Does Raising Boys to be Manly Christian Men Require Discriminating Against Girls?

I was jittery before I published Women and the Church yesterday. 

I was afraid that, since I mentioned the presence of homosexual priests in our Church, I would stir up a hornet’s nest of attacks on homosexual priests.

Silly me.

Women are sooo much more the object of discrimination than homosexuals. No group of people on this planet can outrank women on the hated scale.

I was inundated with comments from men (While I know there are women-hating women and lots of them, my commenters yesterday were ALL male) explaining basically two things to me:

1. They are not prejudiced against women. They most certainly are not misogynist. It is the Church that requires them to go on and on and on ranting against any participation by women in the liturgy. If the bishops — and three popes — allow this, they say, then the bishops and three popes are wrong. Their teaching authority is bankrupt. And they’ve got some pet priest somewhere who tells them the bishops and three popes are wrong.

These folks seem to be hung up on the use of the Latin word for “man,” which they claim does not — and I mean does not — mean all of humanity, but rather only people who are genetically and anatomically male. The odd part of this is that they are accidentally making one of the best arguments for something I would guess they see as anathema — using more inclusive language — that I have ever encountered.

If “man” does not mean all of humanity, then many of the Church’s most compelling statements concerning the universal value of all human beings go right in the trash bin. To me, the issue is simple. I won’t belabor this except to ask: Does masculum et feminam creavit eos mean what I’ve always been taught it means or not?

2. Boys can not survive in a world where girls are allowed to compete. The whole reason for the priest shortage is altar girls. These commenters simply ignored every point I raised in the post and repeated this tired old argument as if no one had challenged them. The gist of their argument was versions of the cliched boys-won’t-be-called-to-the-priesthood-because-of-altar-girls stuff. Then, it took an interesting twist, and one I’m going to talk about here, by broadening it to say that there are so many troubled young men in our society today because girls are competing against them.

This second line of reasoning is the one I want to explore in this post.

Just for the record, I’ve raised boys. Or rather, my only husband, who is their biological father, and I have raised boys. We successfully managed to bring them to productive adulthood as manly men who believe in Jesus, say their prayers, do not shoot people, are not on drugs, and who go out to work, succeed in higher education and respect women.

Based on the interesting logic of some of my commenters, we must have oppressed every girl in the neighborhood to achieve this miracle. We certainly must have refused to let them participate in swim teams where girls might beat them or go to chess tournaments where girls sometimes did beat them. After all, manliness, according to the version I’ve seem in the comboxes these past few hours, is such a fragile flower that it cannot grow unless girls are sidelined and silenced.

In truth, my husband (and he was the one who did most of this) taught them to respect women. “Treat them like people,” he advised when they reached adolescence and were agawk at the loveliness of the girls around them. “Just remember that they are people and treat them that way and you won’t have any trouble with girls.”

The message I’m trying to convey here is not what my husband said to our sons, although I think it was, like my husband, both wise and chivalrous. It’s that my husband, their father was on the beat to say it. Young men are different from young girls in a number of ways, all of them, when they are channeled according to Godly manliness, beautiful. They are physically stronger. They are more physical, period. They are bursting with that wonderment of a hormone, testosterone, which gives them beautiful male bodies, energy and a propensity to take action.

They are not inherently violent, cruel or sadistic. All this comes from the harm we do to them in the environment we provide for them and the way we treat them.

We are very cruel to our children in this society. Boys or girls, it doesn’t matter, we always put them last on our list of musts. Oh, we shower them with toys and things. But we also put their interests last in our lives and our society. We indoctrinate them in nihilism and sexual disorder in our schools. We tear their homes apart with our divorces and adulteries. Mothers disrespect their fathers. Fathers disrespect and bully their mothers.

Then we act surprised that they grow up to be emotionally and socially damaged adults who can not create families of their own and nurture children of their own.

Instead of admitting our own failings, we play the blame game, writ large. That is what this nonsense about boys being unable to thrive unless girls are oppressed is. It’s the blame game, writ large and cruel. Boys need their mothers to teach them about tenderness, love and women. Boys need their fathers to teach them about men. 

I am not talking about a lecture once in a while from dad who’s not there the rest of the time. I’m talking about raising boys the same way that Joseph raised Jesus, by being there, every day, and by interacting with them all the time, in big things and small things.

I’m talking, actually, about being a man like my husband, who is the best man I’ve ever known. I am convinced that if more fathers were like my husband, we would not have violent young men terrorizing our country with random mass murders.

