Straight Talk Advice

Boys don’t ask for help—but they really need it

May 04, 2011

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: A friend with daughters referred me to your column. While I enjoy it very much, I would like to see more coverage of male issues. Almost every helpful program is weighted toward girls while ignoring the needs of boys. What is going on? — Mother of a Son, Monterey, Calif.

I have been fretting over this since the column began. It truly is a huge problem society-wide. For an idea of the magnitude, for every letter we get from a boy, we get about 80 from girls. We hear from fathers even less. We have been adding many male panelists (also harder to come by), in hopes of coaxing more male-oriented questions.

Females have been considered oppressed by males, but that thinking is flawed because in an oppressive system, both “oppressor” and “oppressed” are oppressed — the “system” is damaged throughout. Unfortunately, for the past 50 years, female empowerment has been emphasized while male empowerment was bashed. I raised three sons, grew up alongside brothers, and had two dads. I know how society oppresses males, making them deny their feelings and needs. At this point, male needs are even greater than those of females. Males dominate conditions of drug abuse, alcoholism, gaming and pornography addictions, violence, suicide, incarceration, and homelessness. Significantly fewer males than females are attending and graduating from college. I hope your letter encourages more males to reach out — and for the public to reach back.

The panelists’ responses below are poignant. For more on male empowerment visit mankindproject.org.

Justin 22, Redding, Calif. Ask me a question

It’s harder for a guy to reach out for help. I know that whenever I have a problem, I tend to feel like I’ve failed or that I need to “man up.” Also, lately I’ve learned that whenever I “talk out” an issue, I end up feeling worse because I make everything “my fault” even when I know inside that that’s not true. Society has made it very hard for a man to express himself openly.

Lennon 24, Fair Oaks, Calif. Ask me a question

Historically, men had a harder time asking for help or advice; we were supposed to be stoic and know how to do everything. That’s changing, but many boys still try to do things themselves without even thinking of asking for help. This is probably passed down from fathers, which explains why they ask for guidance even less.

Katelyn 16, Huntington Beach, Calif. Ask me a question

If we cover more girl issues than guy issues, it’s only because girls write in more (just like girls talk more and are more open about feelings). Instead of making up generic questions, we are keeping it real — so SPEAK UP GUYS!

Jesse 18, Brockport, N.Y. Ask me a question

Men don’t speak up as much because we aren’t supposed to have issues. It’s a natural instinct to think men are stronger and can take things women aren’t expected to take. Also, we don’t “take things to heart” like women do.

Peter 23, Monterey, Calif. Ask me a question

Things like “Straight Talk,” “Cosmo” and “GQ,” where advice and tips are solicited, are way more popular among girls.

Rachel 19, Petaluma, Calif. Ask me a question

Girls tend to seek outside guidance as they find themselves (including going beyond their circle of friends), whereas guys usually turn inward. This ability to seek beyond their own world helps girls reach their ideals.

Gregg 20, Sacramento, Calif. Ask me a question

Culture has allowed women to be more alpha. And their “squeaky wheels” are getting the grease. Did we see the same during the 1800s? No, but times have changed and women have changed with them. However, what has not changed is men’s lack of emotion. The problem boils down to men not talking about their feelings as much as women.

Editor’s Note: Jesse finishes his comment with “...we don’t ‘take things to heart’ like women do.” His words reveal the core of the male crisis which is a crisis of the heart. The male heart has not been allowed to be vulnerable. We now know that emotional IQ is the biggest predicator of success. Having a high emotional intelligence means being in tune with your full range of feelings and knowing how to make these feelings your allies in accomplishing your goals instead of letting them shut you down. Another factor in success is mutual support, something women do for each other constantly, but that you only rarely see in men.

The Mankind Project is the best thing I’m aware of for empowering men and helping them become stronger through honesty around their feelings and mutual support. From their website at www.mankindproject.org is the following description: “The ManKind Project flies in the face of rigid stereotypes about the “Sensitive New Age Man” AND the “Macho Man”. We ask men to go right up to the edge — and beyond it — in a culture that seems to be comfortable with mediocrity and passivity from men. We ask men to stop living a vicarious adventure through their TV’s and step into a real time adventure to win back their passion for life. We ask men to confront the real problems in their lives and to get 100 percent honest about who they are.” I urge men of any age to check it out. It is multiple programs like this designed for women that have made the women’s movement so successful. —Lauren

  1. By AntZ from Upton, New York on 06/13/2011

    You have completely missed the point.  Boys and men are disengaging from life.

    If you want to know why, ask.  If you only want to avoid responsibility, continue telling men and boys to “ask for help”.

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