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.


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.


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!


Manhood in America by Michael Kimmel

{ 233 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Peter Ryan December 13, 2010 at 8:55 pm

A great article Brett,

Interestingly, as the product of a single parent family, where it was just my Mum and my older Sister I ahve been searching all my likfe for positive role models.

I guess this is why I launched my own site looking at good behaviours from men (having seen many bad) – http://www.todays-gentleman.com

Perhaps this is just part of my cathartic journey to connect with men of solid character and good intentions.

Thanks for articulating it so well Brett. As always, I look forward to your next post.

102 Mark December 13, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Great article. Someone above mentioned Boy Scouts as a place for boys to have male mentors, but I watched my troop slowly drift away as many other places to learn from male mentors have drifted.

When I first joined, the troop was run by men and all of the older boys were tough and had fun camping, canoeing, shooting, etc. You were expected to hold your own and man up. By the time I became one of the older boys and senior patrol leader, I noticed that there were multiple women leaders and that many of the younger boys were… well… weenies. I don’t mean that they were scrawny, I mean in the sense that they were mama’s boys. The wouldn’t do any physical activity, couldn’t stand up for themselves, and weren’t expected to be responsible for their duties and obligations to their fellow scouts. The mother’s babied them and always had excuses why they couldn’t do what they were expected to. The held their hands through every activity.

Within a few years, it went from being a rough and tumble troop to a no sugar in the bug juice, Ritalin addicted, mommy daycare.

I see this in our society as a whole, and it makes me sick. No one is, or is expected to be, self reliant and responsible for their actions. I just hope more people take to this site and other sites and books that push the message of being strong, responsible men (and women).

103 Bryan December 13, 2010 at 10:10 pm

This post really connects with me. I lost my dad to a completely unexpected heart failure in 2006. I was a sophomore in college and only days away from my 20th birthday. Since his passing, I have experienced a wide range of emotions, but it is not until I spend quality time with my uncle (dad’s brother) that I realize the impact Dad could have had on me in my adult life. I spend a LOT of time with my fiance, and other than the occasional weekend with positive male role models like my aforementioned uncle or the future father-in-law, I really feel like my life is truly lacking that incredibly important influence that only a father can provide. My self-efficacy, confidence, and therefore career have suffered simply because I never quite feel like I am at my best, and I do feel like the lack of male influence has a lot to do with that.

Any time I can get away from the corporate grind of city life and spend time in the outdoors, I get to rediscover what it feels like to be a man. What I struggle with is the ability to transfer that feeling of back into my everyday working life.

I know that a father’s presence can never be replaced, but do you have any tips for the [daily] restoration of confidence and that manly feeling that the progressive gender roles of our society have done such a good job of retarding?

(I added “daily” because it is easy to feel manly on a deer hunt, camping trip, or golfing with the buddies, but how does one achieve that feeling in the pressures of the office, or with the distractions of wedding planning?

Thanks for your help, and thanks for the incredible site. You have such a great perspective and I know many others, like myself, appreciate everything you are doing.

104 mch December 13, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Really awesome post! A manifesto for men everywhere, and I really like how you used data and demographic trends to strengthen the argument. It makes it a lot harder to write it off as feel-good or self-congratulatory BS (as it seems like some people do…).

105 new poster December 14, 2010 at 12:16 am

I keep trying to think of how to say the things that I think are wrong with what you say in this posting, but ultimately it comes down to this…You can be a man no matter what – statistics be damned, it’s entirely up to you. Regardless of what you think of as manliness, (I do agree with you on many points…) it is entirely up to the individual. A real man doesn’t let his upbringing (or who raised him) change who he is, and how he lives his life. You don’t have to be a fireman or an astronaut to be a man, you can be a nurse or a librarian and be a man. Manliness is not connected to physicality but instead is connected to the idea of being a man. To me the idea of being a man is standing up for what you believe in, helping people in any way you can, and standing tall when the entire world is taking a giant dump on top of you. Whether you were raised by a single mother, a single father, or a happy family unit I think we can agree on these simple ideas. Ultimately I think the real test of a man is when one is willing to own up and not let anyone take the blame for him and that includes not laying blame on the woman/women who raised him, inadvertently or not.

106 Luke December 14, 2010 at 1:45 am

Richyroethke December 13, 2010 at 1:33 pm
“As femininity and masculinity as you have described them are really only social constructs, it stands to reason that a paradigm shift of gender values is a natural and inescapable thing.”

Gender roles may be reinforced by society, but there is some evidence that they are partially nature rather than nurture. Read the case of David Reimer. I’m not going to go into specifics about him, but the cliff notes version is:
1) Had a twin brother that was raised in the same house hold
2) Given sex reassignment surgery at 22 months
3) Raised as a girl named Brenda (wore dresses, did traditional “girly” things, etc)
4) After female hormonal therapy and many psychological appointments, he did not identify as a female
5) Was finally told the truth about his sex and went through treatment to reverse the original reassignment surgery

While this can be argued to be an isolated case, it does provide some credence to the idea that gender roles are not determined solely by society. If they were, then raising this boy as a girl (with female hormones to match) should have produced a person that identified as female. It didn’t.

The nature vs. nurture question is complex and can’t be reduced down to “all gender roles are social constructs”. While the traditional gender roles may need to evolve, what many people are arguing against are the groups that are trying to force that evolution along the path that they want rather than allowing it to develop naturally.

“Some people say that it’s “sad” that men need to learn how to be men from a website.”

I agree that it is “sad” that men need to learn how to be men from a website. Not because AoM is a bad site. Far from it. I find it “sad” because it proves that society has dropped the ball in raising the current generation of men. It’s sad that this type of hole exists and needs to be filled. The Internet is an amazing tool, but it can’t take the place of a man (or group of men) guiding a youth in how to be manly. It shouldn’t be up to the youth to recognize that there is a problem, let alone try to find resources to fix it.

I hasten to add that I love this site and commend you and Kate for taking the time to build it. The content is exceptional and has almost always struck a chord with me.

107 Chris December 14, 2010 at 2:05 am

Great article! Here’s my experience:

What I find among a lot of men that I know, ranging in age from their teen’s thru their 40′s is that, if raised mainly by women, they seem to expect a lot more from their wives and girlfriends as far as responsibility, money, and attention. If there are 2 incomes, they seem to expect their wives and girlfriends to pick up most of the tab for the ‘necessities’ — rent, food, utilities, children, etc., so they can spend their money on hobbies, etc.

When they start having children, I’ve seen a lot of men I know compete for their wives’ attention and act like children themselves when they don’t get it. Whether they know it or not, that’s the behavior they exhibit. As adults, they interact with women the way they were trained by their mothers. I think that it is a lesson for women everywhere that, if they find themselves raising a boy on their own, that they consider how their boys will behave and interact both personally and professionally as men.

While there have always, to some extent, been ‘momma’s boys’ out there in the world, they seem more prevalent than ever. Most of the men I know that are responsible, hard-working, and loving husbands and fathers have had good male role models growing up. The ones who end up that way despite not having good male role models are few and far between.

Thanks again for the great article!

108 Phil Wylie December 14, 2010 at 2:06 am

Great article. I hearty concur with what you said, especially about the “stay at home dad” syndrome.

After the birth of our son, my wife suggested I stay home to raise him while she would be the primary bread winner. After support from my Promise Keeper brothers, it was decided that I would continue to work as a physicist (where, I am happy to report, that men earned over 82% of the doctorates given in this field in 2003), and my wife would quit her job as a lawyer. Although her income was higher than mine (well, actually, it was much higher than my assistant professor pay), I could not allow my son to see his father emasculated, among other things. Today, 7 years later, my wife has to work part time when our son is at school. We’re hoping to make up for some income we lost over the years so we can send our son to a private high school. Lord willing, it will happen.

By the way, just some words of advice: don’t use explanation marks in your writing, men. It reminds us of women squealing at a great deal at Target. It’s not that manly.

109 Julia Dannemiller December 14, 2010 at 2:28 am

That first picture reminds me so much of my former mother-in-law, She used to show me how she would comb her boys hair, using one of my 3 sons as models. She and her husband raised 4 boys and 1 girl. I soon realized who was in charge that house.Mom, and not a feminine mom. I could tell you so many stories about how this affected the boys and the girl. I insisted my husband be in charge, and to his credit he manned up and did a good job of mentoring our sons. However, after we had raised our boys, he left me for a women who would be in charge at home!

110 Mike Edwards December 14, 2010 at 6:19 am

This is an extremely insightful analysis that you’ve done. It certainly does explain alot of the men trying to look for their identities much more so than women it would seem. In light of this discovery I am very happy to wish you all your best with this site and hope that you will continue your “re-eduction” of those who frequent this site.

Thanks You.

111 Jay December 14, 2010 at 6:35 am

Great article, but this doesn’t apply to everyone. What about men that lived in countries that didn’t have the feminist revolution that American/the West had? It might benefit us to see how those people have been raised in recent times.

112 David Felts December 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

Bravo! Well said! I enjoyed this very much, so very true in what you said…thanks!

113 JonathanL December 14, 2010 at 8:56 am

I want to add that as an atheist, I did not read anything negative into the religious portion of the article. Church has a larger female audience than male, and its teachings are based on such an audience, was the takeaway for me. I like that there are men’s groups, such as Promise Keepers, that uphold a sense of masculinity in religion.

There are tons of problems I have with religion, but the one outlined here was not, as I read it, that God is necessary to be aman. Simply that a modern institution with many adherents does not teach manliness.

I also object to those who think this article and/or site strive for an ideal of 1950s America. I never thought of it that way. It seems to me that this site is about fulfilling our roles as modern men, and that there are some elements of manhood from the past that should be upheld. There are also others that shouldn’t. This article goes over that ground well.

114 Floryn December 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

It is peculiar from an European point of view that church still has such an important role in the lives of Americans. Just noting. I think education can provide a much more important role in the lives of boys and men. Education should be more diverse in the subjects that are offered to young people. The modern focus on cognitivity is, partly understandable, enormous. Personally I found out that it’s harder to pick up stuff from a female teacher than a man.

