Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken.
— Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack) February 15, 2018
It was the catchphrase, “boys are broken,” that did the trick for Michael Ian Black, a comedian (his twitter bio says “nine years in the NFL. Two rings) and actor.
America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.
That’s a rather broad assertion. It came after the Parkland High School shooting, and rather than go the “guns are the problem” route that many took, he made a hard left into toxic masculinity.
The brokenness of the country’s boys stands in contrast to its girls, who still face an abundance of obstacles but go into the world increasingly well equipped to take them on.
The past 50 years have redefined what it means to be female in America. Girls today are told that they can do anything, be anyone. They’ve absorbed the message: They’re outperforming boys in school at every level. But it isn’t just about performance. To be a girl today is to be the beneficiary of decades of conversation about the complexities of womanhood, its many forms and expressions.
He apparently aced the gender studies class, but this paean to womanhood explains nothing about boys.
Boys, though, have been left behind. No commensurate movement has emerged to help them navigate toward a full expression of their gender. It’s no longer enough to “be a man” — we no longer even know what that means.
Would this be the right time to note that he’s begging the question, there being no reason as yet proffered for why boys might need a movement to “navigate toward a full expression of their gender.” Then again, he’s right about one thing: I don’t “even know what that means.”
Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others. They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine.
Trapped? By liking bacon and football? By putting their energies into fixing problems rather than engaging in long talks to explore their feelings about the problems that need fixing?
Men feel isolated, confused and conflicted about their natures. Many feel that the very qualities that used to define them — their strength, aggression and competitiveness — are no longer wanted or needed; many others never felt strong or aggressive or competitive to begin with. We don’t know how to be, and we’re terrified.
No, Mike. Men do not. Boys either. You may, and that’s fine, but nobody elected you our spokesmodel and, frankly Mike, this isn’t about men at all. This is about you, and the women and Times editors whose feelings you confirm. No doubt there are other men who, like you, feel trapped in a male body. There are a lot of people out there and it would come as no surprise that, out of 150+ million males, a few hundred thousand have discovered manscaping and Axe body wash.
But what does any of this have to do with boys being broken?
Last week, 17 people, most of them teenagers, were shot dead at a Florida school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School now joins the ranks of Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and too many other sites of American carnage. What do these shootings have in common? Guns, yes. But also, boys. Girls aren’t pulling the triggers. It’s boys. It’s almost always boys.
There have been 22 shootings at primary and secondary schools in which 2 or more people died since 1990, resulting in 122 deaths, including the deaths of the shooters. It’s true that boys tend to be school shooters. But it’s not that girls don’t kill. Even mothers kill, about 250 children per year, as it turns out, but mostly their own children rather than other people’s children. Are they broken?
Yes, some people are broken and do terrible things. It’s not because they are broken boys. Or broken mothers. Or broken people. Or you, MIchael Ian Black. They’re not you. They don’t suffer because you suffer. They aren’t resentful of their “toxic masculinity” because you have masculinity issues. They’re doing just fine, except for the very few who are broken. And those who are broken aren’t broken because Michael Ian Black has fragility issues that he extrapolates to all of his gender so he can pretend he’s not his own problem.
You shouldn’t be faulted for feeling as you do about your masculinity, Mike. You are entitled to feel badly about yourself all you want. What you are not entitled to do is engage in inductive reasoning, that an infinitesimal number of school shootings by males proves that boys are broken.
I wish you well, and hope you come to grips with whatever dark hole you find yourself in, Michael Ian Black, but please leave other males out of your personal journey of condemnation. Please don’t validate the silliness of women unfamiliar with the illogic of inductive reasoning who believe guys must be insecure and fragile or they would be more like girls.
I would like men to use feminism as an inspiration, in the same way that feminists used the civil rights movement as theirs. I’m not advocating a quick fix. There isn’t one. But we have to start the conversation. Boys are broken, and I want to help.
Thanks, but if you want to help, start with yourself. Pull out that nail, MIke. Oh, and one last thing, Mike. Not that I suppose you have one, but just in case. Get rid of your gun. You sound as if you’re that guy who might lose it and do harm to others.