Manning Up — Not

For several years now I’ve been intrigued and informed by the writing of guys like Gordon Dalbey (e.g., Healing the Masculine Soul), Robert Lewis (e.g., Raising a Modern-Day Knight, and his entire Men’s Fraternity Ministry series of videos), John Eldredge (e.g., Wild at Heart — Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul), Robert Bly (Iron John — A Book About Men), Leonard Sax (Boys Adrift — The five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underachieving young men), etc.  The following is a David Mays (an on-line buddy) “key statements” review of another book about men, Manning Up — How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz.  The common thread in all these books is the picture of men in a troubled state — certainly not the noble, vigorous, valiant, virtuous images of God that the Creator intended.  Men, and especially American men, have taken a real beating in modern society. It is unfortunate that the caricature of men represented in the media is far more often akin to a clueless frat-boy or Caspar Milquetoast than to a typical John Wayne character.  Even a brief time in front of a TV will expose one to a barrage of commercials and sitcoms featuring witless jerks making fools of themselves.  Almost without exception young adult men are cast as idiotic buffoons.  In fact my wonderful wife, Shirley, has learned to tolerate my comments on the issue as time after time I voice my frustration with my catch-phrase utterance, “Oh no!  Another DAWG.”  And I’m not referring to a University of Georgia football player; rather just another “Dumb American White Guy.”  He, the DAWG, is ubiquitous in TV commercialdom.  It is as if there is only one sure-fire method for promoting a product — use a white guy as the butt of a scene extolling the product’s virtues.  Women, blacks, hispanics, asians, etc., are never made to look ridiculous.  No.  That honor is always reserved for the DAWG.  Don’t believe me?  Just start paying attention to what has come to pass for marketing. 
          Another media favorite always good for a laugh is a guy being smashed in the crotch.  Have you ever seen an episode of Funniest Home Videos that did not include at least one groin groan?
          But, unfortunately, it is probably more accurate to say that the media has discovered rather than created the doofus male.  In countless ways we’ve done that to ourselves.  Robert Lewis teaches that men were created by God to: resist passivity, assume responsibility, lead courageously, and expect God’s greater reward.  The best Biblical model of a male is a servant leader, a man of upright character and integrity; a husband who loves his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.  Somewhere along the way we men have largely neglected to accomplish that in ourselves and to foster that in our sons.  While women have rightly asserted themselves and demanded the equality they deserve, guys have not known how to or had the gumption to share the responsible role they were designed to fill.  Look at society today.  The majority of seriously screwed-up people are guys.  In terms of criminality, addictions, abusive behavior, directionlessness, etc., it is mostly guys who are dysfunctional.  Anyway, the following is simply the latest commentary on the clueless guy phenomenon.  While I do not subscribe to everything Ms. Hymowitz says, or even her basic thesis that it is the ascendence of women that is responsible for guys acting more like boys than men, her views are certainly worthy of consideration.  
          If you have any thoughts on this I would love hearing from you.  Here is the review:

Manning Up — How the Rise of Women has Turned Men into Boys

Kay S. Hymowitz

Basic Books, 2011, 240 pp.

Look at the lifestyles of the single 20- and 30-somethings of America. I found it unsatisfying, disturbing, and often disgusting. Personal morality is not evident. Horowitz is a contributing editor of City Journal where she writes on American childhood, family, and culture.

“Not so long ago, average mid-twentysomethings, both male and female, had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: high school diploma, financial independence, marriage, and children. These days, they hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance. The limbo–I’ll be calling it preadulthood–has much to recommend it. … [but] it doesn’t tend to bring out the best in men.” (2)

“Among preadults, women are the first sex. Women graduate from college in greater numbers than men, with higher grade point averages; more extracurricular experiences, including study abroad; and as most professors tell it, more confidence, drive, and plans for the future. They are aggressively independent; they don’t need to rely on any man, that’s for sure.” (4)

