What does the fatherless, boy crisis have to do with mass shootings?

This year’s Father’s Day feels different after the school shooting in Uwald, Texas. As the national conversation turns again to the intersection of gun access and troubled youth, we wonder what drives this nihilism. Are boys and men in crisis? Is there anything particularly worrisome about American masculinity?

These are some of the questions that pop into my mind when I talk to academic and author Warren Farrell about masculinity. Before his foray into boys’ and men’s issues, Farrell, 78, was the only man elected to the board of the National Organization for Women three times. His commitment to feminist issues early in his career inspired him to understand what men experience in later life enthusiasm.

Farrell’s 2018 book Boys Crisis, co-authored with John Gray, explores why boys are falling behind girls and looks at the impact of absent fathers and male role models. His work has been selected for “Dr.” Phil” and the podcast of Andrew Yang, who has been a repeat guest on Jordan Peterson’s podcast, most recently on June 13.

We initially met a few months ago in his community in Mill Valley, California, just north of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge. On a warm February afternoon, we walked along the meandering stream that cuts through a residential hillside bordering Muir Woods National Monument and the Pacific Ocean. Farrell took me to his “church” where he had some of his best reflections in the forest and we walked under the canopy of 100-foot redwoods. Here, we discuss the issues plaguing boys today and what can be done to help them.

This Q&A is a synthesis of that conversation and a recent phone interview. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Ali Bluff: I would love to know your reaction to the recent mass shooting of young people. Are they related to what you call “boy crisis”?

Warren Farrell: We’ve been blaming gun acquisition, media violence, violence and video games, family values, alt-theory-style hate (mass shootings). Yet our daughters are exposed to the same families with the same family values, the same guns, the same violence and the same media, the same violence and the same video games. They have similar mental illnesses and our daughters did not kill.

What’s happening to boys is a global boy crisis: Boys commit suicide far more often than girls — five times as often in their 20s — drop out of high school, drop out of college, and die from opioid overdose. All of these are 70+ worst ways for a boy without a father.

Difficulties don’t just happen to boys. When boys don’t do well, girls can’t find good fathers (for their children), which leads to children being raised by single mothers or divorced.

The boy crisis exists where the father does not live. There are about 10 reasons for the boy’s crisis, but no father or father deprivation is the biggest reason.

AB: you wrote a column Reviewed the mass shooting at Uwald a few weeks ago. Is there anything special about American boys? Clearly, there has been mass violence in Europe and even Canada, but it doesn’t appear to be the same rate or frequency. Is American masculinity, or a wider social crisis in American society, affecting boys?

WF: Well, I think there are two big things. One is that fatherlessness is the biggest problem here and in the UK. But there are not as many mass shootings in the UK as they are here. So it has to be more than just a fatherless problem. I believe in America we have an addiction, and that addiction is the addiction to guns.

We also have very lenient laws where an 18th birthday boy, without a background check of any kind, is able to pick up a gun despite his threats on social media and a number of worryingly significant There are signs of problems, and none have been detected or checked. We own more guns in America than we own. We don’t have massive stab wounds. We have mass shootings. The stronger the gun, the more the boy has the ability to express his anger, and behind almost all anger is vulnerability. What we need to understand is that the boys who hurt us are almost always the boys who hurt us.

When you talk about guns, you alienate the conservative community. But when you talk about fathers and fathers, liberals are not very responsive. We’re caught between liberal and conservative rock and hard places. Few are open-minded about either issue.

The girl did not carry out the mass shooting. Not all boys are a problem. Fatherless boys are more common than any other group of boys.

We need to pay attention to three things. One is the boy crisis. The second is the fatherless problem. The third issue is the issue of guns.

Second: How did you find out that your message was received?

WF: Well, the people who interviewed me, if they were conservative, they wanted me to minimize or ignore gun issues. They agree with me that guns are the third thing on the list and serve as a magnifying glass for potential problems. But if I start talking about it in a more in-depth way, then they start to get nervous. They brought me back to my family and my father.

Along with the liberals, I went to interview the Democratic presidential candidate (2019), and there were a few people, like Andrew Yang and John Hickenlooper, who knew it very well. Campaign managers are not interested in having candidates make boys and men issues a feature of their campaigns for fear of alienating their feminist base. They also worry that saying fathers matter will alienate and offend single mothers.

Second: Father’s Day is coming, what do you have to say to your parents?

WF: us Really need to know what I discussed in ‘Boy Crisis’ Nine differences between dad parenting and mom parenting. Children do best when they have what I call checks and balances parenting, which acknowledges that both parents communicate in loving and respectful ways.

Both parents bring unique parenting styles. A motherly approach to parenting focuses on protecting the child and being sensitive to the child’s needs. The importance of daddy parenting is to enforce boundaries. Since then, children have learned to delay gratification to achieve their dreams.

Second: I think it’s interesting that your background complements the journey of gender equality. You started advocating for feminist issues in the ’50s and ’60s, when it wasn’t popular by any means, and then expanded to male rights and the importance of fatherhood. But for that, you get a lot of flak. Unlike feminist activism, patriarchal activism appears to be a thankless pursuit. Did this surprise you?

WF: When I start speaking at colleges and universities, I distribute these yellow pads to the audience. This was before computers and people would sign up to see if they wanted to join a men’s group or a women’s group. I get together with everyone who is interested, often until 1am. I would teach them how to run men’s and women’s groups and then keep in touch with them.

As I started following the feedback from the two boys’ groups in New York, as well as other boys’ and girls’ groups, I started incorporating some of their insights into my presentations. That’s when my standing ovation became a mix of standing and sitting. Then they become completely unmixed. Just sit.

In the beginning, when I was just speaking from a feminist perspective, I got about four or five speeches per event recommendation. And after I start incorporating male perspectives, I get one or zero referrals. I’m starting to realize that if I talk about men’s experiences, or what’s happening with boys, I’ll quickly become less and less popular.

Second: Not having a father is a big issue, but it does flow downstream from our cultural values. How will you reverse this trend?

WF: First, it involves letting women understand that we are all in the same family boat; when you focus on just one gender winning, both genders lose. As parents, we want our daughter to have a man worthy of her love and respect. Someone who can pull together, can take care of her and do her part to take care of the children.

Historically, every generation has been through wars, and in those wars, if Uncle Sam said, “We need you. You have to kill the Nazis,” when they were told they needed them, men signed up and came forward out.

We now have to tell men that they no longer need to kill and be killed, but to love and be loved. Women need their support, their skills, their checks, their balance to help protect and raise children. We need them now to be “father warriors”. The true warriors of the future are those who share the responsibility and joy of raising children.

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