Books

Book Review: Raising boys in the #MeToo era

2020-03-20 11:21

How to Raise a Man: The Modern Mother’s Guide to Parenting Her Teenage Son by Megan de Beyer

Penguin Random House

235 pages

R240

Being a first-time mother of an almost five-month-old son, the responsibility to raise him to become an empathetic, responsible and respectful man is not one I take lightly.

The truth is that, historically, many men haven’t treated women well and it’s only recently, with movements such as #MeToo and #MenAreTrash, that women have really started speaking out about it.

The message is clear – we need to raise our sons better. So, instead of teaching our daughters how to not get raped, we should be raising boys who don’t rape. However, I think it goes a bit beyond that these days.

The majority of men aren’t rapists, that’s a fact, but there are an awful lot of men who do nothing when their friends exhibit abusive behaviour, engage in locker room talk or cat-call women on the street.

Megan de Beyer’s How to Raise a Man offers a parenting guide against the background of these current events.

Instead of teaching our daughters how to not get raped, we should be raising boys who don’t rape.

Unfortunately, while the pitch sounds new, I found some of the advice a little humdrum. Chapters such as Handling Anger (His and Yours) give advice like “establish firm and fair boundaries”. Well, duh!

Meanwhile, chapters such as Sex and Hook-ups on the Brain tell parents to keep dialogue open about sex with their teenage boys.

None of this advice is bad, it’s just that, to me, it reads like plain common sense and not something I would say you need a parenting guide for. But, then again, this stuff might be completely new for some mums out there.

My problem with these guides is that they offer generalised advice about teenagers to the point that they pathologise the teen himself. Mums might find themselves reading this manual and still being incapable of connecting with their sons.

Nevertheless, there are some chapters that could be useful. A big takeaway from this book is that if you haven’t addressed issues in your own life, you’re likely to project on or damage your son as a result of your unresolved feelings.

Some of this might stem from how you were parented yourself.

In a worksheet called Re-parenting The Self, De Beyer asks the readers to answer questions such as:
  •  In what ways did [my] mother help [me] as a child?
  •  What do [I] imagine [I] needed from her the most as a teen?
  •  Does this impact on how [I] mother now? How? You need to question whether you are repeating ineffective parenting skills.

There are also chapters that might be a reality check for mums. On sexting, De Beyer writes: “Researchers have found that boys request and forward sexual photos and messages to a greater degree than girls.

This is important for a mother to know because many mothers of sons accuse girls of being sexual predators.”

Are we raising sons who demand nude photos from girls? And when we find these photos on their phones, are we quick to blame the girl who sent it instead of our son who might have requested it?

De Beyer writes: “Disrespect of women is learnt behaviour … A teen boy can generally be rude or test his assertiveness by ordering his mum or sister around. This does not mean he has turned into a harassing male. It means he is a teenager and is testing his male boundaries.”

The way your son treats you or his sister may be how he will go into the world and treat other women. Being assertive and teaching him to respect women is not only a parental duty, it is a moral obligation.


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March 29 2020