Feminism provided girls with a whole new language to express the myriad problems-that-have-no-name, but there have been no credible equivalents for boys. In fact, the definition of masculinity seems to be contracting, according to Peggy Orenstein.

When asked what traits society values most in boys, only 2% of male respondents in PerryUndem’s survey asked men what traits society values most in boys, 2% answered honesty and morality, and 8% said leadership skills—traits that are, of course, admirable in anyone but have traditionally been considered masculine. Orenstein says that when she asked boys what they liked about being a boy, most of them drew a blank.  One college sophomore said, “Huh, that’s interesting. I never really thought about that. You hear a lot more about what’s wrong with guys.”

Here are some areas where we lack clear language to describe a phenomenon the media covers over and over again:

Girl-centered school and the drugging of the American boy

The boy crisis is global, but it’s egregious in the US. By high school, nearly 20% of American boys will be diagnosed with ADHD. But if 20% of boys have a given trait, one might consider the trait is part of being a boy and not something to be drugged.

Boys with birthdays in August are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, because August is the cutoff for preschool so kids with August birthdays are the youngest in their grade. Instead of acknowledging that different kids mature at different times, schools medicate the most immature to enable teachers to manage large groups of kids.

Boys are more likely than girls to want to run around rather than sit still, and girls mature faster than boys. As a result, teachers identify boys as the cause of their inability to manage 30 kids at once. And social workers respond by recommending medication to the parents of boys. The result: schools are penalizing boys for being boys.

Single-parent homes and the de-masculinization of parenting

In the book The Boy Crisis, Warren Farrell describes researchers who looked at 70 different measurements of life without a father’s presence. (Obligatory Ted Talk here.) Boys suffer more than girls in each of the 70 measurements. The research suggests there is a male style of parenting and a female style of parenting, and if boys don’t get the male style, they suffer. Similarly un-PC research from the Autism community shows there are a male brain and a female brain, and girls who miss out on the female style of parenting suffer.

One reason we have no language for the masculine experience because it’s so un-PC to say single-mothers don’t provide adequate parenting for boys. The more we harp on the idea that men and women are only socialized to be different, the more difficult it is to create a language of masculinity.

Pink jobs, blue jobs and the self-segregation of men and women at work

Science tells us that know that girls are better at reading in part because they’re more introspective. And boys are better at physical activity in part because they have stronger cardio-vascular abilities and better hand-eye coordination. A study in Finland shows that when boys are sedentary their academic performance goes down, but this is not true for girls.

These gender differences in school impact the jobs men and women choose. The Economist says there are pink jobs and blue jobs and statistically men and women don’t show much interest in doing similar work. Women enjoy largely sedentary jobs with talking. Men enjoy jobs with less talking and more doing. Yet it’s illegal to talk about jobs in terms of gender, so we’re left with the decidedly limited language of pink jobs and blue jobs.

Making jobs, serving jobs and the rise of social skills

By 2022 robots could eliminate 75 million active jobs and create 133 million new desk jobs to keep track of the robots. Remember the research about how boys don’t perform well if they have to sit for too long? There are going to be a lot of broken robots if something doesn’t change.

You could think of the economy as making vs serving: making jobs are in manufacturing, mining, and construction; serving jobs are in health care, education, and technology. As the making jobs continue to disappear the unemployment rate for men grows much higher than for women. And increasingly there seems to be no role for men in modern society.

We steer men who are great with a cable railings kit, to be the person who helps people make railings decisions. we tell cabinet makers who lost jobs to robots, “You can consult for companies and tell them if the furniture they’re churning out will fall apart in a month.” But this tactic forces men to give up an active job for a job where their primary duty is talking and connecting.

There are no good men left

The marriage rate is plummeting, and economists think it’s because women don’t like their choices. Even though women earn college degrees at a higher rate than men, and women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s, women still want to marry a man who is as educated as she is and earns significantly more money.

