Student Question

According to William Pollack's Real Boys, is there a gender crisis in American culture? What are the prevailing ideas about gender behavior?

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Pollack explores the myths that govern boys and, by extension, men in America and argues that there is a gender crisis in our country. Pollack believes that the society as a whole still endorses very traditional and potent myths about boyhood--including that biology is destiny (that is, that testosterone makes boys violent). Another potent myth is that boys should follow all-male stereotypes and that they are not capable of, and do not need, nurturing. Finally, boys are seen as toxic and dangerous, and the women who raise them are encouraged by societal stereotypes to encourage boys to be independent and not seek the care and nurture that makes all humans thrive. As a result, the author says that boys suffer from depression and poor mental health. The author argues in Chapter 1 and in the Epilogue that while women and girls have gone through a revolution about their roles (a revolution that some would argue is still continuing), boys and men are now only starting to change what Pollack calls the "boy code" (and what he also refers to as the "gender straightjacket" on page 6) and challenge traditional ways of acting.

One only needs to look around in society to find confirmation that traditional gender roles are still very strong and that America is in the midst of a gender crisis. Women and men often gravitate to certain traditional areas of study and professional fields (women into nursing and men into engineering, for example), and boys and girls who do not conform to society's traditional gender roles (for example, women who are physically tough or men who are nurturing and soft) are seen as odd at best and threatening at worst. However, there are signs that America's gender crisis is starting to ease. While Hillary Clinton did not win the recent election, for example, she was the first female candidate from a major political party to win the Presidential primary. The years ahead will clarify whether men and women are able to break out of traditional gender roles. 

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