Women are put-together, smart, and ambitious. Men are lazy, crude, and immature, like the characters Bart and Lisa Simpson. Men are not thriving in today’s cultural and economic environment. (5) They are not sure what the gender scripts are, if there are any. (9)

“Globalization, improved productivity, and a digital revolution propelled a massive shift in the economy, away from manufacturing to knowledge and services–to women’s great advantage.” (12) “But there is a large and prominent group of men who hit their twenties and seem unsure what’s expected of them.” (14) With the juvenile magazines (Maxim), movies (e.g. With Adam Sandler), and cable channels (Comedy Central) men seem not just youthful but, quite literally, retarded.” (15)

“Between his lack of familial responsibilities, his relative affluence, and an entertainment media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig’s heaven–and he often does.” “Why should he grow up? No one needs him anyway.” (19)

“As a mass phenomenon, a largely open-ended what-should-I-do-with-my-life question is a cultural novelty, one that has fundamentally transformed the life script for a good chunk of the American population.” Among other things it takes a lot longer to grow up. A whole new lifestyle has been invented for these preadults.

Preadults are looking for something much bigger than a way of earning a living. They are looking for meaning for themselves in the shape of a career. Employers complain that younger workers expect far too much entertainment and head-patting. Career dominates future planning. Spouses and children are a ball-0and-chain on the mobility required. Work, career, and independence are the primary sources of identity.

The new rule is “Girls rule.” Today’s young college-educated women dominate the social and economic scene. In college they work harder and outperform men. After graduating, they stay on the fast track. Preadult women now earn more than men. They are more likely to own real estate. They feel liberated and capable to make their own decisions on how they want to live.

“Now that technologically based mass affluence made it feasible, they also wanted power and independence, including, if they so chose, independence from husbands. And so they did choose.” (66) “Descendants of girl power want it known that they are first and foremost capable, self-contained units. Career and independence required. Love, marriage, husbands, and children entirely optional.” (72)

TV frequently reminds us of men’s genetic stupidity, insensitivity, and general cluelessness.

Female careerism is closely linked to the growth of consumption because working women make and spend a lot of money and they can find many satisfying careers related to products women like to buy. Women are often better at the kinds of skills required by the knowledge economy.

There is a large demographic group hanging out mostly in metropolitan areas and in no hurry to change their status, single young males. Reasons for the man-child? Demographic, economic, technological, cultural, and hormonal. A lot of men blissfully free of mortgages, wives, child-care bills.

The last vestiges of bourgeois reticence in entertainment have given way. There is a whole new entertainment genre for the arrested development males, comedy for child-men. Abe (I believe this should be Adam, rmf) Sandler is the prototype. “The child-man prides himself on his lack of pretense, his slovenly gayness, not to mention his fascination with bodily fluids and noises.” (114) The lead stars of the dumb and dumber moves have a talent for crude physical comedy, gleeful juvenility, self-humiliation, and gross-out humor. Online gaming is the next big thing. “Indeed, the child-man’s home sweet media home is the Internet, where no meddling censor or nervous advertiser can come between him and his desires.” (118) Crudity is part of the personal. Pop culture is the oxygen they breathe. The media executives didn’t produce this audience, they discovered it. As you can imagine, this young man is not known for serious self-reflection. And even if he had an impulse to invest in something that matters, he wouldn’t know how. Culture tells him that not much is expected of him.

The child-man is different from his forefathers in that they knew they were going to be responsible for a family. He does not. Adult manhood has almost universally been equated with marriage and fatherhood. Men were meant to provide for and protect their wives and children. This required strength, courage, and resolve. “With a limited number of respectable women…and fairly strict rules against sex unless you put a ring on a finger, the vast majority of men–90 percent–would soon enough become husbands.” (129)

