What Macklemore Can Teach Us About Boys

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Boys will enhance your world, if you let them.

My four sons have expanded my world in so many ways. If not for my boys, I’d have no idea what Minecraft is. (OK, I still don’t really understand Minecraft , but I at least have a general overall understanding of the game and phenomenon!) I probably wouldn’t know who Tony Hawk is and I definitely would not be able to tell you the difference between a northern pike and a muskellunge.

Thanks to my boys, I’m not completely ignorant of pop music. I know who Flo Rida is, who Psy is and what the Harlem Shake is.  My boys also introduced me to Macklemore, a rapper.

Rap isn’t exactly my kind of music; I love show tunes, 80s rock and country music. But Thrift Shop, I had to admit, is a catchy song. (Warning: the original version includes some curse words you might not want your sons to hear; the link above will take you to a PG version.) Then my 10–year-old played Can’t Hold Us for me, and I realized it was actually kind of inspirational. Ok, I’m thinking, maybe this Macklemore guy isn’t so bad. 

I never expected, though, that Macklemore would teach me something about my boys.

The first lines of his song, Same Love, lodged in my heart and haven’t left me since. Check out these lyrics:

When I was in the third grade I thought that I was gay,
‘Cause I could draw, my uncle was, and I kept my room straight.
I told my mom, tears rushing down my face
She’s like “Ben you’ve loved girls since before pre-k, trippin’ “
Yeah, I guess she had a point, didn’t she?
Bunch of stereotypes all in my head.
I remember doing the math like, “Yeah, I’m good at little league”
A preconceived idea of what it all meant

Listen, whatever you think about homosexuality or same-sex relationships, those are some powerful words. In his first two lines — two lines! — he shows us exactly how narrow the definition of “boy” still is. A boy who draws and keeps his room straight is somehow under suspicion of being less-than-a-boy. The boy in the song isn’t sad because he can draw or because he has a gay uncle or because his room is clean; he’s in tears because he’d already clearly gotten the message that drawing and being neat are not things that normal boys do. 

Our boys labor under those stereotypes every single day. Biology tells us that it’s impossible for a male child to be anything other than a boy, but our culture tells boys otherwise. Our culture clearly implies that some things — sports & toughness, for instance — are OK for boys, while others — acting in musicals, expressing emotions — are not.

Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but the truth is that most boys, like the narrator, are well aware of the rules of boyhood by the time they enter school, and those rules continue to restrict boys from full-growth as human beings.

So let’s work together to expand the definition of boy. Let’s work together to create schools,homes and communities that accept and value all boys. Let us help our boys to question and confront stereotypes and expectations, and let us all embrace the boys in our lives.





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