A Generation of Men Raised by Women

by Brett on December 13, 2010 · 233 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

“We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”

This comment, made by the Tyler Durden character in the movie Fight Club, is one of the most memorable lines of that film and has oft been repeated and discussed. It’s sticking power is surely due to the way it resonated with many men–how it so succinctly summed up their life’s experience. Products of divorced parents, single mothers, or fathers who spent more time at work than at home, these men lacked a vital example of manhood growing up. Oftentimes, not only was their dad not around, male mentors in other areas of their life were few and far between as well. They understand well Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  lament in The Marble Faun:

“Between man and man there is always an insuperable gulf. They can never quite grasp each other’s hands; and therefore man never derives any intimate help, any heart sustenance, from his brother man, but from women-his mother, his sister, his wife.”

Without male mentors, many men of this generation have felt adrift, unsure of how to deal with an indescribable but acute lack in their lives.

How did we get to the point where it is possible, as Edward Abbey put it, “to proceed from infancy into senility without ever knowing manhood?”

There are three primary social institutions that have historically served to mold young boys into men:  family, religion, and education. Yet the masculine influence of these institutions diminished over the last century. Let’s take a closer look at each.

The Family

During the pre-industrial period, a man’s home was also his workplace. For the farmer and the artisan, “bring your kid to work day” was every day. Father and son worked side by side from sunrise to sunset. Fathers taught by example, not only apprenticing their sons into the trade, but subtly imparting lessons on hard work and virtue.

This relationship was disrupted by the Industrial Revolution, as fathers were forced to abandon the land and the workshop for a place on the assembly line. A clear line was drawn between the home and the workplace. Dad left the tenement in the morning and did not return for 10-12 hours at a time. As we’ve discussed previously, the result of this economic shift was that the home became thought of as the women’s sphere, a feminine refuge from the rough and dirty professional and political realm, the “man’s world.” Children spent all their time with mom, who, as the repository of virtue and morality, was expected to turn her boys into little gentlemen.

The ideal (which was always more ideal than reality) of mom at home and dad at work would persist into the 1950s. This is still a romantic standard many would like to return to, ignoring the fact that such a set-up kept dad away from his children for the bulk of the day, depriving them of his mentoring and creating a culture where his parenting role was deemed subordinate to mom’s.

But at least in that situation dad was around. The divorce rate began to climb at the turn of the century and peaked around 1980 when many states legalized no-fault divorces. And the courts, as they still do today, typically favored the mother when issuing custody rights. Whereas boys once didn’t see their fathers while they were away at work, now they only saw dad on weekends or holidays. And of course, many dads voluntarily fled from the responsibility of their children; the percentage of single parent households (84% of which are headed by single mothers) has doubled since 1970.

Education

Until the mid-nineteenth century, the vast majority of teachers were men. Teaching was not considered a lifelong career but was rather undertaken by young men during the slow periods on the farm or while studying to become a lawyer or minister. Children were thought to be inherently sinful and therefore prone to unruly behavior; they thus needed a strong male presence to keep them in line. As some Christian denominations became more liberal, the emphasis on children’s sinfulness was replaced by a focus on their need to be gently nurtured into morality, a task believed to be better suited to the fairer sex. At the same time, women were marrying and having children at a later age, allowing them more time to teach before settling down. The result was a complete reversal in the gender make-up of the education profession.

In 1870, women made up 2/3 of teachers, 3/4 in 1900, 4/5 in 1910. As a result, boys were spending a significant portion of their day at school but passing the time without the influence and example of an adult male mentor.

Religion

The third institution that has historically socialized boys into men is religion. And during the past century, that religion for a majority of Americans was Christianity. But if the home had become a thoroughly feminized place, the church was hardly a refuge of masculinity.

Women are more likely to be religious than men-and this holds true across time, place, and faith. This means they have historically been more likely to attend religious services and be active in a congregation. And Christian ministers, whether consciously or not, naturally catered their style and programs to their core audience. The Jesus men encountered in the pews became a wan, gentle soul who glided through Jerusalem patting children’s heads, talking about flowers, and crying.

A push back against the perceived feminization of Christianity began around the turn of the 20th century. Referred to as “Muscular Christianity,” its proponents linked a strong body with a strong faith and sought to inject the gospel with a vigorous virility.

The most visible and popular leader of this movement was the evangelical preacher, Billy Sunday. Sunday had been a professional baseball player before undergoing a conversion to Christianity and deciding to devote himself to spreading the faith. Sundays’ preaching style was charismatic and physical; peppering his sermons with baseball and sports references, he would run back and forth, dive to the stage like he was sliding into a base, and smash chairs to make his point.

Obviously struck by the difference in Sunday’s preaching versus the typical “effeminate” style of the day, a journalist described Sunday in action:

“He stands up like a man in the pulpit and out of it. He speaks like a man. He works like a man…He is manly with God and with everyone who comes to hear him. No matter how much you disagree with him, he treats you after a manly fashion. He is not an imitation, but a manly man giving all a square deal.”

Sunday presented Jesus as a virile, masculine Savior; he was “the greatest scrapper who ever lived.” Here was a strong Messiah, an artisan with the rough worn hands of a carpenter, a man who angrily chased money changers out of the temple and courageously endured a painful execution. Faith was not for the meek and sedentary. Sunday believed that a Christian man should not be “some sort of dishrag proposition, a wishy-washy, sissified sort of galoot, that lets everybody make a doormat out of him. Let me tell you, the manliest man is the man who will acknowledge Jesus Christ.” “Lord save us from the off-handed, flabby cheeked, brittle boned, weak-kneed, thin-skinned, pliable, plastic, spineless, effeminate, ossified, three karat Christianity,” he prayed.

