Why are so many boys and men feeling alone and in the cold?

Source: ABC News

The mere suggestion that boys and men might be doing it tough is enough to prompt a chorus of derisive laughter and dismissal in certain circles.

So what, right? The patriarchy could do with falling down a peg or two.

If Barbie has taught us anything, it’s the importance of celebrating womanhood and telling girls they can do anything.

That said, maybe we need to start talking about Ken. Because he’s desperately in need of more positive masculine role models.

Older men might still be king of the hill and top of the heap, but the paradigm is shifting.

And it’s not just Ken who’s struggling. The prevalence of self-harm among young men is an outward sign that many are lost, failing to come to grips with what it means to step up and be a good man in a post #MeToo world.

English feminist journalist and broadcaster Caitlin Moran told the ABC recently she spent a long time shooting down such suggestions when they were put to her by the mothers of teenage sons.

Until she started listening to what those teenagers had to say and why they were complaining it’s now easier to be a girl.

“Straight white men are not encouraged to celebrate what they are,” Moran told The Drum.

The realisation prompted her to write her most recent book, What About Men.

There is a big problem, she says, with boys and young men bottling up all their worries and pretending nothing is wrong.

In her book, Moran suggests there is a chronic lack of good advice for young men.

“Never being able to cry or admit vulnerability; the bubbling anger; the shrugging acceptance of violence; the memory of hitting friends; the prize of recklessness; the need for alcohol or drugs; the total lack of advice, or guidance.”

That certainly sums up my high school experience — bluff it out, act like you know what you’re doing, especially when you have no clue.

Moran says not knowing where to turn is still leaving far too many young men out in the cold and prime targets for every vocal toxic male on social media.

Role models tend to be whoever looms largest on sporting fields or in popular culture, for better or for worse.

Which is why it was so refreshing this year to see a bold and brave portrayal of men in the inspired final season of Ted Lasso. Look no further than coach Roy Kent for the perfect illustration of an angry man desperately seeking a way to untangle his own complex knot of emotions in a bid to better himself.

This series is all about men’s existential struggle with vulnerability. I was crying by the end of almost every episode — don’t tell anyone, I’d be mortified.

Top Bloke graduate shares his story

Top Bloke graduate Atley Ashley shares how Top Blokes helped him

Creating a safe space

“Whether that’s alcohol, drugs, mental health, resilience, relationships, anger, online behaviour, we go through a range of topics,” Mr Bockman says.

“It’s not just a naughty boys program. We get the boys who are going to be struggling with some of those issues, we get boys who are peer leaders, and we might even get boys who maybe need a boost of confidence as well.

“Maybe they are a bit quiet, maybe they are not fitting in. Sometimes schools will select boys that are maybe new to the school and that’s how they can create friendship groups as well.”

Shailer Park State High School student Atley Ashley, 17, is a graduate of the program and says he’s constantly urging fellow students to do the same.

He says a lot of his friends try to bottle up their emotions, but Top Blokes taught him that was a mistake.

And while he’s reluctant to discuss “being vulnerable” with his mates, the program has helped him talk more openly with his mates.

“They don’t really like to show the soft side of one another… they don’t like opening up, but when they do they show they very, very much have a soft side.”

Mr Bockman wouldn’t go so far as to say young men are lost, but he agrees many are bewildered.

“I can only speak for myself and my mates … you’re just tough, you put on a brave face, you know, you don’t speak about your feelings and those sorts of things,” he said.

“And some of those sentiments we are still hearing through the boys, but I feel a shift.

“Yes, definitely boys are reluctant to open up and be vulnerable, share their feelings openly. But that doesn’t take long.

“We create a safe space with these boys … they are able to be vulnerable, talk about some of their weaknesses, and some of the things they’re struggling with, their mates and then help each other.”

If this stops even a few lost boys from growing up into bitter and angry men, it will be no mean feat.

(This article is a condensed version of the original article. The full article can be found on ABC News)