Overwhelmingly, this question is posed by women, discussed by women, and answered by women. But I can tell you where all the good men have gone.
Search the words, “Where have all the good men gone?” and dozens of anecdotes, articles, blogs, and books will appear on your screen.
Overwhelmingly, this question is posed by women, discussed by women, and answered by women.
This, ironically, is an essential reason for these so called man-deserts—men are simply not being asked to contribute their opinions and perspectives. And the good men themselves are increasingly less likely to offer their point of view, for many reasons.
I do not seek to apportion blame here, on either side, but simply to address this question from the seldom-heard voice that is the object of the question itself: good men.
The last 100 years of suffragettes, feminists, and political correctness have challenged and continue to challenge thousands of years of patriarchy—and rightly so. Consequently, the roles of both men and women have been transformed and redefined.
While we struggle to adjust to the new and still evolving status quo, the war of the sexes has taken millions of casualties. In Western culture, divorce rates for first marriages range from 42 percent in the U.K. to 53 percent in the U.S. to a staggering 71 percent in Belgium. Subsequent marriages fare even worse.
The spectre of divorce is another contributing factor in the conspicuously expanding man-deserts. Many men, having seen their fathers broken by divorce, fear the loss of their assets, their homes, and their children and are simply stacking their chips, choosing not to gamble, and checking out of the marriage casino.
Family courts invariably award primary custody to the mother, while the father is restricted to weekend access, supervised visits, or left to literally climb the walls of Buckingham Palace in a superhero costume to protest rights for dads. Men—will they ever grow up?
The ridicule and debasement of men in the media and mainstream culture is now pervasive. Watch a commercial, sitcom, or movie, and invariably an immature man-child or dumb dad is the butt of the joke—the hapless buffoon. Fortunately, these silly men are always saved from themselves by a smart, witty woman or a conscripted, eye-rolling child.
The emasculation of men has become normalised.
Sensibly, rather than have their balls cut off (sometimes literally, and that often gets a good laugh), men are running for cover in their droves, leaving women mystified and asking, “Where have all the good men gone?”
When I was in secondary school, perhaps 14 years old, there was a girl who patrolled the playground, egged on by her gang of girlfriends, kicking the boys between the legs. Clearly, she had been informed by someone this was the quickest, easiest, and funniest way to bring those stupid boys down to earth.
One day it was my turn. Caught by surprise, I crumpled to the ground after a swift kick to the balls, in too much agony even to cry out. Oh, how the girls laughed! Even then, I abhorred a bully.
The following day, I found my attacker in the playground and, contrary to my upbringing, without warning I kicked her swiftly between the legs. To everyone’s surprise she also crumpled to the ground, in too much agony to cry out. A crowd of cheering boys slapped me on the back—their new avenger.
The girls stared at me wide-eyed in shock—a boy who fought back? No one had told them that was allowed, surely it was against the rules! Equality: it’s a son of a gun.
I remember feeling no satisfaction or honour in defeating a weaker adversary but sometimes, especially in the case of a bully, personal satisfaction and honour is not the point—standing up to their aggression is. As I grew into a man—a good man—I learned to walk away from provocation, as most good men do.
“Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them!” Remember the T-shirts launched in 2003? Followed by coffee mugs, posters, even a book.“Boys tell lies, poke them in the eyes!” Another favourite for young girls at the time. It took a fathers’ rights activist to have this merchandise removed from thousands of retail stores. Inevitably, he was ridiculed by a myopic majority.
Presently, in some areas of the U.K., 80 percent of primary schools have three male teachers or less, one quarter of primary schools have no male teachers at all, and some towns have 65 percent single mother families.
A young boy can go to school and have no adult male role model, and then return home and have no adult male role models.
Young girls are achieving significantly higher academic standards than young boys. This feminisation of schools spills over into university, then the workplace, and eventually the home, completing the insipid cycle and the marginalisation of both boys and men.
I was born in 1968. I grew up with a strong mother, four stronger sisters, and no father. I was taught, not only by my family but also by wider society, to regard women as my equal, and I always have. Yet, unknown to me, a generation of women were being indoctrinated and trained with a sharp-edged tool kit designed to emasculate men.
Men have been subjugating women for centuries; now, they’re getting payback. It seems only fair. The fox has turned on the hounds and she’s packing a punch, or a kick to the balls. But the nature of men when faced with a fight is to fight back, either psychologically or physically.
