cover image BoyMom: Reimagining Boyhood in the Age of Impossible Masculinity

BoyMom: Reimagining Boyhood in the Age of Impossible Masculinity

Ruth Whippman. Harmony, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-57763-9

This captivating work of cultural criticism from journalist Whippman (America the Anxious), the mother of three young sons, explores how masculine norms deprive boys of connection. Interweaving personal anecdotes and reporting, Whippman discusses struggling to find books, movies, or other media about emotionally attuned male characters that would encourage her sons to “see themselves as... relational beings.” This dearth leads to disconnection, Whippman argues, citing her interviews with adolescent boys who reported wanting “more emotionally focused connections with friends” despite having “no real idea how to go about it.” Whippman’s deep dive into the state of modern boyhood serves up fascinating dispatches from a Manhattan all-boys’ prep school trying to stamp out toxic masculinity, a Utah residential therapy program aiming to instill “the values of traditional manhood” in participants, and a conference for an advocacy organization that defends young men accused of campus sexual assault. Whippman’s trenchant analysis explains without excusing some of the worst excesses of patriarchy, as when she concludes after interviewing incels (a group of “superonline” young men who feel entitled to sex) that they represent a toxic mixture of misogyny and a “lack of nurturing for young boys” that drives them to seek community in the “manosphere.” It’s an urgent call to reassess how boys are raised and socialized. Agent: Steve Ross, Steve Ross Agency. (June)