Operating on the principle that “The manly gospel of Christ should be presented to men by men,” in 1911 Sunday started “The Men and Religion Forward Movement.” Week long revivals just for men were held to great success; male church attendance increased a whopping 800%.

Yet Sunday didn’t solve the problem of getting men into the church-going habit. With the advent of new sources of entertainment, Sunday’s popularity, and that of revivals generally, died out and the gender imbalance in religion remained thoroughly entrenched.

The Current State of Affairs

With fathers missing in action, schools staffed by female teachers, and churches struggling to connect with their male members, many of the current generation might rightly feel they were “raised by women.” Where does that leave them and the future of masculinity?

It’s truly a mixed bag. Many things remain less than ideal, but there is also room for justified optimism.

The gender imbalance for Christian churches has continued to increase. In 1952, the ratio of female to male active church goers was 53/47; now it is 61/39, and the complaint that the culture of Christianity is overly feminized remains. But churches continue to try to attract men into the fold, with attempts that range from the sincere and thoughtful (Men’s Fraternity), to the patently ridiculous (Football Sunday-wear your favorite team’s NFL jersey and do the wave!).

The numbers aren’t too rosy when it comes to education either. In the last 30 years the percentage of male teachers in elementary schools has fallen slightly, from 17% to 14-9% (depending on the source). The number is even lower for pre-k and kindergarten teachers; only 2% are male. While more male teachers can be found in secondary schools, there has been a decline there as well, from 50% in 1980 to around 40% today. With boys falling behind girls in academic performance, some education experts are actively trying to recruit men into the profession.

Despite continuing problems in the familial sphere and its attendant hand-wringing (1 in 3 American kids will grow up in a home where the parents are either divorced, separated, or never married), there are reasons to be optimistic about this vital institution and the man’s role in it as well.

While it is popularly thought that the divorce rate is increasing, it has in fact been falling for the last three decades and is currently at its lowest level in 30 years. Among those couples who are college-educated, the divorce rate is only 11%.

I’m also hopeful about the future because of the marvelous wonders of technology. I think our modern advancements will allow a greater and greater number of men to work, at least part of the time, from their homes. And I think this will usher in a new archetype of manliness: the Heroic Artisan 2.0.

While it’s easy to feel nostalgic for a time period like the 1950s, I’m happy to be a dad in the modern age. I don’t work 10 hours a day at a job I hate, come home, play with my kids for a few minutes and then crack open a beer in front of the tv. My father traveled a lot and never changed a diaper. He was a great dad, but I’m loving having a much more hands-on role with our new arrival. Say what you will about the feminism movement, but I’m happy to have been “liberated” from the Industrial Revolution ideal of being the absentee bread winner. If there’s one generational difference I notice between my parents’ generation and mine, is that my generation values time over money. And not because we’re lazy either, but because we’re not willing to trade time with the people we love most for a gold watch at retirement.

Me and the Gus

According to a recent survey, 76% of adults said their family was the most important element of their life, and 40% say their current family is closer than the family in which they grew up.

These statistics bear out the real reason for my optimism about manhood and the family, which is truthfully simply based on the gut feeling I get from engaging and talking with other men in my life. The guys I know who grew up feeling like they were “raised by women” are earnestly dedicated to doing better by their kids than their dads did by them. They want to be as much a part of their kids’ lives as possible. Although it’s not a very scientific sample, in the situations I know of where a family has broken up, it was the guy who wanted to keep the marriage together and wanted more custody of the children. Even when divorce couldn’t be avoided, these men do all they can to remain part of their children’s lives.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my optimism about the future of manliness is, well, the popularity of this website. I’ve been rather astounded and quite humbled by how quickly it has grown over the last 3 years. Some people say that it’s “sad” that men need to learn how to be men from a website. Such criticism seems to be born of an assumption that boys pop out of the womb with an innate sense of everything there is to know about being a man. Of course that’s not the case—we learn how to be a man from the mentors in our lives. And for many men, those men simply weren’t around growing up. Or even if they were–and in what is yet another reason I am optimistic about the future-they still desire to improve themselves, to learn as much as they can and utilize their potential to the utmost. Yes, ideally you should learn manliness from your father and other mentors, and the art of manliness should be passed down from generation to generation. But where there’s a link missing in that chain, we’re happy to stand in the gap–imparting information that you can pass down to your kids, a generation that will hopefully be raised by women and men.

There’s a lot to chew on here, and I’m really looking forward to a great discussion of the topic and hearing what you have to say. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Source:

Manhood in America by Michael Kimmel

{ 233 comments… read them below or add one }

201 Matt Reichert December 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

I can’t believe there are actually men on here who are talking about being stay at home dads, as if its plausable. The idea is so f–ked up! Come on editors! The FIRST responsibility of any man is to be able to provide for himself, then a wife and then children. If you throw that idea out then you are just running by your own feelings, which is totally feminine. You reject God’s plan for family structure (Bible) and you have nothing. You think this society is bad? You wouldn’t even want to see one raised by stay at home dads. Someone please delete Miss Sennetts post! Why are women even on here? This site is now deleted from my Favorites.

