I probably do not need to tell you, but America’s children are in trouble. Perhaps not all of them are in the same kind of trouble, but most of them seem clearly to be troubled.
Parents bring their children to Dr. Leonard Sax because they are worried. In particular, they are worried about their sons. Their adolescent boys are layabouts. They play video games and sports. They are detached from school and from schoolwork. Dr. Sax does not quite mention it, but they are probably also absorbed in the world of internet porn.
Dr. Sax describes one patient:
He’s not working hard at school and his grades are sliding. At 16, he spends most of his free time playing video games like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, or surfing the Web for pictures of girls. He’s happy as a clam.
Dumb as a post and happy as a clam. Obviously, this does not signal great parenting or a culture that knows how to bring up boys. It shows that the culture has basically failed its sons.
Suffering in school systems controlled by radical feminists and Common Core advocates boys have lost interest in their schoolwork. They understand that the game is rigged against them, that they can only do well if they act more like girls. If they are being punished for acting like boys, they retreat into a world where they can compete like boys. And that means video games.
And, why should they work hard at school in order to grow up to become heads of their families? Why should they try to learn how to support their wives when said wives do not want to be supported? Boys have learned that the role of breadwinner is a relic and that being male, especially a white male, confers an unearned privilege that needs to be expiated. Girls can take care of themselves, so boys have no reason to want to become strong men who can care for women and children. They might just as well play video games.
They might be happy as clams now, but eventually this silliness will catch up with them. The mental health of American men, millennial and later generations, is not very good. And it’s beyond what a pill can fix.
As for those hyperachieving girls, the situation might look better. All those incipient feminists are doing their best Sheryl Sandberg imitations, but beneath the surface, all is not well.
Dr. Sax explains:
Both parents are actually quite proud of their 14-year-old daughter, who is a straight-A student, an athlete and has many friends. But when I met with her, she told me that she isn’t sleeping well. She wakes up in the middle of the night, feeling remorseful about having eaten a whole slice of pizza for dinner. She often has shortness of breath. Recently she has begun cutting herself with razor blades, on her upper inner thigh where her parents won’t see. She hasn’t told her parents any of this. On the surface, she is the golden girl. Inside, she is falling apart.
Dr. Sax is going to blame it all on social media, because, when you are in doubt, you blame everything on social media:
Imagine another girl sitting in her bedroom, alone. She’s scrolling through other girls’ Instagram and Snapchat feeds. She sees Sonya showing off her new bikini; Sonya looks awesome. She sees Madison at a party, having a blast. She sees Vanessa with her adorable new puppy. And she thinks: I’m just sitting here in my bedroom, not doing anything. My life sucks.
Dr. Sax points to the fact that the girls who are alone in their bedrooms with social media are suffering because they do not have a home life. They do not have dinner together, they rarely get together to converse with other family members.
Blaming social media allows him to avoid a dozen more salient questions. I cannot guarantee you that they pertain in one or all situations, but they are the questions that we ought to be asking.
We ought to be asking about the role models these girls have at home. Are their parents married or divorced or neither? What kinds of role models are these parents? Does Dad work or does he stay home playing video games and vacuuming the carpet? Does Mom work or stay at home? Does she cook dinner or does she fight with her husband about household chores? How much time do these mothers spend with their daughters, doing girl things? A lot or a little or none? Does social media fill in the gap left empty by absent parents?
Do these mothers teach their daughters to delight in becoming women? Do they like being women or do they consider it an impediment to career advancement? Do they rejoice in their femininity or are they acting like boys in lipstick?
These are largely inconvenient questions. Dr. Saz does not ask them. These parents are paying him, so it’s best to blame social media.
Are today’s adolescent girls excited to become women or do they dread it? How do they feel about the fact that they might have to learn to give blow jobs to boys they don’t know, lest they not be considered popular? Do they believe that any boy will ever love them? Do they think that becoming women will consign them to misery and oppression? Do they like being feminine? Do they enjoy playing with cosmetics and fashion? Or have they been told, over and over again, that they are strong, that they can do anything they want to do, that they can compete against boys at any activity, that they are perfectly self-contained and self-sufficient?
Has the media taught them that they should take up arms against sexism and engage in constant complaining about how oppressed she is? Does today's girl want to grow up to become like Hillary Clinton?
If a girl is told that she must grow up to become independent and autonomous, she might well hear that no man will ever love her, ever want her or ever desire her for anything other than sex? Is it not possible that she has become so male identified, so competitive, that she has so thoroughly gotten in touch with her manly side that she is afraid that boys will not know she is a female? Does she believe that she can only persuade them that she is a girl by sexting images of her private parts? How does she react to the fact that our pornified culture has exposed the feminine sex to more people and that feminism has made the national conversation about female reproductive anatomy a national obsession? Does the constant exposure of the feminine sex make her feel exposed? Does it make her feel that she has lost control over her own sexuality?
Does she want to grow up to become a wife and a mother or does she want to become a courtesan or a mistress? These are not the same; you cannot do both. Considering the cultural disapproval or the role of housewife, is today’s American girl in pain over the fact that the best that she can do is to be a courtesan, a vamp with a career.
Does she learn that her developing body is an impediment to her worldly success, that her femininity is a curse that prevents her from leaning in and from asserting herself like the boys do? Will she learn that her femininity, when it attracts attention, will attract the wrong kind of attention and subject her to rape culture and sexual abuse?
We are horrified at the notion that these girls sit in their rooms cutting themselves, but how many of their mothers, uncomfortable with their own aging, sit around talking about going under the knife, the better to enhance their appearance?
Now, Dr. Sax has nothing to say about any of these questions or issues. But, how is a psychiatrist going to help his patients when he systematically ignores all of the cultural and social factors that are making America’s children dysfunctional and unhappy.
As a culture we have broken down the differences between the sexes. We believe that sexual identity is merely a social construct. Now, our children are paying the price.