Friday, April 17, 2009

I'm So Glad I'm Not Young Anymore

Judith Warner, in an op-ed piece on bullying in today's NY Times tells why.

As she says, today's boy culture is frozen in time. While the concept of what it means to be a woman and to be feminine has dramatically expanded over the past 30 years, masculinity has remained the same, or become even more constricted for boys. It's basically what it was 50, or even 100, years ago.

The message to the most vulnerable, to the victims of today’s poisonous boy culture, is being heard loud and clear: to be something other than the narrowest, stupidest sort of guy’s guy, is to be unworthy of even being alive.

Many years ago, someone asked a female comic if she could imagine a world with no men in it. "A world without men is a world full of fat happy women and no crime," she answered. She has a point. In the world of biology, it's the male that is the superfluous gender. Sperm is always abundant, but eggs are scarce.
What I want is not fewer men, but better men. I'm all for manly men who can fix things and drive things and are willing to brave injury and death to rescue people. They can watch all the football and drink all the beer they want, as far as I'm concerned. But there has to be more to being a man than being dumb, brutal, and tough. You could say the same about tree bark ("tough as bob war!" {barbed wire} they used to say in Texas, and about as smart).

What it means to be a man has become so shrunken and impoverished, perhaps as a blowback result of feminism and changing gender roles.  The concept of manhood needs to be expanded just like the concept of womanhood was expanded.  I think it's great when boys aspire to be heroes.  I think it's pathetic when they can't tell the difference between a hero and a thug.

Being a teenaged boy (especially a gay boy) was plenty bad enough when I was young.  It's so much worse now.  The USA pathologically fixates on youth and childhood, but hates kids.  The stresses of growing up are now compounded by far greater expectations and constraints, such as the pressure of downward mobility for lots of people as wages stagnate and decline (and meaningful employment at a meaningful wage becomes a scarcity), and the increasing predation of commercialism out to exploit kids for their money, their labor, and their sex.  It's so much more tough to be young these days.


David G. said...

It was a Bitch when I was Bullied through Elementary and Junior High school,...thank God we moved to a county with 150 Senior class pupils!!

Though I still have never attended a HS reunion,..cause it's so faaaaaaar away!!

Like 1350 miles from where I live.

David G. said...

And really,..who cares!!

NancyP said...

When I was younger I often wished that I had been born male, to enjoy the benefits of being taken seriously and of resulting boost to self-confidence and the benefit of access to informal career networks and other advantages. At that time, a woman who aspired to be a top-flight scientist was more or less regarded by many as strange and probably deluded.

Now I have some idea of the sheer poverty of male identity as promoted by mass culture and social networks. It seems to be stuck in adolescent posturing.

The old female stereotype at least assigned to women some adult roles and responsibilities. Teen boys as well as teen girls were cruel to others of their own gender, but at least there were some images of adult responsibility in the gender ideals of the time. Men were to earn money and support a family, and engage in some civic service if possible.

Defining the thug as the manliest of them all seems to be common among teen and young white men. The whole point of being a thug is being concerned only for one's immediate desires, and being top dog enough to use and throw away people (especially women). The commercialized culture has displaced the image of hero as self-controlled and in part concerned with other people - that image doesn't sell things. The advertising / mass media culture wants the viewers to have lack of self control, to be "impulse buyers".