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Men Without Chests Alert

Andrew Reiner is scared to have a son:

All of the dread and loathing I’d always felt about the limiting script of traditional masculine norms came flooding back. I was faced with one of my biggest fears about parenthood: having a son.

The common wisdom, as research verifies, is that most men want sons. That’s starting to shift. Some men, like me, fear becoming fathers to sons.

At the website for the NPR radio show “On Being,” the writer Courtney E. Martin observes of many younger middle- and upper-middle-class fathers-to-be, “I’ve noticed a fascinating trend: They seem to disproportionately desire having a girl instead of a boy.” An informal Facebook survey she took yielded these results: “I wanted a girl mainly because I felt it was harder to be a boy in today’s society. If I have a boy I will embrace the challenge of raising a boy…who can learn the power of vulnerability even as male culture tries to make him see it as weakness. But, frankly, I hope that when I have a second child, it’ll be another girl.’” This was emblematic of a lot of the responses, which revealed that men felt more confident, or “better equipped,” co-parenting “a strong, confident daughter.”

Ms. Martin says that her own husband was relieved to have daughters instead of sons. He says: “‘I haven’t felt like I fit into a lot of the social norms around masculinity…. I’m much more interested in the challenge of helping a girl or young woman transcend sexist conditions. It feels more possible and more important, in some ways.”

“More possible and more important”? More:

A blogger on Vice, Chelsea G. Summers, thrills at how “misandry” — hatred of men — has become “chic.” She gushes that, in addition to a political agenda, this blanket antipathy promises some “great pop culture.” This has manifested itself, among other ways, through blogs and online essays and tweets that pillory and mock the growing trend of men crying — which, I know from my own and other men’s experience, can be the single act that most liberates and heals a painful past that devalues masculine sensitivity. Paradoxically, for some men, the third-wave feminism they embrace strong-arms them into muting the very sensitivity and empathy that opened their eyes to women’s plight.

Is it any wonder that some of us want little, if anything, to do with raising boys? The subtext bombarding us from many sides ultimately encourages us to abandon them, even as they founder beneath the chop of a changing world for which they lack the buoyancy. Yet men like me abdicate our responsibility by letting other men — the ones who don’t always encourage the broader, deeper humanity within males — raise boys. And we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to heal old wounds.

Dang, it’s enough to make you want to join the military were men can be old-fashioned men, or something. Except now, women can be men there too, and the military will pay for the operation. And, well, look:

What’s going on here? C.S. Lewis was on to it ages ago: “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.”

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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