Studies suggest that young American males are physically weaker than previous cohorts.
I see this just in shaking hands with my male driver education students: many of them – too many of them – have the limp, “cold fish” handshake we used to associate with “girly men,” even when they are not obviously effeminate. Not all, thankfully! But many, especially among (I am sorry to say) my fellow Caucasians. And as this article points out, grip strength is just one marker of physical (and perhaps cultural) decline, but it’s a significant one. It is certainly a traditional marker of masculinity.
Is it any wonder that more Caucasian women are starting to heed the blandishments of a socially-engineering media (and their fellow-travelers in the academic and political worlds), and beginning to choose potential mates from other cultures, that are doing a better job of hanging onto the markers of masculinity than we often are?
It doesn’t have to be this way. It is a choice we make, and we can make other choices. For example: David French’s childhood was a mirror of my own… although I never liked Shannara, it was too obviously a rip-off of Tolkien. 😉 And while I did not change the family cars’ oil-filters on weekends, I did mow the lawn, rake the leaves, help with the gardening and pruning, shovel snow off the driveway, clean the gutters, clean the bathrooms, and do much else that contributed directly to the smooth running of the household.
I may not always have liked it, but I did it! And in the process, I learned both practical skills and the art of self-discipline – that sometimes it’s necessary to do things we may not enjoy, if it contributes to the common or long-term good – as well as exercised my body in the process.
I also, when not building plastic models, reading WW II books (or the Tolkien and McCaffrey French mentions), or playing D&D, was outside – hiking (even if I didn’t call it that, then), sledding, building forts, clearing trails, playing war, building and launching model rockets, exploring streams and marshes, playing pick-up games of tackle football, and yes, shooting: originally slingshots, then “graduating” to Daisy BB guns, Crossman air-rifles, and eventually .22s.
I was a Boy Scout, later in a “High Adventure” Explorer Post, where I did still more hiking, backpacking, canoeing, and much else. From my reading, I developed an interest in survival, and traditional skills, that continues today. I learned to make cordage, form pots from river clay, start fires with flint and steel (and later bow-drill), build a debris shelter, use a Dutch oven, and eventually (as an adult) to tan a deer-hide and shape a working bow out of a hickory stave. I learned how to cook over an open campfire – and how to clean up, afterwards.
In short, I learned to be a boy, which is the crucial first step in learning to be a man. David French writes,
“Our culture strips its young men of their created purpose and then wonders why they struggle. It wonders why men — who are built to be distinctive from women — flail in modern schools and workplaces designed from the ground-up for the feminine experience. Men were meant to be strong. Yet we excuse and enable their weakness. It’s but one marker of cultural decay, to be sure, but it’s a telling marker indeed. There is no virtue in physical decline.”
Indeed, there is not. Sadly, however, it seems to be becoming the norm:
Resist this trend, my friends! Start with yourself: if you’re not active, get active! Get outside. Do stuff. Limit your on-screen time, whether it’s TV, the internet, gaming consoles, or “smart” phones (I’m speaking of recreational use, of course; we can’t often control what we need to do for work). Learn and practice an actual hobby, other than net-surfing. Spend more time outside (“get out and stay out“!). Work out, learn a martial art, or both. Learn and practice traditional skills.
(And yes, I know I need to follow my own advice, in many of these cases. This is written as much as a self-admonishment, as it is for any of my male readers.)
And then, if you have sons, share these things with them. Don’t bond over the gaming controller, at least not the majority of the time. Hike. Play ball. Work together in the yard. Go fishing. Go hunting! Explore local parks, museums, historical sites. Read, internalize, and then live out the message of Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods. Expect your boy to help out around the house – indeed, require it, as a shared responsibility that comes from being a family member: show him, teach him, help him, and then let him do it.
Don’t be afraid to teach him what are sometimes erroneously thought of as “women’s” skills, like cooking, or mending his own clothing! Knowing how to do things for oneself is never unmanly. Besides, some of the best and most famous chefs are men, and “tailor” was once an esteemed men’s profession. If something’s broken, fix it, or try to, and involve your son: don’t immediately throw it out and go buy a new one. Practice, and teach, the old adage – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Again, do.
Don’t force sports on him, but encourage him if he’s interested; if he’s not, find something else of an outdoor, physical nature that he is interested in, and encourage that. Again, hunting is a good choice, as it is not only an active, outside endeavor, but teaches a lot about responsibility, self-control, the importance of care and precision, and even dealing with disappointment. Consider becoming involved in historic reenactment: it’s usually outside, it’s a good way to meet lots of fascinating people with a wide variety of interests and talents, and it’s the perfect incubator for learning traditional skills.
Think about making martial arts practice part of your weekly “together time.” And when he gets older, introduce him to the gym. Better yet, introduce him to the joy of playing outside regularly, and he may not need the gym! When he is playing outside, let your supervision of him be unobtrusive, and your direction subtle and minimal (again, see Richard Louv). Let him be a boy.* He needs to explore, to discover, to take some chances, to learn what he can do – and what he can’t.
Keep him safe from serious harm, of course, but don’t smother him; skinned knees, the occasional bloody lip, maybe even a broken bone or two, are part of being a boy. Let him experience them. It may be a cliché to say it, but such things build character: he will learn something about his own limitations, how to deal with adversity, and when it’s worth pushing through the pain to reach the greater goal.
He will be a better man for it. And our culture, our society, needs him.
* When I ran a Google search on “let your son be a boy,” the top five “related searches” that came up were “3 year old boy wants to wear dresses,” “my son likes girly things,” “my son acts feminine,” “my princess boy,” and “signs of homosexuality in boys.” Signs that our society is advancing, or in serious decline? I’ll let you be the judge…