A way to see the gap between men and women today is the rise in sexually transmitted diseases. When people feel like they can set their own goals and reach them, they use condoms and get tested at clinics for STDs. So it’s surprising that we’re in the middle of a surge in STDs among men who have sex with men. Compared to other times in history, this demographic has much more sexual freedom, social and legal protections today which should indicate a high level of condom use.

One way to explain the unexpected surge in STDs is that it’s not gay men per se, but all men feel reckless about condoms; all men have trouble (consciously or unconsciously) with the language of masculinity and knowing who they are. Women, on the other hand, feel high self-efficacy after half a century of feminist theory and three generations of women advocating for themselves. Women demand condoms as an expression of the security and power they feel in society.

After thinking about the condom gap, I wonder if women really want men who earn more. I think that might be placeholder language for what women really want which is a partner who inspires self-efficacy.

When we have a richer language for masculinity women will more clearly describe their hopes for a mate. And men will more clearly describe what they’d like to offer. Until then, I’m sure there are still good men left, but we don’t have the language to talk about them.

54 replies
  1. Ryan Colson
    Ryan Colson says:

    These issues only exist because 9f toxic masculinity… and women do prefer men who inspire self efficacy. Traits women want are rarely found in meatheaded guys and that’s a fact of modern Life. Women still want certain traits in men but many dudes are incapable of showing what women want outside of protection and the like.

    Reply
  2. Anna
    Anna says:

    The most common complaint I hear from married women friends about their husbands is about how they don’t take responsibility for various areas of their lives, whether that’s career or domestic duties. The men blame society, capitalism etc., for their inability to find and succeed in a satisfying career. And they wait for their wives to tell them what to do in the house, instead of taking initiative. These are good men. But their women are left hungry for a true partnership.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I don’t think women get to decide standards for domestic living and then make men keep up to those standards. I think men take care of what they care about. If your friends who are complaining had a husband who really did 50% of domestic chores then the husband would care what color the kitchen is painted and the husband would care how you organize shoes in the hallway and then no one would get to have ownership over domestic life.

      Just like at work, when no one owns a project the project sucks. You always want someone to care a lot more than other people because then the project will be done well. At home, if everyone cares equally about something then no one really cares at all.

      And that is the problem with sharing everything 50/50 — there are two adults who sort of care about work and sort of care about home. I’m not sure that’s any better than dividing domestic duties and then complaining that your partner doesn’t understand.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • NHS
        NHS says:

        I don’t see how Socialism or taxing the rich/ very rich at such high rates compared to what the rest of society has to be taxed will work at all in general.

        Reply
      • AM
        AM says:

        I have read articled written by MEN that it is only fair, now a days, for a couple to divide domestic duties 50/50, since most women are now also working 40 hour a week jobs like men. Those are the men that truly care, not just for the home, but for their wives as well!! Your comment, on the other hand, is sooooo chauvinist….it’s what typical men would say!!!! The ones who don’t want to grow up and admit they are now adults with equal responsibilities in the home as their partner. Your suggestion of someone “owning” domestic duties would end up with women still owning them and doing 70-100% of household chores and men using excuses to do nothing or very little. Your suggestion definitely favors men…and their immature attitudes of “I am a guy…don’t expect more”. For gods sake!!!!Your suggestion is very simplistic, immature and chauvinist, and does not help women in any way at all. I won’t bother reading your blogs anymore!

        Reply
        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          In your example, women define the household chores and then complain that they’re doing them. If a man doesn’t think the chore is important, it seems fine for him to not do it. Obviously he is not going to let his kids die.

          Also, the person who defines how the chore should be done is the person who should do it. So if one parent wants to throw a great third birthday party and have a theme etc, then that parent does all the work. Maybe the other parent would be fine with a cupcake and that’s all. Does it mean the party theme parent is doing all the work? You could think of that parent as MAKING all the work.

          What I’m saying is that there’s no clear definition for what is the domestic work. So how could you split it? The work to be done is largely subjective.

          Penelope

          Reply
          • Jennifer
            Jennifer says:

            If both partners are working, both need to contribute equally to household chores. The division is up to them, as long as both consider it fair. If one cares more about doing the birthday party and the other doesn’t…then the other does what they do care about. The family needs the children cared for, food prepared, laundry and dishes washed, finances handled, lawn mowed, house cleaned, repair work done, and errands run, IN ADDITION to working for a salary. Each needs to either pick half of the list, or hire outside help if money allows. There is leeway in the way each chore is performed, for example one person may be a gourmet cook and the other a frozen dinner microwaver, or one person insists the garden be a showplace while the other only wants the basic mowing done. If you want “extra” done then that is probably the chore for you. It is no fair saying you just don’t care about any of it, and a loving spouse should not want to take advantage of their partner this way. Nobody likes chores, but they have to be done to at least a minimal standard for the family to function.

          • Mary
            Mary says:

            When reading your birthday party analogy, my reaction was to think that this is a bit like saying, well, if a woman doesn’t think it’s important to get a car’s oil changed, she shouldn’t do it. But if you don’t maintain the oil, eventually the car will break down. It’s the same with kids–if you don’t put enough into them, eventually they will suffer. It’s not enough for a man to just shrug and say, well I didn’t think it was important to put effort into our child’s party. Because unless they’re very, very young, the kid is going to notice that parent’s lack of effort and be hurt. Eventually over time the fact that their parent doesn’t put effort into things like that for them could damage their self-esteem.

            And in regards to household chores–women aren’t asking men to start becoming interior decorators. We just want them to do their half of the mutual chores and pick up after themselves. A man could say, “I don’t think it’s important to sweep/vacuum the floor or do the dishes” and lets those chores go. But if you never do that, then you’ll end up getting ants and even mice. It’s not fair for a woman to always have to do chores like this just because a man says it’s not important to them. Most women I know have said that their husbands will let dishes sit in the sink and trash sit on the floor for WEEKS if they don’t nag or do it themselves. And those men will just say, “I didn’t want to be bothered wih it right now.”

  3. AW
    AW says:

    Add to this dilemma degree inflation. Jobs that once required the ability to learn quickly now require a degree or even advanced degree. This discourages women who want a family because they do not want to invest/risk so much on a career. Then they get stuck with the low-pay, low-respect, low-flexibility jobs that are also not family-friendly.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      First, I’m not so sure that high-paying jobs require an advanced degree. Jobs that say they require an MBA actually do not. It’s just that it’s job-description shorthand to let people know what the job will be like. Mostly people care about experience and track record. A degree is neither of those. In fact, if you are climbing a corporate ladder (the only place where degrees do matter as you get high up) the company will pay for you to get a second-rate MBA at night and that will be sufficient.

      I think the reason women who don’t want to invest so much in a career get stuck in low-paying jobs is that you can only make a lot of money if you make work your first priority. I know it seems like I’m splitting hairs, but the problem is not the advanced degrees. So first of all, women shouldn’t get advanced degrees unless they are going to teach at a university.

      But second, women should vote to change our tax system. Because other developed countries have shown that if the government taxes the very rich at a very high rate, then people won’t work long hours because they can’t amass a lot of income. And if people stop working long hours then people who take care of kids can compete for good jobs.

      Penelope

      Reply
  4. Amy D. Kovach
    Amy D. Kovach says:

    Very interesting and non-PC article. My little granddaughter has a tee shirt with the large message “The future is female” on the front. It always bothers me. I asked her what it meant – she said it meant Girl Power. She is 6.
    The skills needed to run our world are changing. My anecdotal life evidence shows that multi-tasking is not a male strong suit, and is often required in today’s world. So men are often touted as dull oafs who cannot keep up. But focus, strength, courage and physicality (among other traits) are absolutely essential. I don’t see why we can’t celebrate the ‘diversity’ of strengths and find the right places for all. Well, I do know why – it’s not PC to acknowledge this stuff, but it’s a huge shame and does not bode well for our future. I see this generation that contains so many lost millennial guys and my heart breaks.

    Reply
    • Mark Kaplan
      Mark Kaplan says:

      You should ask her what does “girl power” mean to her? With all due respect my son understands the concept of fairness at age 3. To see a girl with that sexist message on her shirt, he will question it and why there’s no boy’s T-shirt with a similar message for boys. First off, my son doesn’t need a message like that to display strength and talent. A message like “the future is female, the force is female, or girl power” is not strength it’s an admission of weakness and compensating for something anymore than a truck driver placing a “tow nut” on the back of his truck.

      I have a lot of respect for women and girls growing up and so will my son. I’m sorry to say this but too bad your granddaughter’s idea of “girl power” don’t amount to her brain power.

      Reply
      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Mark you inspired me to ask my 14-year-old son, “What do you think about a t-shirt that says Girl Power?”
        He said, “It’s misogynistic.”
        “What?”
        “If guys wear that they’re making fun of girls.”
        “No. I mean, what do you think of the shirt if a girl wears it?”
        “That’s stupid. Why would she wear that?”

        I take from this that my son thinks like Mark’s 3-year-old son that of course girls have power. Just move on.
        Sometimes I think all social commentary should be written by kids.

        Penelope

        Reply
        • Mary
          Mary says:

          I think you and your sons have been privileged to live in a world where the idea of girls having power is a given but that is still not the case everywhere. And in the places where it is, it’s only been the default very recently.

          I’m a Millennial and my parents raised me with the idea that girls were not as smart as boys, that they couldn’t do the same jobs as men (any jobs, not just ones requiring a lot of physical strength), and that girls didn’t deserve to go to college…..I could go on. And I’m not alone in this.

          Reply
      • Mike
        Mike says:

        Typical comment from a man who is scared of women obtaining equal rights!!! When you are used to being the privileged ones…..(the past has all been male!!)….equality sounds like discrimination!!!
        GOOD FOR THE LITTLE GIRL WITH HER T-SHIRT SAYING THE FUTURE IS FEMALE because it is…and that future will be better for men too…..women don’t abuse or rape men the way men have done with women….in that sense we are not equal to men, we are a whole better…..in fact a lot of mature and confident men do consider women to be more intelligent and superior!!!

        Reply
    • Etrip
      Etrip says:

      Are women really better at multi-tasking? https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0220150

      Could it be, people keep qualifying men’s multi-tasking on tasks that don’t favor the average male wiring? If I was to change the context does the stereotype still resonate?
      Are male pilots worse than female pilots during air combat? Pilots are unique humans, so lets move it down to the grunt level; is the typical male soldier less capable of multi-tasking than the female soldier during a fight. I could use the same exercise with team s
      ports, any idea that the male is unable to multi-task weakens in my minds-eye.

      Reply
  5. Jane Carnell
    Jane Carnell says:

    You wrote: Women demand condoms as an expression of the security and power they feel in society.

    Actually, THIS WOMAN demanded condoms to avoid pregnancy, AIDS, or various other STDs. And, lo and behold, the majority of men I was interested in sexually actually disdained condoms and refused to use them, hence, the second half of my life celibate/asexual, regardless if that’s a trait of Asperger women. So, it’s a no-brainer. Faced with the prospect of a thrilling sex life or death, I opted for friendships with gay men.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Okay. This is really Aspergery. Which I don’t mind at all. But it’s a great moment to remind everyone with Aspergers that we are so far outside what other people are doing, and we always think we are right.

      So, Jane. Reality check: If you are in a relationship with someone you trust then the guy can get tested for STDs and you don’t need to use a condom. You can use the pill or whatever. So I don’t think you are asexual because of condoms. You’re asexual because relationships are too hard for you to manage. Which is fine, if you’re fine.

      Penelope

      Reply
  6. Newt
    Newt says:

    There are no men ‘good enough’ left

    As a 49 year-old, divorced heterosexual male who basically matches the desired traits celebrated in your linked article (women don’t like their choices), I am confronted with and ruminate upon what women are seeking on a daily basis. My conclusion is that many successful, charismatic women my age have little use for a steady male counterpart. Or, as the article states, they want it all. But why choose when the buffet of stop-gap men is so extensive … and eager … and younger? I truly feel that the balance of power lies with these successful ladies and many days I can’t imagine what they would want with me, no matter how kind and chivalrous and attentive I may be.