202 Majorshadow December 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Song “Stand” a song about facing adversity.
Hear it @ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3MxZcls24o

203 Karyn December 23, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Jay Stang, thank you for your polite reply. Maybe ‘sexist’ wasn’t the right term for me to use in describing your address to Jay Sennet’s post. It’s true, I did lump you in with others whose tone differed from yours, and I apologize.

I *do* disagree with your statements to Mr. Sennet (that feels so formal, but you’re both called Jay, with the last initial S). In the first place, there is much more to transitioning from one gender to the other than surgery. Perhaps you were only being brief for reasons of your own, but the way you stated it, belittles the entire process of transitioning to a simple procedure, something that could be done on a whim.

Secondly, out of all the things to be found in Mr Sennet’s story, the only thing you addressed was the gender change…and only to say that it was not real or true. Why would you do that? Why is that so important to you? What ‘truth’ are you trying to impart here? Mr Sennet has been living as a man for several years now and had interesting observations about the difference in how he is treated. To me, *that* is more important than how he got there. Your post felt like a complete denial of who Mr Sennet is, who he says he is, and who he holds himself out as. The erasure of a person’s life is hard for me to accept.

Would you feel differently if the post had been by someone who, without any medical intervention, lived as a man as Billy Tipton did? Or someone who did so as a sociological experiment, not because they truly felt they were in the wrong body? Obviously, you don’t have to explain your feelings to me, but I am interested in a dialog, if you are.

Lastly, your recent post seemed to me that you didn’t like being grouped in with sexism. If that is so, why did you not call out the sexist posts, from folks such as Matt Reichert, above?

204 Amber December 24, 2010 at 11:25 am

I’m one to believe that the only reason people are affected by not having a father around (or a mother) is because society has ingrained it so much in our minds that WE HAVE TO HAVE both parents to be truly happy and successful, when this isn’t necessarily the case. My fiance’s father died when he was young. He has a tough mother, and while he has a step-father, his step-father takes little part in his life. However, while I do say my fiance’s mother is tough, she’s tough for all the wrong reasons. She’s one of those who doesn’t take any crap from him and doesn’t really care to listen to how he feels about anything. So when he came into a relationship with me, he was a little emotionally damaged. Having a good father might have helped this, but gender has little to do with the baggage he carried into our relationship. Inevitably, I, the female, whom this article seems to imply I can’t do, ended up toughening him up and making him less sensitive to things he used to become easily upset about. I was never cruel to him, either, in this process of toughening him up. Rather, I gave him both sensitivity and tough love to deal with his issues, and I think I created a better man out of him than his parents could have ever done. You can argue if he had had a father around he wouldn’t have needed my help, but his father was also abusive, so what’s your argument then?

While I agree this article is well written and well-argued, I’m a little saddened by the implications. I consider myself a postmodernist and so believe just about everything we know and do is socially conditioned. So ideas of masculinity are false social notions, as well as ideas of femininity. Believe it or not, being masculine in the 19th century mean you didn’t do labor, you didn’t go to war, you got manicures, you kept up your appearance, and wearing pink was masculine because it was considered a watered-down version of red. Of course, you could only afford to do this if you were upper middle or upper class, but those kind of men were looked upon as the ideal man.

While I like this magazine and find it better than most men and women’s magazines out there, I don’t really like how this article seems to imply we need to define what masculinity is (excluding the fact that I’m female). I also don’t like how this article implies that women who raise boys raise “wimps.” This not only damns men raised by women, but also implies femininity is inferior and in no way empowering. I know plenty of men I consider men who were raised by single mothers, and I think they’ll agree as well they turned out just fine.

Rather than defining what it means to be a man or a woman, we need to define what it means to be individuals. If a man is perfectly happy doing things considered feminine, why damn him? This is further increasing the gender misery we all know is prevalent in society but are still busy going about trying to define what it means to be a man or woman. I’m not even asking myself what it means to be a woman. I’m concerning myself with what it means to be an individual.

And that’s what everybody needs to do, male or female.

205 Susie Homemaker December 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Amber, was it a social condition that caused me to begin menstruation in preparation for bearing children? Hmm I don’t think your assumption is correct.

206 Jay Stang December 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Karyn,

I disagree with your opinion that a person can transition fully and permanently from one gender to another. Jay Sennet has severe psychological problems, and seeks relief by creating the illusion of being a man. In my opinion, Sennet is afflicted mentally, just like schizophrenic, OCD, MPP sufferers, etc. Gender confusion and homosexuality are accepted as normal human behavior by many people, mainly because these two groups of people have a very effective public relations team and strategy for realizing their goals. Obviously, they have been successful, since you believe this to be possible/normal.

A person feels they need to switch genders not on a whim, but as a result of severe mental disturbances, which should be addressed by the medical community, instead of being enabled by them.

I addressed the gender change because that stuck out to me. I read the rest of his post, but was not interested in understanding the perspective of a person who is lying to herself put forth her opinions on being a man. It is interesting that you characterized my post as misogyny, since you believe Sennet to be a man. If Sennet were really a man, you would have to classify my post as misandry, not misogyny. I am not attempting to erase her life. Sennet is doing so by disavowing the gender she was given at birth. Yes, it is a complete denial on my part of who she is, and who she holds herself out as.

I would not feel differently if the post had been by someone living as a man with no medical intervention, because the mechanics of pretending to be someone you are not do not concern me. If you are born a woman, you are a woman, and vice versa. No amount of intervention by anyone will reverse that. I wonder, during the surgery, if she had her ovaries removed? Even so, she would still be a woman.

