Waldlaw Blog

Friday, September 23, 2005

Raising Boys Without Men

In the last two weeks, I've heard three times about a new author and her book, Raising Boys Without Men. The author is Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., and she describes herself as "part of a long-married, heterosexual couple" who has become fascinated by the question: "Can parents in nonnuclear families, without both a mom and a dad in the household, successfully raise children?" She has done extensive research on boys being raised by either single moms or lesbian couples, and has found -- surprise, surprise -- that these boys are healthy. As she puts it: "A good female parent will change diapers and coach soccer. A good female parent will help a boy to develop his full potential as long as she values his manliness and encourages his growth, independence, and sense of adventure." What I find so interesting about Ms. Drexler's work is that she is, in a way, answering both the rightwing attacks on single mothers and/or lesbian mothers and simultaneously rebutting some age-old feminist mythology about boys. In a sense, these two very different sides have agreed on one thing: boys raised by women, without men, would be less "masculine" than boys raised with fathers in the home. The conservatives decried this as a bad thing; the feminists applauded this as a good thing; but both sides agreed that it was a truth. Now along comes Ms. Drexler, to say that good mothers are quite capable of raising "manly" men, thank you very much. She finds that many boys raised by good mothers (single or in pairs) still love appropriately aggressive play and excel in sports, although they tend to have better communication skills than boys raised in traditional mom/dad households. Maybe I'm so interested in Ms. Drexler's work because I'm busy raising two boys in a home with two moms and no dad. It's great to have someone on the talk show circuit and in the press who says that I can do this well, that my sons can grow up to be whole and healthy men. But I also see Ms. Drexler's work as a sign of what's best about the historical moment we're in, when an increasing number of people -- speaking from their different perspectives and admitting to their different allegiances -- are looking at what's working about our society, in the midst of our current "culture wars," and aren't afraid to speak truth boldly. So thanks, Peggy Drexler, on behalf of me and my sons....


  • Reading about Drexler's conclusions reminds me of something my son's teenaged babysitter told me: in her high school (i.e., in our provincial, rural town), one very popular boy was an athlete/musician whose parents are 2 moms. Many girls wanted to go out w/him because he treated girls so respectfully; he was considered a major catch *because* of his family!

    By Blogger Linda J., at 12:08 PM  

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