How boys suffer from gender stereotypes — author Emma Brown weighs in

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Jessica DuLong

Published March 25, 2021

When it came to raising her daughter, Emma Brown trusted her instincts. Determined to combat the stereotypes deployed against girls from birth, she developed a mantra for her little girl: “I am strong and fearless.”But three years later, when her son was born during the groundswell of the #MeToo movement in 2017, the best way to raise him didn’t seem so clear. While nursing her newborn, Brown read stories about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior.

Then, shortly after returning from maternity leave to her investigative reporter job at The Washington Post, she received an anonymous tip from a woman stating future US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her. The uproar that ensued drew Brown’s attention to the reality that sexual violence is “braided into the lives of not just men and women but also boys and girls.”

Through hundreds of interviews, she discovered the fallout of societal expectations about manhood. She heard heartbreaking stories about how often parents, educators and institutions fail to meet boys’ emotional needs, or to protect them from shocking rates of sexual assault.

Brown’s new book, “To Raise A Boy: Classrooms, Locker Rooms, Bedrooms, and the Hidden Struggles of American Boyhood,” reveals that dismantling rigid concepts of masculinity is the next step toward true social progress on gender.