We hear a lot about the patriarchy and how women’s fight for real equality is yet to be won. We hear far less about how modern men are struggling – how they are losing ground in the labor market, falling behind in education and increasingly missing out on family life. Two out of three “deaths of despair” are among men, either from suicide or an overdose.
According to bestselling author Richard Reeves, we need a new model of masculinity, one that allows us to hold two thoughts in our head at once: we can care deeply about women’s rights and be compassionate towards vulnerable boys and men.
As Reeves explains in his new book Of Boys and Men, previous attempts to treat the condition of men have made the same fatal mistake – they have viewed the problems of men as a problem with men. It is not a matter of fixing individual men, he argued, but of addressing the deep structural challenges that are disadvantaging men. And he showed how both sides of the political divide are getting men wrong – the progressive Left because it dismisses legitimate concerns about men and pathologizes “toxic masculinity,” and the populist Right because it weaponizes male discontent and promotes the view that the only way to help men is to turn back the clock and restore traditional gender roles.
The underlying causes of this gender gap are complex and difficult to untangle. But Reeves focuses on something that may resonate with mothers of teenage sons, which is the tendency of boys to mature emotionally on average later than girls. The risk he identifies isn’t just of young men ending up disproportionately clustered in non-graduate jobs that don’t pay so well, but of automation ultimately wiping out many of those jobs.
What makes this shift in the job market so painful, Reeves suggests, is that male identity remains closely bound up with being a breadwinner. While women draw meaning and fulfillment not just from their careers but also from family and friendships, he argues, men have a “narrower range of sources of meaning and identity,” which can lead them to loneliness and isolation.
Source: intelligence2/The Guardian