America is a tolerant place. While many countries throughout the world lag far behind the United States in abandoning concrete gender roles, Americans have worked to place male and female, feminine and masculine and homo and hetero on a level playing field.
We haven’t always succeeded with high marks (and depending on personal views, we all tend to grade a bit differently, in any case). But as a Nation, we are probably better for trying. After all, there is room in the United States for many different lifestyles and choices.
There’s still work to be done closing gaps and ensuring that certain discriminatory attitudes don’t inhibit the ability of anyone, regardless of alternative lifestyle, to feel uninhibited in his or her (or… xyrs) pursuit of personal happiness.
Unfortunately, the will of some advocates to continue a push for more ease in the day-to-day lives of certain members of the aforementioned groups is beginning to have a clearly negative effect on the lives of another: the young American male.
Christina Hoff Sommers, author of “The War Against Boys,” notes in a recent contribution to Time:
As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.” …
… Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”
Whether it is recognized in your eyes as a sinister form of social engineering to eradicate masculinity or appears less threateningly as a bid to make the Nation more aware of the more vulnerable among us, the unconscionable act of disregarding the damage done by outlawing competitiveness (a natural trait that creationists and evolutionists can even agree upon) will do nothing but harm society.
Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. [Researchers] found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play… also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. [Researchers] worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative–play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school. …
… Schools must enforce codes of discipline and maintain clear rules against incivility and malicious behavior. But that hardly requires abolishing tag, imposing games of tug of peace or banning superhero play. Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.
While public schools throughout the Nation continue to wage war on games that have endured as perennial boyhood favorites for generations — cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, or, simply, good guys versus bad guys — and eradicate physical contests in which physical weakness is a liability, Hollywood and popular culture have made a push to make the effeminate male the rule rather than the exception.
One thing can be stated without question: Had the Founding generations of the United States been raised in the same climate young males are subjected to today, you would have had to endure even more widespread coverage of a certain recent royal birth on this continent than you did a few weeks ago.