There are no good men!!! You might hear that from time to time. Well, if you want to know why there are no good men in your dating circles, read on. This post will explain a lot about where good men went. Trust me, they are all around. I feel that there would be a lot more good men, if our society would just let men be MEN.
By ROB OGDEN
When I recently came across Kay Hymowitz’s article “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?” in the February 12, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal, I became angry. Hymowitz complains about a generation of men who refuse to grow up. Essentially, her problem is that men are waiting longer to get married, giving them lots of time without traditional family responsibilities. This thrusts them into a “limbo” of video games, beer swilling, and casual sex with a generation of empowered women that appear to be more dissatisfied with men than they ever have been. Men are avoiding growing up in favor of “pre-adulthood,” and women are sick of it. Assuming she is speaking for “legions of women,” her complaints cannot possibly be fair to men.
It’s not that Hymowitz is wrong in her diagnosis; her marriage stats are telling: 55 percent of Americans between 25 and 29 have never been married, up 39 percent from 1970. More men exist in this pre-adulthood than ever before, and it’s clear why women would be frustrated by it. But this phenomenon is not simply the fault of one generation of young men. Hymowitz talks about changing economic and social conditions since the 1980s, notably increases in college degrees and competitive high-level jobs, but she fails to identify the most important factor in the formation of the pre-adult male: the full-scale societal assault upon good men.
Men these days inhabit the world they inherited. Feminism, which Hymowitz doesn’t even bother mentioning in her article, and the active favoring of women over men in our society, hold the answers to her question. Where have all the good men gone, she asks? There simply aren’t many; our society is designed specifically not to produce them.
What is a good man? Obviously a good man is a man who is good at being a man. But with traditional manliness under attack, men today are confused about what exactly they’re supposed to be good at. Being morally good is necessary, but women can do that too, so there must be something else. Hymowitz appears to think that a good man is he who is not only responsible for himself, but who has a family and is responsible for them. She doesn’t spend a lot of time elucidating what a good man is, but one gets the sense that the traditional head of the family is something that she thinks women are looking for.
Her complaints against “pre-adults,” this new phenomenon, suggest that older models of manhood are preferable. She mentions, somewhat wistfully, that “Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children…” but no longer. This leads me to believe that she thinks those things are the important parts of becoming a good man.
Those “milestones,” which functioned as rites of passage, required something very important: male responsibility. Traditionally, family authority has been held by the husband; generally, this is no longer true (single mothers are epidemic, and in 2007, out-of-wedlock childbirth accounted for 40 percent of all kids, an all-time high, according to the Center for Disease Control.) The current lack of good men that “legions of women” bemoan correlates to our current lack of male authority generally. We want our good men to be responsible men, but responsibility entails authority. In fact, it’s difficult to understand exactly what it means to have responsibility without having authority — divorcing the two would be perverse. When men are stripped of their authority systemically, it’s no wonder they also lose responsibility. The pre-adults are products of the fact that many men no longer feel fit for, or capable of attaining, authoritative roles in society. A man’s desire for responsibility, for being a man instead of just a male, comes from his authoritative role, whether it be on a specific topic or craft or over his family or community. Without authority, he cannot be the kind of good man that Hymowitz misses.
Men have been under attack at least since the 1960s. That quintessentially radical and disparate collection of thought strains we call “feminism” has demanded that men are not in charge, and that they may not use traditional male methods to get things done. Feminists have hopelessly obscured the very concept of masculinity, even to the point of making it embarrassing. Feminists used the idea of a fight for equality to conceal their true motives: ousting men from power. The “pre-adult,” on the other hand, is the feminists’ wet dream. He has been relegated, often willingly, to the only thing feminists will admit he’s good for: a sperm donor.
As Hanna Rosin notes in “The End of Men,” an essay in the July/August 2010 issue of The Atlantic, men still occupy leadership roles at the highest places in society; but almost everywhere else in the workforce, women have taken over. Power has not been utterly wrested from the hands of men, but it’s moving that direction, and there’s not much reason to think it will stop any time soon. With a generation of pre-adult males on their way to taking the reins of society, chances are that when they get there they won’t have the strength or character to lead. Rosin asks, “What if the postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than men?” It certainly is, because of a deliberate feminist cultural effort to make it so.
