In Defense of the Man-Child

Reading Time: ~3 minutes

Kay S. Hymowitz planted a landmine of a post (read: publicity stunt for her book) on The Wall Street Journal last month.  “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” claims that a man in his 20s can “live in pig heaven” thanks to revolutionary advancements such as video games, women’s rights, poor social role models, and pornography.

She cites varied evidence for the gender’s laziness, mostly relying on employment statistics and the rate at which women are outearning men when it comes to college degrees (34% vs. 27%). Hymowitz also brings up “Knocked Up” as emblamatic of the times, beacuse it shows a successful woman and stoner-loser-slacker-man-child.

Interesting side-note: the actual Seth Rogen – who played the stoner – dropped out of high school when he was 16 and says that his path to success consisted of smoking marijuana all day while he worked on the scripts for his hits, “Superbad” and “Pineapple Express.”

OK, so maybe some stoner slackers turn out all right. Hell, the two I know are now working for a lawyer and an NGO.

And, really, maybe Hymowitz never saw 1978’s “Animal House,” but the prototypes for all of these characters existed before and can’t be used as symbols for some kind of post-millennium masculinee malaise.

As a 23-year-old non-man-child myself, I can safely say that there are some immature guys and immature girls. But… and here’s another thing I think we should clear up… playing video games does not equal immaturity or laziness. 

Every time there’s something discussing male immaturity, it’s not long before World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, or Grand Theft Auto are mentioned.

For God’s sake, this has been some kind of propaganda spread by television and movies since the third medium came out. Not only do video games often require more social interaction (if you don’t think the internet counts, delete your Facebook. If you don’t think microphones count, disconnect your phone), they are a much more active form of entertainment, mentally and even physically.

For every male who is automatically designated a man-child for playing video games, I believe evey person who regularly surfs the internet aimlessly or Facebooks, watches movies or TV, or does any other leisure activity that is not physically demanding should immediately be demoted to the ranks of lurching half-adult as well.

What else, Hymowitz? Oh, another complaint about young men not committing. This is intimately tied to employment statistics. No one is going to try and raise a family on a $20,000 a year stipend for a one-year fellowship. And why does marriage keep being brought up as some kind of Matury Milestone, anyway?

Listen, the rate of divorce in the United States is 50%. That means that just about half of our generation’s parents got it right the first time. So why on earth would we rush into something like that?

All right. Women completing more college degrees? I think that this isn’t taking into account a spike in army recruitment since the Recession began, although that isn’t close to the whole answer and a complete speculation that I felt like I had to indulge. A lot of males choose to go into traditional industries through vocational schools, but manufacturing and construction are not doing so well. In case you hadn’t heard.

This isn’t even taking into account that three times as many boys get put into the slow track of gradeschool/high school education because they are three times more likely to be diagnosed with “problems” like ADHD.

I think some of the employment problem lies in the fact that guys still have some very rigid conceptions about what job positions they should take. I don’t just mean males in their 20s looking for employment, I also mean employers who are male. From teachers to administrative assistants to nursing, these roles have still been slow to become connotated as gender-neutral.  Ironically, some of these fields, such nursing and home care, are the ones that are going to grow the most in the coming years. But a lot of males simply won’t apply to them on principle.

Now, I do agree with the idea that a contemporary young male appears to be  “like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn’t say.” But I don’t think it’s true. The real problem with Hymowitz’s argument – and I assume her book, which I haven’t read but is just shy of reaching that elusive 3/5 stars that denotes mediocrity rather than failure – is that it relies onsociety and media’s conception of males rather than reality’s conception of them.

This means that a guy who goes out twice every week to get drunk isn’t just doing that Monday through Friday, too. He probably has a job. If he doesn’t, he’s probably looking for one. He’s probably worrying about the future. Sure, he may like a few dick jokes – but hell, who doesn’t?

Hymowitz is completely detached from the culture she’s trying to encapsulate. None of the males my age seem to be actors in any kind of drama. We may be struggling against the undertow of a recession, but we’re not sinking. Just like our female counterparts. We don’t use girls (who mostly recoil in horror when referred to as women, by the way) as “disposable estrogen toys,” either.

Leave hooking up out of this if you’re going to turn a woman into a doll – simulatenously preaching their rise but stripping them of all agency in the process.

Why don’t we see slacker girls portrayed in the media more often? Well, because advertisements and movies and television have mostly adhered to the women’s movement by shifting the comedy from ditzy girls to ignorant and blustering and immature boys. One of my favorite webcomics recently went down this road, to my dismay.

I honestly don’t care about this. I’m not offended by media outlets spawning these predictable incarnations, but I do get annoyed by them. Just like I get annoyed by writers like Kymowitz who desperately cling to a character type that we all know is BS.

Rather than going out and doing any kind of actual survey of male attitudes today – which would be interesting – Kaymowitz relies on the media’s portrayal of males to pad an otherwise awkward twisting of data and social trends. And the only people who are going to be convinced of the argument’s truth is those who already agree with her because of the things they see through a narrow lens of experience.

In conclusion: Young males are not just their leisure activities. Hooking up does not preclude marriage or real relationships or responsibility. Like women on TV, men on TV are not like men in real life. No matter how many times you might see drunk guys in a bar on Friday night.

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