Friday, October 19, 2012

Being a Boy

Ch. 3 in "The Will to Change" is titled "Being a Boy." In this chapter bell hooks discusses the way that the patriarchy raises boys to become men: "Patriarchal culture influences parents to devalue the emotional development of boys. Naturally this disregard affects boy' capacity to love and be loving." She goes on to argue that  we must build a culture that is accepting of male expressions of emotion.  The argument does not wholly translate to the NANA Region because of cultural differences in raising children, but in a time when young men in rural Alaska are committing suicide at a higher rate than any other demographic, I think it is important to consider: what is being a boy like?

I think that bell hooks argument rings true of our society as a whole. Tony Porter shares his personal experience of becoming frustrated with his crying five year old son: "As soon I would hear him crying, a clock would go off. I would give the boy probably about 30 seconds which means, by the time he got to me I was already saying things like 'why you crying, hold your head up, look at me, explain to me what's wrong... and out of my own frustration of my role and responsibility of building him up as a man to fit into these guidelines and these structures that are defined in this man box, I would find myself saying things like 'just go in your room! Sit down, get yourself together, and come out and talk to me when you can talk to me like a man.'"

Our patriarchal society does not tolerate emotional expression from males starting at boyhood. Because men cannot freely express frustration and sadness through things like crying or talking about feelings this translates to anger and violence. This anger and violence is more socially acceptable than the frustration and sadness.

Living in the NANA region I have been fortunate enough to see how a different culture raises children. In the Inupiaq culture, traditionally, parents raise their children with more love than discipline. Compared to western culture, children are much more free to do as they please. Bell hooks' argument may not ring as truthful in Kotzebue, because of this difference in culture, but I think that the societal pressures of what a man should be still start from a young age. Even if boys are not raised in a household in which they are disciplined for expressing emotion they are taught how to act through media and their peers.

How does the Inupiaq culture raise boys? Is male emotional expression socially acceptable in traditional Inupiaq culture? Why or why not? Has western culture changed expectations of young men in our society? How do we want to be raising our boys?

-Hannah Atkinson

1 comment: