role models

Where Have the Good Men Gone?

by Michael on February 23, 2011 · 4 comments

The mythical perfect family.

I’ve already written about the “New Macho,” the idea that men have to somehow “find a new manhood” to “adapt” to “modern life.” But the onslaught continues (I refuse to call it “misandry,” that’s become a code word for the men who feel the whole world is their enemy).

A piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Where Have the Good Men Gone” pimps the new book, “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” by Kay Hymowitz, author of an entire series of books on how life has supposedly gotten confusing and complicated in our “post-modern age.” Judging by the sales status and number of reviews of her book on Amazon, it’s likely the WSJ article will be far more widely read, so let’s concentrate on that.

It’s Always the Women’s Fault

First, the rationale that women are responsible for men becoming boys is a slap in every man’s face. Women have been in men’s lives since there have been men and women on Earth. They’ve held jobs en masse for a half century, yet the supposed “evidence” that they’re taking our jobs, and therefore our manhood, is embodied in a chart that logs only the past five years. (Let’s see: women make less on average than men, in a depressed economy companies would rather lay off the more expensive workers…this hardly adds up to a “radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy.”)

In fact, her article (and I would assume book) is all over the place, claiming the “problem” began variously with the industrial age, in the ’70s/’80s, and/or when the economy tanked four years ago.

Then random observations on the average age we first marry suggest what—that women are spurning us until we grow up? It’s more likely that higher education means we no longer marry at 20, instead choosing to get at least our first job before tying the knot. But blaming grad school and a desire for stability would shoot this whole men-are-becoming-idiots thing in the foot, no?

The point is, Mrs. Hymowitz’ book is not a study, it’s an observation. And observations are highly colored by one’s background. She’s spent years writing about how the world’s gone crazy, so it stands to reason that’s what she’s going to see in the tea leaves.

What Are Men Doing Anyway?

The one point I’ll give the author(s) is that more men are visibly acting immature. I say visibly because reality TV and YouTube have basically taken the dumb crap young men used to do in the privacy of their own backyards and put it on public display. A guy like Tucker Maxx can blog the dumb stuff he’s done and find an audience.

So what? Men have always drifted at times in life, and done very dumb or lazy things. Young men in the 1950s didn’t spring up all-knowing (the authors have apparently never watched “The Wild Bunch” or “Rebel Without a Cause”). What caused us to seek marriage at 20, babies at 21 and a “career” at 22 were society’s pressures to do so. In fact, the cherished 1950s were an anomaly: Americans married younger in that decade than any time before or since. That “traditional roles” are somehow defined by what we did in one semi-mythical decade is one of the biggest problems we have with facing the present.

While “slacking” wasn’t the word for it, men have backpacked through Europe, hitchhiked across the country, “found themselves” and/or lived in big communal houses for more than a half-century now. Because now you see them doing it doesn’t make it much more insidious.

And in answer to the female comedian who seems to only attract boys and not men: there are plenty of women making similar life choices and behaving as negative stereotypes. For example, a lot of comedians.

An Embarrassment of Riches

While an author with clear vision would see that this all means society now offers freedom and choices for both sexes, she chooses not to celebrate it. Instead, she decides that we’ve been herded like cattle into the slacker-boy-man corral, and our despair over women’s “power” and the pressure of the media have caused us to devalue strength of character:

Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.

Embarrassing? Really? Tell our young military men in Afghanistan their courage is embarrassing. Tell Captain Sullenberger we don’t value his fortitude. That no one admires Kurt Russell’s fidelity (oh, and P.S., he still isn’t actually married). The fact is that the qualities of strength are never “obsolete” and never “embarrassing.” They’re almost always respected. Men are in the news every day for their valor and courage.

Men are hungry to learn resilience, to make their way in the world. I talk to them all the time, and the links and Google search strings men use to find articles here show they value integrity, fitness, and how they carry themselves as men in various situations.

The “fathers are now optional” line is simply too stupid (yes, stupid) to even address, considering all we know pointing to an even greater knowledge of the need for male role models.

Furthermore, today’s “post-modern world” actually means that anyone, man or woman, can learn any skill they have the mental capacity to take on, and be anything they want to be. The reality is that we’re “held back” less than at any time in our history.

Junk Food Journalism

It’s the junk food junkie who looks past the dozens of great Italian, Vietnamese, Southwestern restaurants in their city because they’ve allowed their existence to be framed by the McDonald’s and Taco Bell whose big signs are right there at the street corner.

Mrs. Hymowitz seeks out society’s junk food, gorges on it regularly, then complains that she’s surrounded by junkies. Maybe she should get out a little bit.

Update: yet another take on the unmotivated, lazy American man was posted by Mark Regnerus, associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. His premise: young men have lost their will to succeed because, as he puts it, “sex is cheap.” Interestingly, new studies show the opposite: over a six-year period, virginity increased significantly in both males and females age 15-24. Maybe even sociologists are fooled by media images of constant sex.