115 R. James Bradley Phillips December 14, 2010 at 10:03 am

Great article. What first brought this to my attention, like many, was the book Wild At Heart. I am surprised it wasn’t mentioned here. I am the product of a single-parent home, my father leaving my mother to pursue his womanizing ways; himself a product of a fatherless home. I was denied entry into the armed services no matter how much I desired to join. I was adrift until I found this book that helped me place a finger on this internal longing for whatever was missing. I think there is a lot to be said on this subject and it’s little spoken. Kudos!

116 Kevin D. Evers December 14, 2010 at 10:16 am

Great article! I could not agree more. Being a man who as a child was raised in a divorced family by my mother from the age of 3 until I was 13 when my mother remarried, I can look back and see a real difference in those time periods of my life. When my step-dad came into my life he filled a void that my birth father who was not around while growing up did. Along with my step-dad I had a few other positive male role models such as a neighborhood friend’s dad, and a few uncles.

Now being married and raising 4 wonderful kids with 3 of them being boys, I realize just how much a draw from my childhood experiences of those who were positive male role models in how I am raising my sons. I value my time with my family more than a “gold wrist watch” someday and work hard. But I also work hard and being a good father and role model for my sons and daughter.

Also being a pastor and someone who work in communication ministry for the church, very true information about the gender differences and involvement in the life of the church.

Thanks again for this great website and all you do! Great article again! – Rev Kev

117 Mark December 14, 2010 at 11:09 am

Excellent post. I second Chieftan’s comments about Boy Scouts and Freemasonry as other institutions that help nurture young men. However, even the Boy Scouts have been infiltrated, for lack of a better word, by women serving as scout leaders. Do the Girl Scouts allow men to leaders? Don’t know, just asking? I would add, too, that coming from a Masonic family, it meant a great deal to me, seeing my dad interact with his fellow Masons at the lodge. One Masonic institution that doesn’t get a lot of press is the Order of DeMolay for Boys. Beginning at age 13, and younger now, I believe, boys are initiated into an organization built on seven virtues: filial love, reverence for sacred things, courtesy, comradeship, fidelity, cleanness and patriotism. Through ritual, social gatherings, sports and community service, these ideals are passed along from senior members to younger members. I didn’t become a Mason for various reasons, but will always cherish my years in DeMolay.

118 Robyn December 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

2 points:
1. You can visit the Billy Sunday home and museum at Winona Lake, Indiana. His following is still very much alive. http://www.villageatwinona.com/billy-sunday-home.asp
Winona Lake is also just a great tourist place to spend a day or two.

2. I don’t know how this might affect your statistics, but I believe that there are just more women in this world than there are men. Men get killed off due to wars, violence and stress more than women, I think. Thus taking over jobs in which men were traditionally employed.

119 Bonnie Beukelman December 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

This is a very good article in which it addresses many of the problems I have seen in boys during my short teaching career. I am now a stay-at-home mom and I am continually allowing and encouraging my husband to be the “man of the house” and to lead our family. I have seen too many times where the woman has led out of desire for control or out of necessity and there is a visible element missing in the child(rens) lives. The feminist movement was a knee-jerk reaction to the belief that women were incapable of making good decisions for themselves or anyone else. Many women went from the rule of their fathers to the rule of their husband without any consideration as to their personal points of view because, frankly, they were insignificant. I don’t necessarily agree with the feminist movement because of it’s extremity of cutting the man out all together. I also don’t agree with the previous belief that women were incapable of making decisions. There has to be a balance. We were created to work together as a family unit with the man leading, the women supporting and influencing beside the man, and the children being loved but bending to the moral, spiritual, and educational values of the parent-heads. The problem is the lack of respect for either gender. When we respect the role and the person in that role then there is an opportunity for unity and in the end, peace. I have often told my husband that a woman treated correctly by the man she loves will blossom into the woman she was meant to be. I tell him that not because he is doing anything wrong but because he is doing it right. I am certain it goes the same way for the man. A man who is respected by his wife and continually encouraged to take the lead will lead in a manner worthy of manly leadership.

120 jj December 14, 2010 at 11:52 am

Brett, thanks so much for this piece. As a divorced-single mother raising 3 boys, i read your site to get insite into what i can do for my boys so they will grow up to be real men despite having a father who won’t show them the way. I can’t replace the man bond but i have found ways to try and seek out pieces of it from the men in my boys’ lives: their uncles, grandfather, cousins & our pastor. Your site helps me identifiy those pieces and try and look for opportunities for those voids to be filled. When they are old enough, i hope they will become avid followers of this site. Keep up the good work!

121 Bruce Egert December 14, 2010 at 2:00 pm

It was not easy to balance my work responsibilities with being home sufficiently to be with our two boys. My wife and I did it and today they are well adjusted and successful. Our religious beliefs compelled us to be home from Friday night through Saturday night–eating three meals together and spending time with no TV, shopping or parties. The only “distractions” were visits from family and friends who were doing the same. Children need to see an exomple set by their parents and the parents must endeavor to follow through and remain steadfast. This will enable the child to understand discipline, sacrifice, work ethic and family values in the true sense so that they can grow up with masculinity or femininity, depending on their gender.

122 Frank Martin December 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Growing up I was raised primarily by my mom. Sure, dad would take me on a trip occasionally, read to me or tell me a story at night, but he was largely a non-presence, having a property management business to run. I used to hate him because he never seemed to have time for me. Now I realize he was doing the best he could, and was actually trying to teach me what it was to be a man, I just didn’t know it. These days I’m working to forgive him and spend more time with him. I’ve finally begun to come to terms with the idea that he’s a flawed human being, and take advantage of him while I can. I think he’d love this site, I can’t help but think of him whenever I read an article.

123 DY December 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Great post. I’m a man that was raised by a woman and I am, now I’m a father and I couldn’t be happier that I am a part of my son and wife’s lives. Not yet 30, I still have a lot of lesson’s I wasn’t fortunate to learn as a boy but I look forward to my ever-growing knowledge and wisdom to pass down to my son. And with every chance, I will also learn a few things from and with him.

124 phatcatholic December 14, 2010 at 3:37 pm

When considering religion as a social institution that has historically served to mold young boys into men, I am reminded of the following Scripture verses (from the Douay-Rheims Version, a Catholic translation of the BIble):

1 Chron 19:13 Be of good courage and let us behave ourselves manfully for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the Lord will do that which is good in his sight.

Psa 31:24 Do ye manfully, and let your heart be strengthened, all ye that hope in the Lord.

1 Cor 16:13 Watch ye: stand fast in the faith: do manfully and be strengthened.

1 Mac 2:64 You therefore, my sons, take courage, and behave manfully in the law: for by it you shall be glorious.

2 Mac 6:27 Wherefore by departing manfully out of this life, I shall shew myself worthy of my old age

In fact, the entire second book of Maccabees has many references to fighting “manfully” in battle that I think are very instructive to boys who are learning how to fight for what is good, and true, and beautiful.

125 ED December 14, 2010 at 5:25 pm

I think this is one of the most interesting articles you have written. It is also, I think, one of the worst.

I read the comments infrequently, but definitely wanted to read the comments for this one. I’m happy you responded to some of the criticisms, but your response is unsatisfactory.

The piece has numerous factual problems. Granted, you want to skip ahead to the concerns that you raise, but I’d prefer you do that on a stronger foundation. Yes, the industrial revolution created a separation of work and home, but this was not the first time that the split occurred. Ancient Greece and Rome, for example, had a split. You say women are more likely to be religious than men “across time” but then you suggest that 1900 years later, Christian ministers began catering to this core audience.

I am disturbed by phrases like “the feminization of Christianity” because using the term in this negative manner is mysoginistic. The whole article reeks of this. You connect the growing presence of women with the lack of masculinity. Yet you then say you aren’t blaming women. Perhaps what you mean is that you don’t think women formed a conspiracy to prevent masculinity, as you say shortly thereafter, but that’s a throwaway concession.

I’m glad you linked, in your response to criticisms, to your own discussion of what manliness is. You said the following:
There are two ways to define manhood. One way is to say that manhood is the opposite of womanhood. The other is to say that manhood is the opposite of childhood.
The former seems to be quite popular, but it often leads to a superficial kind of manliness. Men who ascribe to this philosophy end up cultivating a manliness concerned with outward characteristics. They worry about whether x,y, or z is manly and whether the things they enjoy and do are effeminate because many women also enjoy them.
I subscribe to the latter philosophy. Manhood is the opposite of childhood and concerns one’s inner values.

I agree with this version of manliness, but then you set up an entire article pitting masculinity against femininity. Why?. And why did you fail to see this in your article. Why did you say people are reading something into the article that isn’t there, and why did you say you didn’t see people blaming women for the lack of masculinity. A few of the comments:
“I’ve seen too many guys my age (16) in today’s culture that have been raised by women and thus have no idea how to be men.”
“Just to point out but given the timelines it also looks like the rise . . . of the feminist movement in the 60s onwards might have also played a pretty big part in this.”
“And to add insult to injury. Thanks to the feminist movement. Men have become a pathology that is in need of erradication.”

Now, you say that men and women have differences and that each will enact the virtues in different ways. What we might expect, then, is for adult men to enact the virtues more in ways that women do. What we have seen instead, is the inability of both girls and boys to grow up. Both sexes end up with fewer and fewer role models for how to be an adult.

I think the big takeaway point from the article is that those of us who aspire to be adults should endeavor to serve as role models, mentors, and guides to the next generation. We can both agree on that, and I applaud the effort to propel readers down that path. Judging from some of the comments, you have succeeded in this. But you have also spurred some to focus on the “outward” marks of masculinity (defining themselves and manhood in opposition to women), and that, I think, is a negative. I will grant that you had a difficult task, and I appreciate the effort. I look forward to your next post.

And just a last bit of comic relief, in case folks missed it. Thanks to commenter Jared for this double entendre:
“I am so thankful to be part of a church that is driven to bring in and train men, mars Hill in Seattle. Pastor Mark is always hammering the dudes for Jesus.”

126 matt1618 December 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I heard somewhere, from a study I can’t remember (this may have already been mentioned), that the indicator on if a boy will grow up to be a religious man is not his mother’s religiosity, like we would think, but his father’s. Traditionally, it is from the mother that sons learn what life should be like in the home. But, it is from the father that sons learn what life should be like outside of the home. If they see their father practicing his faith and taking his family to Church on Sundays then they will learn that life outside of the home includes going to Church. And so they find themselves more naturally taking on that way of life for themselves when they have the freedom to choose.

127 Trevor December 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I would like to add that this would be a useful discussion to examine the correlation between women raising children and the idea that “everyone gets a trophy.”

128 Alex December 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I find it interesting how often folks quote Fight Club lines from Tyler Durden, state with some tones of approval how these lines resonate with them… and then completely fail to connect this with any awareness of what Tyler Durden is.

He ain’t exactly a role model.

And a person who finds them nodding along with what he says, might ought to do some serious thinking about whether that’s a good thing.

129 Brad Nichols December 14, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Great piece.
It’s interesting to see people’s attention given to the “usefulness” of doing manly things, e.g. fixing the car, mowing the lawn, etc. All of the spheres you pointed out (family, education, and religion) involve the importance of culture. And culture really shouldn’t be seen as a pragmatic tool. It’s a breeding nest that trains a man habit, respect, and value.
I like to see leisure and culture as close cousins. Leisure engages a man in a task sought for its own intrinsic worth and value. Even though it isn’t intended to be useful, it is always direct, with the activity itself as the end. It teaches a man a lot of things about himself and what he should be. For one, it educates him to be respectful of other things and people, by learning to appreciate them, in a relatively detached way, for what and who they are. That’s it. There is no alterior motive for a leisurely task, insofar as it’s a leisurely task. It just is. And you learn to value that “just is” by letting it be what it is. We camp to express appreciation for nature. We enjoy fixing cars, because we appreciate the system of the mechanics. We read books (or should be reading books) and watch films, because we appreciate the substance of other content. But when we get used to raping nature or the “system” for our own personal gain and benefit, we re-wire a minds to think about “what we can get” out of the things around us. We use them and don’t learn a darn thing about appreciating them. They are only “valued” by their use for us and not by what they are in themselves.
Kids are losing dads and, because of that, losing direction, but why are kids losing dads? Perhaps a piece to that puzzle is that dad just doesn’t value mom and the kids for who they are. Dad now defines himself by his use and his gadgets and everything else becomes a use and a gadget. If mom’s not as sexy as she used to be, and the kids aren’t cute and cuddly anymore, they aren’t doing anything for him. Why stick around?
Part of being a man, a really large part, is learning how to value and love and respect the world for what it is in itself, and not what it is as a provisional tool. That is what leisure can do for a man. A man’s not just a provider. He’s an artist of leisure.
The image he has of himself is bland, dumb, and drunk when he’s not at “work” or the office. How sad. A few vacations to the symphony or reading or writing a book would get him on the path of gaining a more dignified image of himself.
Thanks for this website, by the way. I have learned alot.

130 Brett McKay December 14, 2010 at 5:59 pm


Again, I fail to see how the article is blaming women for the problem. Here’s my argument broken down. The lack of male mentoring can be “blamed” on (and blame is really the wrong word here of course)

-Industrial Revolution and market forces
-divorce (which is the fault of both men and women)
-courts which award greater custody to women

-ministers (who were men) catering to a female audience

-philosophical and cultural changes change the gender ratio of the teaching profession

Could you kindly point out which of the above things are the fault of women? I just don’t see it.

When I said that I didn’t see commenters as blaming women I was talking about those who shared their personal experiences of growing up without a father or other male mentors, not those who were talking about history or the feminist movement which are the examples that you cited.

This article also focuses only on the history of the last century in order to address why men of the current generation might have lacked for male mentors. So I’m not sure that work/home splits in ancient times applies to the discussion. Even if we were to discuss the whole history of work, it would still be true that farming and artisanry allowed men to “work from home.” And in the case of ancient Greece and Rome, many citizens owned slaves and didn’t have to work at all!

I’m also unsure about the point you’re trying to make here, could you clarify?

“You say women are more likely to be religious than men “across time” but then you suggest that 1900 years later, Christian ministers began catering to this core audience.”

131 Ben December 14, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Wonderful. Refreshing. Validating.

I need help from the other side. My parents are both 80 this year and my father was a stellar example of manliness (fighter pilot, rancher) and fatherhood; we worked with him on the ranch – a lot.

My challenge is being married to a woman who was raised with four older sisters and one effeminate brother by their mother. No father in the fold after my wife was about nine years old. Our struggle, it seems, is that she doesn’t have a clear handle on what my role should be. An article on how a woman raised by a woman can live and parent with a man who knows how to be a man.

132 Alvin December 14, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Awesome post Brett!

Recently I’ve had a discussion with a female high school teacher about the young men in her class and previous classes. We discussed their participation/interaction with the class and how times have truly changed over the years. In the past her high schoolers (young men) would open the doors, break up fights, and ensure the class was orderly when it got a bit rowdy. Basically you name the task and they were ready to answer the call. Today those character traits are a few and far between.

It was important that each year she try and balance her class with boys and girls to keep the drama to a minimum from the girls and keep the guys from being at one another’s throats (teenagers). I also learned that today’s young men bring more drama into class than the girls ever could. Simply put the young men are not the young men they’ve seen in the past. Actually this conversation was quite alarming.

Women do a great job being a mother to our boys but men need to be men and show up ready to be a dad to our sons. There are some amazing dads doing amazing things and we’re making a difference we’re just going to need every dad leading this charge.

What an awesome post Brett it’s definitely a step forward in spreading word. Thanks for the fuel.

133 Jen December 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm

The involvement of men with children has become a risky affair. Not risky for the kids as the Think Of The Children brigade would have you believe. It presents a *huge* risk for the men. One vague accusation from a child or parent can land the guy on a sex offender list for life. Even if proven innocent of the accusation the man is harmed both professionally and socially. This would give any man a reason to think twice before becoming a teacher, youth pastor, or volunteering with kids in any fashion.

Even dads out with their own children get the Stranger Danger treatment. A blog entry I read this week really opened my eyes to what dads (and men in general) go through on a daily basis. http://www.theotherglassceiling.com/2010/11/im-second-parent-c.html

134 Phil December 14, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Very well written. Agree 100% I especially like how you wrap up with optimism at the end. I too am glad to have been “liberated” and live in this generation. I also agree that I would rather spend time with family than make more money. When I was deployed in a combat zone a number of years ago we were asked if some were willing to stay an extra 6 months because they needed the man power. There was a huge bonus involved. I didn’t give it a second thought. I said NO. Love my country and deployed many times but I would never voluntarily opt over my family. I saw it as “selling” my family time.

Again, thanks for a great article.

135 nate December 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm

great article…this website is seriously great. where else would you read something like this. i tell every guy i know about this. Brett keep up the good work you are really appreciated!!!!

136 Simon Frez-Albrecht December 14, 2010 at 10:53 pm

A good article, I re-watched Fight Club recently and was struck by that comment. I’m still young-19-but I feel that I have done a good job so far, and am on my way toward becoming a strong man. Despite a largely absentee father (work), and a mother devoted to learning educational laws to be able to effectively advocate for my sister (disabilities), I picked up a lot of good habits, and most importantly, a good mindset. I largely raised my younger brother (by six years) as a youth, and I think that taught me a lot of responsibility at a young age, but I’ve always been able to relax and enjoy being a kid despite that.

I also feel that my role in my brother’s life has effectively bred me to be a natural leader, regardless of my official designation in a group. I have a naturally positive mindset, that I have cultivated through practice over the years, to the point that it is habit to see the best in a situation, and to seek solutions to my problems instead of dwelling on and complaining about them. Despite not having many positive role models as a youth, I was able to recognize positive traits and do my best to incorporate them into myself.

One good habit that I picked up from my father is the love of learning and reading. Through reading I encountered many manly role models. Stories of my great grandfather, who was killed in a car accident when I was young, also inspire me to be the best man I can be. My father always speaks of him fondly, and it’s clear from his stories that my great grandfather was a great man.

I want to thank you for this site, because it’s a positive refresher on some of the finer points of manliness, and a good source of inspiration to better myself.

Simon in CT

137 Christopher Souter December 15, 2010 at 12:06 am

As a man who was raised without a dad as well and had an ass kick Grandmother who was tough as nails and a mom who worked harder then any man could, this article really touches a nerve. My father just found me last year and I am now twenty-seven years old. I struggled for a while with the notion that I was not a “real” man and was constantly in fights and had many bouts of anger. Being that I did not have a good role model, I assumed going out and kicking someones ass and drinking my face off was the way a man acted.

I want to thank you for this article and this site. It has changed a lot of my views on what a man is and I also want to thank the readers who leave comments on here. You guys are probably the best posters on any site. Intelligent responses and no trolling. Great job men!


138 Lance December 15, 2010 at 2:29 am

” Of course that’s not the case—we learn how to be a man from the mentors in our lives.”

…and some times as we grow up into men and think of the cheaters or the cheated, we may lose respect for both a tad, and the result is we pull away, and form our own manliness from scratch, learning from both of their mistakes.

139 Bharat Patel December 15, 2010 at 3:20 am

I have been fortunate and devilishly lucky to have a father who has always been in my life. He grew up in India, on a massive territory of land with 9 siblings. And as I have grown I have come to truly respect more and more of how he raised me and more so how he has learned from me as well. My younger sister has never seen the rage he once has in his younger years of being a father, though even I have to admit at times it was warranted. But more then that I feel like he has grown to teach me how to behave to others as a fair man, strong but reasonable, kind, generous, self-taught, self reliant, and never over indulging in any vices (aside from fried food, but we are working on weening him off heheh). Our relationship has gotten stronger and stronger every year as I have matured into a young man. He feels more and more like a friend of mine that I can rely on during the hardest and most troubling moments if my life. When I was younger I perhaps never appreciated how much of a hero he was to me, but now I will never take him for granted.

My mother on the other hand seems to have had a harder time with my growing, and she still has lessons to learn too, but I suppose even she has matured and is far more fair these days. In some way they both raised me at home as we managed a motel. As I grew up they both played pivotal roles. I appreciate my mother and father so such a degree, and I have gotten more comfortable in letting them both know this fact.

If nothing else I know I was a pain at times, the fact that they put up with me as such fair parents is impressive. These days I put what I have grown up with to good use as a intermediary between my parents and my younger sister, in some way I feel privileged to be in this position, half parent, half friend, and thoroughly trained to be a mentor to her by my parents and of course I also must tip my hat to my wonderful teachers in high school as well.

All I can say to any new fathers or mothers is that your children are truly fortunate to have you around, and though relationships are tying be stern but fair to them, they will appreciate it, it may be decades later but I assure you they will. Teach them tolerance above all else.

140 Todd December 15, 2010 at 8:48 am

Excellent article, very insightful.
I am most impressed with the statistics.
This echoes what I recently heard at my church at an event called Men’s Roundtable.
Check out session 3.

141 Matt Groves December 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

I haven’t had time to read all the comments but my major points are:
1. This topic is worthy enough to revise this article after more research is done: historical and social.
2. My mother went to work because she made a lot more money then my dad. She still made all my games though, and ended up working late into to the night at home after spending time with us kids. This is where I got my work ethic.
3. My dad taught me that some of the most manly things one can do is be happy, be a good husband and be a good citizen.
4. The most important relationship with any child is with their father.

142 Kyle December 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I very much enjoyed the topic of this article, but I mut say that I believe there’s such thing as too much of a male influence when it comes to raising a boy. While my father was always around, always supportive, always teaching me, he still worked a lot and as a result I was raised more by my mother and have a closer relationship to her. I don’t lament this fact, my dad’s been a great role model and now that I’ve become an adult I’ve come to understand him better and our relationship has room to grow. When I say there can be too much of a male influence what I mean is that I see many of my friends becoming their fathers. I see them taking their dad’s ideas almost word for word and molding themselves in their dad’s image. This isn’t the worst thing that could happen, but they all have personality flaws as a result. Children are meant to figure some stuff out on their own, to grow through personal trials and tribulations, and to come up with their own opinions on what’s going on around them. If you have a father telling you exactly what it means to be a man, guiding your every step of development, then you’re not going to improve. No father is perfect. Children should strive to be better than their parents. I think having no father is sometimes better than having a overbearing one.

143 ED December 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

I think I attributed a more ambitious thesis to your article than the one you thought you were making. I will shoulder the blame for this, as I should have been more charitable. Upon reading your reply to my comment and then re-reading the article, I can see that you reasonably intended to claim only that the change in the social institutions resulted in a lack of “manly” male mentors. Reading the article in that way makes clear to me why you responded as you did to both me and the other commenters. I have only one remaining problem with the article, but allow me to explain first where I was coming from previously.

To clarify where I, and some of the other commenters where coming from, I thought you were claiming that the changes in these institutions CAUSED the lack of manliness in today’s society. That is why I thought you had factual problems. For example, if the separation of work (the public sphere) and home caused perpetual male immaturity, it would have done so in Greece and Rome. That it didn’t shows that this isn’t a good causal explanation.

Reading the article with this causal thesis in mind also explains, I think, why commenters and I thought you were attributing the lack of manliness to women: Women dominated these institutions and were unable to teach boys to be self-reliant, loyal, courageous, etc. To be fair to us, however, you said some things that sounded like this, even if you did not intend it.

I’ll explain the last comment you asked about, and explain why I still have one problem. You focused on the portrayal of Jesus. If women have always dominated religion, church leaders would always have catered the portrayal of Jesus to them, not simply in the 20th Century. There would be no change in the message suddenly appearing that would drive men away. Even on the thesis you were actually advocating for, I think this is a problem. I don’t see any change in the institution (deriving from a message shift) that results in fewer male mentors going to church.

Thanks for responding to my comment. I think it has greatly clarified, at least for me, what you were doing in the article.

144 JMC December 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm

This is interesting, but the comments extend the interest further. I work for a Catholic mens mentoring program called FRATERNUS. Mentoring is simple, but doesn’t happen. When explaining the program, I often sum it up as getting good men in front of boys.

See more, including promo video at fraternus.net

145 Scott December 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Thanks for an insightful read….regarding the contributing factor of religion – you are exactly right….often responses in the church are reactionary and over the top (although the pictures of Billy Sunday are priceless!). It seems that men are always struggling with disengaging emotionally and especially spiritually, even while they may have a strong physical presence. The core trait of a man is to be a courageous leader – this core calling easily becomes diverted into weak passivity. If you are interested in how a church is trying to react well to a male deficit and challenge men to * Reject Passivity * Lead Courageously * Accept Responsibility * Expect God’s Reward, you can take a look at http://www.mensroundtable.org.

Keep up the good work!

146 sairy_gamp December 15, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Am I the only man here troubled by this earlier statement?

“[I am a physicist] where, I am happy to report, that men earned over 82% of the doctorates given in this field in 2003[...]“

147 Chris December 15, 2010 at 7:17 pm

I like this site a lot, but this article upsets me. and I have a feeling my following comments are going incite anger. But please believe me when I say that they aren’t meant just to anger people.

Here are things that a lot of people on this site don’t seem to agree with:

You don’t need to believe in God to be a good man or to be a good mentor to them. As an atheist, this notion angers me immensely. Plenty of fathers have inflicted mental (not to mention physical) harm on their sons because of strict, traditional religious beliefs that taught them they were full of shame, that women were subservient, that enjoying life was a sin against God.

Now, there is NOTHING wrong with believing, as long as you don’t tell me I need God, that you KNOW God exists, that those that don’t believe are going to hell, etc. (How often does that happen?)

What makes me a good man is being kind to both sexes, having a respect and admiration for women, and not buying into antiquated social roles.

I was a boy scout, realize that only I am responsible for myself, don’t dress like a slob, and other notions of “manliness” this site promotes. But please take the religious aspect out of it.

148 Alejandro December 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm

In 2006, Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology and psychiatry at Cornell University, published a book entitled “Raising Boys Without Men: How Maverick Moms Are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men.” Its premise is obvious: propagate the myth that children are best raised in households headed by women, either single women or lesbian couples. To be fair, I haven’t read the book, but this is the same kind of misandric crap that’s been tossed around for the better part of the last 2 decades. I’ve gotten into more than one heated discussion about the role of fathers and father-like figures in the lives of children, especially boys. I hate it when women say they don’t need a man in their lives to help raise their children – not thinking, of course, that the issue isn’t what they need, but rather what their children need. Besides, what decent man would want a bitchy anti-male lesbian in his life anyway? I don’t give a damn what pop psychologists like Drexler say! Men have been raising children since the beginning of time; long before some idiot invented sperm banks and long before single motherhood by choice became Hollywood fashionable. I’ve never raised children, but I know men definitely serve a concrete purpose in the lives of kids. Thanks for the article!

149 Paul December 15, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for your moving article, I can tell that your move into fatherhood has created a deep yearning to be the best father you can be. I could only hope that more dads or soon to be fathers would take this same interest in approaching this incredible opportunity that we are handed. We have the chance to help shape our sons and daughters. The role of fatherhood has been marginalized for far too long and only we can take up this cause and champion it for future generations.

Thanks again

150 sairy_gamp December 16, 2010 at 12:01 am

What I’ve read on this site has been thoughtful and eye opening. I appreciate the clear and honest tone I read in most essays and postings, writings on strength that don’t resort to the base and simple gender roles that may, or may not, have existed in years gone by.

Some writings here in response to this article are unfortunate in my eyes, from the scientist who doesn’t seem to handle women being part of what is one of the purest meritocracies, scientific research, to a man with no children who expresses such conviction and ill will about something he really does know nothing at all about. If that makes me judgemental than so be it. I understand your view, but I won’t buy into it.

I work hard to teach my sons the fine line between showing proper respect and treatment of girls, and being taken advantage of. I’m proud as I watch them with their small playmates when they stand up to being bossed around by ‘bossy little girls,’ and manage to do it with their combination of sweet incipient grace and little boy forthrightness, instead of lashing out.

It’s hard work to teach this, really hard. Yet we do it.

This is what being a father, a man, is about. It’s about strength with grace. It’s about confidence to work and live and lead with others without taking the easy, simple, loud way out. It’s about not compromising who you are and it’s about giving your principled contribution to the rest of society. It’s about building your knowledge, skill, wisdom and interpersonal skills that will earn you success based on your merit. In school, in the workplace, in society. It’s about making your own success, not expecting anything just because you think you deserve it, because of your gender or class or even the name of the school on your college diplomas. This is what I bring to my sons.

151 Pastor Rasbeary December 16, 2010 at 12:18 am

Loved this article and couldn’t agree more. My Dad was a Navy officer and worked long hours but when he was home, he was home. He and my grandfather made a great impact in my life. Neither divorced, both served their country, both worked hard, and both were honorable, strong, capable men.
You are also right about churches. At our church, all of our boys Sunday School teachers are men from the first grade through high school graduation. We’ve also added Boy scouts to our program, which has been a great way to help fathers spend scheduled time with their boys, as well as providing mentoring for boys who do not have fathers in their lives.
Loved the quotes about Billy Sunday. Other manly though controversial preachers of the past included J. Frank Norris (who often faced down lynch mobs in the wooly days of Fort Worth) and Jack Hyles.
Thanks for the post.

152 Brett McKay December 16, 2010 at 12:21 am


I appreciate you taking the time to read my comment and re-read the article. And for your gentlemanly response. I can see where you are coming from as well. I think where we remain in disagreement is that-and forgive me if I’m reading you wrong-you think that a cultural force that has been in force in other times and places will remain the same across those times and places. Let me explain more by using the example of religion. You said:

“If women have always dominated religion, church leaders would always have catered the portrayal of Jesus to them, not simply in the 20th Century. There would be no change in the message suddenly appearing that would drive men away.”

But the unique American culture changed many things-including religion. As a place with the freedom of religion and without a state-sanctioned faith, religion in America was essentially a free market with many different denominations. To survive, these denominations each had to compete to win adherents and gain a slice of that market. Which is why you really had for the first time a much greater tendency of churches to cater to their audience and to the culture as a whole. This is actually why Christianity continues to thrive in America while in Europe, where countries had official religions, it has largely died out. The competition forces churches to cater to the culture and stay relevant. You can see this today in megachurches. Anyway, long story short, what I’m getting at is that there can be cultural forces that manifest themselves differently according to time and place, as those different times and places can bring out some things, suppress other things, and generally create changes-the kind of changes outlined above.


This is a religiously neutral site. We welcome people from all faiths or no faith at all. While we may mention religion from time to time and in this post, that is because religion is a big part of life. To trace the history of important social institutions in the past century as it relates to manliness without mentioning religion would provide a rather incomplete picture. Understanding religion is essential to having a well-rounded and educated view of what’s going on in this world. You may not be religious, but that does not mean religion has not had an effect on our culture’s ideas of masculinity. That would be like a home school-reared reader complaining that we shouldn’t mention education because public education did not influence their personal manliness.

153 ED December 16, 2010 at 12:55 am

Be charitable, good sir. Of course, I do not think a cultural force will produce the same effects across all times and cultures. I’m able to work with only what you provide in the article.

Your free-market elaboration would have been good in the article. I’m unsure that it fully answers the concern, but I’ll concede it and hang my hat on the roughly 100 years of American history I have left. If America were a free-market for religious denominations, it was also one in 1800, right? What changed in 1900?

Maybe the safer point to make is that American religion has had a gender imbalance for most of American history. As a result, it has never provided a large pool of male mentors, even though it is a primary institution for socialization. I don’t think that fits with how you approach the article, as you are after the 20th Century changes in these three institutions that reduced male mentors. But it is a safer claim, or at least an easier one.

154 Brett McKay December 16, 2010 at 1:11 am

I thought I was being charitable-sorry if it did not come off that way. All I had to work with was your comment.

I don’t think we can really say there has been a gender imbalance for most of American history, but I guess that depends on how you define “most.” With the early Puritans settlers everyone-male and female-was expected to attend church, with great social repercussions for not doing so. Thus there was no need for ministers to cater to the audience-and thus sermons were long and dry. With settlers moving to the frontier, there was an absence of organized religion which brought on the popularity of revivals which catered to the audience in order to save more souls and which changed the culture of Christianity to a more emotional variety. More denominations sprouted up, competition increased, as did the minister’s need to cater to their audience.

To simplify my argument let’s just say that what changed between the 1700′s and the 1800′s is that in colonial times women may have been more inclined to religion but lack of options and social pressure (and of course genuine piety) kept gender ratios more equal. There was nowhere else to go. Since as I noted above, the gender imbalance has increased even from 1950 to today, we can easily ask the same question about what has changed between that time and now. And again the answer would be cultural changes.

155 Georgiaboy61 December 16, 2010 at 1:34 am

The author omits some significant wellsprings of masculine values in generations-gone-by, namely sports, the military and the skilled trades. A good coach can have a transformative effect on a teenaged male’s life, and many of us know how a dedicated drill instructor or similar military figure can positively impact a young man. The skilled trades likewise have served the same role, at least for many guys. What do they all have in common? These used to be placed where men could go to receive life’s truths and values from men who already had won them.

156 Georgiaboy61 December 16, 2010 at 1:35 am

Typo alert, “These used to be placed..” should have “places” instead of “placed”…

157 Sharonica December 16, 2010 at 2:28 am

A bunch of women did something nice for me! Boo on women!

Really? There are plenty of factually-correct statements here, but what was missing was any kind of kudos to the women who stepped up and did the job of educating and caring for the writer.

“This is terrible! The last thing we need is more of the people who keep being nice to us!”

158 Steve Harrington December 16, 2010 at 3:20 am

“If women have always dominated religion, church leaders would always have catered the portrayal of Jesus to them, not simply in the 20th Century. There would be no change in the message suddenly appearing that would drive men away.”

“For example, if the separation of work (the public sphere) and home caused perpetual male immaturity, it would have done so in Greece and Rome. That it didn’t shows that this isn’t a good causal explanation.”

“Of course, I do not think a cultural force will produce the same effects across all times and cultures.”

I would say there is no charity needed here as the first two statements are in complete contradiction with the third.

Sorry, not trying to be a jerk, but that stuck out to me.

Anyway, very interesting article Brett. I’m one who tends to think gender is more of a cultural construct and I’m not sure that women can’t teach men to be good people, which is the basis of manliness, but anything that provokes this level of discussion here is a good thing.

159 P.M.Lawrence December 16, 2010 at 3:36 am

‘A push back against the perceived feminization of Christianity began around the turn of the 20th century. Referred to as “Muscular Christianity,”…’

Huh? Your timing is way off. It started in the 19th century, and was well under way by the middle of that. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscular_Christianity, “The term probably first appeared in a review of Kingsley’s novel Two Years Ago in the February 21, 1857 issue of the Saturday Review”; obviously the name emerged after the phenomenon itself.

And you’re largely mistaken about fathers being the main male role models for their children, stated so generally. Children need different role models at different stages of life. Fathers matter most between about the ages of 7 and 14 – especially but not only for boys – and mothers before that. Unfortunately, many custody rulings are based on children’s previous history of stronger maternal than paternal connections and don’t allow for the natural shift in emphasis as they grow older. But teenagers need an in between generation as role models (and the same goes for female role models); in fact natural friction develops between older boys and their fathers if they are in the same household, which is nature’s way of encouraging them to set out on their own. Without extended families or small communities, the young uncles and aunts or older cousins, and the peers of those, just aren’t there for most older children any more – and parents can’t supply the need, no matter if they are around or not. I suppose the Boy Scouts could help here once, but even those now have fewer people in the right age range for that.

Frgough is right about the rest, but not about “If those women hold a certain standard of manhood, they’re going to impart it in the classroom. Just as men can communicate a standard of womanhood to women, women can communicate a standard of manhood to sons.” – because it’s about what they do more than what they say, e.g. rewarding “good” behaviour and punishing “bad” behaviour as they understand it, and over generations of female teachers their own concepts will get shifted too, e.g. affecting the syllabus and teaching methods with things like maths questions that ask how people feel about sharing rather than what numbers they get when they share.

No offence intended to commenters, but that educational approach must be pretty shoddy, e.g. judging by the number of comments that incorrectly have “I” (nominative) where “me” (accusative) is correct, e.g. “…looked after my sibling and I”.

ED wrote “For example, if the separation of work (the public sphere) and home caused perpetual male immaturity, it would have done so in Greece and Rome. That it didn’t shows that this isn’t a good causal explanation.”

How do you know it didn’t? The later Romans certainly lamented the loss of their traditional virtues, and the earlier Romans who still had them looked down on contemporary Greeks as having declined from their forebears (calling them “Graeculi”, “little Greeks”).

Sairy_gamp, I think the comment celebrating male scientific success wasn’t acclaiming the lack of women achievers but the fact that men weren’t marginalised there as in so many other areas.

“But the unique American culture changed many things-including religion. As a place with the freedom of religion and without a state-sanctioned faith, religion in America was essentially a free market with many different denominations. To survive, these denominations each had to compete to win adherents and gain a slice of that market. Which is why you really had for the first time a much greater tendency of churches to cater to their audience and to the culture as a whole. This is actually why Christianity continues to thrive in America while in Europe, where countries had official religions, it has largely died out.”

That’s a plain wrong description of how things were and are in Europe, drawing a wrong conclusion about the mechanisms of decline – because many areas had limited tolerance, or denominations that survived mild sanctions, and it was often practical to “vote with your feet” to go to a nearby, different area. By that reasoning there would be no Catholics in Ireland, Presbyterians in Scotland, or Methodists in England and Wales, and there wouldn’t be French Protestants in Geneva – or Jews anywhere, as they would have died out in the Middle Ages.

160 Bob December 16, 2010 at 3:46 am

I think another factor is that the newer generations are being raised by parents who spent their formative years in the 60′s and 70′s. A lot of the people trying to relearn skills that were generally known many years ago were probably raised by people who took full advantage of modern society and lived life pretty casually with all the modern conveniences. Moreso, a lot of them were rebelling against their parents and traditional society. So, no wonder the more urbanized and suburbanized have lost the ability to fix basic household problems, perform vehicle maintenance, carry out basic life functions without electricity, use firearms, defend themselves armed or unarmed, haggle for better prices, etc. It was just too alluring to forget how to be self-sufficient and worry about other things. There are exceptions to this of course (organic gardeners, hiking/camping enthusiasts, etc.), but how many people have parents with a garden in their backyard or who like to hike in their spare time?

161 P.M.Lawrence December 16, 2010 at 4:03 am

By the way, that graph for “fertility rates” is labelled incorrectly. It should be “fecundity rates”; even nuns are usually fertile until middle age, although they are rarely fecund.

162 ww rutland December 16, 2010 at 8:42 am

You missed the military as the 4th instution and a big influence on boys into men. All thru history the military has been the one great institution and most all veterans will tell you that was the greatest influence on their lives. The milltary is run by men, trained by men, and most will tell you their best friends were in the military with them. Right now many will trust former soldiers more than any other group.

163 Brian F. December 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

This resonated with me:

“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.”

I have very little in common with my father. This does not, however, me we do not get along when together. He was gone due to his Navy responsibilities and I was primarily a product of being raised by my mother. I am an example of this statement.

What has entertained me over the years have been two positions presented to me. 1) That I would speak often of my mother would illicit responses from gay friends that I must be gay. 2) I must have animosity towards my father.

The comments regarding gender roles apply to point (1). It further plays to a stereotype. Point (2) relates to the idea that children will inherently blame their parents for the absence of perfection in their rearing. There is, in my opinion, an inherent claim to the weakness of the individual in that there need to feel complete will demand that they seek out that “emptiness”.

Where is the failure in raising a man who prefers familial closes as opposed to a mid-20th century male figure as the detached workingman? In turn, the work ethic I gained from my father is something I cherish. I am even more grateful for his lessons on character and honesty. One of the most significant qualities I have taught my son is that if a man’s handshake isn’t enough for you to trust him that you should probably look elsewhere.

As men, and women, rather than spending time gravitating towards what we didn’t get we should be building upon what we did and then filling in the holes on our on. It is then the friends we choose and institutions we participate in.

Isn’t this site and those who comment there-in nothing more than mentors? That one would write this and others would fact check, and then we could all discuss the merritts and share our stories give me a sense of optimism as well.

The discussion, en masse, reminds of the cultural shift from the Goddess to the God figure head. Great read!

164 Michael Peirce December 16, 2010 at 9:33 am

The man who pretty much primed me for coming back to the church was a combat medic I met at a small arms range. I saw him pushing rounds out of a submachine gun and said “that’s powerful medicine doc!” He replied “Mighty is the arm of the Lord.” And so it is.
When my wife and I joined a Confessional Lutheran Church years ago it just happened to be the day that church leaders were being installed – all male. She looked and me and said “thank God – a church where the men do their duty!”
Now if we could just take back the corporate work place – and go back to actually making decisions and acting upon them instead of endlessly debating and never really knowing what the goal is or how to get there…

btw – that picture of the author certainly shows two men doing what we do best!

165 Beau December 16, 2010 at 9:34 am

Great article, Brett!

I was wondering if you could tell me the title of the book where you received those quotations from Billy Sunday? I’d like to read a biography or book on his life after reading this article, and I’m not sure which one to choose.

Thank you!

166 Carrie December 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I am happy to be a woman and I did not feel any “hate” towards me in this article. I am grateful for the freedoms and opportunities I have as a woman these days, but I don’t want to do it without men! It is a perfect partnership, each contributing essential elements. I loved this article and feel greater love, and appreciation for the MEN in my life and all around the world. I am very grateful for the womanly qualities I have been given by God, taught by my Mother and have developed in my own life. I feel my Father taught me important things about my great worth as a woman, and in turn I have learned to recognize the great worth of a MAN! I LOVE YOU MEN!! Keep up the good work! I’m going to go and hug my Manly Husband and 2 Sons now. :)

167 Jayne December 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Great Article. On a side note to all Fathers out there. My father worked long hours sometimes six days a week. Gone before 6 am back after 7pm. But…and here is the clincher..WHEN HE WAS HOME HIS THOUGHTS WERE WITH US! HIS MIND WAS WITH US! He will always be my hero for he taught me to be focus on what is important and gave me a wonderful example of who God the Father really is!

168 Indy Guy December 16, 2010 at 12:48 pm

drl December 13, 2010 at 10:04 am
“Good article; I’m a little disturbed by the opinions many men here have on feminism. My father, a great man by any standard, considers himself (as I consider myself) a feminist. Feminism is simply a search for equality. It has nothing to do with demonizing men or manly pursuits; that is the refuge of a few nut-bags (“all sex is rape” comes to mind) who denigrate feminism. ”

Nice fantasy. Like believing that the Federal Reserve actually tries to work for the benefit of the currency and the citizenry or the ACLU cares about violations of ANYONE’s rights.

Females aren’t equal. Period. They’re complimentary to men, not equal.

169 Aharon December 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Thanks for writing this piece. It was interesting and thought provoking. Two things really stood out for me.

1. I do not find men less religious than women. Men perhaps respond more strongly by walking away from attending religious services when they (we) cannot relate to it. Religious branches that liberalize and feminize lose men. Based on what I have read, Christian denominations that stay true to tradition are doing fine with male attendance. Myself, I am Jewish. The Jewish branches that have liberalized and feminized are increasingly losing male attendance at services and in study. There are Jewish jokes about how at each week’s services for Reform Judaism, one can count the decrease in males. While I am not Hassidic (or ultra orthodox) in practice, I do pray and study with them. In practice, Jewish Orthodox men are generally more religious than Jewish Orthodox women.

2. I find stats about the divorce rate misleading. While divorce occurs among virtually all groups, it isn’t the same. America is a changing salad bowl and not a melting pot. Divorce rates for modern secular Americans is different than for those who are recent immigrants from non-Anglo non-English speaking countries and from Americans who are conservative and/or religious. I’m also curious about context: for example, is the divorce rate for college grads lower perhaps because less people are getting married or getting married later?

170 ED December 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Thanks for the additional detail. I still don’t see this as supporting a claim that the message would have changed in the 20th Century, but I think your elaboration gets any possible change much closer to the turn of the century. Good enough for me anyway.

I don’t think you are being a jerk, but I do think you are mistaken. Please allow me to explain.

Brett took the hard job of making a positive argument, and I got the easy job of attacking it. One way of doing that is to give counter-examples that demonstrate some weakness in the reasoning. One need not believe the premises in those counter-examples are true. In fact, one rarely does. The premises came from the article. That’s the whole point. You take what the author gives you, and show that it doesn’t justify the conclusions the author draws.

So, thinking Brett was arguing that a separation between the public and private sphere caused a lack of manliness in America, I gave a counter-example (Ancient Greece and Rome) where a similar split did not cause a lack of manliness. That shows that the split alone cannot cause the sort of perpetual immaturity that we see in American culture. Brett wasn’t making that argument, though, so the counter-example missed the point.

I was doing the same thing with Brett’s claim that a higher percentage of women in church would create a message shift in the 20th Century of portraying Jesus in ways that would appeal to women. “Wouldn’t this be present in other times, as well?” I asked, knowing that Brett’s answer was no. Brett then provided more detail to show why it was that he thought the portrayal had changed in the 20th Century but not previously.

The reason why I attacked in this way is because I don’t think the public-private split alone can prevent manliness and because I don’t think church attendance alone would create a message shift in one time as opposed to another. Other forces, factors, etc. would do it. In short, I thought the views Brett expressed in the article were too simplistic, and the objections were aimed at demonstrating that.

I asked for charity because Brett attributed an assumption to me that my objections did not require. Being charitable in an argument is treating the other party like a reasonable person and addressing only the points that you need to address. Attributing an assumption that is surely false to someone is, thus, not charitable. You do that as a last resort. (So too, attributing a stronger claim to someone than they are actually making is uncharitable. I unfortunately did that to Brett, though it was unintentional.) Brett’s elaboration on how he thought the portrayal had shifted and why was a direct response and all that he needed to provide.

171 Cristy December 16, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I have a unique perspective on this issue, being a woman raised by a single father and brothers. Apart from the obvious mental consequences of losing a parent at an early age, I don’t feel that being raise by men has robbed me of any part of my femininity. Nor, in any of the myriad showings of sympathy and concern I’ve received from others, has anyone wondered if my not having a strong female role model would hinder my ability to be Womanly. Is this because my situation is far less common? Or is it, as this article seems to hint, that becoming a Woman is natural, easy, and guaranteed, while becoming a Man is some sort of esoteric process that requires a delicate and precise balance of nature, nurture, and luck?

My inclination to believe this subtle misogyny is bolstered by the fact of an obvious omission in this discussion: if the young men of our day are being adversely affected by fatherless households, what of the equal number of young women without fathers? Are they to be completely unaffected because being a Woman, unlike being a Man, is easy? Or is it believed, quite simplistically, that woman only need a mother to be well-adjusted in adulthood?

However, I believe the reason I’ve never been asked whether growing up motherless made me less of a Woman is because, when put in those terms, the statement sounds justifiably moronic. I don’t think it’s much different when the roles are reversed.

I agree most completely with another commenter, Ed, who says real Manhood is the opposite of Childhood, not of Womanhood. Growing into a well-adjusted adult without both parents is very difficult for both men AND women, and the stresses of a single parent-household emotionally, financially, and mentally take a terrible toll. Absent fathers are sadly more common, and I applaud the urge to make men more present and responsible in their children’s lives. However, seeking to blame women, gender equality, and female teachers et al for the plagues of a broken family is not productive, and indeed is very offensive to me. Though Brett insists he does not intend to do this, the title of this article alone suggests quite differently.

172 Cristy December 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

*note: a definition of terms is always helpful. By “well-adjusted adult”, I mean independent, trustworthy, responsible, kind, brave, emotionally mature, spiritual, capable of providing for a family, oneself, and one’s community.

I’m going to take a risk and assume this is very close to the definition of “Manhood” many here ascribe to. However, I call this Adulthood. It’s just as important (and, sadly, often absent) in women as it is in men.

173 Anne Keckler December 16, 2010 at 5:09 pm

What is feminine, and what is masculine? Must we allow society to decide this for us?

I’m very disturbed by the comments such as the one by Indy Guy who says that females aren’t equal. We hurt our boys when we tell them there is only one way to be a man, or only one way to be a woman.

174 Luke December 16, 2010 at 6:39 pm


It’s easier to grow become Womanly without a mother simply because the possibility of having good female role models is much higher than of having a good male role model.

As Brett mentioned in the article, if you grew up in the past 30 years, you likely spent most of your formative years being taught by female teachers. Television and media is loaded with female role models. While role models can’t take the place of your mother, they can provide examples of how a woman is supposed to behave.

Boys don’t have an easily available male role model. When I was growing up, Home Improvement was on TV. If you’ve ever watched the show, you know how Tim was always wrong, and Jill was always right. What do you think that shows boys? Now we’ve got Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. Both fathers aren’t exactly worth emulating. The only TV show I know of that has a positive male role model is NCIS. Gibbs may not be perfect, but he is competent, intelligent and well respected by his colleagues. Boys don’t have many examples of how they should behave to become men. So, they reach physical maturity, but don’t easily make the transition from boyhood to manhood.

175 Jim December 16, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I think this is a good article, but I think there might be a little bit of “missing the forest for the trees” in some of the responses. I think what was being implied in this article is not that women are bad at raising boys, or that men need to behave like the men of the past in order to be real “men”.

I think that if you look at Mad Men, which is interpreted, I think incorrectly, as an idealization of the past, and as the model man for this site. Don Draper seems to us to be a man much like the kind of man Brett McKay talks about. Confident, successful, master of his fate. I’ve heard guys say they want to BE Don Draper. Of course, any one who actually watches that show knows that deep down, Don is a little boy running from his problems. The irony of wanting to be Don Draper, is that not even Don is Don Draper.

This site, ultimately, I think, is about maturity. I don’t want to put words in Mr. McKay’s mouth, but I think maturity is really what he’s talking about. We live in a society where both men and women are subjected to a culture of immediate gratification, where we choose what is easy and what feels good only in the short term, over what is difficult, but ultimately right. What’s important about a marriage with both mother and father is not so that the mother and father can teach nebulous qualities like “sensitivity” or “masculinity”, but that kids can see what a, stable, loving, adult relationship is like, with all it’s difficulty, and it’s happiness. Ideally, those children will learn from their parents example, and adopt those skills in their own marriage. I think someone made a great earlier post when he said “It’s not about Manhood as opposed to Womanhood, but Manhood opposed to Childhood.”

