"Only a revolution of values in our nation will end male violence, and that revolution will necessarily be based on a love ethic. To create loving men, we must love males. Loving maleness is different from praising and rewarding males for living up to sexist-defined notions of male identity. Caring about men because of what they do for us is not the same as loving males for simply being. When we love maleness, we extend our love whether males are performing or not. Performance is different from simply being. In patriarchal culture males are not allowed simply to be who they are and to glory in their unique identity. Their value is always determined by what they do. In an antipatriarchal culture males do not have to prove their value and worth. They know from birth that simply being gives them value, the right to be cherished and loved." --bell hooks, The Will to Change, pp11
I have to say both that I love it when hooks gets all utopian (with a plan!), and also I cringe, because I can't stop worrying about the devil hiding in the details. But for a moment, let's revel in the utopian idea of creating an antipatriarchal culture. (Not that I think such a culture is impossible, just that there is so far to go, and we've got so few ideas about which paths to take, that it feels like it might be impossible.) I want to suggest that, though hooks is generally aiming her book at women as an audience, let's start thinking about more and more ways that we can create loving, caring men by caring and loving men. (And, of course, it's probably important at some point to learn to love masculinity, positive masculinity, whether we find it in somebody who identifies as a man, as a woman, or as somebody of another gender.)
Lately I've had some very personal examples of this in my friend who is the parent of a three year old little boy. There are lots of times where he (and I, as an honorary uncle) reinforce traditional gender roles in negative ways, I'm sure, though it's something I guard against in myself. But there are times when my friend is just so darn good with his son, so loving with his son, that I love him for it. When he patiently gives his son a couple of time-outs in a row—and on some days patience of that sort doesn't come easily for anybody—it makes me love him more. Sure, he roughhouses with the kid in a way that makes me wonder if he would treat a daughter the same (I think he would), but the fact that he also has a gentleness with his son at times, a patience, makes me notice how different that he is from the men of my childhood, and how different he is from many of the men I see interacting with their kids today.
And, lest I be accused of judging my friend based on what he is doing, rather than because of some intrinsic value--well, I don't really believe in intrinsic values. But because I'm just going (for the moment) with what hooks is suggesting, my point is that my friend could be performing traditional masculinity at every turn--instead of giving his son a time-out, he could be beating him, as fathers often do, asserting his power over the kid through physical and emotional violence, and at the same time 'making a man out of him'. Instead, he choses to treat his son like he has value (intrinsic?) as a human being, and as such gets treated like one. The kid needs discipline, sure, but that doesn't mean he needs for his father to make a man out of him, in the traditional sense.
And of course, apropos of hooks' point, above, one of the lovely things about how my friend treats his son is that, in treating his son this way, he increases the likelihood that his son will, in turn, become a loving man, a man who is capable of both accepting and giving love. A man who will, perhaps, raise some loving kids of his own, boys and girls who have a better chance at creating and/or living in an antipatriarchal culture.
It's all much more complex than that, of course, but still—one has to begin somewhere, and loving my friend for loving his son so well is one good place to start.