The emasculating father

Two hours to kill between appointments and I have all of the kids with me. The three munchkins have an excess of energy. They need to go play somewhere but it's cold and damp outside.

Enter Burger King. Small fries and small Hi-Cs for everyone. And a playground.

There are a few other families here too. An older lady with her grown daughter and grandkids. A mom entertaining two boys while they are out of school for winter vacation. And at the table next to me, a dad with two young children - a boy slightly younger than JJ and a girl still in diapers.

There are a lot of kids playing. A natural byproduct of that quantity of young voices in a confined area is an increase of volume. One of those kids screams. I don't hear it but the dad next to me does. And he is not happy. He snaps and yells for his son to come down. Immediately.

The kid complies.

"Put your shoes on," the dad says, "We're leaving."
"Why?" asks the boy.
"Because you screamed like a girl."

Note that reason. Not, "because you screamed," but "because you screamed like a girl."


The first one would make sense. I've made each of my kids take a time out from playground shenanigans for screaming. That's a part of being a good parent - helping your children understand what is or is not appropriate behavior. But the other reason?

I understand that we (as dads) have high hopes for our sons. Many guys want their boys to be tough and rugged. To have boys that can beat up other boys. That think the only appropriate way to play with Barbies is dismemberment and decapitation. To have lumberjack beards by the time they start junior high. To be built like pro wrestlers and be able to slam dunk a basketball from the three point line with their eyes closed. To roundhouse kick a grisly bear in the face while chugging a can of Budweiser.

The most common instinct of fatherhood is to desire a son that grows into the manliest of men. Fathers fail when they try to force that manliness through insult, degradation, or emasculation. You will never convince a boy to act like a man by telling him he sounds like a girl.

Dads, please, don't be that guy.

All kids scream. Some louder than others. To assign that behavior to a gender specific role and use that gender bias to punish is not necessary. In fact, it's harmful. Boys have a hard enough time learning how to be secure in their own identity; castigating their masculinity doesn't help. We have a generation of broken men breaking boys. The cycle needs to stop somewhere.