Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Addressing the Listless American Male

Contemporary gender feminist literature sometimes exposes its underbelly in spite of itself. This happens much like in modern physics, where the various versions of string theory cannot be reconciled but nevertheless seem to be describing parts of a larger scientific truth that has not yet been fully revealed.

For example, a recent plaintive column in that criticizes young professional male New Yorkers for being listless, paired with, say, a book by Peggy Drexler extolling the virtues of lesbian couples raising fatherless boys, nips at the edges of a larger truth: something less than positive has happened to the American male. The cultural phenomenon of the listless young adult male is one that deserves attention as it may well point to cultural dysfunction within western society.

The existence of the listless male persona described by Salon’s Rebecca Traister is unfortunately a reality; at least in so much as it is a symptom of a deeper problem. Indecisiveness, lacking in motivation, noncommital, and a generally fatalistic demeanor. These are not unusual traits to see exhibited by single (and married) men in their 20s and 30s. One might go so far as to suggest there is a palpable self loathing among these men.

The evidence is all around us. Just looking at one urban area - King County, Washington - marriage rates have declined so much that nearly 50% of all men in their 30s have never been married. Academic achievement among boys has declined rapidly over the past two decades, with both high school graduation rates and university enrollment among boys falling. Meanwhile, across all age groups, males are several times more likely than females to commit suicide and do so at alarming rates.

Salon’s Rebecca recognizes that a large part of what concerns her is her own lack of success in finding a permanent mate to commit to her. It is tempting, and probably more than a little appropriate, to suggest that she look in the mirror. One of the reasons that men are lackadaisical about committing to her generation of women may well be that these women simply do not inspire them. Worse, this generation of women has a sense of pedestal entitlement and a quickness to the draw on claims of victimhood – key ingredients of man repellant. In other words, some or even a large part of the fault for Rebecca and her sister's man woes may lie with the current crop of single women.

But, that is such an obvious path to follow and, while probably productive, will likely not help to shed light on a deeper cultural sickness that would leave so many single men so apathetic about so many facets of life. After all, what Rebecca really misses is men that behave like men. You can see the men Rebecca complains about all around urban areas like Seattle. They look disheveled and a little lost, and they make statements with the cadence and intonation normally associated with a question. It’s as if they have little solid ground under their feet.

Rebecca’s column is centered on her interview of author Benjamin Kunkel, who recently published a novel entitled “Indecision.” The central character of Kunkel’s novel, Dwight, caught Rebecca’s interest because he seemed to epitomize what she sees among her male cohorts in New York City. In this interview, Kunkel made an interesting observation:
Rebecca: But that has everything to do with feminism and women's roles in this discussion we're having. For a long time, I've been wondering about a crisis of masculinity in our generation, a generation in which opportunities were truly available to at least middle-class women. We weren't just told we could do anything; we were expected to do everything. But we were always told how difficult that would be, that we would confront challenges and pay high prices for our satisfactions. I don't know that men of our generation were sent the same message. So when things get tough, women don't enjoy it any more than men, but they are not surprised. Whereas men -- at least some of the ones I've known -- have been paralyzed by life's hardships.

Kunkel: If what you're talking about is the inculcation in women of a tragic sense of life -- the sense that nothing comes without a price -- that is the sine qua non of masculinity, the masculine tragic attitude that we see in books and movies. "This is gonna hurt, but it's necessary; it ain't gonna be easy, but you're gonna have to suck it up and take it." But what you're saying is very interesting. If the tragic sense of life, this masculine property, should have been transferred to women, [and] men have come to be seen as these cosseted creatures denied any sort of full contact with reality, then this is a really important historical crossover.
Yes, this does make sense. So, what then happened to the “inculcation” of men with a masculine sense that life is a bitch, so get over it, and get out there and do something good anyway? When asking that question, Peggy Drexler’s new book “Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men” comes to mind.

Glenn Sacks recently reviewed Dexler’s book and made these observations about its contents:
According to Drexler, lesbian moms are “more sophisticated about how they teach their sons right from wrong” than heterosexual couples, and there are “real advantages for a boy being raised in this new type of family.” Heterosexual mothers don’t measure up in “moral attitude,” and are less likely than lesbian moms to “create opportunities for their sons to examine moral and values issues.” This in turn slows the “moral development in their sons.”

Furthermore, Drexler asserts that boys raised by lesbians “grow up emotionally stronger,” “have a wider range of interests and friendships,” and “appear more at ease in situations of conflict” than boys from “traditional” (i.e., father-present) households. Fatherless boys “exhibit a high degree of emotional savvy…an intuitive grasp of people and situations.” Best of all, sons of lesbian couples are much more willing to discard traditional masculinity than boys trapped in heterosexual households.

For example, Fiona’s son paints his nails, while both of Maria’s sons dance ballet. Ursula’s son chose sewing and cooking for his electives in 7th grade. Kathy's son has rejected playing baseball as being “too competitive”—no surprise, because in their local, father-led baseball league, “the better players get more playing time.”
Perhaps lesbian raised boys are the answer to the problem of listless young adult men. Then, again, perhaps not. Channeling masculine energy into painting nails and emotional adroitness would seem to have little relationship with inculcating the tragic sense of life in men. For a boy, a father is the source of that life lesson.

Again, Sacks:
While Raising Boys is being promoted as a harmless, feel-good affirmation for “maverick moms,” it is in fact an attack on the institution that research shows is the best-suited to raising children—the family. Drexler encourages women thinking of having fatherless children to make that “leap of faith.” But the rates of all major youth pathologies, including juvenile crime, teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, and school dropouts, are tightly correlated with fatherlessness. Drexler waxes poetic about the nebulous benefits of fatherless parenting, but makes little attempt to explain why fatherless families produce so many troubled and pathological children.
From the complaints of a 30-ish urban single woman to the idealized world of lesbian run households - men and boys in both scenarios are footballs to be kicked about and experimented with, but never understood and, God forbid, appreciated.

