Kay Hymowitz speaks for many women when she asks: “Where have the good men gone?”
Hymowitz has written a book entitled: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. It has not yet been published-- thereby I have an excellent excuse for not having read it-- but Hymowitz has offered a tantalizing sampling in today’s Wall Street Journal. Link here.
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 says that the culture has effected: “a radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor's degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.”
While I would agree that American culture has succeeded in producing a gender role reversal, I am less sure that we should be calling it a hierarchy reversal.
Nonetheless, women are brought up to be hard-working, self-sufficient, career-driven, and fully capable of protecting and providing for themselves.
Boys are most often taught that their striving toward manhood is pathological or misogynistic, thus something that they must repress and overcome.
While I disagree with Hymowitz when she starts talking about life scripts and developmental models, I agree that our culture has degraded and discredited the ethic of manly behavior.
As she puts it: “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.”
As she implies, manliness is an ethic; it involves living your life according to certain values. To my mind this makes it radically different from a lift script.
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.
In a way, it is only too obvious. If women abandon the traditional feminine values connected with making a home and caring for children, well then, someone has to hold down the fort.
If you cannot afford a housekeeper and a nanny, then the only person who is left to do it is a man.
Ah, yes, but you will object here: these modern men are anything but homebodies; they are overgrown adolescents who refuse to take any responsibility for anything. They are hanging around the house making a mess; they are not doing what women used to do at home.
How can I reconcile this seeming contradiction?
Easily: these post-adolescent males are not really about to become effeminate homebodies; they are hyper males, almost a caricature of a negative masculine stereotype.
Their immaturity is nothing more than a social protest movement. They are trying to tell us that we, as a culture, discourage them from developing their true masculinity in the world, and that they have found a default position.
As they make their way through the educational system, boys are most often taught that manliness is misogynistic, abusive, and oppressive. They are taught that great men, the heroes of the past, committed unspeakable horrors and should not be emulated.
If men are so intrinsically corrupt and venal, then they must be disempowered, removed from the world where they cause so much trouble by making war and by running the financial system into the ground. Where can these evil creatures do the least trouble: at home.
Now, let’s try a quiz. Do you believe that men should protect and provide for women? Is that an essential part of the masculine ethic?
Or better: Do you think that Lara Logan should have been given special protection when she was covering the events in Tahrir Square? Given that several male journalists had already been beaten badly by the crowd, should she, as the mother of young children, have hesitated before placing herself in a potentially dangerous situation, one that would was more dangerous because she is a woman?
Do you believe that women have a specific vulnerability that requires them to be more cautious about where they go and what they do? And do you believe that this vulnerability requires men to protect and provide for them?
With a few notable exceptions, most people who have commented in public have said that Lara Logan had every right as a journalist to be in Tahrir Square last week, and that if you do not think so you are a reactionary deviant.
I am not just talking about the feminists who always scream about how anyone who wants to acknowledge feminine vulnerability or the responsibilities of motherhood is a stone cold misogynist.
Last week this same sentiment was expressed by Sean Hannity-- yes, that Sean Hannity, of all people-- who defended the feminist position that Lara Logan should have been on Tahrir Square on his television show… to the point where he declared that any other position was hopelessly misogynistic and unworthy of discussion.
I bet you did not know that Hannity had become a radical feminist.
Unfortunately, the public debate has descended so far into name-calling that it is difficult to take sides.
Here is the way the question is most often framed. Those who believe that because a woman has a gender-specific vulnerability she should be more cautious about where she goes and what she does, are publicly excoriated for meaning to say that if a woman is sexually assaulted then it is her fault or that she was asking for it.
Anyone who thinks this way should grow a brain.
It really takes a minimum of intelligence to understand that if a woman is sexually assaulted it is never her fault or her responsibility.
From there it does not follow that a woman should take unnecessary risks, even when a man might more easily assume said risks. A woman should avoid walking through dark alleys at night or taking the subway at 3:00 a.m. Every young woman has heard from her parents that she should never allow herself to be in a situation where her intentions could be misunderstood.
With the exception of feminists and Sean Hannity, most people understand that it is reasonable and ethical for a mother of young children to take less personal risk than would a man in the same situation.
For those who believe in Darwin, women are more valuable and less easily replaced than men. Thus, human societies have tried wherever possible to keep women out of harm’s way, to protect and defend them.
Where are all the men, the ones who might protect women? They are home, drinking beers, playing video games, and having a jolly good time. Their message to young women: you are on your own.