February 10, 2009

Calling REAL Men

Boys don’t really want superheroes to look up to. What they want, and really need, are real men who are willing to simply be themselves and be around. They want real men to talk to, learn from, men who will see them and pass along the occasional compliment, regular guys that boys can simply
watch being men.

Sadly, men, in droves are not hearing that call to action, and as a result, boys are experiencing what I call an epidemic of under-male-nourished boys. Most boy-serving organizations I speak to are experiencing a shortage of men. Scouting, mentoring organizations, inner-city after school programs, and many more, are all short on male involvement.

In my research for the Man-Making book, I learned that many men carry a complex load of fears that prevent them from showing up for boys. Their responses to questions about what gets in the way of them supporting young males included very high levels of confusion, fear, uncertainty, and denial about their importance in boy’s lives. It all adds up to a huge inferiority complex. You can read about what men said in this article titled, Why Men Don’t Mentor Boys from the Man-Making.com website.

To combat men’s fears of inadequacy, I can envision a whole marketing campaign built around the idea of calling imperfect men . . . I mean real men, with the junk of their lives hanging all over them. It could go like this:

CALLING REAL MEN: We are looking for REAL men with the following attributes. If this list sounds like you, please call... Boys are waiting.

Have some big problems
Sometimes feel lost and confused
Worry about making commitments
Didn't have great mentors or role models for manhood
Can't fix everything that's broken around them or in their life
Are still trying to figure out "life" and what it means to be a man
Don't know how to fully express themselves
Who are uncomfortable crying
Are really busy
Had a tough childhood
Are nervous about being a good mentor

Those of us working in this field, and the boys we serve, want REAL men to show up for boys. Just the kind of men this list describes.

Would you qualify?


  1. Anonymous7:34 AM

    Lest we oversimplify, one of the reasons boys turn to superheroes (and actually if you follow it, the "newer" ones are plenty flawed) is that everywhere ELSE they look manliness is denigrated. I'm good with flawed role models and men who can cry (even if they don't like it), but boys live in a world that elevates things they're either not good at ("relating" "non-competition") or aren't interested in ( worrying about what force beyond us will devastate us next). Things they like naturally -- competition, action, "shooting"--are officially disapproved of in their world which (if they're in school) is largely reflective of feminine or feminist values.
    I'm just saying, let's be careful before we denigrate superheroes. Or video games, Or... you name it.

    Your Pal,

  2. Nice Earl. I like how you make it ordinary for us. Ordinary greatness or great ordinariness. We're already who we want to be and how often I forget. Thanks for the reminder!


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