Thanks to Salon’s Rebecca and lesbian-advocate Drexler, we now inadvertently have a bit more of the picture than we had before. Too many boys are growing up without the daily involvement of their fathers. Sometimes this is due to fathers that truly can be described as Deadbeat Dads; but more often fatherless-ness is due to institutionalized bias, even hostility, toward the nuclear family and the American male’s place in it.

This generation of boys is learning much about self-indulgence and little about discipline. They are not taught to channel their natural masculine energy into doing positive, instead leaving a chaotic mess of indecision on steroids. Their natural state of high energy engagement with their environment is treated as anathema while pseudo-scholars suggest that teaching them to paint their fingernails and to participate in communal emotion-fests is preferable. They see example after example of masculine decisiveness being met with cultural disdain. They hear the constant negative messages about masculinity that pervade our culture: men have a propensity to violence against women, their heterosexual urges are akin to rape, and the patriarchal role of fatherhood within a family is passé.

In other words, boys, men, and fathers have been inculcated, actually bombarded, with negative messages about the very essence of what they are. Is it really any wonder that Rebecca would find that men in an urban setting – where these messages are the most intense – would seem to be lost and behave as if they are powerless?

The results are obvious for anyone that cares to look. Something clearly set this destructive process in motion. It is well past time we stop allowing hysterical accusations of “turning back the clock” paralyze us as we seek to address it. It's happening in the UK and it can happen in the USA, even in Seattle.

Indeed, there have been times when turning back the clock would have been preferable to allowing history to play out – Hitler’s genocide of European Jews and Stalin’s mass murders provide a couple of examples. Unwinding the negativity and hatefulness of contemporary orthodox feminism in favor of rewinding that movement’s egalitarian roots is another.

[By the way, there are some interesting and witty letters in response to Traister's Salon column here. It's also fun to read Amanda go apoplectic about these letters here.]


Blogger Tom Swanson said...

. . . just a side note. One has to ask themselves, is Hitler responsible for feminism? Think about it. . .women filled the factories in the 1940's to suport the war effort. Pandora's box was opened, and American families have suffered since.

9/21/2005 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger MisAnDrope said...

An interesting post, with good stuff in it. I especially note the bit "[Young men] hear the constant negative messages about masculinity that pervade our culture: men have a propensity to violence against women, their heterosexual urges are akin to rape..." I recently was visiting a friend, and listened to her telling her son over and over in different ways how 'white men' and 'white boys' were advantaged oppressors and the rest of the world -I guess female or nonwhite - disadvantaged - in court, and in life. Finally I had to speak out, and found a polite way to do that. But I am a rare visitor to this family, and the father in the family is a lovely marshmallow of a man. What kind of masculinity is this child going to grow up with? Won't it be a self-hating masculininty? Raised to believe that he is inherently evil, how will he find his self?

9/22/2005 07:22:00 AM  
Blogger One man said...

He will believe that he is NOT like "other" men and will become a misandrist himself. Perhaps he will boast that he was raised as a “gentleman.” I was raised that way and it took 30 years before I finally woke up from the feminist propaganda my mother and grandmother programmed me with. I thought I was "different," somehow more sensitive than other men. I blamed other men for my problems and got insanely jealous when my girlfriends where attracted to "normal" guys. I though women were angels and for them to find “normal” guys to be attractive or to even simply think of them as normal made me feel like they were being duped by these evil men with their evil tricks. Feminism makes little boys crazy (not just girls) and in some cases, crazy enough to do some pretty bad stuff.

That poor boy is in for a world of hurt as he grows up and learns that women are not the “sweet little ladies” he is being raised to believe they are. The first time he falls in love and gets dumped or cheated on, he won’t understand. He will blame himself, the rival male and likely become suicidal, never once attaching any blame to the girl who’s choices break his tender heart.

If that woman (his mom) loves her boy, then she will teach him what the world really IS, and not the fairy tale she is teaching him now. Waking from that fairy tale is an emotional nightmare.

9/22/2005 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Iguana said...

Maybe that's what the first Matrix was all about - waking up from the gender feminist surreality.

9/25/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Right now said...

We have been trained from our youth to believe this surrealistic feministic propaganda. And our young girls are also ruined by it as soon as they start going to school.
Remember that sweet loving, tender hearted girl?
Don't worry , after the feminist propaganda machine gets ahold of her, she will most likely be destroyed.

I was raised in a feministic hippy , new age , lesbian environment. And I have only seen hatred of men all my life.
As a young male I was psychologically tortured in various ways and totally mind fucked by most of the women in my life. When I was young I got into drugs and almost a little suicidal.
I don't really remember anything from women that was nurturing or healing to my masculine identity. The American Woman exerts as much energy as possible to break down and destroy the young male's natural development into a natural man.
Then as a final blow to the Young Man's identity the younger females choose a man from a mexican or black culture where the masculine identity is celebrated and encouraged.
The Young man is confused, He was told all his life that being masculine was bad, and evil, by the feminist educators.
And now the young women sneer at their confused brother and tell them, YOUR NOT MASCULINE ENOUGH!
The Feminist Does a 180, in the middle of the street when it fits her ever changing fancy, this is totally hypocritical.
I have come to the conclusion that the American female hates her brother, and this whole sending away of our young men into an unjust and sick war is just a reflection of the self hate our nation has of its young men.

7/14/2008 07:53:00 PM  

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