Many of today’s young men grew up without a father. They have also noticed the male-bashing in advertising and situation comedy. The whole culture has become a cheerleading section for girls. “The child-man, then, is the lost son of a host of economic and cultural changes: the demographic shift…, the Playboy philosophy, feminism, …our new media, and a shrugging iffiness on the subject of husbands and fathers. He has no life script, no special reason to grow up.” (135) “He has grown up in a culture with no wisdom to offer about being a grown-up man….” (139)

“Financially and sexually independent, both men and women have escaped dating rituals, rules, and gender roles. They’re free to do whatever they want….” (143) They become familiar with disposable relationships. (178)

[David Mays, the author of this review writes:  “The author has almost nothing to say about morality. And she misses or ignores the obvious fact that traditional morality limits sex to marriage – which very quickly turns many boys into mostly responsible married men.”]


About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church ( Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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12 Responses to Manning Up — Not

  1. Pingback: Best Art Blog » Manning Up — Not | Ronfurg's Blog

  2. Hey Ron!
    This is a very interesting topic! My question is, did the rise of women turn men into boys, or did men become boys, forcing women to have to become stronger? Chicken or egg?

    • ronfurg says:

      Good question. Reminds me of the song lyrics: Cause and effect, chain of events, all this chaos, makes common sense;” which is my way of saying, “How should I know?”

  3. chip ashton says:

    Good stuff Ron.
    As you know from Men’s fraternity. Men have been duped since childhood about what a Man is in todays world.
    1. As children we are taught to hide emotions, fears, feelings, etc. That is what we need to do to become a “man”.
    2. Then as we reach adulthood all the male role models on TV/movies etc. do things “solo”; rambo, james bond, clint eastwood, arnold, etc. All do it alone with minimal help. Jesus operated in a “small mens group” which should be our role model.

    It is not a coincidence that when the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit coming upon us, “wisdom” is usually one of the first attributes mentioned. Men need to re-educate ourselves so we have the proper wisdom to tap into this power. I heard a great message the other day…God won’t give us the power until he can “trust us”. He wants to see wisdom, patience, understanding, humility, love, etc. in us before he can give us the power. Those attributes take time, effort and sacrifice.

    See you Thursday!

    • ronfurg says:

      Thanks for your comments on this, Chip. I especially appreciate your insight regarding the value of men being in a group. I recognize myself as being one messed up guy — but I would be much more so were it not for guys like you who speak wisdom into my life. The greatest mistake I’m aware of in my life came when I refused to pay heed to a few guys who were speaking truth into my life. It was an expensive lesson but one I’ve learned well.

  4. ronfurg says:

    I just received the following email note from Gordon Dalbey, the author or Healing the Masculine Soul which I mentioned in this Blog posting. You might appreciate his perspective on the subject.

    Thanks for this.
    Well, hey, I sounded the warning on this 20+ years ago–which makes me pretty sad, frankly. Makes you wonder, how bad does it have to get before guys start dealing with their wounds? It seems the audience for my ministry doesn’t spark til somewhere around mid-30s, when a man has had time to make some serious mistakes, realizes something is wrong and wants seriously to do something about it. I sense there’s a whole new audience out there, and that’s why I’ve run into such battle getting Sons of the Father and Fight like a Man back in print. This is all the enemy’s game, and sadly, churches have been playing by his rules, selling their performance religion to cover shame and driving men away from the Father. Whatever, I sure want to be able to stand before the Father in my time and say I did my best to overcome all this.
    Shalom, Gordon

  5. Ron-
    You and I are singing out of the same HIMbook – pun intended. As you know, I am the mother of an early 30s man, who, I’m happy to say, WAS the child-man referred to in great degree in your blog, but thank God has made great strides this past year. So any of you reading this who are in a similar situation, DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE.

    A little background: no, I didn’t drop my son on his head, yes he was raised in a Christian home with a strong father figure (too strong, perhaps), and yes my husband loved his/our son very much, but there may have been too much “tough” love. Only God knows all the reasons why my son was what he was for so long.

