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Is It Time to Reimagine Masculinity?

It’s a new world out there in the battle of the sexes, and women’s wages are now growing at a much faster rate than men’s. Bloomberg reports:

Women still earn less than men, but they’ve narrowed the gap because they tend to work in jobs that require more social and analytical skills, a new study from the Pew Research Center finds. Those jobs are increasingly prized in the U.S. economy, while jobs calling for physical and manual skills are becoming less important, the study says.

Women’s pay went up 32 percent while men’s pay went down 3 percent from 1980 to 2015, according to the study, “The State of American Jobs.” Those figures are adjusted for inflation and apply to people working full-time, year-round.

This is one more sign that the information revolution is shaking the foundations of American life: as work shifts from fields in which many men have advantages over women (muscle strength, for example) to fields where the genders compete more equally, women are moving up and men are moving over.

The chances are that this trend will continue. Women are also earning college degrees at a rate higher than their male counterparts. Women now make up sixty percent of students enrolled in college, and for every two men that complete a college degree, three women will do the same. In an economy dominated by brains rather than brawn, those degrees will make a difference. The men who don’t earn degrees are likely to earn less, and in some cases, much less, than the women who do.

What this means is that our prevailing assumptions about gender oppression stand to be disrupted and realigned as women continue to progress in the world of work. This is undoubtedly a good thing. The industrial revolution began to liberate women from second-class status in the human family. Improvements in health care reduced maternal mortality, public schools opened the doors to secondary and tertiary education for women, and the rise of clerical and factory jobs gave women more opportunities to earn independent livings than in the pre-industrial past. Changes in the social status of women and in cultural mores moved slower than the economic and technological changes; nevertheless almost everywhere in the industrial world, the status of women in 1975 was significantly better than it had been in 1850.

The information revolution is going to be more of the same, and the 21st century is going to be the Century of Women—not just in the West, but around the world. It’s not just a handful of women at the top in government—Germany, the UK and the United States will probably all have women leaders after January 2017—but a mass movement of women into more and more positions of leadership and authority in politics, the economy and in civil society.

This is all good, but there will still be a problem: men. The status men used to have as breadwinners had the effect of providing a sense of purpose for men, and the need to socialize new generations of rowdy adolescent boys into stable, disciplined pillars of family life shaped many social institutions and economic policies. As women have become more fruitfully and effectively integrated into the economic world and into politics and civil society leadership, many men—especially working and middle class men—have been growing increasingly detached from both the labor force and family life. More and more young men are caught up in a cycle of video games, casual work and recreational drugs, and many young men are failing to make the transition from prolonged adolescence to mature manhood.

That’s a bad thing for young men and boys, for children generally, and for women who want stable families and productive partners. It’s also a sad waste of human life and creative energy. Most policymakers and leaders of educational and cultural institutions grew up in a world that needed to learn how to make room for women. While women continue to face many forms of discrimination and worse, it’s likely that in a post-blue model world our institutions are going to have to think harder about how schools, universities and other institutions can do a better job of engaging boys and young men—and at helping them through the difficult but vital transition from immature adolescents to mature and strong men who are ready and willing to bear up their half of the sky.

Just as the social revolutions inspired by the last 200 years allowed new ideals of femininity to emerge, so masculinity is due for a rethink and a redevelopment. We have inherited three ideals of masculinity: the brave soldier willing and able to fight at the risk of his life to protect his family and nation; the hard worker who puts the well being of his wife and children ahead of his own happiness as he toils at difficult, stressful, dirty and often dangerous work to provide for them; and the gentleman who combines the ‘masculine’ virtues of strength and leadership with the cultivation of character and the protection of the weak. Those ideal types of manhood all need to be re-imagined in the light of the gender revolution, but they all contain elements of permanent value that must not be lost. It’s the job of men today to think these things through and to find new ways to express the ideals that shape us, and then to build the educational and social institutions that can help new generations of boys to achieve maturity.

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  • Frank Natoli

    Very humorous article, as in bravo sierra humorous.
    The author would have the reader believe there are objective economic and natural reasons for women having job advantages in an information technology world, therefore it’s perfectly reasonable for men to move to the back of the bus.
    Except the author didn’t bother himself/herself with “The Bell Curve”, which notes the inconvenient fact that the male bell curve is flatter than the female bell curve, which means there are far more highly intelligent men than highly intelligent women, and far more intellectually dull men than intellectually dull women [the latter point not contested by most women]. Ergo, economically, naturally, one will see far more men in high paying intelligence related jobs than women.
    Is that OK?