This business of blaming young girls for the failure of a generation of men to be the Dad on the beat for their sons is one of the most blatantly stupid and self-serving examples of prejudice I’ve seen in a quite a while. 

If you sincerely want someone to sacrifice to raise up a generation of manly men, then men, you should start with yourselves. Go home. Love their mother. And spend time with your children. Love your kids. Enjoy them.

My advice to men who want to raise their sons to be manly men is to be men themselves. Then everything, including vocations, will follow.

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  • Dave

    Whoa, which comment on the other thread prompted all that? I don’t really disagree on anything you said, but I’m not sure how it relates to the comments in the threads either, unless I missed some of the comments.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Mine, I think. But I think it is also generational. I almost responded to this post with a snarky “You let them be on the same swim team, but did you make them use the unisex changing room?”, because that’s what I see going on with altar girls.

      The odd part is, I completely agree with Rebecca on that. But easy divorce and the assumption that the woman *always* gets full custody has a tendency to fight against it.

      And I’m NOT kidding when I say that the secular school system taught me that being strong was bad. I’m still fighting against the psychological damage THAT did to my autistic brain (it’s a huge part of the reason why I’m a software engineer and not, say, a firefighter).

  • Dale

    Rebecca, thank you for posting this. I have to admit, I have never understood that argument that men are unable to compete against women and need to be protected from them. The same regarding girls and boys. I sometimes wonder if those who support that view have reversed the Victorian idea that woman were “the weaker sex.” Advocates of restricting women in order to allow for male success seem to consider men to the be “the weaker sex.”

    That said, I wonder if the photos you selected don’t undermine your argument (and mine, too.)
    In the first photo we see Cardinal Bergoglio kneeling in supplication to a woman. In the second photo we see two girls shoving a boy out of the way in order to pray with Pope John Paul II. In the third photo, Pope Benedict is using a flaming torch to keep a girl at bay. In the fourth photo, we see a man and boy, whose shoes have been stolen, probably by girls or women! Clearly, there is a a theme to those photos which illustrate the growing threat to men posed by women and girls.

    • Rebecca Hamilton


  • neenergyobserver

    Well said, my friend. Those so-called men (they’re really boys) have never met a real woman, or if they did ran away from seeing real strength. Too bad (for them) and too sad as well.

    Your last paragraph says it all.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Why must it be a competition to begin with? Why is it so hard to admit that the unique skills of the genders are *complimentary* and we need them both?

    If my argument was just a rehash of “Men are the weaker sex and can’t compete with women”, doesn’t this make this argument just a rehash of “Anything men can do women can do better and if you suggest otherwise then you’re just a meterosexual sissy that doesn’t deserve to live anyway”?

    In other words, isn’t it the BATTLE that is the real cause of men deciding to just concede the battle and do what the feminists tell them to in the first place?

  • pagansister

    My husband and I raised a girl and a boy. We taught them to respect themselves for who they are AND that respect was to be given to both men AND women. We tried to teach them and I think we succeeded, that there was nothing they couldn’t do if they tried. Definitions of what is MANLY is debatable and varied—and I guess that is also true for what is “womanly” . IMO, women and men are equal. Rebecca, though I agree with your comments above about intact families—-unfortunately that isn’t always possible. I expect there have always been single parents—perhaps we just know about more of them now. I believe it is possible for a single parent to successfully raise a boy or a girl, and have that child be a fully functional Christian (since that is what we’re discussing) adult in today’s world.

  • Connie Rossini

    Certainly as a mother of 4 boys I don’t disagree that we must raise our boys to honor women. But you are too dismissive of the respondents to yesterday’s post re: the use of Latin words. Latin, as you know. is the language of the Church, and all directives coming from Rome are written in Latin, then translated. The Church does not take her documents lightly. She weighs every word.There are 2 Latin words that can be translated as “man.” One means “mankind,” the other, “males.” The latter is viri, and it is the word used by the Church in directives about the priesthood, as well as the washing of feet on Holy Thursday. If Rome meant “person,” another term would have been used. This was the case with altar servers, and it was why Fr. Peter Stravinskas, for example, argued that girls could be altar servers, even before Rome clarified this point. The term viri was not used in that instance.

