Sometimes it's hard to be a man
Even feminists feel sorry for the state of men today. It must be bad
Dec 20th 2001
“I FIND myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed,” declared Doris Lessing, whose novels turned her into a feminist icon in the 1960s, in a speech earlier this year. “Men seem to be so cowed,” she continued, “that they can't fight back, and it is time they did.”
The appeal to the downtrodden male to have courage, rise up and throw off his shackles is spreading. In Britain, there were cheers of congratulation for boys earlier this year when it emerged that, in nationwide examinations, the gap by which girls outperformed them had narrowed. All over America, there is a loose mass of men's groups, urging men to stand up for their rights over bias in the family courts or the all-male draft.
Agonizing about the male predicament has become a fashionable hobby for both men and women. Just reading the dizzying list of titles devoted to the subject is enough to provoke anxiety: “On Men: Masculinity in Crisis”; “The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex”; “A Man's World: How Real is Male Privilege and How High is its Price?”; “Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man”. If that is not enough, try this from Anthony Clare, a British psychiatrist and author of “On Men”:
At the beginning of the 21st century it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in serious trouble. Throughout the world, developed and developing, antisocial behaviour is essentially male. Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, alcohol misuse, gambling, all are overwhelmingly male activities. The courts and prisons bulge with men. When it comes to aggression, delinquent behaviour, risk taking and social mayhem, men win gold.
In this section
With a big dollop of generalization, male angst can be reduced to three grievances. Men have been emasculated by the loss of traditional functions, women have not; women have choices, men do not; men are emotionally illiterate, women are not.
Men, goes the first complaint, have been robbed of their traditional roles as providers, protectors and even procreators. The heavy muscular jobs—building ships, digging coal, banging metal—from which men derived an assertive, productive masculinity have disappeared. They have been replaced by jobs that favour nimble fingers, flexible minds and ready smiles: answering telephones, assembling computers, scanning bar-codes. Not only have women snapped up these jobs, but such occupations seem unmanly.
Much of this lament is deeply nostalgic. “The shipyard represented a particular vintage of American masculinity, monumental in its pooled effort, indefatigable in its industry, and built on a sense of useful productivity,” gushes Susan Faludi in “Stiffed”, her 1999 chronicle of the masculinity crisis. In reality, few men are crying out to return to the pits.
Behind some of the more self-pitying writing on male victimhood lurk some serious points. Women are stealing up on men in the labour market. While the share of American women of working age who are economically active—meaning those who either have a job or seek one—has grown from 51% in 1973 to 71% in 2000, the share of economically active men has dropped from 86% to 84%. The trend is similar in Britain and France.
Since the surge in male inactivity is greatest among those with few or no skills, recent male educational performance supplies little comfort. Back in 1960, 66% of all American degrees were awarded to men; by 1997, though both sexes were earning more degrees, the male share of the total had dropped to 44%. In 1997, American women were graduating with nearly a third more masters' degrees and a quarter more college degrees than men. In Britain, since 1988, girls have outperformed boys at the national examinations taken at the age of 18; today, they outshine boys even in “male” subjects such as maths and economics.
Increasingly beset by self-doubt, men are confronted with the breezy self-confidence of independent young women
For this predicament, blame whatever best fits your prejudices. Have newly assertive women, freed by contraception to postpone childbearing for careers, and liberated from material dependence on men, undermined contemporary manhood? Or has the shift from a blue-collar to a white-collar economy placed demands on all workers for “feminine” qualities such as flexibility, an ability to cope with uncertainty, and no expectation of power?
Whatever the cause, this diminished male, some argue, makes a poor mate. His wallet is thin, his self-esteem deflated, his masculinity shrunken. The argument echoes that made since the 1960s by sociologists and politicians about the breakdown of the black American family. With so many black men either out of work, away in the army, locked up in prison or roaming the streets in gangs, black women were hardly spoilt for choice. Hence marriage rates declined, argues William Julius Wilson, a black liberal sociologist at Harvard University.
Now white men too seem to be losing their appeal. In England, according to a recent government report, an astonishing 10% of men aged between 30 and 34 were still living with their parents in 2000, compared with just 3% of women of that age. English baby-boomers of the 1960s are staying unmarried longer than any other generation since that born in 1916, whose marriages were delayed by the second world war. Some of this can be explained by a rise in cohabitation, but not all of it. Women no longer need men even for reproduction.
If current trends continue, 16% of English men born in 1964 will neither have married nor be cohabiting by the time they are in their 50s—double the share of those who were born in 1946. “At your age,” says the female lead to Johnny Downs, a single 30-something New Yorker in “The Catsitters”, a recent novel by James Wolcott, cultural critic of Vanity Fair, “women suspect that if you haven't gotten married or at least engaged, there may be something wrong with you.”
Unsurprisingly, male health too is under stress. According to a recent British government report, men are more likely than women to commit suicide, suffer from coronary heart disease, have a serious accident or drink too much alcohol. Male sperm counts, too, are declining. Dr Clare, the British psychiatrist, says that his patients used to be middle-aged women whose children had left home. Today, they are “middle-aged men, who gave their lives loyally to this company or that corporation, who sacrificed everything for it, now ruthlessly put out to grass, compulsorily retired, downsized, rendered redundant.”
