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Men Don’t Have to Go “Pink” to Thrive

In case you missed it, Susan Chira penned an important article in the New York Times on the current state of male unemployment and its cultural implications. The piece is worth reading in full, not least because it serves as a good jumping off point for getting at the underlying data, which is staggering when taken as whole.

Towards the end of her piece, Chira suggests a solution: we need to rethink “conventional ideas about masculinity”.

But in the long term, Isabel V. Sawhill and Richard V. Reeves, senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, argue that men must resign themselves to working in “pink collar jobs” — those known by the acronym HEAL, for health, education, administration and literacy.

Economically, “women have adjusted better than men,” Ms. Sawhill said. “They’re the ones who are winning.” Women dominate the (often lower-paying) service jobs that are the backbone of the new economy. Men make up just 20 percent of elementary and middle-school teachers, 9 percent of nurses, 16 percent of personal aides and 6 percent of personal assistants, Ms. Sawhill and Mr. Reeves noted.

We’re not sure Chira is fully on the right track. Having men “go pink” is part of a certain sensibility that thinks that masculinity needs to be weeded out—that the coming generations of men will end up being more like women in certain respects, and therefore will ‘fit’ better in a brave new world of home health aides, wedding planners and K-12 teachers.

That sensibility is transforming schools into less welcoming places for boys who exhibit what have traditionally been thought of as stereotypically male behaviors. Those boys, unless drugged, don’t do as well in those environments. But that may be less a criticism of boys and masculinity than one of the ways in which our blue model school system is bent on churning out docile, easily managed, approval-seeking young people. The system is better at creating Fordist drones rather than the innovators and disruptors that we need. Entrepreneurs are definitely going to be part of the new age, and we need to make sure that independence and free-thinking is not being stymied at an early age.

Chira is right to call for a re-imagining of masculinity. As we have written before, factory work was once considered feminine and beneath the dignity of men; what constitutes “manly work” is anything but an absolute. But at the same time, Chira is looking at it the wrong: our traditional ideas of manliness contain elements of permanent value that we ought not throw away. We need to carefully think through a lot of our assumptions about gender roles, and build both the identities and the educational systems to help our boys succeed. Our society’s future depends on it.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Hello? Did the writer consider the recent TAI post on female vs male graduation rates? The HEAL professions are not “pink”, they just require a degree and, with women graduating at twice the rate of men, the outlook for the latter is grim. I don’t have a problem with this; if boys are too stupid or lazy to work in order to graduate, they deserve the menial jobs to which they will inevitably be consigned. It seems that we are headed for a matriarchal professional workforce.

    • Grey Spectrum

      FYI – all of the engineers, computer programmers, and investment bankers are still men. STEM, the only useful constellation of college degrees, is still dominated by men.

      STEM is the only thing that will keep the US competitive with China and India, and keep the United States as a country innovative and relevant to the modern, enterprising world.

      Women started flocking to universities the moment university degrees became worthless. What a surprise. And I distinctly remember a great number of men I went to school with dropping out not because they were stupid or lazy, but because they were smart enough and perceptive enough to realize that college was a scam and they were not going to get anything out of it. Which is why most of them left for fields of work like sales where they have direct control over how much they earn.

      Sales aren’t STEM, but at least they’re bringing home the bacon. And autistic electric engineers still need someone to sell their product for them.

      • FriendlyGoat

        It’s true that “nothing happens until something gets sold” in the private sector, but the best thing other male workers can do for themselves is keep as much of the sales force on salary as possible. Having salesmen in the eternal mindset of commission while everyone else on the team is capped below any such opportunity is not the recipe for a real team.

      • Andrew Allison

        Your first sentence is flat out wrong, as is your second paragraph in its entirety (check the admissions data). I agree that most non-STEM degrees are essentially worthless, but the subject of the post was HEAL, where degrees are required and that was what I addressed. The fact remains that for every male who graduates, two females do. One would expect a college graduate to be able to figure out the implications.