    In addition to my son making strides in responsibility and desire to excel in his chosen field (and he has and is), in the almost two years since my husband passed away, my son has taken on the role of “protector” and “adviser” to his mother, in a similar fashion to the way his father would have handled things. I am deeply touched by this. I don’t know if my son will ever be a husband/father–as of late he says he’s not interested in a family–but to see him now compared to two years ago is quite incredible. I’m still not ready to put a fork in him – nor myself for that matter – but what progress!

    By the way, I agree with many of the comments of the book reviewer. I’m curious, does the author offer solutions?

    Perhaps we need to come up with a new slogan, instead of GO DAWGS, how about STOP DAWGS!?


  6. Jonathan Hilgeman says:

    I think the man-child epidemic has less to do with the “rise of women” and more with the concept of immediate gratification becoming a standard one in our society. If you re-read your post, 99% of it is all about getting what you want now, regardless of long-term consequences: drug addiction, Internet dependency, crime (you cheat the system to get what you want), and even directionless (if you get everything you want right away, then planning becomes an obsolete practice). If you can’t afford that nice new TV on your salary, use a credit card and pay it later (unpayable debt is indirectly responsible for the largest share of our national financial trouble)

    Perhaps parents need to be focusing more on teaching their children the value of investment and long-term rewards?

    The oustanding 1% is humor in men’s pain (the AFHV example is a fine one), but I think it’s a separate issue, born out of fear. At one point, that same humor was directed at women. You can still find old copies of disturbing commercial advertisements that imply that a man has beaten his wife into submission and is joking with his friend(s) about how “she won’t do that again” or similar. The fact is that mysoginistic behavior (which is definitely not God-intended) was commonplace at one point. Once women got to a place where they had enough social power to stigmatize that violent behavior, the media cut down dramatically on displaying violence against women, especially in any humorous light.

    Now, people still found some violence funny, so they turned to the subject that wasn’t yet stigmatized – men. They used phrases like “manning up” to suggest that violence against men was okay because men were strong and could take physical pain. That justified the display of all this. Besides, these were men who didn’t cry – they just grabbed their groins and made an “Oh!” sound, sure to recover in a minute or two, so it was all okay.

    Personally, I’d like to see more men standing up for their bodies and saying that they were not made to be injured for other people’s enjoyment. The problem is that we’ve made “manning up” into a bigger social statement than it should be, and standing up to say that you don’t want to be injured is viewed as the opposite of “manning up” – as a sign of weakness.

    We need to redefine masculinity among our peers so that we are not fighting against things that God has naturally provided to us. Being a man does not mean you are invulnerable. We all feel pain, we all have emotions (some that SHOULD lead to crying but we’ve been taught to suppress it so well that it is virtually impossible for most of us), and we all need other people, too (kudos to Chip who commented and talked about the “solo” image in the media).

    Manning up should be about two things:

    1. First and foremost about identifying and accepting what is natural. God did make us in his image, so fighting our nature is the same as telling God that He made some mistakes.

    2. Second, it should secondly be about rejecting the destructive things that society tells us men should be or do. Sometimes these things are wolves in sheep clothing – we’ve been told often enough to pursue things like power and success that we can sometimes feel like they are natural pursuits, or even God-given, despite being achieved at the expense of our morality. We need prayer to identify the social successes that are actually moral failures, and the social failures that are actually moral successes (and the strength to accept those social failures).

  7. Jonathan Hilgeman says:

    One last note – media has discovered a loophole in the social stigmatization of violence against women. I’ve noticed within the past few years that more and more TV and other media have discovered that violence against women is viewed as acceptable as long as it’s woman versus woman (you may have heard the term “cat fight” being used more frequently over the last 2 decades). It’s a sad thing.

  8. Jonathan, as always I appreciate your insight and certainly concur with your views about what “manning up” in a godly way should mean. My fave definition of manhood is the one used by Robert Lewis in his Men’s Fraternity materials. Lewis defines authentic masculinity as:
    – Rejecting passivity
    – Accepting responsibility
    – Leading courageously
    – Expecting God’s reward

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