When your son was still pink and covered in amniotic fluid, a million thoughts raced through your mind. I hope he has ten fingers and ten toes. They better cut the right cord! Why does he look like my boss? Okay, you can (hopefully) scratch that last one. As a father to a son, you were more concerned with the immediate future, the here and now, than you were with anything else. I’m guessing a very small number of you were contemplating what sport he would excel at instead of his how long it would take his Bilirubin levels to drop so you could finally take him home. Once you were finally released from the hospital, the farthest thing from your mind was probably the world into which you would be raising your heir apparent.
The world in which we now live is largely a “bro culture.” As one writer for Kotaku put it, bro culture is often marked by collar-popping young men with a creed as sophisticated as YOLO. While that’s an entertaining bubble gum way of describing it, it’s much darker than that. Just take a look at the trailer for BroCode.
Executive Director of Shaping Youth, Amy Jussel, had this to say about the movie: “Filmmaker Thomas Keith gives us a show-n-tell glimpse of the mass media and marketing machine lauding ‘permission’ upon males to act like thuggish jerks, cads, and misogynistic monsters, disrespecting women with ramped up, amped up buffoonery ranging from ‘rape jokes,’ to crass, coarse entitlement. Why do boys feel they have the right to behave this way? Look no further than music videos, movies, ads and a pop culture of pornification, The Bro Code conveys.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve harassed my guy friends with the line, “Man Card revoked!” after they’ve done something that no “real man” would ever do. (Ironically enough, I’m the guy who professes that he’s too pretty to fight and that’s why he writes about MMA instead of actually stepping in the cage.) In my defense, however, it’s always been something trifling such as having their significant other go warm up the car for them or for having Bieber on their iPod – and it’s always done in a playful way, free of any real ball busting or social consequences. This is not the same as what’s depicted in mainstream media and reenacted in high schools and universities across the nation. Little jests between grown men are just that. However, the same cannot be said for our sons. This bro culture, the one we’re raising them in, will chew them up and spit them out if we’re not careful.
You’ve seen a bro before, right? He’s the young buck whose emotionally stunted self can only find comfort in dressing and acting like the rest of his bros – even when it would benefit him not to. His self-identity begins and ends with his bro-ness. He only wears bro-approved clothes and only hangs out with other bros, oftentimes sacrificing life-long friends so he won’t be ostracized. On the weekends, a bro is typically at a party where he gains acceptance and praise for binge drinking, dangerous (and sometimes illegal) activities, and rating women based on their physical attributes. Sadly, if his bros don’t think a certain girl is on his level or isn’t down to play, they mock her mercilessly both in school and on social media. What’s most troubling is a bros approach to sex. For many, sex is just something the get from women – no matter if they get it by trick (read: drugs) or force. For some unfortunate victims of this type of bullying, there is only one way out…
Clearly, this bro culture has to end. It’s ruining otherwise halfway decent young men and making life for our daughters a living nightmare. So how do you navigate the shark-infested waters as a dad? How do you raise a son to become a man of integrity and good character, a man whose self-worth comes from within and therefore won’t succumb to idiotic peer pressure? How do you raise your son in such a way that he will be a true “alpha male” and lead the way by standing up for what’s right even if it’s inconvenient? Glad you asked. All you need is a little LED.
L – Lead by example
E – Encourage virtuous character traits
D – Define what true manhood is… and isn’t
In the song Criminal, the inimitable Eminem raps the following line, “But how the f*** you supposed to grow up when you weren’t raised?” Most of today’s youth are the modern equivalent of Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan; boys left to fend for themselves without a positive male role model to look to for instruction. These wild characters had no choice but to conform to their surroundings in order to survive, much like this generation’s batch of young men. Filling the role of a father, you must carry yourself in a way that worthy of being emulated (by your son and your peers), which may mean you need to change your media viewing habits and how you interact with members of the opposite sex. Any man who’s been around the block before knows all too well that young kids mimic daddy’s behavior – for better or for worse. If that’s not enough motivation for you to get your act together or cause you to be more self-aware, think about your daughter. You are her first love and she looks to you to see how she can expect to be treated by the men in her life. Chew on that one for a minute.
It has been said that compassion is the saving grace of humanity. Every CEO in America wants to hire an honest employee. No one really likes the irresponsible friend, you know, the one you can never count on to pick you up from the airport or help you move across state. To avoid the trappings of the toxic bro culture, you must encourage your son to be a man of integrity, whether it is on the playground, in locker room, or at his dorm. Humility, compassion, and respect are all qualities that will benefit your son for as long as he lives. Teach and help him to be the best he can be in all that he does and he will be head and shoulders above the rest of the so called “men” out there.
Real men define themselves. Some are warriors; others are poets. A select few are the much sought after “Warrior-Poet.” True masculinity is more than talking tough, having big muscles and possessing the ability to procreate. Real men allow themselves to show their emotion – to their family and close friends. Authentic masculinity involves respecting women for more than their bodies and treating them with respect and equality. Real men have the courage to stand tall in the face of adversity and apologize when it’s appropriate, not simply to placate others.
Real men don’t trick or intimidate women into having sex. Real men do not assault women or those too weak to defend themselves. Real men do not eat quiche. (Seriously, they don’t. Look it up.) Masculinity doesn’t demand that you act like a misogynistic, jerkface from sun up to sun down nor does it require you to drink until you can no longer remain conscious. Additionally, real men don’t rely on others’ perception of them to determine their value. Bros are most easily identified by their look. It must be written somewhere in the BroBible that you can only shop at certain stores in the mall, wear a certain brand shoe, and never go more than three hours without reapplying the Axe Du-jour. I’ll borrow a line from Tyler Durden and say, “You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f***ing khakis.” Contrary to bro belief, the clothes don’t make the man – and we had better make sure our sons know this.