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The Recession of Manhood

Adult men now spend more time video-gaming than 12-17-year-olds.

Is it a case of life reflecting art or art reflecting life that has made movies like Old School, Wedding Crashers, and The Hangover so popular? Either way, the stats are in, and the state of manhood is in rapid decline. Which puts women in prime position to take over as the more successful sex.

According to a CNN post, simply titled “Men In Trouble” and written by former U.S. Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, one of the most damning statistics on men is the fact that they have gone from earning 60% of the college degrees in 1970 to only 43% in 2006. A host of other statistics documenting the rise of women in the workplace and their overall more ambitious life plans are on display to show how women are taking advantage of the (formerly) dominant sex’s slide into the vagaries of an extended adolescence. 

To put that percentage on college degrees into more practical terms, it means that for every three women graduating from college, only two men are.  Since women’s earnings grew 44% from 1970 to 2007, while men’s earnings only grew 6%, it also appears that men’s stronghold on “the highest paid and most powerful jobs” might not last forever, either. Not only that, 20% of the male population is now unemployed.

If that keeps up, any remaining stigma on stay-at-home dads should wear away very soon. At least it should, but that might be pie-in-the-sky compared to the reality of the situation, because right now 27% of the children in America live apart from their fathers (40% of children being born out of wedlock). Bennett cites stories of young women talking about “prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up,” noting, “There is a maturity deficit among men out there, and men are falling behind.”

The fact that 18- to- 34-year-old men now “spend more time playing video games a day than 12-to 17-year-olds” is a sad indictment on the lack of ambition in the current pool of young(-ish) men out there. Bennett says:

“While women are graduating college and finding good jobs, too many men are not going to work, not getting married, and not raising families. Women are beginning to take the place of men in many ways. This has led some to ask: do we even need men?”

Bennett worries that the messages sent to boys through pop culture are confusing and can’t teach “what it means to be a man.” He says our culture needs to be clear about what men need to be by providing “a clear and achievable notion of manhood.”

As the mother of three boys who often experiences real clashes with her husband on how to teach our sons manners, honor, and other life lessons, I have to concede that my husband’s firmer hand wins out in almost every situation. I don’t and can’t understand how their little-boy brains work — what seems harsh to me is often exactly what they need to get the message loud and clear.

I know many mothers — single and married — of boys who will turn out absolutely lovely under their loving guidance, but if I have learned nothing else from my experience as a parent, it is that not all boys are so docile. Boys don’t just need to have their sensitive side developed, they need to have the attributes that will make them successful men later in life developed and encouraged, too: courage, ambition, competitive spirit, confidence, and, perhaps most importantly, responsibility.

I don’t know that the development of men’s “softer” side is partially to blame for this or not, but I am curious. I wonder if boys being raised to think that showing and sharing their emotions is so important might suffer for it later. Because, while great for boys who need to learn to identify their emotions, the accompanying lesson that those emotions are “okay and normal” might not be so great — especially when the not-so-pure emotions of adolescence and young adulthood can then be rationalized and indulged using the logic that the parents provided.

I love to see that women are finally pulling even with men in the workplace, but I hate to see it happen at the cost of manhood.

What are your thoughts on why this is happening? Do you think it because so many boys are being raised without their father’s influence or do you think it from more broad societal changes?

Photo Credit: © Crashoran – Fotolia.com

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