    Hook Up Culture??

    Recently, I realized that I have been used several times. I have matched through social media with ladies of great long-term potential, gone on the dates and ended up engaged in prolonged, intense kissing sessions. Then I am ghosted … all communication drops. I even suspect that some were in relationships, because they seemed amorous from the beginning of the date! I laughed at this realization! Hey, good for them … I’m sure we men have this coming!

    Highlighting the differences

    I was married for 20 years and we treated each other as equals (although she makes 1/3 the money I do). Equality killed our marriage. The bedroom relies on the differences between the sexes. Even with a perfect personality match, the marriage can romantically fail … we are proof. We didn’t even have lawyers during the divorce, we are both so damn pragmatic and agreeable. So what does it take? I don’t know, but there must be a strong visceral attraction, in my opinion. Being needed is a strong compulsion and has led me to date younger women who enjoy the stability of an older man. I feel literally driven to date younger, because women my age won’t ‘settle’. And that’s fine. And I also suspect the woman my age are dating younger men, as well, of course. This is what I sense is happening and that people are foraying into dalliances with uber-masculine/uber-feminine character types. This makes things very confusing, of course. I have to decide who to be when I speak with a woman: a sensitive, kind, nurturer or my rugged, cocky, take-control self … neither is a lie, because I am both, depending on the circumstance.

    Maybe green is gold

    Maybe I am a fossil, but I definitely enjoy a lop-sided relationship. There is just something so amazing, natural and primitive to sharing kindness and care with a woman who is not used to that treatment. I feel that it will be very rare to get that from someone my age. I’m not sure ‘inspiring self-efficacy’ is the right focus for a successful relationship (although obviously not debilitating). I hate to say it, but I think that we have to let instinct play a larger role in mate selection (think A Streetcar Named Desire and Brando yelling ‘Stellaaaaa!’). A disappointing conclusion, but one that to me seems to be resurfacing in the face of massive selection.

    Reply
  7. Tess parker
    Tess parker says:

    Stop babying men. We live in a dead beat dad society where most women step up, and most men don’t. The 1950s mentally of the woman being the cook, cleaner, and child reaer hasn’t changed, yet men expect us to also work. If the worst thing wrong with men is their forced to work a desk job, then they have it pretty good

    Reply
    • Amy
      Amy says:

      Totally true!!!! Men want us to work full time jobs but they do not want to their fair share of house hold shores. totally right STOP BABYING MEN!!!

      Reply
  8. Ivan Urteaga
    Ivan Urteaga says:

    As a 20 year old gay man, I can tell you with certainty that gay men struggle with their masculinity also. It’s not very often talked about but it s very real. I know several of us who feel this way.

    Reply
  9. Demetri
    Demetri says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Your article came across my feed and it was an interesting read. I’ve often wondered about the concept of masculinity, and what it means in today’s world. When I think of the word ‘masculinity’, I tend to see it from a very liberal perspective. On the Internet, there are all these talks of toxic masculinity all the time, and I’m often confused about what to think. Men are masculine, therefore masculinity is necessary, right? Why is there such an ongoing campaign to deem masculinity and men toxic? I’ve found myself labeling toxic men as just a byproduct of toxic masculinity, but in reality, they’re just toxic individuals, and masculinity isn’t inherently toxic, correct? I’m not exactly sure what to think, because the online discussions regarding men and women, masculinity and femininity, seem very one-sided.

    I am a 19-year-old gay college student from Virginia. I am attracted to masculine, good-looking guys. I am not really attracted to feminine men. But among gay social circles, gay men like to shame other gay men for preferring masculine men — they say it’s because of something called “internalized homophobia” and being ashamed of femininity. I don’t see how preferring to date a masculine MAN would make me homophobic. I am gay, after all. I prefer masculine traits. Of course, a man has to be kind and loving with a cool personality, but I digress.