I did not like my post being grouped in with sexism, because it wasn’t sexist. Furthermore, you need to define the word “sexist” as you are using it, because I am sure you and I have different definitions of the word. I did not call out Matt Reichert’s post because I completely agree with it. A woman’s place is in the home, unless necessary to feed her children, not to buy new cars and flat screen tv’s. All children prefer their mothers to be present as much as possible. I know my son would be very upset if his mother was not around him as much as possible. My wife chose this life willingly, which is why she married me. If she did not want to pursue the life she and I lead, she would have married someone else.

207 Amber December 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm

@Susie,

What does menstruation seriously have to do with anything? When I mean everything we know and do, I mean the choices we make on a day-to-day basis. I am not talking about something we cannot control. If you’re trying to make some implied argument about hormones, you can choose to control your hormones, not your hormones control you.

@Jay

It is sexist to claim women need to be at home because it’s implying ALL women need to be at home, whether or not they want to be. It’s taking away that realm of choice for women. While your wife may be happy, the fact that you think women belong in the home is damning in itself because not all women are happy in the home, believe it or not. I for one am one of those women, and I don’t even need to work. I choose to work, to have a career, because it’s what makes me happy and fulfilled. Would you deny all women that happiness because you feel that ALL women belong in the home? Would you deny your daughter this happiness? Your mother? Your grandmother? Your sister, if you have one? If you have a daughter, I frankly hope you give her the option of choice, because that is what is so wonderful about living in 2010. Women have choices. We aren’t limited to homemakers.

All children would prefer their fathers to be home. I most certainly did as a child whenever my father had to go overseas because he was in the military. I was affected just as much over my father leaving as my mother leaving. All children would likely want their parents equally home, not just their mothers.

208 Jay Stang December 25, 2010 at 1:03 am

Amber,

Please define sexist.

Society functions best when mothers stay home and raise their own children. Botttom line. Your choice to work outside the home if you have young children robs them of the foundation they need for an emotionally stable upbringing. No woman should be forced into this lifestyle, however. You only have to look at the muslim world to see how damaging it is for women to be ordered around and ruled like slaves. Women should choose it out of concern for the wellbeing of their children, and should not consider it as drudgery or misery. Every generation has to get here somehow, and our society gets progressively worse as traditional gender roles are scorned by those who claim to have a better way.

209 Big Fully December 25, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Hmmm…a very interesting article and discussion. I am not always entirely sure where my opinion lies in many arguments and discussions. I can often see truth in both sides but perhaps that is to be expected as the world is not simple black and white.

I was primarily raised by my father and it is unclear but often thought by myself and other family members that my mother may not even like me. I have two younger brothers who get along well with her but I was a daddy’s boy. I did everything with him the moment I could walk. Mom was the one that ruined the fun. She for no apparent reason would not let me hang out with friends or use the phone or the tv. No one, including my dad, understood it. She went steadily down hill in the family life until she finally left when I was in high school. It was for the better but I can’t help but think that if she would have a more full time job perhaps she wouldn’t have gotten board and left.

I think women have the right to go out and work. I don’t think that there is any problem with the men staying home and taking care of their children. It is whatever works best for the family. Perhaps both of you need to work in order to be happy. Then it is your responsibility to make time for your children or perhaps don’t have any. The world is over populated any way. If my mom would have not stayed home every day, I probably would have been happier. My youngest brother who is the spoiled mama’s boy has some issues. Almost 19 and still has never had a job. Gets everything given to him and takes everything for granted. Perhaps that provides reasons why men should be involved but to tell the truth, after mom left, dad raised us all and that is where my brother lives, with my dad and always has.

My point is that nothing is black and white and each situation is different. To paint the world in black and white is to simply misunderstand the way the world is. If it was black and white, then it wouldn’t be hard to find your way through it.

Both genders are struggling to be on top, but neither seem to understand what it is to really be a man or woman. To be a man is many things and so is being a woman. But being a parent has no room for only being one or the other regardless of how many parents are in the household and what gender they are. A single male parent should understand what exactly needs to be done in order to take care of their child and the same goes for a female parent. I am not a parent but if I was a single parent, I would strive to be the best of both worlds regardless of what I thought a “man” should be. If my child needs a mother because they hurt themselves or because they were hurt by someone else, then I am going to be the best mother I can be. When its time to drop the hammer and teach them a lesson on manners or something manly, then I will be the man I have to be. But once that child is born, and if you plan on being a parent, your roles are second to what your child needs. Although my father was a great father, he was never a mother when one was needed, but neither was my mother.

210 Jay Stang December 26, 2010 at 1:52 am

Big Fully,

I am not saying that it will never work out to be a single mom, or dad, or have both parents work, or any kind of family situation. All I am saying is that the optimal arrangement is a married mother and father, the father works and the mom takes care of the kids and the house.

You can’t always expect to have that arrangement, but it is the best chance for children to grow up healthy, happy and well adjusted.

I am also not implying that men are better than women or vice versa. I do believe that men are better at some aspects of the childraising, and women are better than others. You need both. One isn’t better, the mother and father are complementary to each other. Mom teaches you compassion, mercy and kindness. Fathers are discipline, rules, justice and fairness.

211 Nataraj Hauser December 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Interesting. I am here to say being raised by women – even strong women – is not detrimental to an adult life as a ‘real’ man. My dad, who was largely absent because he worked 2 full-time jobs to provide for his one-and-only wife and 5 kids, died when I was 10. I was raised by my mom and 2 strong sisters. Mom taught me to *think*, and my older sister taught me to be a go-getter. As an adult, I became a solid provider for my 23-years and counting wife, a black belt in TKD with cross-training in aikido, Muay Thai kickboxing, and kung fu (in which I fought full contact). Now at 48, I am a member of an aerial dance company and am in superb physical shape. I own 3 motorcycles (she has 2). We backpack and travel on the motorcycles, often camping. With my *partner* I have a well-shared life. I cook and clean, mow and garden, and attempt home repairs. She does the same. We both decide on home decor, etc. I groom sufficiently and dress appropriately for circumstances (I own a good suit and several sport coats, know how to iron, and how to properly wear a tie…and I have grungy clothes for knocking around). I would say I turned out to be an amazingly-well balanced man, something that might not have happened if my father had had more influence. I don’t mean that with disrespect: I mean that his idea of a man was formed during the Depression and WWII. Men did X and women did Y and there was not much overlap.

There’s a lot to love about AoM, and I think it provides a valuable service to men. I too lament the lack or Rites of Passage for young men. Let’s explore that topic, shall we? I have been involved in creating rites in the Pagan community, but it was wildly different than expected: The “young men” who sought the rite were generally in their 40′s!

212 Jay Stang December 26, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Wow. I am not saying that you are guaranteed to be screwed up if your father is not involved in your life in a positive way. All I am saying is that kids have the best chance of turning out right with that. It would be foolish to claim in absolute terms that if you don’t have a mother and father you might as well forget it.

Obviously, people are going to write in like Nataraj with his life story. That is good that you turned out alright. Thousands of young men don’t! The outliers will always be there. The vast majority of kids without dads suffer.

213 Don K. December 26, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Something like 70% of all long-term prison inmates come from single parent families, so both men and women have important roles in parenting. It does NOT take a village to raise a child, all it takes is two parents. Don’t get me wrong, many single parents do a fantastic job. Unfortunately, too many do not. It angers and saddens me whenever I think about the millions of children in this country who have no idea who have no idea who their daddy is.

Militant feminism (the group that believes every person with an “outie” between their legs should be exterminated) has been a major problem. I’ve heard stories about young boys being berated and in many cases being brought to tears in school because they’re being fed the sexist feminist propaganda that men are the cause of all of the world’s ills and thus are all evil solely because of their gender. It sickens me how certain sexism and racism is encouraged in some circles of our society.

I was watching a rerun of “Roseanne” the other night when I noticed the following dialogue (not exact)…

Dan screwed up and…
Roseanne (in an insulting manner): You’re such a man! (and storms out of the room)
DJ: Dad, why did mom call you a man like that? I thought it was a good thing to be a man?
Dan: No son, not since the late sixties.

That was intended as a joke but IMO, that sums it up perfectly.

214 Nataraj Hauser December 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I did not write in response to Jay’s comment, but rather the post in general. My point was that yes, having a male-female parenting situation *might* be ideal. I can also tell you from significant second-hand life histories that overbearing dads can be a complete cluster f*ck to developing young men too, especially if they are perceived as “sissies” in any way (and may the gods help you if you are gay). My situation is possibly – possibly – better as a result of being raised by my mom only.

I think the bigger issue might be that the formerly male-centric pattern has shifted, and traits that once were desirable and “manly” are not welcome or even appropriate today. For the first time ever, more than 50% of the workforce is women; and for every 2 men getting a bachelors degree, 3 women are, so it is going to change even faster for the next 20 years or so. How men behaved, especially towards women, will no longer be acceptable. The physical strength (and sometimes intimidation) of men is less valued in most of the labor market.

What traits are appropriate for men when our wee ones grow up? It is radically different than when our fathers became adults. Men need to find new – and appropriate – avenues to channel testosterone-driven behavior. That’s not inherently bad, just different. “Fight Club” takes a stab at it, but that just emphasizes the brute (remember, I fought full contact for years so I totally understand the draw, but my wife never really did).

Great topic.

215 Jay Stang December 27, 2010 at 12:05 am

Nataraj,

There is a lot of flexibility in gender roles to a point. The limits of that flexibilty are determined by biology; as in men can’t bear the children. Obviously, having a dad who is kind of a dickhead isn’t great.

Shifting trends aren’t always good in and of themselves. The more women that enter the workplace, the more wages decrease, and the less likely it is that men can earn enough to support a family without the wife go to work. The more people in the labor pool, the less each worker is worth, basic supply and demand. Division of labor requires the delineation of roles in the family. The men do the work outside the house, and the women raise the kids. If both parents work, then the job of parenting is not done as thoroughly by either parent, in general.

216 Nataraj Hauser December 27, 2010 at 10:32 am

Hey Jay, that last post was interesting and sort of launched my brain into overdrive (great way to start the morning!). In particular, this caught my attention, “The more women that enter the workplace, the more wages decrease,”

First response: Huh…true dat.
Second response: A nasty paradigm (undervaluing women doing the same work) that will likely change as the balance in the market tilts toward women in the majority (assumes women as management, obviously). I think that the imbalance is temporary and self-correcting. As an aside, I also predict the pendulum of change will inevitably swing too far and *men* will be marginalized for some period of time. Undesirable to be sure, but predictable. Call me Cassandra.

217 Jay Stang December 27, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Nataraj,

The pendulum will swing side to side. It really depends on women, whether they collectively decide that their lives are more fulfilling fighting the rat race and competing in the professional world, or being with their children. When that happens, they will leave the work force in greater numbers, and men’s wages will rise.

218 KermitKebab December 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm

I would like to add a comment on the possibly falling divorce rate. So far as I know the divorce rate in this nation has held steady at about 50%-55%, much higher if the results of second marriages only are concerned. One of the reasons why the divorce rate among married people is not rising is because men simply don’t bother to get legally married. Nobody marries for sex anymore. If there is an unwanted pregnancy well, we have very easy abortions. Children that are actually brought to term can be supported through child support payments (often inadequate) or just abandoned if possible. So, once again, any statistic require thoughtful interpretation.

219 KermitKebab December 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Having by now read a good deal of all these comments I find it interesting that the subject of religion’s role in helping young men establish their manhood has sparked mostly extremely opposite camps. If one examines the foundations of religion (any religion) one sees some very balanced high ideals (provided one takes the writings as a whole and doesn’t simply take certain verses out of context to serve our own purposes). The problem with religion is that, by and large, the churches have failed utterly to live up to there own published standards. Their emphasis on making money, their support and participation in war and persecution (beginning long before the crusades), their so-called “social gospel” and their “feel good” message and poor attempts to remain “relevant” to society have left western societies with a moral and ethical vacuum. All of this has provoked great animosity towards religion (often very well deserved). Unfortunately most people throw the baby out with the bath water – that is, they have lost faith in the Bible based on the poor example of those organizations who preach it and claim to live by it but who do not. The fact that churches increasingly allow pastors, priests and ministers to remain in positions of authority is a poignant demonstration of that fact. Very contradictorily to what the Bible says about what should become of such men. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) I am not suggesting hanging errant shepherds. Only removing them, probably permanently.

The problem with the lack of relevant role models, while it has many sociologically relevant causes, is really just a reflection of the general decline of standards (read: morality) in western societies. There now are no rules, no absolutes. Nothing is right or wrong, you can do what you want and the churches do nothing to correct that. If they had the courage to attempt that they would certainly have less parishioners (and contributors) than they have at the current time. And they know it. And people are to blame also, for they have, as the Bible says, accumulated teachers to themselves “to have their ears tickled”. (2 Timothy 4:3) People in general do not like to be told that they are doing some things wrong. The complete devastation of any value system, beginning in modern times after World War I (which, incidentally was rigorously supported by the churches on both sides) has led to a current generation without anything to believe in themselves, much less to inculcate in their sons and daughters.

So men (and women) grow up without guidance of any sort, victimized by the winds of whatever is the current philosophy on child-rearing (or anything else) and since they themselves have no idea what they should believe, how could they possibly set any example or recommend values for the next generation? Yes, we are all of weak (or, if you prefer sinful) nature. To quote Katherine Hepburn to Humphrey Bogart in “the African Queen”: “Nature, Mr. Ulnut, is what we have been put on earth to rise above.”

It is time to stop blaming the times. It is time for those who would claim to be Leaders, Teachers or Shepherds to give up their waddling, their indecision, their hypocrisy and to set an example. If they cannot do that (or choose not to) then the best thing they could do would be to step aside. While I am not here telling people specifically that they should return to some particular belief system I am at least suggesting that they think about it, stop complaining, open their eyes and go looking. Stop just sitting there complaining and bemoaning your lot in life. If we do not take responsibility for ourselves who else is going to do it? And if what we discover requires changes in our lifestyle or our own self-discipline so be it. If you don’t have the courage or the wisdom then try asking for it. It’s out there. It may even come knocking at your door.

220 KermitKebab December 28, 2010 at 6:17 pm

I have not thought much about the feminist movement for a long time. I grew up during the time that it began (at least the part from say, 1960 onward), I remember it well. Now, it seems, that feminism as it was once understood, is dead. That is not to say that it accomplished nothing. Indeed, the role of women today, their rights and recognition, have been immensely enhanced because of this old-style “feminism”. I suppose what I should call it to be more precise is “radical” feminism. The radical part is what has passed away (although I understand that there are still “pockets” of it surviving among Wiccans, Lesbians or just plain “Radicals” for want of another term). I haven’t met one in a long time. It is typical of surviving societies (not necessarily “healthy” or “growing” societies) that they absorb everything and neutralize anything radical. So, as growing your hair long (for a man) is no big deal anymore (my father would have thrown me out on the street had I tried that) so today women enjoy, if not equal rights, at least “more-equal” rights. Obviously there are still differences. And this is not entirely the fault of men. Women allow it to exist just as much. Having attained more freedom most women are no longer interested in rocking the boat or in upsetting the men in their lives (or especially in finding a man to share their lives). I am defending nobody’s position. For the most part I am an observer. I have always had that tendency. Yes, of course, from time to time one side or the other would’ve liked to burn me at the stake. So far I have escaped.

I remember when certain radical feminists started to stand on street corners and burn their bras. Considering that I was, at the time, about 15 years old I considered it a wonderful idea. Sometimes i still do. My mother was not a feminist. Actually that had nothing to do with her political or social views. My mother had no political or social views. She was, as the psychologists and social workers used to say, a “co-dependent”. I used to think of her as a coward. Now I know better.

