It looks like men have had it. According to Hanna Rosin, in her article The End of Men, from The Atlantic Monthly, it’s women rule the roost and bring home the bacon. What’s a man to do?
Many excuses are put forth about men’s failure to compete in school, in the marketplace and in the professions. Experts are trotted out who claim that boys have trouble sitting still, concentrating and doing repetitive tasks.
Men have been in a position of power for a long time. But power can lead to laziness and sloth. Just as an empire loses steam and implodes, so too are “men” losing steam and imploding. Why? Let’s think about this for a second…
In the past, men had to compete to achieve basic things like: a measure of wealth, family stability and the faith and admiration of a woman life-partner. They had to earn it. The ensuing reward was access to sexual gratification, genetic reproduction, economic stability and socio-cultural prestige. The thing is, that this vision of success was based on a “male concept” that included the following metaphors: “Powerful men are competitors” and “Rewards (sexual, economic, etc) are the fruit of winning a competition”. With the advent of two things in 1960s, this all changed: the sexual revolution and the growth of the entry of women into the labour market.
The sexual revolution took away the “honour, hard work and fidelity” barrier to sexual gratification. That’s a no-brainer. Why fight to demonstrate your valour and honour to a much-admired woman when you can get drunk and find an equally drunken partner for sex, or preen like a peacock fresh from the gym and find a sexual partner based on the image you are projecting – nothing to do with your honour or your valour. Why bother marrying or committing when you can party and move-in with someone and then lead the good life, knowing that your half-commitment secures for you a sort of comfortable limbo in which you can lead a boy’s life late into your twenties and early thirties – playing video games obsessively, partying late, not saving money: in a word building nothing. So, in a sad inversion, just as the women in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata took away access to sex to end a war, perhaps today’s women do the same to encourage a little achievement from their sorry male companions.
The examples of the workplace and classroom are telling as well. When women entered both of these arenas en masse they changed the rules of the game. Norms shifted and institutional cultures morphed. This is natural. Whenever a new, striving, organized group enter a political arena – they will change things! What is sad is that rather than strive to compete with women honourably, to speak up and admit the equality of women as co-citizens, co-workers and co-classmates, most men whine and complain. They carp about the “feminization” of the workplace and the classroom as though it were being imposed on them by God or Government. They roll over and die – creeping into a grey void of vicarious victories over women in the sordid worlds of porn, mysogyny, UFC, reactionary “conservativism” (which the true conservatives of the past would snarl and spit at for its whiny narcissicism and sense of entitlement). This anger is accompanied by underachievement and profound sense of personal failure.
And so we see representations of jackass men behaving like giant 15-year olds on TV, or broadly grinning morons in tv commercials – all waiting to be rescued and then given food, sexual satisfaction and money by their over-achieving female partners.
This doesn’t have to be so. Men do not need to roll over and die like the many empires in the past have done. Ottomans, Romans and Soviets all foundered under the weight of their bloated sense of history and entitlement. Why? Because they were too lazy redefine themselves when the ground shifted beneath them.
Men don’t need to follow this path. What men have to do is give up on the stupid notion that they are entitled to anything or that any system should cater to them. Men have to realise, as the striving girls beside them have done, through decades of self-empowerment, that they are individuals. Men must make their own destiny. Men must adapt.
Part of the adaptation means finally recognizing that women are not there to serve them anymore. Rather, men must take care of themselves. Build their own future. Be complete people the way the overachieving women around them are complete people. The most successful women I know are amazing people: they go to the gym, take care of their often whiny lazy partners, feed their children, go to work and volunteer or play sports in the evening. They do it all with planning, strategy and, above all – realism. The women who achieve around me know their limits and honour them.
Many of the men that I know who underachieve have a grand vision of their destiny in their minds. They want to achieve something big. But in the meanwhile they fester in rooms blasting orcs and watching porn (although few would admit it). Men need to get with the program. There is a world of opportunity out there – much of it created by women. There is no longer an automatic male privilege except in places where men have managed to keep women subservient or structurally exclude them.
Together, men and women can set the world right again. But right now it’s women who are doing the heavy lifting while men sit on the couch or the chair and peer at glowing rectangles, bemoaning their fate and growing resentful.
We used to have the image of the “strong man.” Muscles and brawn, silent strength, etc. We see a trend toward hyper-masculinity in the media right now, with the tattooed monsters of UFC and pro-sports. What a pile of hooey. Look at the tattooed muscly guys around you today when you go to do your shopping – what are they doing? They work as bouncers in clubs, they dig ditches, they are not listened to. They are ignored. “Manly men” have almost no political influence and failing economic prospects. The tattooed muscly man-guy is sweating in the sun, shoveling the ditch for minimum wage, while the the fit, toned, elegant, egalitarian and adaptable metrosexual is standing side by side with his female colleagues, running our schools, banks, governments and media. These men are succeeding and doing well.
There is a new man to be built for this new age of equality – he is the modern version of the hero of antiquity: a good communicator, adaptable, clever, fit, and driven. To take the first step, men must collectively cast off the rotting mantle of “traditional manhood.” It’s gone. Forget it. Embrace the new reality. Get with the program, step in beside your sisters and get to work. Collaborate.
And modern men shouldn’t complain that this is a betrayal of the manly heroes of old – Alexander the Great was closer to a metrosexual than a UFC fighter.
Great piece, Alex. You should watch for Michael Atkinson’s new book, “Deconstructing Men & Masculinities”, forthcoming from Oxford UP Canada. Interesting perspectives on the so-called masculinity crisis.
Thanks, Maria! I will check it out…
Eat shit and die
I really enjoyed the part about the muscley manly-men not being listened to and being replaceable.
I hate how they look at me as “gay” or effeminate simply because I prefer to use my brain over body.
Great article Alex. Considered it Re-tweeted 😉
No problem, Joey.
As for you, bobsyourunble – I am sure that the truth hurts.
I wonder to what extent the huge output of popular cultural images celebrating youth play a role in mens’ reluctance to “grow up”? Certainly the new roles of women in society are part and parcel of the phenomenon. But are they the crux?
I think that a lot of the mediated discourse around extreme masculinity is in reaction to a “disempowerment” men feel because of the new roles women play in society. I am not suggesting a “neutered man” here. I am suggesting a “new interpretation of manliness” where honour and valour and courage return, but within a new context where women are co-equals instead of subservient.
Seems to true.. lazy men.. active women.. It takes courage to be adventurous and bold so I could see how a guy playing WOW in his basement will end up becoming stuck in a dream world while his female counterpart strives to do something to further her real life.
WOW! You are truly in fire in this article1 I enjoyed it very much! True reality and funny examples.
Thanks, Sylvie! I am glad you liked it!
What a bunch of BS. Men are going to fight back eventually and when they do its going to be violent and the recipients will be women.
Men entitled. Your kidding right. What a joke.
Leave a comment