What a man's got to do
Female professional success, however, is not the source of men's second lament. Along with their success, women have also won social acceptance for their right to reject work in favour of motherhood. In other words, women can hold the briefcase, or the baby. Or they can hold both. Or they can hold the briefcase, then the baby, then the briefcase again. But at least they can choose. As one men's rights campaigner in New Zealand puts it: “A man's got to do what a man's got to do, but women can do anything.”
“If we stay home, we're outcasts, flung from our 'natural' role as provider and alpha dog.”
For men, it is contended, that choice is unavailable. This strand of complaint joins two loosely related voices. The first is that of the professional man, trapped on the one side by the fierce social expectation of “man as provider”, and on the other by the fierce social suspicion of “man as stay-at-home father”. Fatherhood websites are crowded with the anguished pleas of would-be full-time fathers who have to confront the scary squads of mothers at the local park or the school gate. “If we stay home, we're outcasts, flung from our ‘natural' role as provider and alpha dog,” wrote one man for salon.com recently. “If we consider, for a moment even, my father's approach,” he continued, “we are cast, quite fairly, as Neanderthals.” America is awash with books offering working fathers consolation and tips on how to cope.
The other voice is more bitter and political. It sees men as victims of 30 years of a women's movement which blamed men for women's troubles. This group tends to view matters as a zero-sum game: the more choices available to women, the fewer available to men. Warren Farrell, the author of “The Myth of Male Power”, who is regarded as beyond the pale by many feminist writers, claims that the legal and social discrimination faced by men who want to be custodial fathers today is as bad as that faced by women who wanted a demanding professional career in the 1950s.
At its least political, this is a movement to fight what is seen as a legal conspiracy to divide fathers from their children. Most family courts award custody to mothers, while men are hounded by child-support bills. As single fatherhood has grown, so the fathers'-rights industry has flourished. In 2000, there were 4.4m American single-father families, or 4.2% of all households, up from 3.4% in 1990. A quarter of all American single-parent families are now headed by men.
On the opposite flank is the conservative fatherhood movement, with its links to the religious right. Whereas the men's-rights lot argue that their disconnection from their children is involuntary because the divorce courts discriminate against them, the fatherhood lot argue that men should not get divorced in the first place. The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), a conservative lobby, has blossomed in recent years. It condemns “deadbeat dads” and vigorously disapproves of divorce.
Its influence is great. Wade Horn, formerly head of the NFI, is now the assistant secretary for children and families under Tommy Thompson, President George Bush's secretary for health and human services. Where once the political emphasis was on the irresponsibility of women, getting pregnant while young and single, the culprits now, it seems, are men. “Fatherless households” have replaced “female-headed households” as the subject of study, subtly shifting the blame. “In 1960, fewer than 10m children did not live with their fathers,” stated the department earlier this year:
Today, the number is nearly 25m. More than one-third of these children will not see their fathers at all during the course of a year. Studies show that children who grow up without responsible fathers are significantly more likely to experience poverty, perform poorly in school, engage in criminal activity, and abuse drugs and alcohol.
Men, it seems, cannot win. They are the new guilty and the new victims. Worse, increasingly beset by self-doubt, men are confronted with the breezy self-confidence of independent young women as depicted in popular culture. Take “Sex and the City”, a TV series about the sexual conquests of single New York women. Or Renault's “Size matters”, a commercial for a motor car narrated by a mocking woman wielding a tape measure. Or “The Simpsons”, a cartoon family of feckless men and savvy women.
Big boys do cry
If you can't beat him, join him?
The third source of male angst is to do with emotion. There is nothing new in the idea that men are conditioned to suppress emotions, but a movement now exists to reclaim the right to express them. Much of this grew from the American “drumming retreats” inspired by Robert Bly, author a decade ago of “Iron John”, a call for men to get back in touch with the “wild man” within. Today, men-only retreats promise to achieve “emotional release” and to “use sacred space as a container wherein men can be awakened to their masculine power”. As the publicity for one recent event in California put it: “The wild and woolly raw energy of maleness via drumming, dancing and story-telling opens the door to authentic, heartfelt expression.”
This movement, with its heavily west-coast flavour, is the one most likely to make European men squirm. It is much mocked and ridiculed, to its own exasperation: “Our gatherings rarely include drumming, hugging trees or bashing parents,” says one retreat organiser. Strip away some of the gush, and two concerns emerge: feelings and fathers.
In recent centuries men have been taught not to show their feelings, but to sublimate them in competitive behaviour. Now they are questioning that self-sacrifice. To be fully-rounded individuals at ease with themselves, it is asserted, men need to learn to weep.
Some of this has reached less demonstrative corners of the world than America's west coast. In Britain, football, that traditional icon of hard muscular male solidarity, is now regarded as a medium for softer emotions too. After tears were famously shed by Paul Gascoigne, an England player, during the World Cup in Italy in 1990, intellectuals went to town on him. Gazza, as he is known, was “fierce and comic, formidable and vulnerable, orphan-like...tense and upright, a priapic monolith,” enthused Karl Miller, founding editor of the London Review of Books and, at the time, professor of English literature at University College, London. The drama of football, it is asserted, helped grown-up educated British men to learn to cry.