I remember reading a news account of a radically inclined female professor at Amherst University in, I believe, Massachusetts (a one-time stronghold of radical feminism) who, although it was in no way class related, forced her male students to place condoms on bananas during a class as a way of impressing on them that men had a responsibility for birth control as well as women. I am glad such times have passed (although I saw her point). That is something men still refuse to be responsible for, especially when they are single. So I can honestly say that during its time of great energy feminism was indeed an effective influence on male development.

The thing which I believe contributed most to the decline of feminism was that it was all too often led by women who were angry – and assertive. Not that they did not have the right to be angry. It’s just that after awhile most women considered it more important the get the man than to hold on to the anger. So it goes. I would not teach feminist ideals to my son. I would teach him much older values such as respect and honor and bestowing dignity upon those whom they are supposed to cherish. And I would teach them first to respect themselves, so they would not be so inclined to dominate women merely as a way to avoid facing their own insecurity. But then, I am older now. Perhaps I am just old-fashioned.

221 Martin January 1, 2011 at 10:17 pm

I was raised by a single mom for 8 years and this article really struck a tune with me. I have a step father now who i’am always proud to call my dad but, for a long time there wasn’t anyone to call dad and it is important to have that.

222 Mike January 3, 2011 at 4:51 pm

the Mens Fraternity mentioned in the above article has a video series that can be viewed online. The first one is free and the others are $3.00 each

Worth the money to me. I was overly bonded to mother and learned from her emotions to ridicule men that were strong because she had issues with her depression era father. A man that worked a job, hunted, fished, kept a garden, and raised animals. Mom changed religious affiliation and being in the military kept our family moving – always away from relatives.

As a toddler, my spirit was crushed unintentionally by a Marine Corp father that was absent most of the time until his death in an auto accident when I was age 8.
Filled with rage, I rebelled against my step father (also a Marine – yikes!)
My whole life seemed regimental and disconnected from even limited emotional attachments with anyone. Eternal boot camp.

Another good site dealing with this manhood subject is Lifeskillsintl.org

223 Dean Mehrkens January 5, 2011 at 7:24 am

Excellent article. I think you’ve framed the issue very well. Now if we can only convince men to overcome their upbringing to stand up and act like men.

224 matthew January 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Brett et al.
I am an admirer of Tyler Durden and his delusional ‘Jack’ self. I have not read all comments but I might suggest Orthodox Christianity as a measure by which we may better understand the notions of motherhood/fatherhood and its role in our lives as women and men. It is also interesting to note the role burly beards, our adoption by death through Christ as “sons” of God (male and female alike, as daughters of that period were held in low esteem), and the Orthodox understanding of God as ‘Our Father’ plays in the daily lives of all mankind and specifically Orthodox believers.

Much of life has been stripped away by our ‘modern world’ yet there is authenticity and satisfaction to be had for those who dare to fail and sweat and bleed.

There are martyrs in our midst, read Fr. Arseny: http://www.amazon.com/Father-Arseny-1893-1973-Narratives-Concerning/dp/0881411809

I stop by AoM from time to time as it is entertaining and useful, plus I am a fellow Okie (lived in Edmond and OKC) and very near you in age.

On the Eve of Holy Theophany,
John the Forerunner

225 Pidass, Stu January 6, 2011 at 6:07 am

Having no male influences are better than having bad male influences. I was raised by a pack of ferule females, and it got me a long way in this world.

Stu

226 Niko January 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

This is a really great post. I’ve been following this site for about three months now and feel that it is having a positive affect on my life and my role as a man. thanks for writing.

Niko

227 Sal O. January 8, 2011 at 11:03 am

@ Matt Reichart

Although the recession is slowly getting better, traditionally male-dominated industries (like retail and manufacturing) remain hard hit. The strongest and fastest growing industries include healthcare (nursing in particular) are often female-dominated. For many people it is an economic necessity to be a stay-at-home dad. I am a stay-at-home dad and economics was a factor in my decision. My partner is a nurse at a nationally ranked hospital. I work(ed) as a retail store manager. With the birth of our child, my partner’s salary and benefits were much better than mine. In fact, when we factored in benefits like health insurance and added in the cost of daycare in a major city, my take-home was minimal. As time goes on, my partner will always make more money than I do. She has two Bachelor’s degrees and is both a RN and a CPA. Me, I have a BA in English Lit. I’m fine with that.

The other part of staying home with my child is the ability to be a very pro-active and involved parent. No, I am not a helicopter parent. And my child is only six months old, but I am far more involved in areas like her healthcare. As she gets older, I will continue to be a strong influence on my child’s development. I come from a traditional two-parent home. My folks remain together, happily married for 40 years. They have always made it clear that a man does what is best for his family. That means putting children first. My dad took a leave of absence to care for my brother when he was an infant and required care after a surgery. Doing whatever it takes to take care of your family, that’s what a man does. It’s not irrational. It’s dedication and love.

228 Robert January 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

This is the mother for our future!

