The Corner

Are Some Progressive Dads Afraid of Raising Sons?

We interrupt this nonstop electoral programming for an update from the progressive parenting looney-bin. Here, courtesy the always-reliable New York Times, is an article actually entitled “The Fear of Having a Son.” It begins like this:

When my son, Macallah, was born five years ago, my college students asked how it felt to be a new father.

“Terrifying,” I blurted. “All I can think about is bullying.”

Silence and perplexed looks filled the room. “Your child was just born,” a female student said.

“I know,” I responded. “But this boy’s going to be raised to feel and express his vulnerability. That’s a curse in this culture.”

Oh yes, it gets worse:

All of the dread and loathing I’d always felt about the limiting script of traditional masculine norms came flooding back. I was faced with one of my biggest fears about parenthood: having a son.

The common wisdom, as research verifies, is that most men want sons. That’s starting to shift. Some men, like me, fear becoming fathers to sons.

What follows is standard-fare progressive pop psychology that presumes that boys are largely blank slates, with a gendered culture imposing on them artificial and destructive masculine norms. This again? The only variation on the old theme that men need to get in touch with what used to be called their “feminine side” is the slightly new twist that it’s scary for dads out there to even think about the challenge of raising a boy. 

One of the worst parenting perversions in modern times isn’t so much the alleged (and overhyped) innovation of raising sons to be “sensitive” and “compassionate,” but rather the persistent confusion of emotional and physical weakness for sensitivity. Many, many boys find their parents pushing against their natural and healthy energy to try to render them artificially pliant and emotional. Some boys are more sensitive than others, but the contemporary veneration of crying and other fashionable forms of emotional expression is downright destructive. 

The modern crisis of masculinity is the product far more of suppressing traditional cultural norms — which are built on millennia of human experience — than it’s the product of those norms’ diminishing potency. It turns out that young men don’t do as well when the culture suppresses (rather than channels) what the author derisively and fearfully calls “boy energy.” There are parents who keep trying to turn boys into girls, and when boys don’t respond well, they try harder still. No wonder the author is afraid. It’s hard to nurture away nature, and trouble is almost always the result.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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