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Who’s Wearing the Pants Now? Part One

To put it bluntly, the male gender is struggling.  Currently, for every two college degrees earned by men, women earn three.  The majority of the nation’s jobs are held by women, who have seen their overall earnings grow 44% since 1970.  Over the same period of time, men’s earnings have grown just 6%.   During this recession, three quarters of the jobs lost were by men, and of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the coming decade, only two are occupied primarily by men.  Most alarmingly, while only one in twenty working-age men were unemployed in 1950, today that ratio has increased to one in five.

Wasatch Family Therapy Depression

It would be easy for me to chalk these statistics up to the accession of women and simply ask, “What’s so bad about gender equality in education and the work force?” if it wasn’t for more troubling statistics.  Last year, 27% of children were raised apart from their fathers, compared to 11% in 1960.  That’s one out of every four children!  Only 39% of men report attending church regularly, and evidence suggests that 18 to 34 year-old males play more video games then 12 to 17 year-old males.  To echo that last statistic, there is a rising sentiment in our culture that men are getting stuck in a prolonged adolescence, a phenomenon referred to as “failure to launch” (ever seen that movie?).  In short, it can be said that men are becoming more disconnected from their families and faith, and they are not doing much about it.

This leads me to ask two questions: 1) should something be done about this? and 2) if so, what?  I want to respond to the first question in this blog entry, saving the second question for the follow up entry that will appear early next year.

To the first question, I respond with a resounding yes.  To be clear, I’m not talking about a gender battle here or saying men should become the “dominant” sex again.  What I’m saying is that males of all ages are facing never before seen challenges that they are ill-equipped to handle.

Never before have the hallmarks of the traditional male gender role (i.e., self-reliance, mechanical skills, toughness, dominance, restrictive emotionality, rationality) been so little valued in society.  Just look at the recent recession, where the occupations that epitomize maleness, construction, manufacturing, and high finance, were hardest hit.  Also, look at current income statistics that show four out of 10 mothers are the primary bread winners in their home and wives provide almost half (42.2%) of the household income on average.  Who’s wearing the pants then, financially?

Addressing this issue in her article entitled The End of Men, Hanna Rosin  stated that men are increasingly thought of as the “new ball and chain.”  She goes on to suggest fewer women are deciding to marry, as they struggle to find men with similar educations and income levels.  For instance, only 60% of women between the ages of 30 and 44 are married today, compared to 84% in 1970.

Now, I don’t know if I agree with every statistic presented here, but I do think the traditional role for men is being challenged more than ever.  And unfortunately, we men do not cope well when our definition of masculinity (to procreate, provide and protect) is challenged.  Rather of being flexible and adapting to the changes in our environment, we often react with rigidity and resist help, thinking that more open-mindedness and help will further threaten our position as a man.  Instead, we turn to the things we do best… WORK and AVOID, hoping that things will turn around if we keep our heads down and stubbornly plow ahead.  Sometimes this works, but more often we’re left feeling more frustrated, burnt out and isolated from the very people we would ordinarily turn to for support.  This is where men are at high risk for developing depression, anxiety and addiction, not to mention broken relationships and crippling guilt and shame.

So, yes, I do think men of all ages can benefit from learning how to still be a man, even when they have to share the “pants.”

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