Friday, February 15, 2008

"Child Man"
or the misandry of feminism

I've been holding off writing about this topic. I wanted some distance between the emotional response I felt and a calmer analysis.

Back in January I heard a story on NPR called Young Men Stuck in Adolescent-Adult Limbo. It stemmed from an op-ed piece, "The child-man" by Kay Hymowitz who was the invited guest on NPR.

In it, Hymowitz argues that men today, especially the 18-34 age group, are in a permanent state of adolescence. She sneers at men who play video games and watch cartoons instead of doing things she'd rather they do.

From the original op-ed:

Consider: In 1970, 69 percent of 25-year-old and 85 percent of 30-year-old white men were married; in 2000, only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the percentage of young guys tying the knot is declining as you read this. Census Bureau data show that the median age of marriage among men rose from 26.8 in 2000 to 27.5 in 2006 – a dramatic demographic shift for such a short time period.

That adds up to tens of millions more young men blissfully free of mortgages, wives and child-care bills.

Men aren't getting married and having kids like they used to. Therefore, they're still children in her opinion.

Of course, as a feminist the same rules don't apply to women. From the same op-ed:

With women, you could argue that adulthood is in fact emergent. Single women in their 20s and early 30s are joining an international New Girl Order, hyper-achieving in both school and an increasingly female-friendly workplace, while packing leisure hours with shopping, traveling and dining with friends.

So what are men doing while women are "emerging"?
Same op-ed again:

Single young males, or SYMs, by contrast, often seem to hang out in a playground of drinking, hooking up, playing Halo 3 and, in many cases, underachieving. With them, adulthood looks as though it's receding.

Obvious eh?

If women are putting off getting married and having kids, they're joining the New Girl Order.

If guys are putting off getting married and having kids, they're drunk horny slackers.

Beyond the obvious double standard and bigotry towards those with the wrong chromosomes, there's this from the op-ed:

For the problem with child-men is that they're not very promising husbands and fathers.

Which brings the situation into focus. Apparently, once the New Girl Order is done shopping, traveling and splitting up the check with her girlfriends she wants to come home to a guy who's paying the mortgage and raising the kids.

Gods, no wonder the marriage rate is declining. Reverse the situation for a moment, if that helps you understand: would any of the New Girl Order wait at home with the kids while Dad was out at a sports bar with their friends?

Isn't that exactly what women were complaining about for years, that men treated them as maids and nannies they didn't have to pay?

Now, guys are expected to shoulder financial and child rearing responsibilities so the New Girl Order can be "empowered"?

Note that it's not even a reversal of roles; men are expected to maintain their financial responsibilities ( i.e. paying the mortgage ) while also taking on the traditional role of women, or at least paying someone else for child care.

Gee, why wouldn't every guy jump right on that?

In many ways, the feminist movement of the 60's did some good. Recognizing that in the workforce what's between someone's ears matters more than what's between their legs was a step forward. I work with a number of people, men and women, who are competent, some even exceptional, in our field.

Yet, there are perhaps unintended consequences. Just as women have discovered they can achieve financial independence through a larger participation in the work force, men have discovered they don't need to lead a life of quiet desperation in service to wives and children.

Feminism helped create the modern America. Feminists shouldn't be surprised at men who've adapted to the modern world and no long seek traditional roles.

After all, it's not like feminists want to return to a bygone era themselves.

1 comment:

Der_General said...

I read this article a couple of weeks ago, and most of my thoughts (as well as the readers' comments at the site where it was posted) were similar to yours. What's funny is that I'm a member of the 18-34 age group, and I would say that a majority of the women I know would love to be able to be stay-at-home moms, but due to the level of material comforts that families have grown accustomed to, they can't afford to. "The grass is always greener..."