FAMILY/ Men and Women in Post-Family America
The key lies in the family, not in the individual
Women’s claim to the majority of American jobs in 2010 has provoked a torrent of reflections on the social and economic failings of the men who occupy fewer than half of the positions in the nation’s workforce for the first time in history. In an Atlantic Magazine article, Hanna Rosin ponders the implications of “The End of Men” to U.S. culture; Kay S. Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal, poses the question, “Where have the Good Men Gone?”. In a piece for Slate, Jessica Grose scornfully identifies three separate, but equally pathetic species of “Omega Males”, who manifest varying degrees of emasculation. Each author examines the causes and consequences of the shift in gender roles that has given birth to a generation of ambitious, professionally successful women who are increasingly bewildered by the dearth of similarly self-motivated men. The once comical stereotype of the video-game playing, beer-swilling, over-grown adolescent of a man is fast ceasing to be a laughing matter. Rosin, Hymowitz, and Grose (all of whom, notably, are female) cite the decline of the manufacturing and construction industries, prolonged and female-dominated schooling, and changing cultural expectations for men and women as contributors to the degeneration of the American male. A male perspective, offered by Mark Regnerus of Slate, adds the availability of contraception to the cumulative explanation for men’s diminishing manliness.
However pertinent these analyses may be to the current predicament, they are, like the career-driven women and aimless, stunted men they describe, incomplete. Just as the twenty-first century American man and woman experience dissatisfaction at their growing incongruity, many treatments of the subject suffer from the disconnect they maintain between the sexes. So estranged has our culture become from the purposefulness of the union of men and women that its commentators approach gender differences as a matter of “women’s issues” or “men’s issues”. Men and women are no longer considered, like the severed beings of Aristophanes, as innately yearning for unity. Rather, they are taken as individual entities who relate to each other only as a matter of personal pleasure or utility. To rightly assess the current status of gender roles and relations in the U.S. requires the marriage of male and female perspectives, even if it is only to conclude that marriage itself, and thus the family, lie at the crux of the matter.