  • rheddles

    Things will change after the next big war.

  • vb

    I wish we could get rid of pink altogether. Why are parents spending a fortune buying pink clothes and pink bedrooms for their daughters? Why all the sparkly pink toys for girls? Why not teach them how to do real things? Then boys would have a better chance, and girls would learn how to work with them on projects where each could contribute based on their talents. All this pink stuff teaches kids that their fantasies are real.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Amen.

    • Jim__L

      Girls have different body chemistry than boys do, and can expect a different experience of life as it relates to having children.

      This is a real thing that happens, and societal expectations in a healthy society will reflect that, so that each can contribute based on his or her talents.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Nothing (NOTHING) is going to be improved by any societal messaging about “pink-collar” jobs. No men are benefited by this terminology and no women are benefited by this terminology. No hospitals, schools, non-profits or governments are benefited by this terminology. None of the traditional tough-man jobs (construction, manufacturing, police, fire, military) are benefited by this terminology.

    So, the first thing to do is to recognize that this term was invented by a nincompoop and that anyone who repeats and popularizes it is also a nincompoop. We could just as easily be talking about SMAK jobs (smart, mutual, attentive, kind) to describe jobs in health, education, administration and literacy. Conjuring up the images of pink fairies instead of the images of positive impact on real needs is JUST STUPID.
    We need to recognize that messaging matters. Today, messaging may matter almost more than anything else. The “brands” all know this.
    We as people need to catch up to this reality.

    According to Wikipedia, the scout law for boy scouts in the USA was finalized in 1911 as ideal aspirations for boys becoming good men—as follows:

    A Scout is
    trustworthy,
    loyal,
    helpful,
    friendly,
    courteous,
    kind,
    obedient,
    cheerful,
    thrifty,
    brave,
    clean, and
    reverent

    LOOK at that list. LOOK at the messaging in it. Most of the terms go to the soft skills and the gentle side of personality and behavior.
    Boy scouts aside, we need to get busy talking to boys and men about what sense and virtue encompasses. “Pink” has no part in it.

    • Jim__L

      This is a bit off-topic, but in a continuing effort to find common ground, what do you think of this article?

      http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/

      The gist of it is that Democrats made a conscious decision to abandon whites (particularly, working-class whites) in the 70’s, believing that Big Government and Big Business were the way to go. I’m inclined to think that this is as much of a betrayal (if not moreso) than cutting taxes on rich people. I’d honestly be tempted to vote for a Democrat of the old small-government, non-PC school. What do you think?

      • FriendlyGoat

        Thank you—-important article which I will read in detail later today, but skimmed now in order to reply. There is no question that Democrats have made some ghastly errors in their priorities. The main game from the left should be the kinds of issues Ralph Nader would have raised and correctly explained—–again and again—-until we, as a country, understood them.
        Perhaps from Nixon’s win over Humphrey on, both parties have been left in the weeds—–too willing to be distracted by peripheral matters. For instance, personal guns and 2A are not the most important issues facing either America or our place in the world and its on-going history. But, alas, the collective “we” of citizens do not seem to know that.

        The current election could be on guns alone, or on gay marriage alone, or on climate change alone, or on whether Bill’s womanizing is worse than Donald’s alone, or on whether Mrs. Clinton is more “trustworthy” than Mr. Trump. Meanwhile the average left or right supporter is under-appreciative of the nuances in the economics which really do affect their lives more than any of the hot-buttons. I am not unwilling to “blame the left” for this deficiency. We should KNOW what we’re talking about, talk it forcefully, win on merit of our economic arguments—-and we’re not so good at it.

        • Anthony

          FG, not only underappreciated but down right “unaware”. And before you address subject of ostensible Democratic Party abandonment of white (working) middle class Americans, here’s more pertinent economic causes (it’s quite a long read: washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novemberdecember-2016/how-to-make-conservatism-great-again/) which may actually speak to your point of “under-appreciation” – also, pardon the interjection but misdirection requires redirect sometimes.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Thanks, but link isn’t opening. (?)

