Reviewed by Dr. George Simons at diversophy.com
One endorsement of The Boy Crisis claims that is “the most important book of the 21st century.” I would amend that to “most necessary book.” Encyclopedic as it feels–almost 500 pages–it could have been four or five books, given the wealth and variety of its topics. While aimed at parents, particularly fathers, as they assist struggling young men to find healthy purpose and true male success in life, reading it causes me to reflect on my life as a man. For some women it may be a tough read, given that it incisively challenges many of the near dogmatic assumptions of what is wrong with men by offering well-researched alternative perspectives.
There are two distortions in the male narrative that challenge us, the distant or absent dad in contemporary societies and the anachronistic sacrificial disposability of men in the gender metanarrative. Both need be questioned and countered. Farrell and Gray do exactly that.
From the fathering perspective, the demands of work life and familial support all but eliminate meaningful presence in parenting for many men, while divorce, on the increase as women find self-sufficiency, may exclude them entirely.
When it comes to real combat, men don’t count, except for a few heroes, living or dead, who sanctify the sacrificial offerings of the rest. Daily news reports from war zones count women and children dead and mutilated, leaving men to lie among the numberless casualties or be identified as the bad guys who killed them. In popular media the killing of men is part of everyday entertainment and causes little concern. “The traditional male hero is about selfsacrifice, not self-actualization.” The battlefield and the workplace often function alike in this respect.
Though the women’s movement is rightfully empowering women to resist abuse and find rewarding and satisfying roles in life, there is little effort to allow men to follow “the glint in their eye”, to evade or redefine the stock, stereotypical roles of protector and provider. It is time for men to say their own, “Me too.” One hopes that the coming generation, now seemingly destined as micro-entrepreneurs, will have greater freedom to do so, but a new outcome does not depend solely on messing with the constraints of capitalism and commodification, but also on redefining the traditional male sense of purpose and adopting a life style that flows from it and supports it.
The book is replete with parental insights and suggested practices that begin to provide for this shift to a broader sense of purpose. This should not echo the veterinary sense of “fixing” men, but is about opening paths of opportunity for richer, more satisfying and, yes, heroic roles in male creativity, relationship formation and parenting. A good part of this is identifying and countering the “social bribes”, the pay-offs which deviate men from discovering their richer purpose offering a false currency of acknowledgement for outdated and too often tragic role performances.
Almost the last third of the book is focused on mental health issues most specifically on ADHD and its causes, effects and alternative remedies. I was hoping for OCD as well but was disappointed in this respect. Much wants more. The pages are extremely well written, often with memorable lines in bold print. A few examples:
- “Time trumps dime” – valuing a father’s time with family, not just his earnings.
- We are inclined to “Save the whales but not save the males.”
- The shifting economy, “from muscle to microchip.”
The endnotes are abundant and supportive of the content, which will no doubt be contested as it frequently contradicts commonly accepted assumptions about men, their behavior and their highly touted privilege.
In sum, thanks guys!
BenBella Books, 2018 ISBN-10: 1942952716; ISBN-13: 978-1942952718