That’s the question asked in (and the title of) an article by Kay S Hymowitz appearing in the Wall Street Journal recently, and presumably in her soon-to-be published book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys. An excerpt of the article:
What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men. It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity, but boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers. Today, however, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing.
This female ascendancy and male despondency–this upsetting of the arcane order–has other effects as well. Not least is declining birth rates across the developed world, that will ultimately yield population stasis and decline. As my recent post on a National Geographic article on demographics explains, world population is expected, if trends continue, to cease growing around 2045 at about 9 billion people, at which point it will begin an inexorable decline. In developed, and some developing countries (China), population growth rates are already either declining or reaching stasis. Some have even turned negative (Japan).
Given that economic growth is intricately tied to population growth, declining birth rates may result in long-term economic contraction of the sort Japan has experienced over the last two decades, which would hardly help alleviate male irrelevancy.
In the meantime, it is little wonder that young, virile, heterosexual males would prefer to extend adolescence into their twenties and beyond. The world doesn’t need them, as Ms. Hymowitz observes in conclusion:
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men’s attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There’s nothing they have to do.
They might as well just have another beer.
Well said. But Ms. Hymowitz should be careful lamenting the spoils of victory. The burden of leadership more than its gender animates many of the virtues men are complained of no longer having. A bit of fortitude and stoicism might be in order as females survey the wreckage of male adulthood left in the wake of their hard-fought victory.