"The women of Bikini Kill let guitarist Billy Karren be in their feminist punk band, but only if he's willing to just "do some shit." Being a feminist dude is like that. We may ask you to "do some shit" for the band, but you don't get to be Kathleen Hannah."--@heatherurehere

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Listening to Boys, Men and Each Other

More from Peggy Drexler's Raising Boys Without Men:

One of the strongest weapons we have against violence in our neighborhoods and schools, as well as ultimately in the larger world, is our ability to communicate with boys about what is going on in their lives. Simply put, we must talk to them, and listen to them. This book is rooted in the many, many hours I spend having these conversations.

When I speak around the country about raising boys without men, people want to know how I was able to get the information I did from the boys. Why were they so open with me? The question implies that I must have a special trick that made it possible for notoriously taciturn young males to reveal their true selves to me. I laugh and tell my questioners the truth. Although I do have special training, it's simpler than that. I was curious and eager to know these boys—and still am. They inspire me and give me hope. In a world that sometimes disappoints, scares, and hurts them, they still want to connect.

One of the reasons that men may not communicate with others as well as women do (if this is true, really) is that they are not communicated with as boys. (pp xvi)

I have some problems with some of what Drexler says throughout her book--she has a strain of gender essentialism that bugs me, for instance, but I think here she's right on (and I like her qualifications in that last sentence, because it's not a forgone conclusion in my mind that men don't communicate with others as well as women do). It's interesting to see my nephew's parents interact with him, and continually ask him what he is trying to say, what he means, what he wants. He's almost three now; I hope that trend keeps up as long as he's alive, because I think he and those around him will be better for it.
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