Clearly there are no winners in this scenario.
The relentless competitive struggle to determine who wears the trousers is simply a turnoff for many men. Many are just opting out of the kind of psychological warfare that is common in relationships today, unwilling to engage in the minefield of mind games, which are usually executed in three ways.
The first is the habitual belittling and denigration of men, in private or in front of friends, family or colleagues, for what is supposed to pass as humour. The second is letting a man know, casually of course, that other men are sexy, have better looks, more money, talent, or fame. The third, and perhaps the most destructive is being told over and over, “We don’t need no man. Men are obsolete.”
I’ve lost count of how often I’ve heard this since adolescence.
If you tell a man often enough that he is surplus to requirements, eventually he will stop expending his energy to convince you and himself otherwise. Men are rapidly waking up to this phenomenon of man-bashing, so much so that a disillusioned social movement has arisen with its own freshly-minted acronym: MGTOW, Men Going Their Own Way.
Supported by websites and online forums, men are regrouping with a common cause, a sense of brotherhood, and finding their voices again.
The essential precepts of MGTOW are financial independence, rejection of chivalry, social preconceptions of what a man should be, and consumer culture which defines masculinity by a man’s house, car, clothes, watch, or cologne. It is the refusal to be shamed into conventional compliance by being told to “man up.”
Many aggrieved MGTOW refuse to marry or even date Western women, the more ardent among them consciously choosing non-committal relationships, strippers, pornography, or celibacy. Above all, goes the MGTOW mantra, maintain sovereignty of self.
I have been dating for more than 35 years, and back in the 1980s, a man was expected to pay for the movie tickets, dinner, flowers, chocolate, the diamond ring, the house. In each subsequent decade these social conventions have slowly eroded, yet to a greater or lesser extent still remain. Long-held social biases, like the wage gap for example, take time to bring to full equality.
It is important to recognise, however, that equality is a two-way street. It is abundantly clear that many men and women are struggling to walk along that street in close proximity, let alone hand in hand. Why? Because for a century we have been digging up and bulldozing said street. Now, it’s full of potholes, power struggles, and barely fit to travel. Yet travel it we must.
The original message of equality has been somewhat skewed. Women often recycle the poorly thought-out doctrine that they are the same as men. Equality is not always sameness, and sameness is not always equality.
For example, women have equal opportunity to go to war and fight side by side with men, but the physical standards to allow them to do so are not the same. And this can be seen across a whole spectrum of professions, from firefighters to ballet dancers.
Equality is not always sameness. Difference is diversity, and should be a cause for celebration, not dogmatic elimination.
Men are often told (but, again, not asked) they are afraid of strong independent women. Many men, tired of such futile debates and wary of being branded a misogynist if they dare to disagree, are simply shutting down and becoming emotionally unavailable to women, taking permanent residence in their man-caves.
The truth is, men love strong and independent women—it turns them on, in every way. What men don’t love are the predominantly masculine traits that often go along with the package. The relentless competitiveness (necessary in the workplace no doubt, but hardly necessary at home in a loving relationship), the verbal aggression, the emotional manipulation, and the psychological controlling are huge turn-offs.
Increasingly, men are just not interested in competing at work and then having to come home and compete with their partners. In the sphere of heterosexual relationships, most women are not attracted to emasculated feminine men, which is fair enough. By the same token, most men are not attracted to masculine, domineering women.
So, these are some of the general and specific issues creating man-deserts, from the perspective of good men.
But what solutions are there? Waking up to our social conditioning is a good place to start.
Many women are beginning to reject the modern brand of feminism, the so called third-wave that is tantamount to thinly veiled misandry. Equally many men, for two or three generations now, are rejecting the attitude that a woman is some kind of second class citizen.
We clearly have work to do on both sides.
Letting go of these destructive modes of thought, communication, and behaviour is an essential process for healthier and happier relationships between men and women.
However, denying these issues will in no way change the interpersonal landscape for the better, and women will continue to ask, “Where have all the good men gone?” while wandering an ever-expanding and barren man-desert.
So, where have all the good men gone?
For now they have gone their own way. But they are out there, in the same desert, contentedly swimming in the oases they have found for themselves, no doubt waiting for the fourth-wave of feminism to wash over them so we can all truly embrace equality, just like the first-wave promised.
Author: Arun Eden-Lewis
Image: Diego Sullivan/ Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren