Recommended Read: How Tender, Loving Male Friendship Can Save Us From Toxic Masculinity

How tender, loving male friendship can save us from toxic masculinity
Photo by Dimitar Belchev.

As more and more of my friends become parents, some to little girls and some to little boys (and of course, who knows what these children will reveal themselves to be as they get older), I become more and more sure that it's actually more important to raise our boys with feminist values than our girls.

Girls will encounter sexism directly when they enter the world, and while of course, we want them to be prepared for that and secure enough to fight back, the boys could very easily travel through life in blissful ignorance, enforcing patriarchal standards without even realizing it.

Well, their ignorance is not quite blissful. They will absorb the lessons of the patriarchy meant for them, and these lessons will hurt them as well, but they won't really realize it until much later (if at all). Being told to be tough and strong all the time doesn't necessarily strike the ear as wrong the same way as being told you can't be in charge because you're a girl or having a grown man "compliment" your body when you are 12 years old.

So it sneaks in and seems right, even though it is very, very wrong for half of the population to believe that they should be strong, callous, and powerful without concern for their own emotions or those of others.

One of the antidotes could be friendship. Read Tony Liu's beautiful piece on the friendships he grew up with: How Tender, Loving Male Friendship Can Save Us From Toxic Masculinity.

"I’ve also seen and felt an unspoken code of conduct when it comes to adult, male interactions. Even with the male friends of my friends, I am struck by the deliberate caution, the felt distance of my encounters. I notice a performative coolness that favors cynicism over sincerity — “Who gives a shit?”; “Whatever, man”; “I don’t care” — often accompanied by dismissive laughter. I want to live earnestly and expressively, and I miss the intimacy I had with my high school friends. Yet I worry that my vulnerability won’t be received well, that it will leave me isolated, excluded, and marked as 'other.'"

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