I think this is a great site, with lots of important information on how a man who feels immature or unfulfilled by the culture of immediate gratification can teach himself to find greater purpose and indeed, happiness in his life.

176 John December 16, 2010 at 7:40 pm

For some reason or another, the best example of a Male Church goer is an effeminate, wishy-washy, pasty haired, downright sissified pushover that lets everyone walk all over him. Luckily, that conception is changing alongside the globalization of religious media.
Ironically, the Pastor of my church was raised in a Single Parent Army-soldier household. He is definitely one of the few shining examples of true Manliness in our entire congregation!

177 win December 16, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I beg to differ. If it were about being mature vs. being male or female, why is the title what it is?

It’s about standing up and being responsible, it’s about caring about others and protecting them, it’s about being able to take a hit whether it was your fault or not. Good enough.

This from someone who’s been told she’s a better man than men around her!

178 David K. Meller December 16, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Things weren’t as bad in the XIX and early XXth century as this article indicates! Women did indeed enter the workforce but their PRIMARY sphere of influence was the home, hearth, and husband (not necessarily in that order). Employment (and much of education, from the primary grades to college) was gender-segregated, and this had the approval of the authorities at the time. Men’s work and women’s work was DIFFERENT, and there were no aplogogies, from employers or anybody else. Add to that, formal schooling was MUCH less prolonged for most boys, and in all cases, the authorities on the farm, the factory, the office(!) or the mill were MEN, not ersatz male over-educated feminists, most of whom are there for no other purpose than to humiliate men at the behest of “affirmative action” hiring practices.

These didn’t exist a century or two ago. Men were also understood by both sexes to be the “head of the family”. Chivalry was practiced, at least in ideal, by BOTH sexes, men showing courtesies toward women, e.g. remembering days like anniversaries and birthdays that were important to her, standing up when a lady enters a room, walking on the curb side of the road, tipping his hat etc. Women, however, RECIPROCATED!! A well-bred lady would never raise her voice to her husband or contradict him in public, she was near her escort in public at all times, and didn’t brazenly flirt with everyone like an alley cat in heat, she went out of her way to please him, wearing clothes, hairstyle, and other grooming that she knew he liked, cooking his favorite dishes at home, and so on.

Both men and women benefitted from chivalry–if it was done correctly–as did the children raised under such a regime.

Women took PRIDE in their homemaking skills, and took pride in their domestic support of a family, indeed it was a scandal to be divorced by one’s husband in most respectable social circles, and men similarly took PRIDE in their financial support of their wife and children. Contrast this with the prevailing attitudes among both sexes (or what is left of them)!

Is there a shortage of positive masculinity in our society? You bet there is? Who caused it? Women, or at least those over-educated, pseudomasculine, ersatz men polluting academia, the workplace, law-enforcement, business, and even (Lord help us, the Armed Forces) —feminist “womyn”!!

David K. Meller

PS- I’m a little tired of hearing, at this late date, that “Not ALL women are like that”. Of course not, but those who aren’t have done d**n little to stop those who were! DKM

179 Burton December 17, 2010 at 2:33 am

You also have to look at how it is in the interest of elites to remove men from their homes and families. This creates a mass of women and children dependent upon the state for their welfare and protection. Meantime, if your average divorce or single guy has no stake in the system, then he is less of a threat to the elites. In the long run, of course, this leads to a disaster. But I suspect people are starting to wake up.

180 sairy_gamp December 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

I’m pretty sure I’m one of the “elites” you’re talking about. But I don’t believe any of what you just wrote of course.

Can we drop the talk radio codewords and use straightforward language? Like men?

181 Thomas December 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Hi, I took a little offense with the underlying premise of this article. Thankfully I have a blog where I can express my views. I don’t really feel like religion has any business defining manhood or manliness. This article takes the opposite approach and I decided to give an example of why the premise of religion creating manly men is just flat wrong.

Check it out if you also feel like religion has no business in manliness.

All in all, a good article and a great thesis – the problem of a generation of men raised by women. So please don’t blast me or delete me comment as some sort of hate speech of condemnation. I’m hoping for a gentlemanly rebuttal, that’s all.

182 Chris December 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Some great books with a Christian perspective on manliness is “What He Must Be to Marry my Daughter”, and “Disciplines of a Godly Man.” As a young man myself, we really need to step it up, take our responsibilities seriously, and stop spending so much time watching sports and playing video games.

183 Jay Sennett December 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm

“I don’t think we can really say there has been a gender imbalance for most of American history, but I guess that depends on how you define “most.””

This statement got me. Given that women could not vote until the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 and that the Puritans had been living in early America since that late 1600s, I’m not really sure what you think constitutes a gender imbalance in the first place.

Just because Church fathers expected men and women to attend church doesn’t mean they lived under the same expectations.

What I always find so troubling about this site is a seeming unwillingness to admit that women in America have ever suffered as a class of people because of the possible existence of a gender imbalance embedded in American culture and with this assumption, any willingness to admit that men as a class benefit from a gender imbalance.

Granted this imbalance exists on a continuum and the imbalances have changed over time, but even today women statistically still earn less than men for equal work (nursing is an exception) and women still suffer violence in the home.

But from your statement I gather you define gender imbalance differently.

I’m going to go out on a limb and share with you Brett and the site visitors and share that I lived the first 32 years of my life as a woman. I’ve now lived that last 14 as a man.

There is much about masculinity that I find rather baffling, particularly when commenters want to blame feminism for what ails men. I don’t see it that way. I can tell you for a fact that I am treated much better now as a man than when I was a woman.

What has been most shocking for me as a newly minted man is the realization that most men have no idea how to be men either. What I don’t see is men admitting that a lot of women don’t know how to be women, even when they were raised by women.

What I do see are many, many, many opportunities for men to fight for a truer image of men in the media who just sit back and do nothing. Why aren’t we calling advertisers to stop portraying men as idiots in commercials and television programs? Why aren’t we publically speaking out about men who abandon their children, beat their girlfriends and in the cases of professional athletes, rape women? Why is the Art of Manliness participating in the White Ribbon Campaign, for example?

From my perspective, America is waiting for men to step up to the plate. There are many, many opportunities to change people’s minds – particularly the minds of women – but if we can’t even speak out against commercials that portray men as morons, why should anybody else care?

The problem is not that women raised men so much as that men are still waiting for somebody to tell them what to do. But this is not a male problem, it is an American one. For all our blathering on about independence, we’re really quite content to follow anyone rather than do the difficult work of knowing our own minds and speaking out for what is right.

As a female-to-male transsexual you will have to do what I did: know your own heart and make it up most days. I also suggest that everyone reading this site actually read feminist authors. Whatever Fox News or the NYTimes says about feminism is mostly pablum.

In closing the best advice on how to be a man is that given by an earlier commenter, Justin Watson: “[The cornerstone of being a man] is the fulfillment of those obligations which you willingly undertake is the cornerstone of being a good man, whether that’s the obligation to raise your children, heal the sick, educate the youth or risk your ass for your friends and your country.”

My apologies for the rather rambling nature of my comment.
Best wishes to everyone this holiday season.
Jay Sennett

184 Jack Crossfield December 18, 2010 at 12:10 am

To throw cold water on the optimism about declining divorce rates consider the following” 30-40% of white children and 70% black children are born to unmarried families. You have to try pretty hard to conclude those children are going to have fathers involved even as much as divorced fathers.

How about a young boy raised by a young single mom who dates other men during his formative years. We can all imagine the ideal example of a Ward Cleaver type but let’s consider mom’s boyfriend closer to a Charlie Sheen. It would be nice is mom and boyfriend were obsessed with creating a new stable family, but they may just be trying to have some passion. What does that do to a boy’s idea about men, his mom, and a healthy adult relationship? Seeing his divorced dad may mean tagging along with dad’s new family on some outing they enjoy in an environment with none of the child’s friends or interests. Being a passenger on their trip. Maybe the dating mom, and the part-time visits to dad means the boy can’t socialize with his friends because babysitters aren’t going to be delivering or supervising llike a parent.

Where does a shy or introverted boy raised with little healthy male influence learn the social skills of a man and not adopt the social skills of the female culture he’s surrounded by? Rather than seeing hope for an increasingly healthy culture I see a growing population of mis-fits. Happy endings don’t just happen they have to be created. Who is teaching boys to become men? Our culture previously had enough make influence that the occasional stray boy would pick up some or most of what he needed by cultural osmosis. Our culture is now actively hostile to male influence and boys of single moms may have no healthy male influence. In some populations that means drugs and crime and in some populations it means depression and withdrawal. What I can see is worrying.

185 Jay Stang December 18, 2010 at 2:19 am

@ Jay Sennett,

Jay, unfortunately, your are not a man or a male. You are a female who has surgically altered your body to effect the appearance of a man. You are still a woman, albeit a modified one. By definition, if you think you are something you are not, you are insane. You were born a woman, and you still are, no matter the psychological problems you no doubt are afflicted with.

I am sorry if you are offended, but that is the truth.

186 ted rains December 18, 2010 at 11:40 am

There is a new book by HarperCollins that talks about this… it is called Fatherless Generation; Redeeming the Story. In fact, the book talks about this very conversation that Tyler Durden has with himself.

Thank you for a great article… if you have not read it yet, you definitely should.

187 devin December 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I remember being little (90′s) and looking at society around me and thinking that kids are being raised like elephants. With elephants the young are raised by females only and once the boys start to get older and more aggressive they are pushed out of the herd. But we are not elephants. I like how this article showed that this men-work-women-home set-up is artificial and that things use to be different.

188 Leif Osberg December 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Great article! My grandfather was born and raised in Aurora, Illinois in the 1910′s and 20′s. He told me that when he was a small boy, Billy Sunday came to his town (maybe Chicago). He said that by the time the alter call was made, he was so scared of going to Hell that he ran to the alter. He had never heard a more powerful sermon than that preached by Billy Sunday. Very inspiring!

