By Kate Bolick, The Atlantic, November 6, 2011
Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment. From 1970 (seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed) to 2007, women’s earnings grew by 44 percent, compared with 6 percent for men. In 2008, women still earned just 77 cents to the male dollar—but that figure doesn’t account for the difference in hours worked, or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying fields like nursing or education. A 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men. Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female.
By themselves, the cultural and technological advances that have made my stance on childbearing plausible would be enough to reshape our understanding of the modern family—but, unfortunately, they happen to be dovetailing with another set of developments that can be summed up as: the deterioration of the male condition. As Hanna Rosin laid out in these pages last year (“The End of Men,” July/August 2010), men have been rapidly declining—in income, in educational attainment, and in future employment prospects—relative to women. As of last year, women held 51.4 percent of all managerial and professional positions, up from 26 percent in 1980. Today women outnumber men not only in college but in graduate school; they earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in 2010, and men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma. ...
But while the rise of women has been good for everyone, the decline of males has obviously been bad news for men—and bad news for marriage. For all the changes the institution has undergone, American women as a whole have never been confronted with such a radically shrinking pool of what are traditionally considered to be “marriageable” men—those who are better educated and earn more than they do. So women are now contending with what we might call the new scarcity. Even as women have seen their range of options broaden in recent years—for instance, expanding the kind of men it’s culturally acceptable to be with, and making it okay not to marry at all—the new scarcity disrupts what economists call the “marriage market” in a way that in fact narrows the available choices, making a good man harder to find than ever. At the rate things are going, the next generation’s pool of good men will be significantly smaller....
(T)ake 1940s Russia, which lost some 20 million men and 7 million women to World War II. In order to replenish the population, the state instituted an aggressive pro-natalist policy to support single mothers. Mie Nakachi, a historian at Hokkaido University, in Japan, has outlined its components: mothers were given generous subsidies and often put up in special sanatoria during pregnancy and childbirth; the state day-care system expanded to cover most children from infancy; and penalties were brandished for anyone who perpetuated the stigma against conceiving out of wedlock. In 1944, a new Family Law was passed, which essentially freed men from responsibility for illegitimate children; in effect, the state took on the role of “husband.” As a result of this policy—and of the general dearth of males—men moved at will from house to house, where they were expected to do nothing and were treated like kings; a generation of children were raised without reliable fathers, and women became the “responsible” gender. This family pattern was felt for decades after the war.
Indeed, Siberia today is suffering such an acute “man shortage” (due in part to massive rates of alcoholism) that both men and women have lobbied the Russian parliament to legalize polygamy. In 2009, The Guardian cited Russian politicians’ claims that polygamy would provide husbands for “10 million lonely women.” In endorsing polygamy, these women, particularly those in remote rural areas without running water, may be less concerned with loneliness than with something more pragmatic: help with the chores. Caroline Humphrey, a Cambridge University anthropologist who has studied the region, said women supporters believed the legalization of polygamy would be a “godsend,” giving them “rights to a man’s financial and physical support, legitimacy for their children, and rights to state benefits.”
While the Bolick piece focuses on the future of marriage and coupling, there are serious implications for men in the numbers. And those implications apply to Canadian males between 16 and 25...We cannot afford a lost generation!
Why, for example, are men not attending university in greater numbers, to acquire what most people, including the academic researchers, agree is one of the best ways to, if not guarantee then certainly to access, healthy and rewarding employment, access to health care, and not incidentally enhanced access to the most qualified and most interesting women in your town or city?
Rather than withdrawing into a cocoon of resentment about the economy and job losses especially among men, and rather than acceding to the stereotype of males as "dead beats" or "playboys", neither of which are attractive to healthy women looking for a mate, why not hit the books, or the desktop, depending on where and how you do your homework in grade and secondary school, aim for the best marks you can achieve, seek the support and coaching from your favourite teacher and crack the vault by opening the scholarship and bursary money available to see that your education does not stop prematurely.
If senior males suffer from Erectile Dysfunction (sometimes known as premature ejaculation) why should younger men suffer from premature elimination from the brain development pool?
That may sound like a flippant question but the implications are very serious.
Getting a quality education, in a field in which you as a male are interested, may be the most significant decision of your first quarter century. By taking such a decision, you rebuild the reputation of men on the North American continent, a reputation badly in need of shoring up. By taking such a decision, you also invest, not only in your own intellectual, social and cultural development, (and income-earning potential) but in the enhanced potential for your children, and your family. A university or college grad is far more likely to witness his children enrol in post-secondary school, and also to graduate from those schools. And that is no small accomplishment.
It may be true that high school culture is not "your cup of tea" especially with all the rules and regulations imposed without much logic other than the need of the system to keep control. It may also be true that your gameboy and/or your I-Pad, are far more interesting and more fun and more attractive than your algebra equation, or your chemistry experiment, and it may seem difficult, if not nigh on impossible, for you to make the connections between macy of the shards of information and light and the larger picture of your professional career, and the development of your highest potential.
However, we need each of you, each male in the 16-22 age range, to climb on the seemingly horseless wagon that bears the address (University/College of X) without the kind of cynicism and resentful withdrawal that accompanies what looks like alienation from the system, and separation from the public culture of corporate greed and job losses, and female empowerment, and broken marriages and families...and jump into the challenge that is obtaining first an undergraduate and then a graduate degree in your choice of discipline.
If playing a sport is your best expression, then go at it with vigour, including both finding an outstanding coach and a team mate whose mentorship you can share. Search all the best schools where your sport is being played. Search the best coaches and the best lecturers in the academic discipline of your interest.
Say "YES" to your commitment to your self, and forget about the late nights, and the term tests and the essays and exams that will accompany your decision. Keep your eye fixed on completing that degree, and the admittedly only potential (not guaranteed) access it will give you to a job in your field and demonstrate to your friends and family that your goal is worth pursuing.
You do not have to be a "type A" personality nor do you have to be a "nerd" nor do you have to be a "genius" to enter the most challenging academic stream of your capacity to learn....you just have to believe that your fullest development is more important than a million oilsands for the recovery of the energy within.
If Canada is not a nation of "intellectual, cultural and social" developers, and merely a developers of technology for the extraction of heavy oil, and soft and hard lumber, and expensive minerals, then we will have sacrificed our most precious resource, our human resource on the altar of profit, greed and reductionism.
And, while young women are, or seem to be, committed to their own full development, and men are loath to compete with the same women they may seek to date (wisely) it is time to reverse the image of attempting to compete with the female cohorts of your graduating class.
Your competition is not the narrow one of "besting" the women in your class; your competiton is to "best" the best of the young men and women from every major country in the world, where your next generations peers and intellectual mentors will come from. Whether they speak Mandarin, or Hindi, or Farsi, or German, or Norwegian...we need a huge cadre of well-educated Canadian male brains connected to their bodies and their imaginations and their highest ideals and best angels and so do your children and your grandchildren.
And, while, as Red Green says, "We are all in this together, we are also counting on you!"