Gender equality is an uncharted course. Men must create a new compass. Women can’t do it for us.
The mainstream media is paying more attention to men’s issues. Jack Myers writes in Time.com that discouraged, angry young men are the “lean out” generation. More women than men are graduating from college, and women are holding more positions of authority. A young man today cannot support a family on his income alone. And among 20-somethings her income might be higher than his.
Masculinity today is at a transition point because the significant shift in women’s status has changed the male role by proxy. Men must walk a tightrope of accepting women’s equality while also living up to men’s and women’s expectations of traditional masculinity.
We need a “new narrative.”
Something’s gotta give. Today’s increasing gender equality is uncharted territory, and men need to create a new compass.
I agree wholeheartedly with Myers that we need a “new narrative that welcomes young men into a truly gender-equal society,” and which avoids “the trap of believing that the future of men is an ‘either, or’ confrontation with the women’s movement.”
He advocates for important changes our culture needs to make:
- Support paternity leave and value stay-at-home dads (and I’d include promoting equal custody after divorce).
- Encourage men to enter traditionally feminine careers such as nursing and social work (and, I’d add, encourage women to equally value men who make non-traditional career choices).
- Advocate for media and entertainment to portray men as “responsible, competent and caring husbands, sons and fathers, instead of idiots and/or misogynists.”
- Do something about boys falling behind in school.
- Foster better relationships by opening women’s support programs to men.
Myers adds that we must “no longer accept the outdated mantra that ‘men will be men, and boys will be boys.’” And he calls for zero tolerance of sexism and misogyny. Not only is the “boys will boys” mantra too often used as an excuse for harmful behavior, it also devalues boys and men by setting low expectations.
However, zero tolerance moralism can create defiance. To avoid that, we must get to the root of men’s sexism through compassionate, non-violent communication.
But I don’t advocate Myer’s statement that “the future of men is women.” I think men must resolve men’s issues.
The future of men is men.
The future of men is men – older men mentoring a new generation of young men while also advocating for social change.
Feminism examines gender issues from women’s perspectives, so a male feminist can’t define gender issues or solutions without mansplaining. It also leaves little room for a man to disagree with particular feminist opinions. But this constrains his ability to speak authentically about the male experience.
The men’s rights movement, however, is anti-feminist. I’m not anti-feminist, so my attempts to discuss gender issues and equality from a male point of view place me outside of both feminism and the MRM – which I see as a false dichotomy anyway.
What do young men need? Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe write in Man Interrupted that “knowing that they’re needed motives” men, and what men want most is respect – especially from other men. “But that meaningful respect needs to come from doing pro-social things,” not destructive things like being good at dominating others, drinking, or taking unnecessary risks.
A boy needs a man to guide his energy toward mastery of a pro-social skill.