“Men Adrift” and “The Weaker Sex”—Finally The Economist Agrees with Me!
One of the reasons I reluctantly agreed to begin this blog (pushed into it by a good friend) was to have a public space to express my frustrations about the “decline of men” (and especially of boys) in American society and the reluctance of society to acknowledge it and shoulder some responsibility for it—and begin to do something about it.
I have for a very long time written letters to newspaper editors about the problems I see affecting the whole of society because of the gradual decline of men and boys in education, health, workplaces and homes. For years I was ridiculed and called “goofy” for expressing such concerns and calling for greater attention to the problems being created for everyone by “the problem with men (and boys)” in our culture.
I’ve blogged about this many times here—sometimes focusing on health issues (e.g., the overwhelming attention to and focus on women’s health with little to no corresponding attention to or focus on men’s health by government, the media and non-profit organizations) and sometimes on education (e.g., the lack of male teachers in the lower grades and boys’ increasing dropout rate, etc.).
Many readers of this blog who comment seem to think one or both of two things: either that 1) I’m reactionary to feminism (part of some patriarchal “backlash”), and/or 2) I’m just goofy about this. Many say things like “It’s time for men to ‘man up’.”
The current issue of the highly respected news magazine The Economist (May 30th-June 5th, 2015) contains two articles on the subject that I find among the best brief examinations and proposals for change I have read. They are both available on line if you know how to access them using a search engine. I recommend reading first the lengthy article “Men Adrift: Barely Educated Men in Rich Countries Have Not Adapted Well…” and second the one page opinion essay “The Weaker Sex: Blue-collar Men in Rich Countries Are in Trouble….”
The article makes a very strong case that poorly educated men in “rich countries” (mostly Europe and North America) are falling behind in education, the economy, family life and social engagement and productivity in general and are therefore unhappy in life. The result is affecting everyone, not just the poor men who are increasing in numbers. It also talks about how education is failing boys and makes the very same recommendations I have made here: more male teachers and more attention to boys’ special needs for learning. The article is hard-hitting: “A great appreciation of anti-boy bias among teachers would help, as well, as would more men teaching.” When I say these things I get accused of being anti-teacher. Not at all. “Bias” is rarely conscious or intentional. In this case, I would argue, as I assume the author of the article would, it is present but largely unacknowledged.
The essay “The Weaker Sex” is excellent; I recommend it strongly. “It might seem odd,” it says, “to worry about the plight of men.” “Yet there is plenty of cause for concern” not just for men but for everyone—including women. Yes, a big part of the decline of men and social drop-out rate of boys and young men is the economy. But the issue is that the social order is not paying attention and helping boys and men change to adapt to the new social and economic situations. “Part of the solution lies in a change in cultural attitudes”—on the part of both men and women. That is what I have been saying here for four years. “Policymakers…need to lend a hand [to men], because foolish laws are making the problem worse.” Amen.
“Politicians need to recognize that boys’ underachievement is a serious problem, and set about fixing it. Some sensible policies that are good for everybody are particularly good for boys.” That is also what I have been saying for years—in letters to editors and here on my blog. The essay ends with this pithy and pregnant advice: “Some men have failed to cope with this new world. It is time to give them a hand.”
The natural, common reaction, especially by feminist-minded women, to “the problem with men and boys” is “man up!” In other words, society has no responsibility to help men and boys succeed in life; it is totally up to them. And if they don’t, well, that’s their problem. The Economist gets it—insofar as men and boys continue to fall behind everyone is harmed. Many boys and men who lose hope, for whatever reason, turn to crime. Many leave their families, turn to drugs, wander around, do nothing, become parasites.
A big part of the problem is that the jobs boys and men used to count on have disappeared and are never coming back. Education and job training need to be aimed at boys and young men to help them realize they can enter the job market and succeed but only if they adapt to new kinds of work not traditionally considered “men’s work” and only if they receive training for these jobs and the people who are already in those professions and vocations (often mainly women) make room for them. (For about ten years I taught cohorts of nurse in a “degree completion program.” Almost all were women and they did not hesitate to express the opinion that men are not welcome in their profession as it’s for women.)
Overall, the two articles in The Economist make the very points I have been trying to make (with the exception of men’s health) for years and for which I have been ridiculed and thought “goofy” if not part of some anti-feminist backlash.
The point of the articles is that the good of men, rightly defined as success in life (not domination), is good for everyone and men’s failure is bad for everyone. This is not a popular thesis, but now that The Economist says it maybe more people will begin to take it seriously.