189 Matt J December 18, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I loved this article!
My name is Matt. I am 20, and from Alabama
My dad has to be the best model for a father. We have been close throughout my entire life. I have been fortunate to have such a great role-model. Even though we do not farm, we spend every weekend in our shop. We either work on my Chevy Nova, or we just do what needs to be done around the house. He has been teaching high-school for 43 years and is now looking to teach in a college. He taught me about Christianity. In truth that has really helped me the most. Knowing that I can trust in God has really made me a better person than I was before.
I have a friend who was raised by a single parent, and truthfully he lacks even the slightest hint of work ethic. Maybe he is just a bad example, but he has lamented his father leaving and likes to blame all of his problems on his dead beat dad.
To clarify, I do not think i am better than those who were raised by single parents. I only have one friend on which to base an opinion.
Also,both my mom and dad work. They have both helped me in every aspect of life. Even now during tough economic times, they have let me stay at home while I go to school. The bond with my dad is special, but it takes a good mother and father to raise a son. Thank you for this website, and just know that there are real men already out in the world. Men can be role-models like my father.

190 Chieftain December 19, 2010 at 6:13 am

@Mark — re: females as Scout Leaders. I think it’s perfectly OK for women to be Scout Leaders… depending.

The best Scout Leader I ever knew had been a nurse in WW-II London, during the Blitz. Four-foot-nothing dripping wet: she had met Lord Baden-Powell and had led Boy Scouts pretty much forever.

She was so small that her job during the war was to crawl thru bombed out buildings with a rope around her waist, looking for survivors. If she found one, she would give them first aid, hold onto the victim by whatever she could grab, and the rest of the rescue party would drag them both back thru the rubble to safety. She had nerves of steel. And obviously First Aid training was very high on her agenda for any Scout lucky enough to be led by her.

She could also make a dog do literally *anything* — even if she had never met the dog before. She was truly remarkable.

She died in 1991, at her home. She did not want to die in hospital, so everybody who knew her arranged to spend time on watch 24×7 during her last days, in shifts. She was never alone: we reminisced, looked after her needs, read from The Jungle Book, watched over her while she slept.

I was not there the day she died: others were. She did not die alone.

How many young lives had she touched? How many young lads had she moulded over the years into being good men of Character, always Prepared? Dunno. What I *do* know is this: every Boy Scout troop would be privileged to have somebody like her for Akela.

I have read that the Boy Scouts, as an organization, has since changed and not for the better. I have read that, for example, Boy Scouts are not permitted to carry pocket knives anymore. No man can Be Prepared properly without a small pocket knife in his pocket. He should always have it with him and it should always be razor-sharp. (There are a few allowable exceptions to this rule. Scouting ought never to be one of these exceptions, tho’!)

Whether these modern changes are due to women being permitted to be Scout Leaders, who knows? I know of at least one female Boy Scout Leader who could never be blamed for that!

191 Benjamin D December 19, 2010 at 2:52 pm

I am a 18 year old male on the journey to manhood.
Since discovering the site a month ago, I have seen a significant shift in my thinking. It started with the article “Stop Hanging Out With Women and Start Dating Them.” For the longest time, I had thought it was alright to just hang out. There have been some girls who were obviously interested in me, but I chose to hang out rather than date. I now see that having so many casual female acquaintances was negative to my development.
I have since stopped myself from sharing my thoughts and feelings with them. I rather turn to fantastic male mentors I have found (3 high school teachers, 2 professors, 1 neighbor, and an older friend) to make sound decisions when I see the need for aid. I realize that the influence of women has held me back. Before school resumes in January, I will devour much of the recommended media such as the 100 movie list and a good number more of the articles. I have purchased a journal (at the recommendation of this site) and will reflect upon each individual article, keeping a record of what goes through my mind.
My dad lives in California to work and me and 2 brothers remain with our mother in Georgia. (They are still together.) We have been under heavy maternal influence for the past 6 years, but it is time to break the cycle.
Continue to develop this site! Generation Y & Z desperately needs the material.

192 Manxman December 20, 2010 at 2:15 am

Good article.

Here’s my experience: I am a father of three, two boys and a girl. My wife is deeply religious and has insisted on homeschooling our kids. She expounds traditional “family values” beliefs, ie marriage only between a man and a woman, the importance of having a mother and a father raise children, but I have found it exceedingly difficult to exert a strong masculine influence on the lives of my sons. I am not a passive man and don’t suffer from any gender identity issues. However, I have found it very difficult to balance the feminine influence my wife has over the children inasmuch as they spend 24/7 together and despite any rhetoric to the contrary, my wife acts like a strident feminist (“man bad, woman good”) and is very overprotective and coddling of the kids, particularly the boys. When I tell her how my father, uncles, football coaches, sports experiences, etc gave my “man” life lessons, she just gives me that “that’s why you’re so f***ed up” look. That’s because only women are wise and men are brutes, right? (I know, I know, doesn’t sound like a fundy christian, does it? yet there it is)

Now I do work a lot and am gone between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm and many Saturdays but that’s what happens when your wife will not work outside of the home. I have tried balancing it out with sports and other masculine hobbies and activities to no avail. I am watching both of my young sons turn into full-on moma’s boys and there is little, it seems, i can do about it. (Is it normal behavior for a 14 year old boy to still snuggle/cuddle with his mom? Call me a Neanderthal but I think that’s weird. Doesn’t the Oedipus stage end around 6 years?)

In the end, I blame the homeschooling thing since if my wife also worked, at least there would be equal time in terms of masculine/feminine influence. I also blame the religion thing too. I am a believer, just not to the degree my wife is. Plus, I was raised Catholic and my wife is a fundamentalist evangelical. Accordingly, I am “unsaved”. Our kids have been fully indoctrinated into the evangelical way of thinking and I think this also plays a role in marginalizing my role as a father.

My wife and I are in the process of divorcing primarily because I feel my role as a father has been marginalized. Being available to act a strong male role model is important but it does not guarantee anything.

193 Charles Stewart December 20, 2010 at 2:51 am

Interesting article. There are social institutions that do support manhood…for example college fraternities. By design many of these organizations deal with the concept of manhood. While I was in college, even now that I am out of it, I cherished many relationships I built with other men, especially older men, that help provide guidance and laughter as I progressed through life.

194 Shaun December 20, 2010 at 12:50 pm

A college course which I recently completed addressed some of these issues. The focus of the course was on secret societies/societies with secrets in the United States. One of our primary texts (Secret Ritual and Manhood in Victorian America by Mark C. Carnes) focused particularly on these issues. A lot of men joined ritual based societies with secrets (e.g. freemasonry, etc.) in order to cope with these issues. They would be faced with their ritualistic sacrifice, death, and then rebirth into a society where they looked up to strong paternal figures. This was the way that many men who were searching for male guidance were able to find it. Of course a clear problem with this is that the more time spent in the lodge, the less time a man stays at home with his children, which in turn promotes this vicious cycle further. It’s an interesting problem.

I was fortunate in the fact that my father was around a lot. I believe other positive male activities which all boys should be involved in are boy scouts and sports, both (hopefully) having positive male figures for growing boys to look up to. Being a member of a fraternity in college was also a wonderful experience, which I believe helps address many of these issues.

Thanks for the great article.

195 Aernout Zevenbergen December 21, 2010 at 1:54 am


I’m stunned into silence.
Stunned because of the info given, and stunned by the “well-researchedness” of your post! I work a lot with issues around masculinity and this by now ‘ravaged’ theme of ‘crisis in masculinity’. Your research helps me greatly to comprehend trends…

There’s a lot of info in here, which I’ll print out, read again, highlight and ruminate on.

More later, that’s for sure.

196 Joel December 21, 2010 at 11:12 pm

This makes me pessimistic about the future of mankind. However, I take solace in the comments posted above and my faith in the young adults my age who, after a general acknowledgment of this trend, have taken it upon themselves to reverse this mess. I know I will. Thank you for your website. In the internet age I am not too proud to teach myself how to be a man. You have to start somewhere! Besides, my son will never know the difference. That’s what’s important.

197 JonoC December 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Great article. Interesting responses in the comments.
I’ve been mulling over thoughts on man-to-man mentoring, just how necessary it is. I help run a youth group at a local church aimed specifically at helping boys grow into men (Boys’ Brigade) and find that so many young guys are desperate to make a connection to older males.

As a primary school teacher myself, only a few years in to my career, I’ve seen both the challenge and reward of seeking out ways to emotionally connect and nurture younger people in a masculine way – which can be tricky given culture generally defines ‘nurturing’ as a female’s job. They do it well, but men need to step up to the plate as well, in whatever capacity they can.

Keep up the great work, Brett.

198 Karyn December 23, 2010 at 12:31 am

Brett, I get what you’re saying. And I agree with it; I work in a high school, and the indolence and lack of direction of many young men there is heart-breaking. (It’s also true for the young women.) I enjoy reading this site for many reasons…not the least is looking for gift ideas for my brother and nephew!

I like the engagement you had with Ed above–very respectful and inquisitive on both sides. Here’s why I’m posting: I was hoping for a little more ‘calling out’ of other posters with sexist remarks. I don’t refer to men discussing their childhoods or their marriages; those are their stories and they are entitled to them, and to a safe place to tell them. I’m talking about folks such as Jay Stang, David Meller, Indy Guy, Alejandro, and others. I hoped that men and gentlemen would not tolerate overt misogyny in their presence; up to this point, I have been mostly disappointed. (thanks, Sairy, for being the exception!)

Don’t get me wrong; I know this site is by men and for men. You’re going to discuss guy things in guy ways. I’m glad there is no chromosome check for me to be able to view it. I enjoy reading the perspective of strong, independent men who articulate their thoughts and open their hearts. I try to learn what I can, to try to impart to my nephew, and to some of the boys I work with. I just hoped that some of the overt sexism would have seen more of a negative response.

199 Jay Stang December 23, 2010 at 1:02 am


Please tell me how I was being sexist or misogynistic in my comments to Jay Sennett. I tried to be direct, to the point and honest with out being unnecessarily offensive, but I feel strongly about that issue, and felt the need to speak the truth.

200 Mrs. A December 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Fantastic article!!! I couldn’t agree more! And I’m a girl that grew up without a Dad! I know I missed out on many things in my life because of his non-existence.

We are so fortunate to have our technology to be able to pass this article on. The point and lesson is so clear. I hope and pray this society will continue to evolve to more work from home jobs to bring back the family and the time spent with each other. We learn and grow so much from that time as the article states.

My son sent me this link knowing I would be interested in what was being said because throughout his life we would have many discussions about what is a “MAN” and his purpose.

Thank you so much. Well said!

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