Raising boys without men: Benefit to society or slap in the face to fathers?
If you’re a single or lesbian mom who is raising a boy without his father and you want assurance that you can raise him to be a decent man, Raising Boys Without Men is the book for you. Peggy Drexler takes us on a feel-good journey through the lives of several boys being raised by single moms and lesbian couples.
What she found was these boys were essentially the same as the boys being raised in heterosexual families. She states, “I came to see that good, loving, growth-encouraging parenting is what sons need. Parenting, moreover, is not anchored to gender. Parenting is either good or deficit, not male or female…”
The women had, on the most part, thought long and hard about becoming mothers. Many were single-by-choice, some used in vitro fertilization and some adopted. These mothers knew they were on the cutting edge of society and were especially proud and concerned about doing a good job. Its no wonder Drexler found that these boys were exceptional in some areas. She describes the moms as having “the wherewithal to develop a parenting style that was both intense and considered.”
The mothers Drexler studied were not average single and lesbian mothers. These mothers had advantages that many single mothers don’t have. They were “older… better educated and more financially secure than average moms.” These families “turned out to be an extremely stable group.” This book gives some good ideas for situations that might come up for the reader, but I’d be concerned if all women assumed they would have it this easy.
Drexler admits, “As a specialist in the study of gender, I am extremely sensitive to the bad rap against mothers.” It disturbs me that Drexler writes, “…fathers seem to carry much less responsibility for the problems their sons may have.” In reality, there are fathers worldwide fighting to be more involved in their sons’ and daughters’ lives.
For instance, when it comes to child custody in America, women are given sole custody in 84% of the cases. Fathers who want equal custody, equal time, and equal responsibility are usually only given 14% of their children’s time and are degraded to “visitor.”
Studies show many divorcing and single mothers see no value in a continued relationship between their children and their father. Drexler touches on this conceit when she says, “There’s really no research to back up this notion of maternal omnipotence, but it sticks to us like glue.”
Even though Drexler states that gender doesn’t determine the quality of a person’s parenting she paints fathers in a negative light throughout this book. She makes statements like, “Cultural myth teaches us that to become a man, a boy must toughen up, turn away from his mother, and identify with his more aggressive father. This notion not only separates boys from their mothers; it can also propel them toward destructive men and destructive tendencies.”
Drexler states, “In our society, often we idealize and elevate the role of father in a boy’s life without giving credence to the fact that actual fathers can be destructive and a boy may be better off without his father.” This is a common problem for today’s men. From insulting advertising campaigns to the Violence Against Women Act that provides no services for battered men, fathers are put down and devalued.
Erin Pizzey, founder of the first battered women’s shelter wrote in her 2005 commentary Domestic Violence Is Not A Gender, “The feminisation of the family and Western society has caused men to become outcasts and a source of ridicule in their children’s eyes.” I believe Drexler’s book is one example as she suggests, “Could it be that today’s single and two-mother families are creating a new norm? … The boys… may even make better men.”
I believe with the right attention and efforts a responsible single mother or lesbian couple can raise a boy to be a decent man. I know because as a single mother I did it. Do I think it’s the ideal? I do not. It would be nice to see Drexler do a book on fathers raising daughters without their mothers. I know many men she could interview.