The tendency of the nation’s schools to suppress boys’ natural ways of seeing and doing things and force them to adopt feminine attitudes and behaviors, brilliantly documented by Christina Hoff-Sommers in her 2001 book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, is becoming increasingly evident in the culture.
Three recent articles document some of the consequences as young men mistreated by our educational system advance into society and try to become men when they simply don’t know how and have been taught to disrespect masculinity and suppress it in themselves.
AP, for example, notes that network TV’s new primetime schedule "puts the softer side of men on display":
In a number of broadcast ensembles premiering this fall, men are opening up about issues beyond sports, money, power and sexual conquests. They’re expressing their feelings—often to other men—on fatherhood, intimacy and love.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it does indicate a feminization of the American male, as the AP story explicitly notes:
Although the idea of the metrosexual man focused on outward appearances, where men were as conscious about the way they looked — and smelled — as women, “now it seems they can, on the inside, feel a little bit more like girls and that’s still OK,” adds [Nicole Vecchiarelli, entertainment director of Details, a men’s fashion and lifestyle magazine].
The AP story notes that feminization of adult males is central to the forthcoming ABC TV show Big Shots, which premieres next week:
The men in “Big Shots” are very in touch with their feminine sides. Vartan, Dylan McDermott, Joshua Malina and Christopher Titus play high-powered Manhattan CEOs with everything in the world they could want, except for stable relationships at home. In the pilot, the men groan so much about their dysfunctional marriages, their need for intimacy and fidelity, McDermott’s character declares: “Men. We’re the new women.”
When you turn on your television this fall, you’ll be watching more women kick more ass than you can possibly imagine—physically, economically and sexually. Hard-bodied and smart, rich and aggressive, confident and independent, the chicks who populate the prime-time lineup are being cast in roles that once belonged almost exclusively to men. These broads are cops and lawyers and masters of the business universe. . . . Julianna Margulies will star as a nasty Nancy Grace knockoff, Angie Harmon as a police lieutenant, Lucy Liu as a publishing executive, and Patricia Heaton as a news anchor; there’s a new "Bionic Woman" and a whole show about the world’s leading incubator of the future, "The Terminator’s" Sarah Connor. The flinty Cagneys, Laceys, Murphys and Buffys of yore aren’t the exceptions in the new TV season; they rule
And the men? They’re not doing so well, Salon reports:
So what happened to the men? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Here, for instance, is what happens when Lucy Liu’s character, Mia, on ABC’s "Cashmere Mafia," wins a work contest, and big promotion, over her boyfriend and colleague Richard: He breaks up with her, tail between his legs. "I thought I’d win and buy us a place and take care of you," he explains. "And now that it’s reversed I just can’t see us … I’m 40 next month. I want someone to come home to. I’m going to want kids, and we’re just going in opposite directions." . . .
In the face of professional and sexual equality between the televised sexes, these fictional guys are cowed, angry and generally emasculated by the successes of their female counterparts.
The trend Sommers identifies in The War Against Boys, of course, would affect both males and females, as the latter also get the lesson that masculinity is evil. Predictably, then, almost as if TV producers, writers, and programmers had some great vendetta against masculinity, the men in many new TV shows are viciously abused for public entertainment, in the modern equivalent of bearbaiting:
Among the degradations about to be heaped on television’s men? There are guys whose wives cheat on them, whose girlfriends get promoted over them, whose mates make more money than they do; guys who get left out of baby-making, who date women with penises and at least one who gets anally raped by a monkey.
In the new ABC comedy Carpoolers, Salon observes,
Part of the horror of this show is how it—and not the specter of the high-earning wife—is actually stripping its heroes of anything resembling self-respect or masculine dignity.
The Salon writer characterizes all of this as reflecting men’s anxieties about women’s success in the workplace, but that seems a rather absurd explanation as it is at least a couple of decades too late. A much better explanation is Sommers’s observation of society’s denigration of masculinity.
Writing in National Review Online, Justin Shubow points out that in several recent romantic comedy films, a friendship between two men goes through most of the same steps as the central male-female romantic relationship in the films. Shubow concludes, correctly, that this is partly a response to the impermanency of romantic relationships in our divorce-prone time:
In these extremely unromantic times (Is there anything less romantic than having sex while wearing a condom?), in which serial monogamy followed by divorce-prone marriage has become the norm, living happily ever after has become a less and less believable fantasy. By contrast, “best friends forever” is not just a live possibility, it’s one that is widely lived. And when romantic relationships are impermanent, life-long friendship becomes one of our few consolations. Admittedly, such an interpretation is an awfully heavy take on light entertainment. But if one looks past the full-frontal vulgarity, even the most immature comedies might be capturing a contemporary truth: Outside the family, anyone looking for undying words of devotion might just have to settle for “I love you, man.”
More to the current point, however, Shubow also sees these films as reflecting a general feminization of the culture, as Sommers’ research wo
uld predict, and a consequent inability of young men to accept the role and responsibilties of becoming adult males (Shubow does not make that causal connection, so I will):
why is this new sub-genre being born now? One explanation can be found in the greater social acceptance of men sharing their feelings, an aspect of the more general feminization of the culture. (Though it may seem counter-intuitive, that larger trend might help explain why porn-addicted, video-game-playing, man-children are the subject of so many recent comedies like Knocked Up; The 40 Year-Old Virgin; You, Me, and Dupree; and Failure to Launch. Not having been effectively socialized into masculinity, adult males have become less manly but more boyish.)
The war against boys seems to have created two main character patterns for the young adult male of our time: weenies who want only to be left alone to drink beer and play video games with their weenie buddies, and thugs who in rebellion against their unnatural education are perpetually concerned with proving their toughness through increasingly loutish behavior.
The fact is, people learn what you teach them. And the consequences of the war against boys, which is after all just part of a broader social war against masculinity in general, are starting to be seen in the culture and in the world at large.
We should hardly be surprised that the results are anything but pretty.