What’s up with men? Two headlines tell the story:
Female CEOs’ paychecks fattest: Women’s average pay outpaces male counterparts (USA Today, May 2, 2015).
Baby Bust! Millennials Birth Rate Drop May Signal Historic Shift: 15 Percent Drop Among Young Women; Hispanics, Blacks See Biggest Decline (CNBC, April 28, 2015).
Well, you might say, “That’s about women, what about men?”
But, don’t you see? The absence of men in the equation—or as a main character—in the ascension of women socially, economically and professionally is what’s up with men.
Men today, are dealing with a shifting cultural landscape where they are the subordinate—even missing—character.
In my book, Redefining Manhood: A Guide for Men and Those Who Love Them (Findhorn, 2015), I give two examples of manhood on the world stage, U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Each is an example of manhood in the current shift under way. Bush rebelled against his father and sought the traditional male path of projection of force and aggression through military power and struggled with finding himself through alcohol, academic dissipation and ultimately religion.
Obama had to find his own place in the world as the product of an interracial marriage, finding that accommodation could be had through activism and education, overcoming the hurdles of a changing world, albeit accepting its vestiges of militarism, racism and inequality.
Both are examples on the large stage of the personal struggles men are confronting: Living in a changing world.
Obama might be considered more of a model of the New Man, but still a victim of shifting mores, attempting to juggle equality with patrimony—the still potent ghosts of a white male-dominated society.
How do these models—rebellion or acceptance—translate to the day-to-day lives of men? Read the headlines:
The lack of early and lasting relationships with women and formation of families early in a man’s life where he is the primary breadwinner.
Increased earning power and positions of leadership for women, as women outstrip men in education and promotion in the workplace.
We see it in the marginalization of young black men. We see it in the erosion of the middle class. But today, you don’t have to be black to be Ralph Ellison’s, The Invisible Man.
Is it any wonder that a woman, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is considered the one to beat in the 2016 presidential election?
Traditional male role models no longer apply within the new cultural milieu. Archetypes of manhood are invalidated. Men who practice these dated concepts are as antiquated as The Fonz in the old Happy Days television show.
Millennials don’t date, they hang out together, hook up and go their separate ways, because men no longer have a space to fill as they once did as foundational to lasting marriage. Women have difficulty in finding mates who match them in education, earning power and career aspirations.
Men who enter relationships with women find that the role models, character beliefs and understandings that guided their fathers not only turn off potential mates but also are seen as anti-female. As a result, they either rebel or accommodate, neither role personally satisfying, comfortable or providing security, because their lives are changing into a subordinate position that they have not been trained or prepared to fill.
Here’s a third recent news story:
Technology. Gartner, an information technology research and advisory firm, projects that one-third of jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence by 2025.
Already endangered are some often considered traditional male while collar jobs: financial and sports reporters, surgeons and anesthesiologists and financial analysts.
The trend lines and dynamics of our society are shifting and accelerating to make ours a matrifocal society. In every sector, women are gaining in management and top jobs: business, health, food, finance, (even high tech: look at the number of women CEOs who are poised to shift that dynamic). It can be likened to a polar shift back to the way things were balanced before the Greco-Roman Empire.
At heart, it’s a shift toward equality at its most basic level, but like a gyroscope finding balance, it might first overcompensate from the predominately male patrimony of the past 2,000 years to the female (even matrilineal) tilt that existed in global indigenous societies (such as Native American culture prior to European colonization).
What’s with men? They are trying to cope with changes in society that leave them increasingly isolated and alone, as the ground shifts beneath their feet, their “selfhood” and all they’ve been taught and believe about themselves no longer valid. Their only avenues: rebellion or acceptance.
As President Obama commented at Lehman College in the Bronx, May 4, 2015: “I grew up without a dad. I grew up sometimes lost and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path.”
This lack of a path is what we now must seek to alleviate.
Author: Jim Pathfinder Ewing
Editor: Travis May