    Also, in today’s dating world, things are much more complicated than they used to be. Culture has changed, and everything revolves around the Internet now. That being said, most of the heterosexual girls that I talk to will say the same thing; “men are trash”. And after having a couple of negative experiences with guys myself, I found myself buying into this ideology. I don’t think men are trash, men are just different. Men express and deal with their emotions differently than women. As a gay man, I find myself relating to women much more, emotionally-speaking. Maybe this is a feminine trait. However, when looking for potential partners, I’ve found that “masculine” men are simply wired differently than “feminine” men. I can’t explain it, but they are emotionally different. It seems like the majority of masculine men are emotionally detached and disconnected, and therefore, as an emotionally-expressive guy, I have a hard time connecting with the men I’m attracted to (traditionally masculine). Does that make sense?

    For example, the whole “men don’t cry” thing — unfortunately, it seems like there’s some truth to this. I’ve never really known another man to cry, besides me. I feel like there’s a clear difference between being emotionally-stunted and emotionally-developed. Is this really simple? Do men just express their emotions differently? Am I reading too deep into this? I know this is long-winded, but I was hoping you could provide some insight.

    Thanks,

    Demetri

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Demetri and Ivan, I’m so happy to see gay men in their 20s commenting on this post! Thank you.

      I have a 14-year-old gay son, and he talks about masculinity all the time. He wears makeup and then he asks me if he looks gay. And I don’t know what to say. I say something like, “Do you look the way you want to look? Because that’s a good thing to do.” But then I think, “You look gay all the time!”

      When he first came out at age 12 I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult because it doesn’t matter to our family what his sexual preferences are. (here’s the post: https://blog.penelopetrunk.com/2018/05/17/my-12-year-old-son-just-told-me-hes-gay-how-can-i-help-him/). And he told everyone — no holding back for him. But masculinity is a different thing — and he’s not clear about that at all. I wouldn’t have predicted that.

      I am learning so much from this type of discussion.

      Penelope

      Reply
    • Christine
      Christine says:

      Demetri, I know that, when looking at men in our society it’s all too easy to see crying as something that is more a woman’s domain. However, it is definitely a social construct.

      Have you ever read The Illiad or The Odyssey? In ancient times, crying was not only seen as something that humans in general should do, but it was also seen as something that contributed to a man’s sense of masculinity. While it’s true that crying for men was viewed differently than when women cried (in other words, even though crying itself was gendered), it was definitely acceptable and expected that a man be moved to tears, and frequently.

      https://sites.nd.edu/knownworld/2012/09/10/manly-tears/

      Reply
  10. James Nicholas Harper
    James Nicholas Harper says:

    Plenty of thought provoking statements made here for sure. This is such an interesting topic. Our culture has destroyed any reasonable understanding on what a man is supposed to be (yes there is a standard). The the term ‘Toxic Masculinity’ that seems to be only gaining steam as far as I can tell is about as paradoxical as any term has the right to be.

    There is nothing toxic about masculinity. A man should be masculine. Not some sniveling soy boy who carries a purse and can’t keep his emotions under control if the situation calls for it. He should also be gentle, caring, honest, self-sacrificing, responsible for those he loves, and so on/ so forth.

    Being stoic isn’t a character flaw, it’s a strength, and it has to be developed. It doesn’t mean that things don’t hurt, or you don’t want to cry, it means that you set your feelings aside when you have to because there is a situation to deal with. Stoicism btw, isn’t exclusive to men, women should also strive to push their emotions to the back seat when they need to.

    The difference is that when men do it, it’s toxic but when women do it, it’s courageous, brave, strength……

    Reply
  11. James Sebastian
    James Sebastian says:

    The over-reliance on technology (particularly, the phenomenon of online dating) likely plays some role in the “there are no good men left” phenomenon. Female sexual selection is a major driver of the evolutionary bus. But in an online dating context, I suspect that women suffer from a paralysis of choice: too many options such that none inspire certainty in one’s choice. I see a pervasive lack of effort to get to know me or contribute beyond minimally to a conversation… It’s just a total waste of any sane good-enough man’s time.