  • Kristen inDallas

    Don’t disagree with your points at all, but I do think the solution is harder than just – dad’s be there. Some kids, a lot of kids don’t have dads. Their dads are not the type of folks very likely to be reading your posts. There are a lot of girls out there lacking dad’s to teach them about “what boys are like” and surviving it. Fortunately most of those girls DO have mothers to teach them how to be a strong woman anyway. So there are plenty of girls making dumb decisions about boys, and getting hurt, but most I’ve seen (in my days as a highschool teacher) have enough emotional strength to bounce back eventually. Boys of single mothers, get the opposite. They learn all about the opposite sex, are adept at maneuvering the dating game without getting hurt much at all, but they tend to be internally stunted. No one is there to teach them how to be a man. It is a real problem for a lot of boys. I do see a real need for places and activities that are boy-exclusive.
    I agree with you that I don’t think our collective spiritual home needs to be that place…. but I guess I’m saying that I do get why this becomes a hot button issue. Boyscouts, sports, the military, and now alter servers… girls have broken down a lot of barriers. I don’t begrudge that – for activities that need not be gender sppecific, why not let girls join the club? But at the same time, why can’t we keep girls soccer for girls and boys soccer for boys? Why can’t the church do seperate things for boys and girls- preparing for the women who will be perfectly capable readers and eucharistic ministers, and still preparing boys who may someday be priests?
    We all need a place to let our hair down and discver who we are meant to become, without the distraction of whether someone in the group may or may not want to date us. I’m affiliated with a girl-only nfp camp… and proud to be. The girls-only environment is a really good expirience for them. I welcome the day when we ladies expirience so little real discrimination that we can be comfortable enough to let the boys have a club of their own somewhere in any field where they can expirience the essence of “man-ness”. without feeling compelled to knock down the percieved mysogonistic walls.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Because again- simply relying on the dads to impart this wisdom doesn’t cut it. If your words can get an extra dad or two to stick it out… more power to you. (DADS: seriously, listen to the woman, stick around, your sons NEED you!) But it just simply doesn’t mean much for the boys whose dads are long gone and never coming back. (So good DADs: listen to this woman too, fatherless boys need you too, don’t hesitate to volunteer for a “boys club” or coach on a boy only team just because you’re afraid of looking like a misogynist. You’re a grown man, you can handle it. )

  • vox borealis

    The appropriate document regarding the mandatum rite during Holy Thursday is Paschales Solemnitatis, issued by the Congregation of Divine Worship in 1988.

  • SteveP

    Rebecca: Of course it is not a game where females must stunt themselves for males to thrive. However, it is also not a game of “active participation” interpretation. Our participation, as laity, in Liturgy is a pose of gratitude for Our Lord has given us the right and the obligation to stand, with Him, in the presence of the Father.

    Both mother and fathers need to model that thankfulness to their children by loving each other, loving them, and loving those in need.

  • Zai

    I thank you for this one. I am a man who has had to figure out the trappings of manhood, pretty much on my own. My father was THERE, but not THERE. It is kind of complicated and relates to the fact that he has a mental illness that he refuses to treat.
    In any case, as a Black-American and a Catholic one, I find it more and more disconcerting how damaged our views of family are. In my particular sub-culture in the US, the lack of fathers was once considered an epidemic. It is still a huge problem, but now society (at-large) has reached a point where they have thrown up their hands in defeat. They’ve decided that it is the NUMBER of parents that make a healthy child, and have ignored the beautiful differences in men and women.
    I suffered greatly without a real father, though my mother was superwoman. I have no idea how she held it all together. The point here is both biological parents bring something to the table that is not brought by the other. This is why we need both parents, and another reason divorce is so heinous.
    Finally, I agree that we do not have to disparage women to get our young men to succeed and be true men. I think it insulting to say that boys cannot succeed because we are allowing girls to do things that were once male-only. This is not reference to sport (which needs a certain amount of separation due to biological differences), but things like being an altar server. Using the presence of other people in a position you want for avoiding doing it is a weak reason for not doing what needs to be done. The same applies to people who think the hypocrisy of the Church diminishes from the Truth in its teaching. Part of those teachings is the fact that people are often hypocrites. Let’s get over, ourselves. Young men, let’s stand up and seek the one who made us all.

  • Ted Seeber

    This is not a new problem in the African American Community, Zai. For a good in depth discussion of this issue pre 1860, see chapter 3 of this book:

    The new thing is that whites have pretty much given up on heterosexual families as well- LONG before gay marriage came about. I remember “latchkey kids” becoming a serious concern in the 1970s as two-income families came into being with feminism.

