Contrary to what the title suggests, I promise that this is not a male-bashing post. Admittedly, I have spent a large chunk of my life feeling like there were no good men in the world (and surely you men realize that many of you have done little to help the fact that many women feel this way), but this post is simply a reflection on a WSJ article entitled, Where Have the Good Men Gone?, which is also not a male-bashing article.
A few months ago I became enthralled with a blog post by Pastor Mark Driscoll called The World is Filled With Boys Who Can Shave which discusses the American epidemic of boys who do not want to grow up and start acting like men. The article was cute, hilarious, and–in my opinion–right on the money. However, it was also slightly one sided, simplistic, and probably bordered more on the male-bashing side than some men may have appreciated. Further, though I appreciated many of Driscoll’s conclusions, he did not very much examine the cause of this epidemic–other than referring to adolescence as a “middle stage” in what used to be a linear set of five stages of sociological transition–leaving myself and other readers to ask the question, “what is causing our boys to refuse to grow up become men?”
Recently, I found the WSJ article, Where Have the Good Men Gone? and I think answers that question a little more comprehensively. Author Kay Hymowitz
points more to changes in society that have occurred over the years to keep men stranded in the adolescent phase. Far from male-bashing, Hymowitz provides a balanced account of influences on adolescent culture. For example, she points to the increase in college attendance as one reason that Men can prolong growing up:
So where did these pre-adults come from? You might assume that their appearance is a result of spoiled 24-year-olds trying to prolong the campus drinking and hook-up scene while exploiting the largesse of mom and dad. But the causes run deeper than that. Beginning in the 1980s, the economic advantage of higher education—the “college premium”—began to increase dramatically. Between 1960 and 2000, the percentage of younger adults enrolled in college or graduate school more than doubled. In the “knowledge economy,” good jobs go to those with degrees. And degrees take years.
Whereas men used to graduate from high school, find a job, and start a family, they now have an extra four years–at least–in which their responsibilities are postponed. And I would argue that it is this fact in conjunction with the fun of the college lifestyle (rather than instead of it as Hymowits suggests) that contributes to the phenomenon at hand. I mean, who wouldn’t extend that four year bachelor’s degree to six or even eight if that means two to four more years of drinking beer, slacking off, playing video games, and avoiding any type of responsibility whatsoever?
*TANGENT ALERT* and let me now step up onto a rather large soap box of mine- video games and fantasy football. Whereas I do not believe video games and/or fantasy football are bad in and of themselves, I think many men (and I’m sure some women, but I’ll stick with male pronouns since I believe them to be the majority) use them to feel like men without having to be men. What I mean is this: take fantasy football for example, you get to feel the glory of winning a game, the victory of being someone special, the ability to brag to opponents about beating them without ever having to experience the pain of running sprints or getting hit by a rather stellar tackle, the exhaustion of practicing six hours a day, the struggle of sacrificing time and relationship for your livelihood. Why would boys want to go out and be men, when they can feel like men in the comfort of their own homes?
Stepping off soap box.
Okay, so to be fair, I should mention the question I often receive when I have conversations about boys who can shave, and that is, “So if the sin of males is that they do not want to enter conflict, take on responsibility, become men, then what is the sin of women?” Good question.
The part women play in this phenomenon is that of controller. Many of us women have become so driven, so responsible, so overbearing, that we are stepping in for our sons, our brothers, our boyfriends and either doing things for them that we shouldn’t do (I can’t tell you how many girls I have known that have done their boyfriend’s laundry, cleaned his bathroom, or basically allowed him to live off of their earnings) or telling them to do things and therefore stripping them of all responsibility for their actions. Because we as women want things our way, we often insist on doing them ourselves, which leaves precious little challenge for our men to step into.
I cannot write about control without confessing that I am, and have been for much of my life, the queen of control. I love control. Your could probably build monuments to my desire for control if I were honest. Control is a beautiful thing. It helps me know what to expect, what I need to do, how I can get things done in the best and most efficient manner. And yet I know control is an ugly thing. It gets in the way of relationships, of the work of the Holy Spirit, of my ability to rest in my true self.
So I’ve been working on it. Believe me I’ve been working on it. When I’m with my boyfriend (who is fully capable of acting on his own and making good decisions) I’m constantly biting my tongue about things he should or shouldn’t do the way I think or don’t think he should do them- and I probably fail more than I succeed. As a perfectionist, control is something I’m sure I will always have to keep in check.
That said, I don’t believe that women are to blame for the intense Peter Pan syndrome that seems to be sweeping America’s boys, though I would consent that women may be part of the atmosphere that encourages it.
I also want to reiterate that I do believe there are good men out there (I’m dating one of them:). Men who do not wait until age 30, 35, 40, 60, to take responsibility for their lives and the lives of those in their family. Men who love their children well and treat their wives with respect. Men who put their insecurities aside and summon the courage to make it in the business or professional world.
Yet it saddens me to see so many boys who often have beautiful hearts and so much potential floundering in their development as men- particularly because I know and love some of them.
So, I’m not really sure how to conclude this post, except to say that I’d love to hear your thoughts about the aforementioned articles and my quite opinionated thoughts.