    Reply
  12. Tad
    Tad says:

    This article reads like a manifesto for abusive marriages and Male-dominated households. It’s utterly disappointing to know this was written by a woman. The amount of false statements within it is alarming, and it reeks of “alternative facts” that were mansplained to you. I pray that you don’t have daughters, and if you do I pray that they grow up to make up their own minds instead of believing this kind of garbage. What a pathetic mentality for a woman to have.

    Reply
  13. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Note to commenters: ‘toxic masculinity’ does not refer to all males, or to general masculine traits. It refers to stereotypes taken to harmful extremes, such as repressed emotions leading to depression; or tendency to aggression leading to domestic violence or sexual assault; or dominance extending to sexism or homophobia. These qualities are harmful to both men and women.

    Reply
  14. Dana (DP)
    Dana (DP) says:

    Seriously, are you Ok? Your past few posts might have been called “Reasons I can’t raise my kids well.” (Which isn’t true by the way.) You are a single mother raising boys on her own- a mother who works, who has aspergers. It’s like you are venting all of your regrets in rapid succession- starting with all of the things you wished you hadn’t missed out on, why you are over 40 and still in the workplace, etc. The past 5 posts or so are leas “truth bombs” and more true confessions. Breathe. Your reply comment to me about how you were so stressed all the time- waving a magic wand and making you a stay at home mom with no money needs wouldn’t make you instantly unstressed any more than losing 100lbs made my problems go away. You’ll still be you. Your boys are going to be fine. Chose to be different. We can fight together for major structural changes in family policy, but in the meantime, let yourself of the hook for being the perfect creator of amazing boys. They already are amazing.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I actually think I do a good job with my kids. I love being a mom and I love my kids. I also see that divorce is lethal for kids. And I see how I could do better.

      I think it’s okay for me to show people that there are a lot of serious problems with single-mothers raising kids. We act like it’s not okay to say the obvious. But earning enough money AND spending enough time with kids — whatever enough means — is very very difficult, and anyone who says that’s not true is nuts.

      Also, there is good research to show that boys who grow up without a father are at a huge disadvantage. Why not say that if it’s true? It’s sort of like saying schools are terrible. They are terrible. You can still send your kid there, but your kid does not need to be in school. The same is true with raising kids. You can decide to raise kids without a father, but it messes up boys. We can say what’s true without making it be self-flagellation.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Dana (DP)
        Dana (DP) says:

        I get it. I’m glad to hear you are OK. Been a reader for a long time and it just seems like something has changed.

        I agree it is all about choices and weighing the risks and gains for your own family and situations.

        Be kind to yourself. xo

        Reply
  15. Truth4you
    Truth4you says:

    Unfortunately, feminism is unnatural causing low birth rates and marriage rates due to toxic femininity. The idea that a woman is a Man. That she can sleep around with mutliple men and not experience psychosis & schizophrenia. Furthermore, America is completely misandrist full of hatred for the very men who built everything to provide for you and keep you safe. The utter disrespect for Men in movies, media, tv shows, music, court systems, laws, child custody, affirmative action for unskilled females, single motherhood producing 80% criminals, false #metoo in the work place, women can freely murder mens seed, and Men are not gonna deal with it any longer. Any slave without any rights to his life, happiness, and even heritage(seed) would revolt. Human nature. They arent womens slave by the Governments gynocentric satanic slave master whip. Men are free and to be attracted to femininity, virtue, virginity if they want. The truth is Men pick who they marry and its clear no american quality man will marry these westerm biologically psychotic women. There is nothing a woman offers a man today, absolutely nothing especially in marriage. Men have gotten wise and the world hasnt caught on yet. It will devastate america and this is why Men are always the leader. Foresight. Something women today lost due to tbeir pride unbasing them in reality and their hearts full of hatred for Masculinity, while they hypocritically beg for money, i mean his wallet, i mean a rich man. But if any man is rich in the eyes of a woman, he will surely seek the most feminine woman, an 18-22 year old virgin who can cook, never argue combat but help like a.feminine woman does out of love and family. This type of woman doesnt exist today so until women become women again, don’t expect to find good men.

