Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The trouble with men

Ahh, caught your attention with that line, didn't I? I love it that you're sitting here, reading "the trouble with men" and asking yourself in shock, "what overgeneralized, politically-incorrect thing is she about to say about men?" Well, I'll try not to overgeneralize, but since I don't care so much about being politically correct, maybe you'll find at least a hint of shock value in this post after all.

I've been concerned for quite a few years about men. Why is it that they're not going to college? Taking so long to grow up (or not growing up at all)? Moving back in with their parents? Drowning in alcohol? Not taking ownership of their jobs, homes, families, or churches? And maybe most alarmingly, why don't young men have bigger dreams and ambitions--and why aren't they striving toward them?

I consider myself one of the lucky few 20-something women who have found a good Generation Y man. In fact, I even laugh when I think about calling the majority of Generation Y males "men"; they're not yet deserving of that mature term. Instead, they're stuck in guyhood, and it doesn't look like they'll emerge anytime soon.

Some people say they know the reasons. Maybe they do. Boundless is currently running an interesting article by Dr. Albert Mohler, who's discussing the implications modern masculinity is having on television and vice-versa.

His article begins:
In the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's violent novel, Fight Club, character Tyler Durden points to his generation of young men as the "middle children of history." Played by actor Brad Pitt, Durden represents the absolute collapse of masculinity into raw violence. This character joins his friends in seeking personal release and ecstasy through violent fights that send the participants regularly to the emergency room. In a haunting comment, Durden remarks: "We are a generation of men raised by women." Is this our future?
His article goes on to make some interesting (but overly simplistic) observations about and explanations for the antisocial, morally ambiguous characters that young males prefer to watch on TV these days (although of course, I think I probably prefer these characters, too, so what does that say about me?).

But what really strikes me is the phrase "a generation of men raised by women." If there is a problem with modern masculinity, could it be that men have not benefited from role models of the same gender--men who could teach them how to be men?

The world is increasingly run by women. It seems that we have a particularly strong drive to prove ourselves, go above and beyond, and to put ourselves in places of power to effect change where we see injustices and unfinished work. The thing is, as women have begun to enter the professional and church realms as leaders--which is wonderful--men don't seem to see the need to compete. Furthermore, businesses are increasingly valuing stereotypically feminine characteristics, like emotional sensitivity and non-confrontational personalities, rather than the aggressive, assertive qualities they were looking for 40 years ago. Is there anything inherently wrong with that?

No, not really.

But the thing is that if our society undervalues men, and men are not receiving mentoring and training from fathers and older men, young men will increasingly find themselves detached and lonely, wondering where they fit--or if they fit at all. Because, after all, even if they were raised by women, they still can't be women. They weren't meant to be, and society shouldn't expect them to be.

With all these odds stacked against them, it's really no wonder that they have no dreams or goals, and that their heroes are flawed and aimless; what, really, does the women's world have to offer them?


Christie said...

Funny thing is I was so anxious (I noticed it was new) to start reading the post that I didn't even catch the title until I started. Interesting observations. I especially agree that our society undervalues men when it comes to parenting. This was completely visible in a cell phone commercial I watched a while back where the family completely ingored the father and treated him like dirt. It was sickening. Did you happen to catch it? I wish I had a clip of it.

The part you said about men being lonely and fitting or not fitting in reminded me of the tension young boys face developmentally when their primary caregiver is their mother. Its acceptable for a young girls to immiate their mothers, but for boys there is much more of an identity challenge at that age. They have the added challenge of having to seperate themselves from their mothers. (Grant it,girls do too but potentially a more difficult thing for boys than what girls face)

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. We could probably talk for hours about it.

See you tomorrow,

p.s. yay! it was pickup day today

Christie said...

whoops I forgot to mention. Have you heard of the book, Gender & Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World?

I've been wanting to read it for a while...maybe its a small group option or maybe some type of book club will develop because I think it'd be a great one to discuss.


Dulcimer said...

Thanks, Christie!

Yes, the cell phone commercial sounds familiar. Actually, it seems like most of our entertainment (think of sitcoms) portrays men this way.

I'd really like to talk with you more sometime about what you mentioned regarding young boys whose primary caregiver is their mother; I don't think I've studied much about that (not being a boy, and not being a psych major), but it sounds fascinating.

And no, I haven't heard of the book, but I'll be sure to check it out!

Thanks for the discussion. It does a mind good. :)

brannabee said...

i do find this sad, as well. although, i think that the questions
"Why is it that they're not going to college? Taking so long to grow up (or not growing up at all)? Moving back in with their parents? Drowning in alcohol? Not taking ownership of their jobs, homes, families, or churches? And maybe most alarmingly, why don't they have bigger dreams and ambitions--and why aren't they striving toward them?"
could also be asked of the women of the generation. really - i don't think it is fair to look at one side of it - while there are some unique problems with the men and it certainly is grossly influenced by television, etc., these alarming trends are also increasingly noticeable in the female counterparts of this generation. it's the product of over-parenting. there's not much motivation, not much sense of responsibility or seriousness and, most frustratingly, not much awareness of others and their needs.
i mean, why start now? this generation has pretty much gotten whatever they want whenever they want it with parents going to bat for them at the slightest possibility of anticipated discomfort.
all i'm saying is... whatever i'm saying! ;)

thanks for provoking thought - what do you think is our responsibility in this matter?

Dulcimer said...

Thanks, B.!

I think my reason for singling out men was really related to my concern about them in such a female-centric society . . . but I do think you're right to point out that men aren't the only ones failing to take ownership. The more your parents do for you, the less you'll do for yourself, and you're right: overparenting is likely the epidemic causing this concerning delay of adulthood.

Our responsibility? Well . . . I guess we should probably just gear up to become the toughest parents ever, intent on teaching our kids how become adults, not being adults for them.

There's a part of me that's saying that, while our future parenting styles are important, I'm taking the easy way out by saying that.

Because after all, there are millions of my peers running around, acting like children when they should be mature enough to parent their own.

What's my responsibility to them? I have no idea. I can't even figure out how to relate to them . . . but I guess now it's time for me to try harder. :)

hannah said...

Dear Dulci,

I think your post is thoughtprovoking! especially given that as an almost women's studies minor I have been taught to discern ways in which I have been marginalized and repressed in a "mans world".

Its true, statistics show that men are not going to school and there is a general parenting disconnect as men feel undervalued.And yet, the very highest social roles, by societies general standards, are still, for the most part, are still filled with men. There are more women pastors now than ever, but the majority are still men (by a long shot); women CEO's, but the majority are men, etc; not to mention places of political power.

What is it in men that makes them go one extreme or the other, either go big, all the way to the top, for the gold, or home to Mom?

Maybe if we understood that tendency to polarize...It will be interesting to see if women, as they move into more places of power, do more for their male counterparts to equalize leadership positions (value one anothers qualities) than men did for women in the past. Its that good ole history pendulum swing!

I have seen among my Mom friends the fear of losing their grip as the head parent, while at the same time desireing to be in the workforce. since they identified with seeing their mothers in that way, primary caregiver, etc. So, we are taking on every role, trying to be all things, to all people, and not letting men come in and take on a position as primary homemaker, if need be.

I finally got a chance to go strawberry picking this week, they were the best I ever tasted i feel- i want to be eating them right now.