  • Tom

    TAI seems to be confused. The old virtues always have value, and rarely need reimagining. Their manifestations often shift slightly, but they are always necessary.

  • Fat_Man

    No. It is time to suck on our thumbs.

  • Angel Martin

    Putin, the Iranians, Kim Il sung, the Chinese, ISIS see this and say to themselves: “We can take these guys.”

  • CaliforniaStark

    We need to take up a collection so that WRM can take a trip out of his ivory tower and visit the real world. He has fallen under the spell of America’s first metrosexual president, and the misandrist policies his liberal ilk advocate. Until then, will take a pass on the call to re-imagine manhood & masculinity. Perhaps re-emphasizing religious and ethical values, and character would be a better approach.

  • FriendlyGoat

    The “gentleman who combines the ‘masculine’ virtues of strength and leadership with the cultivation of character and the protection of the weak” needs to understand why (many of) “the hard worker(s) who puts the well being of his wife and children ahead of his own happiness as he toils at difficult, stressful, dirty and often dangerous work to provide for them” are badly wounded for reasons above and beyond a herd of immigrants and the ascendance of certain women.

    These two, allied together with that first category of present military men should all be standing together and saying in unison, “We Will Continue To Maintain A Middle Class In This Country And We Plan To Keep Most Of Us In It Together”. In case you have not been paying attention, there is not much evidence of any such broad fraternity in operation at this time. Half the men are dreaming of somehow winning in the stock market and the other half are relegated to dreaming of winning the lottery (that we shouldn’t even have.)

  • OregonJon

    Dear heavens, where to start? We can trace the decline in “manhood” to the rise of feminism which was quickly embraced by the government as at the outset feminists represented a well educated urban elite of articulate women who were unhappy with their lives. How well that resonated with women everywhere is an open question but soon enough the result was a myriad of laws favoring women over men. Many argue this merely redressed a historic imbalance that had no place in modern life. Perhaps, but Title IX resulted in an legalized discrimination against men in a way that allowed regulators rather than courts to adjucate outcomes. It was a blunt club with which to deal with a situation that would have benefited from more finesse.

    Fast forward to today and we are where we are. Title IX and other legislation is here to stay even as women press ever harder to improve their situation. No group voluntarily surrenders power. The elites maintain that today’s jobs require a college education but have made college an obstacle course for men. Universities often treat men accused of rape or sexual harassment as guilty until proven innocent, with no recourse to due process or even legal representation. Our local newspaper (yes, Virginia they still exist) carries a cartoon, Adam at Home, where the wife and children treat the stay-at-home author dad as though he were the village idiot. A cartoon that treated a wife in this fashion would never pass publication muster.

    It is not up to men to reimagine masculinity. No positive change is possible until society decides that the current model of either unmarried women or single mothers is no way to sustain a culture. An unspoken aspect of the current election is that there is a peasant revolt against a society that provides the advantages to the elites, leaving but a few crumbs for the majority. If that revolt is successful, and it will not end with the coming election, then masculinity will reimagine itself. Until then we can only but sit back and watch the carnage as we destroy the virtues and values of a culture that once offered freedom to all who would work for it.

  • Boritz

    Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce was the paragon of 70s masculinity — in a 1950s setting, but never mind — until women tired for good reason with that schtick. Re-eingineer as often as you like. It’s just like a wardrobe after all.

  • potetmos

    Good article.
    When I was young (25 years ago), most available jobs for teenagers were jobs for girls. Then came globalization and the remaining (simple) jobs for men were taken up by immigrants. Today there is practically no jobs for boys available in retailing. A girl will do the job with less noise and looking good while doing it.

    It is not just masculinity that needs to change – feminism must also do their part. Women must simply learn to love men for reasons other than income and social status.

  • Beauceron

    It’s pretty apparent what the Left want. Men must become women.

    Now if only they could make whites become black, we could all finally reach societal nirvana.

    • CaliforniaStark

      The left will never will win on this issue, because the present type of male is the result of selective breeding over millions of years. This evolution took place because of women — they have always, and still do, prefer masculine men.

  • Jim__L

    Women who are pressured to “have it all”, leave men with basically nothing.

    There is no sense of division of labor or shared enterprise. There isn’t any equality either; it’s all about her.

    No wonder guys are disengaging.

    This didn’t start with men, and it won’t end with men. This is about women, and how screwed up our society is about Feminism. Once that particular toxic ideology goes away — either by our (sterile) culture destroying itself, or by people waking up and noticing that biology has a lot to do with destiny — we can form a healthy society.

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