Since the 1990s, many social scientists have begun to examine the decline of the traditional ‘manliness’ and masculinity which once were the ideal defining characteristics of men.
This phenomenon goes beyond the classic “girls go to college to get more knowledge, boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider” rhyme, it is something that has actually been recognized and addressed in a variety of media. The Japanese government, just a few months ago, released a study which revealed that 40% of Japanese men were no longer interested in sex. This has led to the coinage of the new classification “herbivorous” generation, meaning they are not actively pursuing women or sex. In a country with significant older population, this has the pension bureaucrats especially worried.
NPR has run many pieces and interviews focusing on the men stuck in the “adolescent” man-child limbo, citing the delaying of marriage, a career, and children. They also examine the “emerging adulthood” of these men and their reluctance to both leave home and to become financially independent.
Slate also recently ran a commentary on the sexual activity of young men, which appears to be on the rise despite their lagging maturation into full adulthood. The Atlantic magazine stated it plainly in an article last year: ‘End of Men‘.
This transition away from traditional masculinity is also a favorite subject of comedian Adam Carolla, author of the book In Fifty Years We’ll All Be Chicks. In the book, as well as his podcast, Carolla decries the rising pressures of feminism and anti-patriarchy, which he believes have corrupted American children and forever doomed the male population to a fate once reserved for the females of our society.
Countless television programs feature the lounging 20-30 something male, loafing around and refusing to commit to any significant responsibilities. This attitude has been transfused into popular culture as a whole, with films and Hollywood looking to the boyish, ever-so-cute actors to be the sex symbols of today.
I bring these points up in response to a recently-released book by Kay Hymowitz, an author, researcher, and social scientist. In Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, Hymowitz explores the changing state of the American male: the later adulthood, his inability to commit, his more feminine tendencies, and how those changing aspects are affecting society as a whole.
Hymowitz recently appeared on CSPAN’s Book TV, to both offer a glimpse into her research and to field questions from several journalists:
What I found so intriguing about this subject, from a sociological perspective, is how this trend has exponentially grown in my own lifetime, as the more-traditional aspects of masculinity have become both discouraged and shunned. Instead of mutual respect and observance of the sexes, what seems to have occurred is a lambasting of virility, stunting the continuation of the manhood carried by previous generations. This has softened both expectations and responsibilities of men, placing them in an unstable mindset where roles and relationships must constantly be reviewed and corrected, so as to fit the model of what is presently the “politically-correct” or liberal virtue of the day. Any preference for classic alpha-male tendencies are downplayed and phased-out, leaving most men to aimlessly adopt the ever-feminizing projections of the men they must be.
The conflicting force is not, however, feminism. What seems to have eclipsed the image of the classic male is the balance against such, where the zero-sum game is shifting farther from the fifty percent threshold. This is an interesting topic to be both discussed and research, and I do await the analysis which shall come forth in the next few years.
What say you?