Saturday, March 26, 2011

Manning Up has an interview with Kay Hymowitz, author of the new book titled Manning Up. In a nutshell her thesis is that contemporary men are choosing to prolong their adolescence well into their twenties and early thirties, which makes them unsuitable as partners for women who are achieving at higher levels and at earlier ages than many of their male counterparts.

The reason for this retardation (forgive me, but that's pretty much what it is) is that men, for the first time in history, are being made superfluous. Here's how the piece opens:
Men. Who needs 'em? Colleges don't. Employers don't. Women don't. Even their own parents don't. At least, that's how it feels to a lot of guys, according to prominent social critic Kay Hymowitz's controversial new book, "Manning Up."

And those guys may be right, to an extent. Colleges have infamously lowered admission standards for males, young women in major cities earn over fifteen times more than their male peers, the number of "choice mothers" (single women who choose to have and raise a child on their own) is rapidly rising, and couples who are planning a family report a strong preference for baby girls.

Generation Y, which Hymowitz refers to as "preadults," is poised to take over the world. Or ... make that half of Generation Y. Twenty-something women far outnumber their male counterparts in practically every arena that counts. They may even be better at brushing their teeth. Actually, that's pretty much a given.

So where does all this leave guys?

Sitting around a crowded living room strewn with beer cans, playing Halo 34 with their buddies, obviously. (What? You don't think we'll get to Halo 34?)

In other words, failing to man up. And, strikingly, it may be the first time in history that they've had that luxury.
You should read Hymowitz's explanation of why this phenomenon is besetting us at the link. Her view of it differs somewhat from my own.

In my opinion, our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to masculinity. It seems often to send the message that masculine virtues are, to one extent or another, liabilities and that men are at best bumbling dolts and at worst evil predators. All one need do to confirm this is watch the television commercials of the last forty years and see how many times women are needed to instruct men on the best way to do home repairs or to do anything, for that matter. On the other hand, how many movies and televison shows depict an evil male defeated by a woman who is as brilliant and deadly as she is beautiful.

Males are made to feel unnecessary, especially in roles that have traditionally been seen as uniquely suited for men.

Whereas at one time fighter pilots and combat soldiers were exclusively male, today women are making historic inroads into these domains.

Girls are participating in and, in some cases, out-competing boys in sports like wrestling and soccer.

Women are taking over the leadership roles in churches, government, and to some extent, even big business. As women in increasing numbers occupy the pulpits of our churches it will become even harder than it already is to draw adolescent males into the pews.

The role of father, family protector, and bread-winner has been usurped in large swaths of our society by the government which provides for the well-being and financial needs of millions of women and children. Men are considered extraneous. Single motherhood is a generational phenomenon in many of our communities.

Schools punish boys for drawing pictures of guns or for getting in schoolyard scuffles, both of which are normal parts of growing up male. In other words, boys are often punished simply for doing what boys do.

Young men, having few roles left to them which are uniquely male, begin to feel that they serve no unique function in society and are really quite unnecessary in it.

When boys see that a role traditionally and uniquely filled by males is now occupied by women, the boys tend to opt out. I think an anecdote about high school sports is instructive. When I first started coaching sports in the very early 1970s every equipment manager of every boys' sport was a male student. Managing was a way for young men who may not have been able to actually compete on the athletic field to nevertheless feel like they were making an important contribution. Then girls took an interest in doing this job and once they started doing it, boys just stopped. Today it's as rare to find a male manager as it is to find a male cheerleader.

Young males need to affirm their masculinity and one way to do that is by performing tasks that only males can do or are permitted to do. When girls move in and do the task just as well, most boys lose interest.

In some cases they seek male companionship and outlets for their masculinity which are harmful to society. Gang behavior, for instance, is in large part a result of males seeking to affirm their masculinity in an environment that offers them few socially beneficial means to express it. So, too, is the practice of siring children as though one were a famous racehorse put out to stud.

Other boys find themselves unsuited for such expressions of machismo and retire to their parents' family room to play endless games of fantasy on the computer with other boys of similar temperament. They seem uneager to move into the world of adulthood because that world is often filled with women who don't understand them and who subtly and, perhaps inadvertently, emasculate them.

This is not to say that girls should be denied the opportunity to achieve in whatever arenas they can, but it is to say that there is a cost. A society in which masculinity becomes increasingly marginalized, unnecessary, and unwanted is a society that is going to have a lot of young men who are disinclined to be productive participants in it.