Friday, May 27, 2016

Where do men fit in a feminizing world?

I have blogged for the longest time about shrinkage.  No, not that one, but the shrinking world for men.  I have even tagged plenty of posts with "save the males."  I have blogged and talked in plenty about how the male identity is in crisis.

Most men--old and young--simply do not know what their roles are in a rapidly changing society.  Muscle power is rarely needed anymore to bring home the tofu, er, bacon.  Lesbians don't care for men.  Education and work are all about talking and communication, from which the old-style grunting men run away.

A few years ago, my much older neighbor/friend commented, during one of our many coffee-chats, that television sitcoms portray males as grown up boys who never became real men.  The male characters in popular sitcoms like Everybody Loves Raymond or the King of Queens were only a little better than kids who had been potty-trained.

It is one heck of a crisis, yet fully grown boys seem to worry only about that thing!

In my classes, I have often remarked. to any student who was even half attentive, that the story of economic progress over the last two centuries--like the Great Enrichment that Deirdre McCloskey talks about--is pretty much a story of women.  The role of women, which was tightly circumscribed by men in cultures all across the world, started changing for the first time ever.  It started slowly.  And then it picked up steam.  And now, here we are, with men falling behind.

Thanks to such a worldview for a while now, I was not surprised--not even a tiny bit--to read Tyler Cowen's take that "the contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males."  And it will get worse for even more men. And this is now playing into the fascist's demagoguery:
Trump’s support is overwhelming male, his modes are extremely male, no one talks about the “Bernie sisters,” and male voters also supported the Austrian neo-Nazi party by a clear majority.
Not news to me.

What I found to be interestingly new is where Cowen goes from there:
One response would be to double down on feminizing the men, as arguably some of the Nordic countries have done.  But America may be too big and diverse for that really to stick.  Another option would be to bring back some of the older, more masculine world in a relatively harmless manner, the proverbial sop to Cerberus.  But how to do that?  That world went away for some good reasons.
If this is indeed the problem, our culture is remarkably ill-suited to talking about it.  It is hard for us to admit that “all good things” can be bad for anyone, including brutes.  It is hard to talk about what we might have to do to accommodate brutes, and that more niceness isn’t always a cure.  And it is hard to admit that history might not be so progressive after all.
What percentage of men are brutes anyway?  Let’s hope we don’t find out.
Yes, let's hope that we never, ever have to find out.


Ramesh said...

Given that your country is completely fixated on legislating which bathroom somebody can go into, perhaps the war of the genders is really on :)

Sriram Khé said...

Isn't it awful that given the urgency of many, many problems in the world and in the country, the politicians are wonderfully distracting the people with a focus on bathrooms and gender!
In 2004, the election was pretty much won on the gay marriage issue that Bush/Cheney/Rove focused on, while successfully distracting people away from the wars, the tortures, ...
If the "advanced" democracy of the US operates at this level, should we be surprised at how elections are won in Tamil Nadu, with Kalaignar and Amma bankrupting the state in more ways than one? And then think about the "democracy" in, say, Uganda ...
Which is all the more why Trump not winning is important--if he wins, the republic here might survive, but will be disastrous for people power in the rest of the world

Mike Hoth said...

The largest issue I see with the shrinking world for men isn't that we are losing our positions, but that this has become yet another "us vs them" argument. A few years ago I physically applauded my computer screen after reading a speech to the UN by Emma Watson (I may have been reading because I adore Emma Watson) where she explained that equality for women needed MEN on board because we happen to make up half the world's population.
She recognized that "man vs woman" is a losing battle and the only solution is to have men want success for women. When we as men no longer see the rise of women as a threat to men and the death of machismo, we will no longer have to save the males.

Sriram Khé said...

If it becomes a "us vs them" then that is not a good development, yes.
However, the situation for men is not a result of "man vs woman" ... Because of my fascination with this issue ever since the late 1990s/early 2000s, I have been noticing a trend of women adapting to a rapidly changing world while the men weren't. I like how Hanna Rosin describes this as the "plastic woman" in contrast to the "cardboard man"--though I would have preferred that she avoided "plastic" and had used some other descriptor to give us an idea of the adaptability and malleability.
The changing role of women in society was mirrored in sitcoms too. The helpless and uninformed caricatures of Lucy and Edith of the old versus the Raymond and Doug ... the women juggle plenty of things in these shows, while the men go somewhere to work and then all they want to do is play ...
I have long argued that the changing economy and the social mores do not have seem to offer enough avenues for the natural biology of testosterone. To some extent, that is also why sports have become such a big deal--the testosterone finding an outlet both in playing and in watching. However, while this adds quite a few $$$ to those who make it in that world, the vast majority of men who are mere spectators come out having lost the $$$ that they didn't have in the first place, and meanwhile the economic structure keeps changing even more rapidly and the women who don't bother with the sports are adapting to the changes ...

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