Monday, June 18, 2012

CBS News Jumps on the "Masculinity Crisis" Bandwagon

With their flagship Sunday Morning news and entertainment show (but using a reporter from 24 Hours to lend some gravitas), CBS News jumps on the "Masculinity Crisis" bandwagon with this recent segment.

They speak with Michael Kimmel (as usual), author of Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, among other books, and Liza Mandy, author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family.

Both Kimmel (boys are falling behind and rejecting education in the interest of appearing more manly) and Mundy (the fact that more women are educated and making the bigger income allows men to be stay-at-home dads or to enter professions they enjoy rather than living a life of misery to support the family) make good arguments, but it's not a case of either/or.

When men fail to become educated and are forced into low-wage work, it becomes that much harder to marry a successful and intelligent woman - and the children of these marriages will likely suffer to an extent (we know that educated parents raise children who tend to become educated).

For decades, maybe centuries, education was the one thing that could end inter-generational poverty, but that becomes less likely when men refuse or fail to get a good education.

As gender roles change, are men out of step?

June 17, 2012 9:51 AM

(CBS News) Remember the old saying: IT'S A MAN'S WORLD? It's a concept that seems increasingly out of step with our times. Or is it men who are out of step? Our Cover Story is reported now by Susan Spencer of "48 Hours":

Summer break at Kenyon College in Ohio . . . peaceful and quiet, no hint of the firestorm of few years ago when the dean of admissions said the unthinkable: College girls are doing a lot better than boys.

"Gender politics are alive and well in this country, let there be no doubt," said Dean Jennifer Delahunty, who laid it all out in a 2006 opinion piece in The New York Times exposing the widening gap in achievement.

"There's a kind of anti-intellectualism of young men that really bothers me," Delahunty said, "that it's not cool to be smart. That it's not cool to be engaged. That it's not cool to do your homework. That bothers me.

"Not only do they not enroll in college at the same rate as women, they don't graduate from college at the same rate. They don't retain at the same rate."

The numbers don't lie: Male college enrollment has been sliding for more than four decades - and it's expected to just get worse.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel - the go-to guy when it comes to guys - talks of the "boys crisis."

"Twenty five years ago when I started I would ask the women in my classes, 'What does it mean to be a woman?'" Kimmel told Spencer. "And they would say, 'Well, you have to be nice and pretty and smart and smile a lot.' And you ask them now, you know what they say? 'I can be anything I want. I can do anything.'

"You ask the guys, you know, 'What does it mean to be a man' - 25 years ago? 'John Wayne.' Now? 'Arnold.'"

Boys aren't saying "hasta la vista" to these outdated He-Man ideas, but sadly, many ARE saying it to education.

"Boys think that academic disengagement is a sign of masculinity," said Kimmel. "The less you can do in school, the less connected you are, the less interested you are, the more manly you are."

Which may explain why about 70 percent of valedictorians today are girls. And it's not just about grades: It's about jobs.

"The economy shifting to a service economy, a knowledge-based economy, a words-based economy rather than an action-based economy has certainly been to the detriment of that traditional ideology of masculinity," said Kimmel. "And those men who most strongly subscribe to it are those men who are going to be left behind."

In a stunning role reversal, a new study finds that young women today value high-paying careers more than young men do.

Should there be a sort of affirmative action for boys? Delahunty says no: "That's not the answer. The answer is to look at this problem systemically. I don't believe in affirmative action for men in higher education."

But in her divisive op-ed piece, Delahunty hinted it's happening anyway. She wrote, "The reality is that because young men are rarer, they're more valued applicants," and she apologized to girls who'd been rejected because of "demographic realities."

"I think that, you know, the idea of an affirmative action program for men is engaged in by a lot of college admissions offices these days, because they're worried that the women are much better qualified," said Kimmel. "Now they do this sometimes by infrastructure, which is to say they build a new athletics facility. They build a new student center with lots of pool tables and videogames.

"Guys who come on college tour go, 'Well, this is cool. I could go here,' right? So that's an affirmative action program, where they spend money on that, rather than on other things."

But in a country where women get paid roughly 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, how much help do guys really need? Are they in crisis, or are they just in transition . . . to a new definition of what it means to be a man?

"I think that masculinity is more flexible than we give it credit for," said journalist Liza Mundy. "I think that our ideas of what's masculine change."

In her recent book called "The Richer Sex," Mundy argues that with new challenges, have come greater opportunities for men - and they have women to thank.

"Overall I think that for women to contribute economically is a good thing for men," Mundy said. "It gives men within marriage more choices. They don't necessarily have to go into a career they're not interested in just to be the breadwinner, just to be the wage earner. They're not going to be judged simply on their ability to generate a salary."

Case-in-point: New Yorker Matt Schneider, who dropped his career some years ago to stay home and care for his two sons - while his wife is at the office.

"To me this is a great time to be a man, because we've opened up the definition of what a man can be," he said.

The number of stay-at-home fathers on the rise - more than double since 1994.

Schneider even founded a support group for them.

"There's an expectation that we're going to fit into a certain mold," Schneider said: the mold of breadwinner. "But to kind of go to the other direction and say I'm not going to be a career person, I'm going to stay at home with my kids full-time seems to be some kind of monumental decision for a lot of people."

But Schneider, a former teacher, doesn't think that dropping the old stereotypes somehow will magically end the struggles of boys, especially in school.

When asked why he thinks the gender discrepancy exists in education, Schneider said, "Our schools have been geared towards kids who can sit still for long periods of time, who can focus on a subject for long periods of time, and those are all good things. But especially for young boys - kindergarten age, first grade boys - to sit still for more than 10 minutes isn't a reasonable expectation."

Dean Delahunty said, "Right now, what do we reward in the K-12 system? We reward self-control, communication, verbal and written communication, expressiveness. These are all qualities that girls are really good at . . . are generally better at than boys."

It's a big reason Delahunty wrote her op-ed, hoping to focus national attention on the plight of boys, as we all try to sort our way through society's rapidly-changing roles.

When asked what her thoughts were in the context of Father's Day, Delahunty replied, "Well, if I were going to speak to the fathers of high school boys, I would say, 'Teach them honor, self-management, responsibility, model it for them.'

"Let's throw 'boys will be boys' out the door. It doesn't serve us anymore."


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Liza Mundy? Why would they talk to her about men? Her book promotes the future of marriage as a wife dictatorship.
I think she is clueless about men.
Male enrollment in college is down? I guess it would be down since American education is run by feminist groups such as the Women's Law Center and the AAUW. US education is now female centric due to feminism.