229 Tom January 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

My experience being raised by a single mother had a devastating effect on my life.
My parents divorced when I was six, and I was raised by my mother. I love my mom with all my heart, but I came to realize she did me a great disservice. I can still remember her bad mouthing my father for not spending more time with me, for not paying the child support on time. Oh she never came out and said it like that, it was always phrased like “Your father won’t pick you up this weekend, he has to work” or “You’ll get that new bike as soon as your father sends the check”. It made me ashamed of, and angry at my father. I couldn’t count how many times she would say something like “Your so sweet” when I did something she wanted, but it was generally followed with “Unlike your father”. In my teens, just like any other teen I rebelled, but by this point my rebellion consisted of passively avoiding whatever the conflict was about. The few times I dared argue or raise my voice I was treated with “You sound just like your father!”. I had been trained that doing nice things and doing as I was told earned praise and any resistance earned the label of the shameful father.
I’ve never been able to maintain a relationship because I’m a sweet little doormat, feeling ashamed anytime my wants conflicted with my partners. Now I’m in my thirties and I finally having a decent relationship with my dad, but I’m still digging my way through my insecurities.
Many things didn’t click until I was much older, such as my mother, as an RN had much greater earning potential than my father, yet chose a low paying job at a not-for-profit. Or that while I lived in a three bedroom house, my father lived in a one bedroom duplex. I’ve always wondered how many of those weekends I missed with my father were because he was working extra to pay child support and alimony.
I don’t blame my mother for everything, I’ve talked to her about it and she regrets a lot of the things she did. When she and my dad were having problems, she sought support, unfortunately the support she found was a feminist group that convinced her she needed a divorce, and to fight for as much money from my dad as possible. To support me of course, it was all about supporting me, and if my dad fought back he was obviously a bad person.

The worst part is many people that are upset that I blame my mother at all. Or that I have disdain for feminism. I’m told that I need to “man up” and accept responsibility, yet we can only do as we are taught, until we learn something better.

230 Kamilo. February 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Amazing article. Matt Reichert I think you need to calm down, not everybody is religious, and everybody has different lives and different experiences. I see you totally didnt get the editor`s point either – by saying that this article makes it seem as if a dad being more at home with his family is `plausable`. What you say that a man`s FIRST responsibility, is to take care of himself and then his woman and children, is totally bezerk. What kind of man is immature enough, to after having kids, still be thinking about himself and putting himself before his kids. Maybie I understood you wrong here. If i didnt, you need to take another good look at your priorities mr. That`s softly speaking. I didnt have a dad around and I was raised by my mother, which gave me everything, I`ve had it all with her. She has been my whole family.. but -a mom is a mom, and a dad is a dad. Ofcourse kids raised with their mother longed for that masculine role model. This article tackled that pretty accurately. Read it again.

231 Keith March 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Man was first placed upon this earth with a purpose and an ordained position in the hierarchy of a biblical God or mythological diety. Men have been giving the assignment to be that which the rest of creation was inhabited for him to lead. His soulmate and the fruit/children offspring of that relationship were meant to be safe under his covering and by his nature to be provider and protector. It’s not sexist to understand and the nature and nurturing of the women\mothers in our lives. They have known each of us at least 9 months longer than the rest of us will ever know. Yet there is a time for growth inside of each acorn-soul. Every branch and limb must be cultivated by both parents even when they chose to exist apart. I once read its been said “A man has a right to be the father of his children”. It should not be equated with the right to vote, the right to bare arms or drive an automobile. A mans rights to his children, especially his son(s), are his responsibility, no matter what decree or disconnect that is needed to creat a more solid bond with the legacy before and after another manhood turns into a generation of building instead of breakups. I love my sons as if my life depended on it. I hope they see it in my eyes and know it in their hearts. You dont have to be a myth to your sons. You can still be a hero by fighting the war of status quo with victorious living for them to follow. Don’t give up!!!

232 WATANABE! March 28, 2013 at 8:42 pm

What brought me to this article was a google search on men raised by women. My father was inactive although he lived with us, he was abusive to my mother as well. He died when I was fourteen and he was thirty nine. I got alot of manly influence from friends, NBA players, an uncle or two and my mentor. My mentor helped me stay out of trouble by introducing me to the life of a DJ. Needless to say, I learned key skills like mingling, conducting business respectfully, and delivering what the customer wanted. After going away to college and living abroad I returned home and needed a place to stay and my mentor conveniently needed a roommate, first sign. I’ve been living with the guy a whole year now, and have come to realize that this guy violates a lot of man codes. He gossips, he bad mouths other men to get women instead of upplaying himself and his qualities, he’s overly anal about domestic things around the house, and worst of all he nags like a bitch and has a victim mentality. I’ve brought alot of women home and I know there’s been nights where he had no choice but to hear me fuck all night… But I’ve yet to hear him or see him with woman. I now wonder what bad qualities of his I may have acquired… At least I got the getting women to the track part down pat

233 M. Dillehay November 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

Another thing that hurts masculinity is the pill and the shot forms of birth control. It tricks the female body into thinking it is pregnant and in effect attracts them more towards less masculine guys / guys with lower levels of testosterone. That right there makes it easier for the sparkle fairy variety of man to start a family than a more masculine male.

As for what the bible states as a family, that does not matter considering that this is a nation of “all religion goes or lack thereof”.

Stay at home dads? Not an issue. I know a couple of them and they are good fathers and FAR from feminine. It today’s society it is harder to make a living unless you either live with family, have room mates, or you get a four year degree and even sometimes that is not enough. People are lucky if they can keep at least one parent home to raise the kids because depending on the area you live in, it could be cheaper to have one person to stay home and not work or it could be cheaper to do it the other way around.

The biggest issue I see with the denutting of the current make population is first the pill / shot that Ilisted before, and the government forcing itself into our homes and telling us what we can and can not say and how we can and can not act out in public. And then there is the media and music industry pushing the image of no muscle having, sickly thin, make up wearing boys with more gel in their hair than a woman and pants so tight their balls can’t even drop as being what should make them all insta-wet.

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