As profiles of school shooters have shown us, the most dangerous male is not one who is strong, aggressive, and successful; the most dangerous male is one who is depressed, unable to partner or raise children successfully, unable to earn a living, unable to care for his children. The most dangerous man is not one with power but one who feels powerless. Our culture has focused its media on the million or so males who have a lot of power at the top but, for the most part, forgotten the millions who don’t; these millions live in inner cities and rural farms, gentrified suburbs and city lofts, corner bars and cardboard boxes, gang crash pads and parents’ basements. They are in constant fight or flight mode in a culture that has abandoned them, and every decade we see their withdrawal from and violence against society, and themselves, increase.
In The Wonder of Boys (1996), I argued that masculinity is, at its heart, a “husbanding” vision of strength, purpose, honor, power, and compassion that culminates in the art of building a strong enough male self to be able to give that self to others in love and marriage, in parenting and mentoring, in work and life. Few people were more masculine than Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thurgood Marshall–you name it, the men who help us most are each in their own way quite masculine. If we are going to solve issues faced by everyone today–boys, girls, women, men, and everyone on the gender spectrum–we must challenge academic culture to go deeper into who boys are, and what most people in America see very clearly: boys need more masculinity, not less; more fathering, not less; more healthy manhood, not less.