“It’s not even clear that [men] are needed for family life. There are so many single mothers now and even though most middle-class women do want to marry and have children, they can go it alone.”
Kay Hymowitz, Wall St. Journal interview
It’s hard to believe that it’s been only three days since Kay Hymowitz penned her already infamous Where Have the Good Men Gone? at the Wall Street Journal. Interestingly, if you search for the article at the WSJ it comes up under Why Are Men Today Such Losers?, the apparent original title of the piece, and one more in keeping with her highly judgmental verdict of today’s young men.
Readers here know that I frequently point to the 60/40 sex ratio in college as a sign that today’s young men are not thriving. It means that the marriage rate, already in decline, will take further hits as the number of educated women outstrips the available supply of educated men for decades to come. This means intense competition among women for men, and that’s never pretty.
Hymowitz paints a grim picture, and rightfully so. According to her, today’s young women have:
- more bachelor’s degrees
- higher GPAs
- more confidence and drive
- higher enrollment in graduate school
- higher earnings and better advancement early in their careers
How can this be good for any society? Women cannot thrive if men do not thrive. We cannot marry and have children. My own generation got to have it all, and we found out we didn’t want it all. It’s way too much work and it’s emotionally exhausting.
For many years, as women have made gains, we’ve pumped our fists in the air and celebrated girl power. What we failed to realize is that there’s only so much power to go around – if women gain it, men lose it.
Hymowitz strikes exactly the wrong tone in her piece by playing the blame game, as if she were looking to preempt any conversation about the unintended consequences of feminism, hurriedly lowering her pumping fist and placing it innocently back in her lap. She begins by wondering about today’s young men:
What explains this puerile shallowness?
She does, however, hit upon some truth in her answer:
“I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. 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.”
Stuart Schneiderman of Had Enough Therapy? offers the rest of the explanation she has failed to grasp:
As it happens, her question is not an imponderable riddle. The answer is simple: women are having difficulty finding good men because they themselves are the good men they are looking for.
Hymowitz makes the common error of lumping all men together as having the same life experience and therefore the same motives. She describes male pre-adults as being comprised of aging frat boys, maladroit geeks and grubby slackers. Certainly there are plenty of each to be found among today’s 20-something guys, but they have little in common.
Aging frat boys are perhaps loathe to give up the steady stream of good times and punani they grew accustomed to in college.
Maladroit geeks, not so much. They’re not shallow and peurile, they just lack access to the social and sexual experiences that would enable them to embrace manhood.
Grubby slackers, as deified by Judd Apatow, are yet another group – unlike frat guys and geeks, they are the ones not going to college, not having seen the point, and therefore not having the motivation to achieve.
All of these men represent different unintended consequences of the Women’s Movement, reflecting an education system that from the earliest years penalizes boys for their male nature, presenting girl behavioral and learning norms as the standard.
As a young woman, you may be shaking your head, figuring your mother’s generation got a few things wrong. You may feel as if this sucks for everyone, but there’s nothing young women can do, short of subvert their own interests – obviously not a winning or desirable strategy.
Rachel Ryan, in her article Who’s To Blame When Men Act Like Boys? sees it differently:
“According to author Julie Klausner, who is quoted in the article, “We [women] are sick of hooking up with guys (as opposed to men).”
So … WHY ARE WOMEN STILL HOOKING UP WITH GUYS?! Both Klausner and Hymowitz overlook the all-too-important fact that women play an integral part in perpetuating this “pre-adult” hookup culture they presumably find so unappealing… after all, these beer-guzzling, Star Wars-loving 20-somethings aren’t hooking up with themselves. In fact, if anyone is to be exclusively blamed for today’s hookup norm, it is women.
This past weekend, in a bar in Washington, D.C., I found myself at the watering hole of these so-called “pre-adults”…
By 2am, it is almost always the girls who are the ones downing shots, screaming along to Miley Cyrus at the top of their lungs, and dancing wildly in the middle of the dance floor – praying to catch the eye of some guy. Ladies, if that’s your thing, go right ahead and keep partying in the USA… but when you wake up the next morning with a vicious hangover in some guy’s bed, don’t label him as an immature, selfish bastard when he doesn’t call you the next day.”
Obviously, Ryan is describing here the men who are so happy with their lifestyle they’re unwilling to commit. That’s the group that young women today can affect most immediately and dramatically. As long as women reward the behavior of immature, selfish bastards, they’ll have little incentive to grow up, much less marry.
This sorry state of affairs in American society can only be corrected by a long-term strategy that begins with an honest acknowledgement of the hidden consequences of feminism:
- Greater opportunities for women has meant fewer opportunities for men.
- The male role as provider and protector, dominant throughout history until the mid-60s has not only disappeared, but has been made shameful and un-PC.
- The average age at marriage continues to rapidly increase, delaying the urgency of financial responsibility and career development for men. Women do not have the same luxury as their fertility wanes.
- Sexual equality for women has created a veritable banquet of no-strings sex for the most desirable men, as women compete for their short-term attention. More female attention directed at those lucky few has meant less female attention for everyone else.
- Media have responded predictably by creating cultural products romanticizing these realities. Sex and the City, movies such as She’s Out of My League, Knocked Up, Say Anything and even Animal House all cater to some variation on the theme of delayed development in males. These happy endings are rarely found in real life, however.
Hymowitz concludes with a sense of hopelessness as she continues to chastise young men:
“Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.
They might as well just have another beer.”
That’s not particularly helpful – I wonder what she would prescribe. Stuart Schneiderman provides the essential starting point:
“When feminists declared war on men and on masculine values, they did not intend to produce a generation of post-adolescent males who can barely hold down jobs, who have no interest in getting married and settling down, and who are lying around the house drinking beer, playing video games, and stuffing themselves with chips and dip.
But when you change cultural policy, you are responsible for the outcome, regardless of whether it was what you intended. Feminists may not have intended to unman men; but, as the old saying goes: they broke it; now they own it. At the very least they should own up to it.”
There is no easy solution to this very intractable problem. You can, however, make good choices in your own life:
- Reward the behaviors in men that you want more of.
- Do not reinforce the behaviors you want less of.
- When you have a son, fight for his right to grow up in a way that does not suppress his biological nature.