It’s a Man’s World

I’m working on an article right now I hope will be of general interest. It certainly is of intrinsic personal interest to me.

It concerns what the future will look like for my three-pack of male offspring (currently ages 6, 9, and 12). And it was suggested by my wife Pam’s concern that life may be hard on them and for them because they are boys.

Her ancillary worry is they’re too nice, sweet, thoughtful, courteous, etc. and they’ll be taken in hand, browbeaten, domineered, and bossed around by the women they choose to, uh, mate with (I’m sorry, my bloggies, there might be a more delicate way to put that; I just can’t think of one at the moment).

So that got me thinking. What will the future– 2029, say– look like for boys?

I’ve talked to a number of people who think it looks dire indeed. Paul Nathanson, a McGill professor and co-author, along with his McGill colleague Katherine Young, of the book Spreading Misandry: The Teaching of Contempt for Men in Popular Culture, believes that we are living in a culture in which anti-male messages– in everything from sit-coms (in which, let’s face it, the men are always doofuses) to ads (like the one where the useless guy can’t change his car tire and has to call his girlfriend to help him) — are so pervasive and reflexive most people hardly know they’re doing it.

Meanwhile, the legal system is stacked against men (especially when it comes to matters like custody battles), men are underperforming and under-represented in universities as well as professional schools (e. g. law and medical schools), and if these trends continue, we could be on our way to creating an alienated “underclass” of angry young men, which could be dangerous to society.

Christina Hoff Summers doesn’t take it that far. But in her book The War Against Boys she adumbrates all the ways boys are falling behind, particularly in school. Her view, in a nutshell, is the old “boys will be boys” idea has lost ground, that inherent boy-like behaviour (hmm, I probably could have put that better, too, my bloggies: but you know what I mean), such as rough-housing and rough play, are frowned upon in schools these days, and boys are left not really knowing what to do with themselves.

I talked to her, and while she didn’t like to peer into her crystal ball and try to guess what the future (“Predictions of the future almost always turn out to be wrong and you wind up looking like a fool,” she says) holds for men, for those future men who are currently boys, but it was nice to see a woman rising to the defense of boys.

But it’s funny that we could even be having such a debate, isn’t it? “It’s a man’s, man’s, man’s world,” James Brown could sing, without irony, in 1964. But could anyone sing that without irony now?

(And in fact that song was written by a woman, one of his backup singers, Betty Jean Newsome, based on her observations of the Mad Men-like world she saw around her, in 1964: and, in a vivid illustration of the song’s thesis, got none of the glory and only a fraction of the royalties, the song earned for the man they called The Godfather of Soul.)

Now, many people I interviewed for the article pointed out men still occupy so many of the top positions in the world of finance, government, and so forth. One said that by the time my boys come of age, it will be a “level playing field,” at best. If anything, thanks to the “old boys’ network” (curious appellation, that, when you think about it), they’ll probably continue to be at an advantage over women.

Which is not necessarily what I want to hear. But like Pam I would be glad if they weren’t actually disadvantaged by virtue of their gender.

A “level playing field.” That sounded about right to me. Men and women, equal at last, not hating upon but loving one another, instead of engaged in a “battle of the sexes” constructively working together to fix the problems the 21st century will (no doubt) pose.

That’s the world I’d like them to live in. As a father, I would like for my boys to live in a society that could reasonably be described as “Utopian.”

That would be nice for them, I should think.