So how did actual policy change in favor of women?
Between 1970 and 2010, all 50 states passed no-fault divorce laws, meaning that couples can now end their marriage whenever they want, for no reason — no fault by either party is required. This law was touted by feminists as a way for women to exit abusive relationships. But in reality, it gave everyone the power to throw away their marriages and, in the case of divorced women, take half of everything their husbands owned. Since women had traditionally not worked, courts almost always favored them in divorce trials; they got the kids because of a perceived greater need for female care, and the money, because supposedly they weren’t working. But today, specifically in the summer of 2010, according to Rosin, women actually became the majority of the labor force for the first time in United Sates history — nonetheless, courts still favor women unless the woman makes substantially more than the man.
Women can legally force men out of their families, and for the most part, men can’t do anything about it. A man who is in his 20s today was born in the 1980s, when divorce rates peaked. Though they’ve fallen since, the twenty-somethings are a generation of men who saw their parents divorce at record rates, and who felt the effects. Men now still run the risk of divorce, after which they face losing their kids and fat alimony payments, often without much say in the matter. Seems rational that men would avoid it.
But legal favoring of women at the expense of men is not the only way that men are under assault. American culture has greatly aided feminists in their mission. The pre-adult males that Hymowitz laments all grew up in a society that actively derided responsible, authoritative males. They watched Homer Simpson — lazy, inept and stupid — haphazardly run his family, often on the brink of disaster. They listened to rock band Blink 182 groaning about growing up and squawking about the joys of playing childish pranks at adult ages. They watched an effeminate Jerry Seinfeld and company sleeping around with each other, never marrying or spending much time in monogamy, a TV show that Hymowitz herself notes. In fact, Hymowitz spends some time on this issue, and she partially answers her own question. The males of our younger generation have been led to believe that monogamy is boring, troublesome, and outdated. Men may want a marriage and kids, but their culture is constantly advising against it.
Despite the fact that men either aren’t getting married or are getting divorced, they are still having kids. In the days of yore, this was something shameful; these days, it’s expected. As cited earlier, out-of-wedlock childbirth hit 40 percent in 2007; for mothers between the ages of 20 and 24, it went as high as 61 percent; for black women, it was a whopping 72 percent. I’ve heard two male friends, one black and one white, express similar sentiments on the issue: that they were surprised, at the ages of 24 and 26, that they had no illegitimate children. It’s become normal to have kids without keeping a nuclear family together. Since women almost always get the kids, absent dads are now commonplace.
This absence, obviously, leaves an administrative vacuum in families where men used to be making authoritative decisions. Women have traditionally been very serious about managing their families, and since women have fewer men around to make the big decisions, they’ve naturally moved to fill those roles. This, in turn, leads men to feel as though they’re in a society controlled by women.
Men’s role confusion is exacerbated by the fact that many men grow up either without a dad or with a loser dad who is himself a pre-adult. When your male model is either a deadbeat or simply absent, you probably won’t come across much good manly advice. Moreover, kids who grow up without fathers are less likely to succeed; are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol at an early age; are more likely to commit suicide; are less likely to succeed in school; and are more likely to experience relationship troubles later in life.
According to the University of Virginia’s Marriage Project, kids living with single parents (84 percent female, 16 percent male in the U.S.) as opposed to married parents are three times more likely to suffer physical abuse, five times more likely to suffer sexual abuse, and three and a half times more likely to suffer emotional abuse.
The statistics are overwhelmingly clear: Humans simply do better with fatherly authority, and especially with married parents, during their developmental years. As we’ve seen, a good man is he who takes responsibility not only for himself, but for others who cannot take responsibility for themselves. Kids suffer, perhaps more than any other group, from lack of male authority.