    • Zai


      Thanks for your response. I’m actually well aware of the fact that this is not a new problem for my community. I have a tremendous amount of pride in my people because we have done so much despite everything. However, our family structure was ruptured due to chattel slavery. Families were regularly split, people were essentially bred like animals. I know very well that the problem is not new.
      My own father was a latchkey kid, and my own childhood was disjointed in such a way that I was largely a latchkey myself at times. That’s why I find everything so disconcerting, and it especially worries that my community seems to be just going right along with this, without addressing the problem we use to acknowledge constantly. Granted, I am sure there are plenty of people who are working for that, trying to bring fathers back, but it is very hard to resist the tide of society at times and society seems to be trying to take the easy road out. They no longer ask “what’s best,” rather they try to figure out what can sort of get the job done. Plenty of well adjusted kids and productive members of society are the results of single-parenting, but that is certainly not the ideal. Like another blog on this channel says, we seem to have forgotten that marriage is for children, not our personal feeling of eros.
      Thanks for the extra reading material, I’m always up for that. Maybe one day I will write on such things myself.

  • pagansister

    Theo, some of those 2 income families were due to financial necessity—not just “feminism”.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Feminism created the financial necessity in a way. The influx of more workers and the ability of the second person in the household TO work, allowed wages to fall. Capitialists *will* take advantage of lowered costs wherever and whenever they can; since the 1970s it has been nearly impossible to maintain a single breadwinner household at all; and since 1988 COLAs have trailed inflation by nearly 2%.

      Women entering the workforce nearly doubled the supply of labor, and by the law of supply and demand, that allowed for lower wages for everybody. It wasn’t until I had a child and we struggled through some really tough years before we started the daycare that allowed my wife to work at home, that I realized how incredibly great of an injustice the removal of living wage jobs from our economy has really been (by John Gaibraith’s definition of a Living Wage, which is based on Pope Leo’s Rerum Novarum- high enough income for a single breadwinner to feed, clothe, and shelter his family, with enough left over that through the practice of thrift he can one day become his own boss and open a business of his own).

      For over 40% of Americans- the days of Living Wage Jobs being available at all is long gone.

      So yes, it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, though I note that such jobs were widely available well into the 1960s.

      • Dale

        Theodore, I agree with you that the notion of a Living Wage job is wonderful, perhaps ideal. However, I very much disagree with your contention that the permanent entry of women into the workforce caused wages to fall. Actually, the average wage (adjusted for inflation) rose until the mid-1970s. This happened because the US economy was booming. The amazing expansion of the US economy in the 1960s was fueled, in part, by women entering the workforce. US productivity soared during that decade, and women can take much of the credit for that.

        I think what makes a Living Wage seem unobtainable is that our expectations of material wealth today are far higher than 50 years ago. In 1950, the average new home size was 980 sq. feet. In 2010, the average size of a new home was 2100 sq. feet…. and this despite the number of children in an average family falling by half during that time frame. Similarly, the average number of cars per family has doubled.

        We expect more today than we did in the past, and that is what has made a Living Wage seem so out of reach. Living on a single-wage seems a sacrifice, but our grand-parents were making a similar sacrifice in living standards. As a country, we’ve simply become unwilling to make that sacrifice.

        • Theodore Seeber

          A lot of that is necessary because even married men and women are leading separate lives. I have a 1400 sq ft house and two cars, not because I want to, but because the only way we can make it is if my wife works- and for her work, she uses 675 sq feet of that 1400 sq ft house for a daycare. Because she has the daycare, she needs the minivan from time to time for field trips and the like; I used to drive a 1999 Ford until last week that I owned for 10 years- and now I drive a 2006 Prius that God willing and no more car accidents I’ll own for another 10 years.

          If the wife does not have a second job, there’s no need for that second car.

          The average worker earns $59 per YEAR more than he did in 1975. The upper end, yes, is earning 400x what they did in 1975, but the average American just isn’t.

          Capitalism ALWAYS takes advantage of increases in supply to lower cost.

  • pagansister

    Theodore, both my parents worked—-my mother for a school system as an audiologist and my Dad was in charge of a hearing and speech clinic for a large university—-it wasn’t “necessary” for my mother to work—she chose to. It had nothing to do with “feminism” on her part. I started work when my 2nd child started school and since I was a teacher—no problem with daycare. Again it was my choice to work, as my husband’s salary was enough to provide for us. My income was a little extra. However, as I mentioned above, some folks have no choice—because neither parent makes enough to sustain a descent living on their own. I don’t now about the economics you mentioned.