Over the weekend, Review published Ms. Hymowitz’s essay, “Where Have the Good Men Gone?”
Excerpted from her new book, “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” the piece argued that too many men in their 20s are now living in an extended adolescence. Here, Ms. Hymowitz responds to some of the reaction to her piece, which to date has received more than 1,100 comments on WSJ.com. (Ms. Hymowitz will also take part in a live chat with WSJ.com readers tomorrow afternoon—check back for a link to submit your questions.)
Anyone glancing at the responses to my article “Where Have the Good Men Gone?” can easily understand one of the reasons I wanted to write “Manning Up,” the book from which the piece was excerpted: There are lots of very angry young men out there. No, they’re not just angry at me. They’re angry at the whole sex.
Here are a few sample comments:
- “It’s a hell of a lot more fun spending time with our friends than getting saddled with a wife who resents our previous lives and thinks everything we enjoy is stupid.”
- “Yes, yes, I must man up and feed my flesh into the marriage/divorce/alimony machine.”
- “Men are disposable. Women know it, and they act accordingly.”
My book grew out of my observation that relations between the sexes during this protracted period I call pre-adulthood are, at best, very confused. I have tried to figure out why so many young women today complain about men being thoughtless, immature and boorish. I also wanted to know why large numbers of men have become so profoundly hostile to women. (See above.)
Many readers have objected that my answer to these questions is to “blame men” (although, just to keep things interesting, a few commentators have also complained that I “blame women.”) The excerpt published in these pages – just a small part of one chapter – may have supported that first impression to some extent. But a fair reading of the book would reveal a more balanced description of the unprecedented predicament young adults find themselves in today.
In fact, to me the whole question of blame makes no more sense than asking whether the Chileans were at fault for last year’s earthquake. My book describes sociological and economic tectonic shifts – primarily the shift to a knowledge economy and the rise of women – that are so huge and so impersonal as to render the question of blame meaningless.
The knowledge economy has postponed marriage and created a new stage of life. It has also produced a wealth of gratifying jobs for the college educated that can be done as well (or perhaps better) by women as by men. This too is something entirely new.
The success of women has completely upended the historical relations between the sexes, which adds to the confusions of pre-adulthood. When I say success, I am not cheerleading. Women are getting more degrees; the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that by age 23, there are 164 women with bachelor’s degree for every 100 men. Not surprisingly, then, in most large cities of the United States, single childless women are also out-earning men. These are simply facts.
Now add to those facts the influence of an anti-male strain of feminism. As a number of commenters have correctly noted, feminism celebrated women’s independence sometimes to the point of making men seem an expendable part of family life. Throughout the 1990’s when many of today’s pre-adult men were growing up, the entire culture turned into a you-go-girl cheering section. Girls ruled, while boys drooled, or so the t-shirts and book bags said. Boys might have also observed their uncles or fathers, perhaps good men, being taken to the cleaners by wives who kept the family house and children.
I tell this tale of male woe at some length in “Manning Up.” What I also argue is that pre-adulthood, while an understandable, and perhaps even necessary, response to the knowledge economy, provides poor soil for boys to grow into men. Obviously, this is not true of all men. It might not even be true of most. But it is the case for many and it is a source of deep frustration for many women and a concern for a society dependent on adult citizens to raise the next generation.
I should add that the comments have caused me rethink one of my positions: my indifference towards Star Wars. Christina Hoff Sommers has argued that one of the reasons boys are turning off to school is that the classroom has been rid of the stories of adventure and heroism likely to appeal to them. Star Wars is clearly filling a vacuum in boys’ and young men’s imaginative lives. But I still believe that there are richer and more complex works of culture to satisfy those longings.
I also remain convinced that women will be turned off by Darth Vader décor.