The men are all boys

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective -

A strange cul­tural phe­nom­e­non is fi­nally get­ting the at­ten­tion it de­serves:

In his new book, “Guy­land,” [Michael Kimmel] the State Uni­ver­sity of New York at Stony Brook pro­fes­sor notes that the tra­di­tional mark­ers of man­hood — leav­ing home, get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion, find­ing a part­ner, start­ing work and be­com­ing a fa­ther — have moved down­field as the pas­sage from ado­les­cence to adult­hood has evolved from “a tran­si­tional mo­ment to a whole new stage of life.” In 1960, al­most 70 per­cent of men had reached th­ese mile­stones by the age of 30. To­day, less than a third of males that age can say the same.

[The pro­fes­sor sees this as noth­ing short of a tragedy]:

In al­most 400 in­ter­views with mainly white, col­lege-ed­u­cated twen­tysome­things, he found that the lock­step march to man­hood is of­ten in­ter­rupted by a de­bauched and decade­long odyssey, in which youths buddy to­gether in search of new ways to feel like men. Ac­tu­ally, it's more like all the old ways — drink­ing, smok­ing, kid­ding, carous­ing — turned up a notch in a world where ado­les­cent demon­stra­tions of man­hood have re­placed the real thing: re­spon­si­bil­ity.

[Is this re­fusal to grow into man­hood just a flawed choice, or is it some­thing that has been foisted upon young Amer­i­can males?]

A bad at­ti­tude about mar­riage is not the only thing that’s hold­ing th­ese guys back. A se­ries of so­cial and eco­nomic re­ver­sals are mak­ing it harder than ever to climb the lad­der of adult­hood. Since 1971, an­nual salaries for males 25 to 34 with full-time jobs have plum­meted al­most 20 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for La­bor Mar­ket Stud­ies at North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity. At the same time, women have crashed just about all the old male haunts, and are show­ing some signs of out­pac­ing their husbands and boyfriends as bread­win­ners and heads of fam­ily, at least in ur­ban cen­ters. Last year, re­searchers at Queens Col­lege in New York de­ter­mined that women be­tween 21 and 30 in at least five ma­jor cities, in­clud­ing Dal­las, Chicago and New York, have not only made up the wage gap since 1970 — they now earn up­wards of 15 per­cent more than their male coun­ter­parts.

[Whether it’s boys re­fus­ing to be­come men, or a cul­ture that has dis­cour­aged male ma­tu­rity, the re­sults are far from pretty:]

To­day’s guys are per­haps the first down­wardly mo­bile — and end­lessly ado­les­cent — gen­er­a­tion of men in U.S. his­tory. They're also among the most dis­traught — men be­tween the ages of 16 and 26 have the high­est sui­cide rate for any group ex­cept men above 70 — and so­cially iso­lated, de­spite their im­age as a band of back­slap­ping bud­dies. Ac­cord­ing to the Gen­eral So­cial Sur­vey, a highly re­garded decades­long Uni­ver­sity of Chicago project to map changes in Amer­i­can cul­ture, twen­tysome­thing guys are bowl­ing alone when com­pared with the rest of so­ci­ety. They are less likely to read a news­pa­per, at­tend church, vote for pres­i­dent or be­lieve that peo­ple are ba­si­cally trust­wor­thy, help­ful and fair.

[The so­lu­tion to all that un­hap­pi­ness may be found in that very thing Amer­i­can males seem to be run­ning away from]:

A raft of re­cent stud­ies sug­gest that mar­ried men are hap­pier, more sex­u­ally sat­is­fied and less likely to end up in the emer­gency room than their un­mar­ried coun­ter­parts. They also earn more, are pro­moted ahead of their sin­gle coun­ter­parts and are more likely to own a home.

“Men ben­e­fit from just be­ing mar­ried, re­gard­less of the qual­ity of the re­la­tion­ship. It makes them health­ier, wealth­ier and more gen­er­ous with their rel­a­tives," says Scott Coltrane, au­thor of "Gen­der and Fam­i­lies" and dean of the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon Col­lege of Arts and Sci­ence. It ac­cel­er­ates men's jour­ney to­ward sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity. "In gen­eral, those are the things that lead to hap­pi­ness," he adds.

— “Why I Am Leav­ing Guy­land,” posted Aug. 30 at newsweek.com

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