There is a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Brad Pitt’s characters says to Edward Norton’s, “[we are] A generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we really need.”
I believe his point was that Men are being raised by Women, and thus not learning what it is to be masculine from a male authority and mentor figure. And the turnout is piss poor (in his opinion, and the point of the character in the movie) consumer driven zombies chasing satisfaction in shopping for things.
I’m not going to examine that. However, I do agree to an extent the Father figure in society has not been holding up his end of the bargain. What stirred this up is Julia Allison pointing to a new book from the TED organization, discussing the “Demise of Guys”. She summed it up, as one can only do on Twitter:
The TED article puts it this way:
In their provocative ebook The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, celebrated psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say that an addiction to video games and online porn have created a generation of shy, socially awkward, emotionally removed, and risk-adverse young men who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school, and employment. Taking a critical look at a problem which is tearing at families and societies everywhere, The Demise of Guys suggests that our young men are suffering from a new form of “arousal addiction,” and introduce a bold new plan for getting them back on track. The book is based on a popular TED Talk which Zimbardo did in 2011, and includes extensive research as well as a TED-exclusive survey that drew responses from more than 20,000 men. We recently spoke with Zimbardo and Duncan about their ideas.
And of course, my first recollection of this crisis of Men idea originated from a great article in The Atlantic, “The End of Men“:
Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.
So, women are doing better. Men are doing worse. Is it because society has evolved, and modern culture favors the gentle, team based, communicative methods of the feminine? Does this in fact end up hurting women because Men aren’t able to function properly in this world and end up escaping to a world of fantasy video games and needing extreme arousal in order to interact?
Unlike the characters of Fight Club, I don’t blame the other gender. The problem is that we are raising ourselves. Father figures are either absent or failing. New methods of communication and community has enabled us to seek out substitutes. The only problem is that for various reasons, our mentors end up being other people in similar situations. So you get a cultural echo chamber where we trade advice like characters in American Pie trading sex moves. And the results are just as terrible, and less comical.
Divorce rates are increasing. Single parent households are on the rise. And while it is great that women don’t feel shunned from a community for raising a family alone, it certainly doesn’t lead to a situation where boys have great role models. Often, even if there is a father figure in the home, he isn’t the shining 50s nuclear family pillar of the community Don Draper (in his public life) type. He probably got laid off because his manufacturing job got exported. He sits around the house depressed. He takes more style tips from reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” than the pages of GQ. There is a reason every television ad you see portrays Dad as the dumb oaf in the family who learns a valuable life lesson from whatever product is being hawked.
Understandably, Men of my generation aren’t seeing great role models. But we live in the information age! We have a valuable tool available to us all the time. We can use the internet to learn all those lessons we didn’t get, right? Well, yeah, if someone would post them. But, your Dad isn’t posting life lessons. He can barely upload a photo to Facebook. Instead, we talk to our peers and try to trade things we pick up along the way. I believe this is part of the proliferation of things like Lifehacker, Reddit, fashion blogs, and one of my favorites The Art of Manliness. These are digital textbooks, trying to pass on the lessons our Fathers didn’t pass on to us.
[On a side note, I’m not attacking any of these sites. In fact, I subscribe to Art of Manliness on RSS. I think the author Brett kind of taps into the same sentiment I am going all Andy Rooney on. See his “about” page:
And as I looked around at the men my age, it seemed to me that many were shirking responsibility and refusing to grow up. They had lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past had embodied and were a little lost. The feminism movement did some great things, but it also made men confused about their role and no longer proud of the virtues of manliness. This, coupled with the fact that many men were raised without the influence of a good father, has left a generation adrift as to what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.
Talking about honorable manliness was to me a niche seemingly not covered on the web or elsewhere, and I decided to start The Art of Manliness to talk about all things manly- both the serious and the fun, but with the ultimate eye toward encouraging readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, men.
I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim that I’m an expert on all things manly. I started this blog not because I had all the answers to being a man, but because I wanted to explore the questions with other men. Thankfully, I’ve found a whole community of men who wish to discover the lost art of manliness too.
This is great! Ingenuity of boys to solve a problem! However, the problem is that its a cheat-sheet. The quick and dirty method instead of the underlying lessons. We’re learning to get by with duct tape and string instead of building strong foundations. We get “10 tips on how to have a great interview to land that job” instead of learning lessons about building relationships, integrity, and the pride in your work that really lead to great careers. There is a world of difference between following a bullet point list of things to do on a date, and knowing how to be a gentleman. Are we really creating great men, or actors who can play the part?