I was completely shocked to see this TIME Magazine cover in the airport Saturday. Although I recalled speaking with the author, David Von Drehle, a month or so back for an article he was writing about The Dangerous Book for Boys, I wasn’t expecting to see this on the cover. I’d actually sort of hoped the issue had faded a bit from media consciousness.
Von Drehle gets two really important things right: One is that the variety of indicators brought into this debate is so diverse and messy that they can support an array of competing storylines about boys. The other, related point, is that the anxiety around this issue is less about specific indicators than a generalized anxiety about how our society is changing, how we are raising our children, and the futures they face. He notes a long history of concern about boys and masculinity coinciding with times of social and economic upheaval. It’s worth noting that while gender obviously plays a role in such anxieties, the core anxieties people are expressing about the boy crisis–fears that we’re pushing children to grow up too quickly, that the world is increasingly risky and leaves little room for mistakes or youthful experimenting, that we’re not preparing boys to compete economically–are less about gender or families than broader social and economic anxieties. But I’m glad to see Von Drehle’s optimism because, like him, I don’t think we do our boys any favors by casting them as victims.
–Guestblogger Sara Mead