Because there are so many negative messages being sent to young girls, society tends to do a decent job of finding and promoting positive role models for girls. But what about the boys? In a world where toxic masculinity has a strong hold, who can boys look up to as good male role models that aren’t cliché or ridiculous?
When I first started thinking about men my son could look up to as a strong, healthy male role model in pop culture, I had a bit of a hard time. It was a lot easier for me to come up with people who had made headlines for awful reasons. And that’s exactly why we need positive role models for young boys. To cut through the toxic masculinity BS and to show young men that being a man can mean many things. From real-life men to colorful characters, see who we decided on and add your suggestions in the comments!
Neil deGrasse Tyson
My son’s innate passion for science only exploded while watching astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. From a parent’s perspective, deGrasse Tyson rocks, frequently responding to young fans and encouraging their interest in STEM. He makes science and learning fun and not something to be ashamed of enjoying.
Like his colleague above, Bill Nye knows how to engage kids in the world of science. Fun experiments become learning moments that young kids can latch on to. Plus, both these guys show that science is cool!
With everything from rampant cases of rape and domestic abuse to drug abuse and dog fighting, it can be difficult to find appropriate male role models in the sports world, but they are certainly there if you look hard enough!
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back is a true man to be admired. After losing his mother and four aunts to breast cancer, Williams has gone above and beyond in raising both awareness and funds to help combat the disease. As a football star, Williams could easily fall into the macho man stereotype, but instead, he shows fans that you can play a hardcore game while sporting pink nail polish and hair highlights.
The Olympic skier who won everyone’s hearts when he adopted all those stray dogs in Sochi recently came out as gay. While proudly proclaiming your sexuality today may not be as rare as it once was, it is still incredibly significant. Kenworthy’s visibility is important both to young gay boys who need role models who are like them, especially in sports.
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I am gay. Wow, it feels good to write those words. For most of my life I’ve been afraid to embrace that truth about myself. Recently though, I’ve gotten to the point where the pain of holding onto the lie is greater than the fear of letting go, and I’m proud to finally be letting my guard down. My sexuality has been something I’ve struggled to come to terms with. I’ve known I was gay since I was a kid but growing up in a town of 2,000 people, a class of 48 kids and then turning pro as an athlete when I was 16, it just wasn’t something I wanted to accept. I pushed my feelings away in the hopes that it was a passing phase but the thought of being found out kept me up at night. I constantly felt anxious, depressed and even suicidal. Looking back, it’s crazy to see how far I’ve come. For most of my life I’ve dreaded the day that people would find out I was gay. Now, I couldn’t be more excited to tell you all the truth. Whether you've suspected it all along or it's a complete shock, it’s important for me to be open and honest with you all. Y’all have supported me through a lot of my highs and lows and I hope you'll stay by my side as I make this transformation into the genuine me – the me that I’ve always really been. I am so thankful to @ESPN for giving me this opportunity and to Alyssa Roenigk for telling my story to the world. I think about the pain I put myself through by closeting myself for so long and it breaks my heart. If only I knew then what I know now: that the people who love you, who really care about you, will be by your side no matter what; and, that those who aren’t accepting of you are not the people you want or need in your life anyway. Part of the reason I had such a difficult time as a kid was that I didn’t know anyone in my position and didn’t have someone to look up to, who’s footsteps I could follow in. I hope to be that person for a younger generation, to model honesty and transparency and to show people that there’s nothing cooler than being yourself and embracing the things that make you unique. Click the link in my bio to read the full story and keep your eyes peeled for the Nov issue on newsstands soon!
No list of men to look up to would be complete without Mr. Rogers. He was the epitome of “good” and men from three to 80 can continue learning lessons of kindness and friendship from him. Plus, he basically ushered in the generation of hipsters by proving that wool cardigans are adorable, even on men.