How Men Are Becoming Boys

When I saw the blurb about the article “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?” a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal, I thought it would just be some whining about dating. However, I picked it up again and read it this morning and found it to be much more significant.

I won’t try too hard to overly summarize it, but I recommend that anyone deeply saddened by what is becoming of men in this country give the article a read.  The author, Kay S. Hymowitz, has written a new book coming out on March 1: Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.

[Image of book cover from Amazon]The gist of the article (which is apparently an excerpt from the book) is summarized nicely by the subtitle: “Kay S. Hymowitz argues that too many men in their 20s are living in a new kind of extended adolescence.”

Here’s a passage from the article:

“What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. 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.”

I would change “husbands and fathers are now optional” to “husbands and fathers are now portrayed as optional” or “mistakenly perceived as optional.”  And how truly, deeply sad that we should live in a culture in which such virtues as fortitude, stoicism, courage, and fidelity are seen as “obsolete, even a little embarrassing.”

The article also introduced me to a pathetic new category in the maturation process: “pre-adulthood” — apparently the new name for this “no longer an adolescent, but not ready to be an adult” stage that used to simply be young adulthood.  It’s the stage where boys who used to turn into men remain, in too many ways, boys.  Individuals who so linger as “adolescents grown large” used to be considered extraordinarily immature.  Now, it is seen as a norm.  Again, from the article:

“For most of us, the cultural habitat of pre-adulthood no longer seems noteworthy. After all, popular culture has been crowded with pre-adults for almost two decades. Hollywood started the affair in the early 1990s with movies like ‘Singles,’ ‘Reality Bites,’ ‘Single White Female’ and ‘Swingers.’ Television soon deepened the relationship, giving us the agreeable company of Monica, Joey, Rachel and Ross; Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; Carrie, Miranda, et al.”

Pre-adulthood is apparently not a healthy place to stop:

What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its 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.

As Mr. Meredith and Dr. Winnail asked us to consider several years ago, much of this may be due to the feminization of our educational system.

Not that the ladies are completely happy about this situation:

“Still, for these women, one key question won’t go away: Where have the good men gone? Their male peers often come across as aging frat boys, maladroit geeks or grubby slackers…”

I, for one, think I will buy the book.  Maybe you will too, but whether you do or don’t, read the article.  And, stoic man or not, I may “sigh and cry” inwardly à la Ezekiel 9:4 over such things:

“As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).

[UPDATE: Just read an interesting blog post by Stewart Schneiderman of “Had Enough Therapy?” who discussed the same article in his post “Too Few Good Men”  Among his comments:

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.

You might be interested in his other observations on the article on the article.  (As always, let the surfer beware.)]

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3 thoughts on “How Men Are Becoming Boys

  1. Ah yes, the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. Maybe a more apt subtitle for the book would’ve been “How Women Have Kept Men From Growing Up”, given what you say about the content. And it’s all the more telling that a woman wrote the book.

    Stoic? You?!? ::: breaks desk with fists as he laughs :::

    All right, I concede your relative calmness – which combined with other qualities suggests to me that you’re of a fundamentally different “core temperament” than I am. For me said temperament is the “backup” (Theorist), but being a “core” Catalyst (Dr. Linda Berens’ terms) my level of “screwballitude” is considerably higher.

  2. tony

    Mr. Smith… appreciate the comments and article. I think tomorrows spell check (perhaps an offspring of Watson) will know you meant “sigh and cry” and not “sign and cry”, although the spelling was perfect.
    Your site is one of my favorite places to go where web and wisdom intersect. Thanks for your hard work to make it so.

  3. Thanks for the kind words — and for the editorial work! 🙂 I have corrected my errant spelling.

    There’s much that could be said about the article — about the danger of over generalizing, about the corresponding problems in what is happening with women, as well, etc. But it does provoke some thought.

    Thanks, again!

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