boys should be stoic and independent, macho and athletic, powerful and dominant, and phobic of anything close to feminine (e.g. warm, empathetic or sensitive). If they aren’t, they are wimpy losers.
Not much has changed.
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