Boys to Men in the #MeToo Era
It was so refreshing and exciting to see the “Boys to Men” segment this morning on the Today show. It was about how college men are reflecting on who they are in the context of the “#MeToo” movement.
Maria Shriver interviewed eight college age men to get their perspective on how the #MeToo movement is impacting them. The gist is that it is opening the door for them to redefine masculinity and their relationships with the women in their lives.
What really inspired and invigorated me about seeing the segment on national television was the implication that it’s all about discussion.
Start the Discussion
Experts included in the segment recommended that parents talk early to their boys on how to communicate with their partners. Middle school is a good time to do this. Including the sisters was offered as a good way to balance the discussion. It also helps everyone in the family explore this new way of doing relationships.
The discussion topics? Asking for and getting consent – what, how, when, when not and why. Respect. Dignity. How being under the influence of alcohol or drugs raises the stakes and changes the rules.
Maria Shriver’s segment teaches us that in this new era boys growing into men need to be more expressive and vulnerable. The men in the segment expressed that they are faced with the challenge of exploring emotions that have otherwise been suppressed.
Develop A New Skills Set
This means that they need to be self-aware about their feelings, desires, boundaries. They also need to be very clear about how to communicate those feelings, desires and boundaries in a way that can be easily and clearly understood. And all this needs to happen as those feelings, desires and boundaries grow and evolve. During the time it takes boys to grow into men, these feelings, desires and boundaries evolve minute to minute, day to day, and year to year as they grow into themselves and the values that they choose to live by.
Girls growing into women need to develop these same skills.
Becoming self-aware, learning how, when and where to communicate that self-awareness to others and then learning how, when and where to set clear boundaries on how others can treat you and how you want to treat others are each complex skills. It takes time, practice and a supportive environment to develop them well and completely.
Support the Learning
The thing that strikes me, as a life-long educator, about how to best explore and grow into these new social skills is the most important element of change. We must find a way to ensure that this new way of relating to each other has the scaffolded support from parents, adults in authority, adults in support roles. It is the only way to help our youth grow into respectful adults of good character capable of making good choices.
If you want a way to start the discussion with your family, support group, classroom or office, consider buying a copy of “Getting Ready: Your Journal to Help You Deal with and Heal from Sexual Harassment”. Then join one of our local Gatherings or host your own Gathering to support and encourage the discussion. You can also join the Facebook Support Group: Gatherings.