Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Manning Up: Book Review

How come men are getting weaker,and women are getting stronger? Why are people of both genders in a new prolonged pre-adulthood into their mid to late 20's and even beyond into their 30's? What caused these social changes,and what are we to do about it? This is the focus of an interesting new book,"Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys"(Basic Books,2011).

The writer,Kay Hymowitz,is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute,and has written several other books on American culture,family,and childhood,as well as numerous articles.Hymowitz does a superb job in this book of laying out the various economic,demogrraphic,cultural,and psychological factors that have contributed and lead us to these societal and developmental changes.

So why are men getting weaker?Industrialization and urbanization are factors that make warrior qualities more irrelevant.As women get more educated(and there are currently far greater numbers in undergradute,graduate,Ph.D and professional school),and more opportunity to work,it is no longer a male domain.Even Time magazine this past spring had a cover story on the "Beached white male",whose skills and and power are less valued in the workplace.

In comedienne Julie Klausner's book,"I Don't Care About Your Band",she details successive relationships in her 20's with men who had a man-child psychology.We see a lot of self absorbtion now of men in their 20's and 30's more interested in play than growing up and taking responsibility.Sometimes parents and partners allow men to stay children.

A media culture and movies that perpetuate the little kid in a man's body are also an influence.Think of the character Seth Rogen played in last years' film, Knocked Up,or many of the movie roles played by Will Ferrell,Adam Sandler,Owen Wilson,Jim Carrey and Vince Vaughn. They are all extremely funny,but not exactly the kind of masculine we saw in The grapes of Wrath,or It's a Wonderful Life.Lots of commitment phobic,eternal child self-indulgence.

Media images impact men and women in their 20's and 30's.Television shows like Friends,Two and A Half Men,Sex and The City,amd many others glamorize a single lifestyle that goes on far longer than it did for people in our $0's or older.My own parents were married at 19,and started a family at 22.There wasn't a lot of goofing off scheduled for the 20's then.

The current generation of 20 and 30-somethings had different parenting.Parents were in hyper-gear taking them to lessons,sports,art class,music theatre and more.Everyone got a trophy.This is a generation of young adults often with very elevated expectations about living your passion,lifestyle needs,and pursuing your dream job.I don't think our grandparents were worried about that during the Great Depression.Sometimes middle-aged boomer parents enable,enmesh and coddle their offspring,and become codependent in enabling a prolonged adolesence and helping adult offspring launch into adult lives.

Hymowitz's book,"Manning Up"does a great job at providing data on how contraception and the women's rights movement of the 60's and 70's has impacted age of marriage,careers,and gender roles. Some of the expanded opportunities for women are great.Some of the impact on men is mixed.We still want men who are not wimps or eternal children.We want men who MAN UP.I often think of this as I guide young women in counseling,making sure they choose someone they can respect, so that they are not the 'better man' in the relationship.

Becoming an adult requires manning up--or its equivalent for women--- and living independently,paying your own bills,and having all of the self-esteem and self- respect that comes with it.It means having the resolve and the commitment to work a job and not quit it til you have another.It means pursuing your dreams,but working 3 or 4 part-time jobs to support yourself while you do it.It is having the maturity to see that your work,while it's important,isn't everything.One also has to build a life,not be narcissistic, and care about and commit to other people.I heartily recommend this book to you.It will make you think about how our culture is changing,and what you want to do about it in your little corner of the world.

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