The problem is a great one, and many men leap immediately to blaming women. This is a huge mistake; as Hymowitz notes, women appear to be even less happy with this situation than men are. The fall of men is a failure of our entire system. Women are half the equation, however, and like most other areas of civilized life, if we’re going to get out of this, men need women’s help. But while most women don’t really share the views of hardcore feminists, many of them have been fed the proverbial Kool-aid. Feminism is famous for its internal struggles and for never really coming to consensus on many of its issues — this rag-tag group could only have succeeded so spectacularly with the consent of women, which women like Hymowitz now appear to regret.
Public schools, which are famously run by women and designed to give women an advantage, encourage young women to have sex. They do this by demonstrating usage of condoms, and explanatory videos (when I was in high school I saw at least one video that graphically depicted an ejaculating penis inside a vagina). An implicit assumption exists: Girls have free reign over their bodies, and they express this through sex. The very idea of “sex education” affirms this. Since young men don’t need much encouragement to have sex, kids these days have substantial amounts of sex–according to the Center for Disease Control, forty-six percent of high schoolers were sexually active in 2009. Another CDC study said that seventy-nine and a half percent of college students ages 18 to 24 reported engaging in sexual intercourse. This doesn’t do much damage to a man’s marriage prospects, but it hurts a woman’s.
A woman with a good career (which, according to a 2005 New York Times article by Maureen Dowd, hurts a woman’s desirability), who spends her 20s the way that most people are spending them these days, may have to face the fact that her career and sexual choices have removed her from the marriage market. It’s not really fair to behave poorly in a traditional sense, and then expect men to behave well in the same traditional sense. A woman may not get to have her cake and eat it too. “So was the feminist movement some kind of cruel hoax?” Dowd asks. In many ways, it absolutely was.
“We are sick of hooking up with guys,” complains comedian Julie Klausner, the “we” being the same “legions of women” that Hymowitz speaks for. When I read this, I screamed to my empty living room: Well, then stop hooking up with them, for God’s sake! I want to avoid putting too much responsibility for men’s improvement on women; however, I guarantee that if large numbers of women simply refused to have sex outside of marriage, there’d be a lot more men looking to get married. It may take some time for the overall quality of men to improve from its current state, but women’s participation will be necessary to it.
After reading over her article a few times, I realized that Hymowitz’s tone discloses a common contradiction in her feelings about masculinity. She parrots Klausner’s disdain for video games and Star Wars; I am not sure what video games and Star Wars have to do with adulthood or childishness, but they seem to represent men’s failings to her. More likely, she is simply lashing out at male characteristics she doesn’t like.
A video game is just another game, and men have always loved games because of their masculine delight in competition and camaraderie — evolutionary necessities for males to perform their function. My brother, who is a manly young law student married to a beautiful, intelligent woman, said of Star Wars: “It is about heroism, sacrifice, and finding courage when at one’s worst. It is about conflict at its deepest, and finding the fortitude to look it in the face. What could be more manly? Is Star Wars really less realistic than You’ve Got Mail?” Indeed, it’s as though Hymowitz wishes all men were rich, neutered Tom Hanks characters. But this is reality, and Star Wars and video games are not the problem; lack of masculinity is. It is ridiculous to accuse men of being unmanly while also belittling manliness.
Men no longer need to grow into adults to enjoy adult pleasures. They won’t act responsible because, increasingly, they have no responsibilities. For these reasons, the good men have receded. I once heard a male friend say, “Why would I want to change things when sex is free? For kids and responsibility? Yeah right!” Piggish, but understandable. With free sex, and when culture teaches that responsible males are ridiculous, it becomes difficult to blame him. What we need is a little cultural faith restored in men: Ladies, have faith in men to come and marry you; you don’t need to do all the work. Have enough faith to give them the authority that you wish they were exercising.
Men, have faith in yourselves to run this society and your families. Take responsibilities; take your rites of passage. You don’t want to be dead weight for women to carry around; this is unmanly, and demonstrates poor character. Be men! This is, after all, what Hymowitz and everyone else appear to want.