          • Anthony

            I just tried link and it took me right there – I can’t imagine why you’re having trouble linking to site. Try this: washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novemberdecember-2016/how-to-make-conservatism-great-again/ or go to washingtonmonthly.com (and look up How to Make Conservatism Great Again)

          • FriendlyGoat

            Okay, thanks. I searched around in the current issue and suspected that was your article—-and read it. Very good piece. Rather than using these ideas to make conservatism great again, I guess I would ask why the liberals don’t pick up the concepts they recommend and sell them ourselves. Why, in order to get anti-monopoly do we have to accept more Scalias on the Supreme Court, neglect of climate change, continuation of the Trump Know-Nothingism, backward steps on healthcare, gargantuan high-end tax cuts, vouchers to fund religion in schools?

          • Anthony

            I think the author may have used (just guessing mind you) “Make…Great Again” as a reader hook. Though, I agree with you that ideas expressed ought to be incorporated more often in explaining importance of mixed economy. Your other points are often used as justification for other motivations which speak to inclinations/predispositions/perceived self-serving biases/etc. (items covered in our last referenced link – anti-democracy). And they ought not me normalized for anti-monopoly consideration to be part and parcel of public policy currently.

          • Anthony

            FG, on another matter but overall related, take a look at this analysis: “most populist voters are neither poor or unemployed; they are not victims of globalization, immigration, and free trade. The main demographic groups behind the anti-establishment upsurge have been people outside the workforce: pensioners, middle-aged homemakers, and men with low educational qualifications receiving disability payments.” (does this bring to mind something familiar?) https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/voting-data-show-little-economic-link-with-brexit-by-anatole-kaletsky-2016-10

          • FriendlyGoat

            Thanks.

            1) This article is written as though Trump is going to lose. Due to what, as far as I’m concerned is a planned whack job by Comey, that is now is serious doubt. This election is not supposed to be about Anthony Weiner, but, gee whiz golly, look what “accidentally” happened.

            2) Us older people are supposed to be wiser, kinder, more balanced, more sensible, more tolerant, more discerning. There is an increasing body of evidence that this is not the case in Britain and not the case in the USA, no?

          • Anthony

            Agreed but I think author was zeroing in on misinterpreted populism; the U.S. election as I shared with you previously isn’t over until it’s over; so nothing ought to be concluded. (sorry for delayed response but other matters required attention – also if you get a chance, read TAI’s piece on “Elements of Conspiracy”)

  • M Snow

    The Ace of Spades website has a very good article today on this very subject by a father of two young boys about how he is fighting back. Interesting comments section as well.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Thoughtful men may (may) eventually discover that their real lives are far more regulated and controlled by what they sign off on in employee handbooks, and the “terms and conditions” of everything from bank accounts to insurance to loans to purchases to sales to even websites than by anything related to a war between femininity and masculinity. Men and boys are in trouble all right, but they are entirely misled as to the source of their problems.

      • Jim__L

        There is life outside the private sector — ways to get around what you’ve described, for the motivated.

        If you try to get around government proscriptions, you’re a “criminal”, and you can be fined or go to jail.

        That’s why the government (especially the federal government) should be severely restricted in its purview. If it’s the only way to get rid of get rid of Title IX, getting rid of the Department of Education is actually a good idea.

        • FriendlyGoat

          No, in America, there is no “life outside the private sector” unless you are literally a hermit in the wilderness. EVERYBODY deals with private-sector enterprises and their terms-writing lawyers one way or another. This reality is one of the reasons we have “big government” and should retain it. The idea that employers, manufacturers, mine operators, builders, dealers, bankers, lenders, brokers, insurers, traders, advertisers, educators and even doctors are all “nice” and would be “nicer” if we obligated them to no rules is too silly for me.

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