A more important emotional catalyst appears to be the death of a father. A generation of men has been brought up by women, with shadowy fathers who were either physically absent, because of divorce or long working hours, or absent in spirit, because that was how fathers behaved. The death of a father, by causing men to confront the gaps in that relationship, can make them try to improve their relations with their own sons. After travelling America talking to scores of ordinary men, Ms Faludi found that “a broken relationship with a father almost always surfaced as the primary preoccupation underlying all others.”
As if all this were not enough to worry about, men are not even safe, it seems, from the indignity of being seen as purely sexual objects. This experience, of course, is one which women have known for millennia. Now men, too, are subject to the physical insecurities this can provoke. In mainstream culture, the naked male body is no longer taboo. “Puppetry of the Penis”, for instance, a performance of “genital origami” by two Australian actors, barely caused a stir when it ran at fringe theatres in Britain recently.
Worse, an accompanying cult of physical perfection—pectoral body-sculpting, plastic surgery, penile implants, Viagra—has taken root too, celebrated in men's fitness magazines. “No wonder men are in such agony,” writes Ms Faludi. “Not only are they losing the society they were once essential to, they are ‘gaining' the very world women so recently shucked off as demeaning and dehumanising.”
The alpha male lives
Ah, detractors will reply, this self-analysis is all very well, but what about Britain's laddish culture, or Hollywood's glamorisation of male aggression? Surely the self-assured alpha male is alive and well? After all, laddishness, which exploded in Britain in the 1990s with the boom in sales of magazines such as Loaded, FHM and Maxim, unapologetically celebrates heterosexual hedonism and a defiant fecklessness. Loaded, declared James Brown, its first editor, was for men who “have accepted what we are and have given up trying to improve ourselves.” Twenty years ago, Reader's Digest was the most popular monthly magazine among British men; today it is FHM, which sells more copies each month than Cosmopolitan and Vogue.
But perhaps such phenomena could also be seen as a response to all those male anxieties. “Lads' mags are all about the denial of the real problems that men are facing,” suggests Peter Howarth, editor of British Esquire. Dr Clare goes even further: “Men, renowned for their ability and inclination to be stoned, drunk or sexually daring, appear terrified by the prospect of revealing that they can be—and often are—depressed, dependent, in need of help.”
In the end, while many of these male grievances are heartfelt, they need to be put in context. Full-time working women in America still earn, on average, only 72% of the wages men receive. Women occupy only 14% of the seats in America's Congress. Today not a single woman runs any of the G8 governments, finance ministries or central banks.
Even the preponderance of dysfunctional men in popular culture probably says less about a masculinity crisis than about the fact that men are still largely in charge. Men can be mocked, because men are not—yet—as vulnerable as women. You never kick a man when he is down.
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Quote, "In the end, while many of these male grievances are heartfelt, they need to be put in context. Full-time working women in America still earn, on average, only 72% of the wages men receive. Women occupy only 14% of the seats in America's Congress. Today not a single woman runs any of the G8 governments, finance ministries or central banks."
That is the biggest lie by the way about that. The reason why men earn more than women is because it is men who take all the dangerous jobs. Women do not take dangerous jobs. In addition to that, so many women take leave to go and take care of the children leaving the men in the office to take over the work for the females working. The reason why men are having to struggle to see their children because society believe only women and mothers are fit to raising children. Fathers and men are not created to raise children. They are unfit as parents and we do not need fathers. However, scientific study shows over that children raised by single father fair better even mentally and health wise mentally do better than raised by single mothers. Also scientific study shows that the majority of child abuse, sexual abuse and physical abuse are done by the mother not the father. What we have is a society that hates men, period. Society that is anti male. Society that love to see men destroyed.
It is like I am married to a wife...I spend 50 years doing everything for her and when I do one thing wrong...she wags her finger at me and says I have done nothing right to her. Here is the thing with geocentric and Western society that worship women...for all non Western women who is reading this article..please destroy your men and boys. Please for all non-Muslim women out there...I beg you to destroy your men and destroy your boys. I have an advice to you non-Muslim women, inject estrogen into your boys and turn them into girls. Please make sure they wear dress and wear bras. If you want your non-Muslim boys to be gay...go for it. I aint stopping you. Do whatever it takes to destroy your men. I agree with the non-Muslim women, you do not need men. Men are unnecessary. I also agree in poisoning your children against their fathers and making them hate their fathers...please go ahead and cut ties between the fathers and their children. I agree we should focus only on women for health and education and I agree boys should fail in school and drop out of school. I agree in Western world to have only females in TV and school and jobs. You want to make it harder for men to have a job by making laws to increase more men go to prison. Do it! :D:D:D:D We Muslims do not have to do anything at all to fight you and destroy you....by the will of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Talaa) you are doing the job for us and Allah (Subhanahu Wa Talaa) is making it easy for us Muslims to take over you guys ahahahahahah!! ;D;D;D;D