Why I’m Building Boys

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I’m building boys because I was blessed with four of them.

Jennifer L.W. Fink & her 4 boys

My advocacy on behalf of boys — heck, most of my career, at this point — grew out of the simple fact that I am a mother of four boys.

Being a mom of boys opened my eyes to things I’d never even considered before. I grew up with brothers (four of them, actually, and a sister), but I had no idea what it was like to be a boy in this world. I didn’t understand that little boys are wired to move and wrestle, and that in the end, it doesn’t really matter if that inclination is in-born or a product of socialization.

I didn’t know that boys’ fine motor skills mature later than their gross motor skills, or that the part of the brain that handles language matures much later in boys than it does in girls.

Once I learned those two facts, though, it became instantly obviously to me why so many boys struggle in school — and why so many “hate” school and disengage. The boys themselves are not the problem; the problem is a school system and culture that fails to recognize the developmental needs of boys.

I started BuildingBoys because too many parents and boys didn’t realize that the struggles they’re facing are universal. Because too many boys are convinced they’re “bad,” and because too many parents of boys think they’re failing their sons.

I couldn’t opt out. As a mom of boys, I couldn’t ignore the challenges boys face in school. I couldn’t ignore the cultural narrative that frames all boys as potential rapists, or the rising suicide rates of boys and men.

These topics are intensely personal; I deal with them daily in my own home. But these topics are also socially important. HOW WE TREAT OUR BOYS MATTERS. To date, nearly every mass shooting has been perpetrated by males who have felt alienated and misunderstood or unappreciated by the larger society. As others have said before me, “Hurt people hurt people.”

I am not saying we need to bend over backwards to accommodate the needs or whims of males. I am saying that we ignore boys’ distress at our peril. I’m saying that, in an era of female empowerment, many of our boys and young men feel ignored, dismissed and blamed.

As a woman, I am acutely aware of the ways in which male dominance has led to imbalance and caused harm. I know that women were denied opportunities for generations, in favor of men. I know that women today still face discrimination, sexual harassment and pay disparity.

I also know that today’s boys did not cause those harms. I know that our boys are hungry for acceptance, love and opportunity, just as our girls are. And I believe that all of our children deserve respect and support.

I am building boys because I want to change the world for the better.

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