Freaking Out About Men Is Sexist Toward Everybody

Another day, another piece about how young men these days are losers. This kind of hand-wringing is sexist toward dudes — but it sucks for women too.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Kay Hymowitz does take a stab at examining the socioeconomic forces shaping Guys These Days. Rather than the decline in traditionally male factory jobs, tough, she discusses the problems guys face in the "knowledge economy":

The past decades' economic expansion and the digital revolution have transformed the high-end labor market into a fierce competition for the most stimulating, creative and glamorous jobs. Fields that attract ambitious young men and women often require years of moving between school and internships, between internships and jobs, laterally and horizontally between jobs, and between cities in the U.S. and abroad.

It's true that middle- and upper-class young people often follow career tracks today that make "settling down" difficult — but this applies to women as well. And the young men who have to move abroad for work, potentially putting off family lives, have little in common with Seth Rogen's character in Knocked Up, who inexplicably merits a full paragraph in Hymowitz's piece. Journalists have long sought to explain women by turning to fictional characters in pop culture — giving men the same treatment does them no favors. Nor does Hymowitz's conclusion:

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven-and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.

Tom Matlack of the Good Men Project cites this passage specifically, and calls the piece as a whole "one more example of mainstream media portraying [men] in an egregiously negative, quasi-sexist light." He adds,

None of this is to say that men can't always be working harder to be better husbands, fathers, workers, and men. But women need to be there for us, just as we need to be there for them. So let's work on this together — and leave out the stereotyping.

The constant harping on young men's supposed failures to grow up is indeed sexist — and the sexism cuts both ways. Hymowitz is actually better about this than some, but the subtext exists in her piece too: guys are losers, single ladies, and you're all living lives of "fear and disgust," at least until you "give up" and head to the sperm bank. Stories about the dearth of "good guys out there" are ancient, and whether they intend to or not, they reinforce a whole mess of scary, sad notions about straight women's relationship lives. There's the idea that women must compete for some tiny pool of suitable men. That any exploration is dangerous because ladies need to lock down a decent husband fast. And, perhaps most damagingly, that what women are looking for is a good man rather than a good relationship, which takes two (or more, though the non-monogamous are generally invisible in such pieces, just like LGBT people) compatible, willing people who are at the right stages in their lives.

Many people of all genders have anxieties about dating, love, and relationships. It is possible to talk about these anxieties without casting men as useless slackers and women as lovelorn sad sacks (or, on the other side, intolerant ball-busters). Doing so might result in fewer trend pieces — but more men and women living their lives (dating and otherwise) to the fullest without a bunch of gender-fearmongers breathing down their necks.

Where Have The Good Men Gone? [WSJ]
How The Wall Street Journal Is Spreading Negative Stereotypes About Men [Good Men Project]

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