Here at Advocates for Youth, my job is to focus on engaging young men in sexual and reproductive health. This means highlighting the young men already doing excellent work to influence their peers and it also means helping others improve their work with this demographic. It’s hard to explain exactly what so many different guys are experiencing as they come of age in America today – the pressures, the inconsistent messaging about who we’re supposed to be and how, or the insecurities we might feel but are rarely able to voice.
This is why I was so excited to read Rosalind Wiseman’s Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World and see so much of it captured so well.
Wiseman is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World , the book that was later turned into the movie Mean Girls with the help of Tina Fey. Learning that she would now try to take on the world of boys at first made me nervous. Never having experienced boyhood first hand who was she to chronicle the complexities of modern adolescent masculinity? But her thoroughness and her inclusion of 160 young men in editing this work provide a striking level of insight into the minds and lives of young men and how outsiders to this world can do their best to provide the support and space for guys to grow into men worthy of respect and praise.
While the book is specifically a parenting manual, it is guaranteed to help anyone who has young men in their lives or works with young men acquire the knowledge to empathize with young men’s unique experience and the skills to be supportive influences in their lives.
Some of the highlights:
• Explaining the Act-Like-a-Man-Box of inescapable pressures that young men face that limit the ways they can live their own lives.
• Tools for talking to young men whether it’s reaching out to them, addressing difficult situations, or creating the space for them to ask for the help they need.
• A brilliant analysis or the behavior we see in young men and a vision for the changes we all need to make to help young men be the best they can be.
If you’re working with young men in any capacity this book is a must-read. We’re seeing a wave of great efforts across the country to invest in the success of young men. Which is awesome. But it’s important to try to recognize where young guys are before we bring our ideas to them. So go ahead. Ask a guy in your life what it’s like to be a guy. Ask another. Read Masterminds and Wingmen. And then remember to include young men in your sexual and reproductive health activism. We’re all in this together.