    Reply
  16. Greg Allan
    Greg Allan says:

    Myself and others were warning of this in the early nineties. P-12 education was being overhauled to make it more “girl friendly” and boys learning needs were ignored completely. We’re now up to three generations of boys who have grown up hearing nothing but spite and venom targeting their sex on behalf of women. It’s in their schools, all over the media and even in their homes for many. They have no escape.

    Should they be expected to be thankful? Suggest everybody have a look at the suicide rates.

    Reply
  17. Omaha1
    Omaha1 says:

    This may be one of your most important posts ever. Of course most of it is just common sense which is prohibited in academic culture. Suggesting that men and women are different in significant ways is thoughtcrime. Even suggesting the obvious fact that males have a higher sex drive is “promoting rape culture.” Try suggesting some time that a woman should not go by herself to a frat party in a revealing outfit and get really drunk (which is obviously risky, foolish behavior). Not an invitation to be taken advantage of, obviously, but still a dumb thing to do. How is that any different than suggesting that a woman not walk through a dark alley alone at night? Women are more vulnerable in general just due to physical attributes.

    I have a fairly traditional marriage at this point in my life, I stay home and do laundry, cook meals, clean (sort of LOL!) and just generally look out for his well-being, like fixing him a drink when he comes home, fetching his slippers, all of that stereotypical 50’s wife stuff. He is out driving a big truck all day & his income pays most of the bills. We are both pretty happy with this arrangement although I guess I am supposed to feel “oppressed” in some way.

    Reply
    • Dana (DP)
      Dana (DP) says:

      @omaha1

      You aren’t supposed to feel oppressed. If you and your husband have agreed on a division of labor and power that works for your family, that is awesome. If you express kindness and love for each other in ways that happen to fit traditional gender roles, that’s awesome, too. Where I sit, feminism isn’t about defining what roles we take, it’s about _the freedom to choose those roles_. You are only oppressed if you are forced to do something or left out of something bc of your gender or race or position.

      Want to be a doctor? Go for it. Want to be a teacher or a nurse? Awesome. Want to be a stay at home wife? Do it.

      My only concern comes when women enter into a traditional role without it being a true partnership. Both members of the marriage need to fully agree on the terms of staying home. Is it forever? Does he expect you to go back? Will he put money in a spousal IRA for you? Is there adequate life insurance? Is there a prenup?

      I’ve had several friends get blindsided by a divorce after 10 years at home. They have lost ten years of work experience and have no retirement savings. I’m not a huge fan of a golf-florida-whatever retirement, but eventually we all need depends and someone to help us shower.

      My take: feminism is about entering into anything/everything with a full set of options, eyes wide open and the brains/savvy to make sure you have a solid plan.

      Reply
      • Omaha1
        Omaha1 says:

        I am kind of semi retired. It’s a long story but I was widowed, moved to a new city, my mom died & left me some money, blah blah blah. I met new husband online, we connected over 2.5 years & eventually got married. We are happy with the way things are. I don’t feel oppressed at all, I am a caretaker by nature & it makes me happy to do things that please him. Especially since my children are too old to need me anymore. I am 58 and my husband is 61.

        Reply
  18. Sean Crawford
    Sean Crawford says:

    As a young man, I found it useful to discriminate between masculine and macho. I was the former, as was my WWII Dad, a “decent man” as my grandmother put it, who would visit veterans in the hospital. Later he joined a mason lodge.

    To me macho was dishonest. Acting as if I was insecure was dishonest. Being always competitive with other men was dishonest, if I knew everyone was equal. Lying about whether a sunrise or hummingbird or painting was pretty, in order to appear insensitive, was dishonest. (I still feel guilty about such rare lies) Lying about whether I “gave a care” about women and children and the community was dishonest, because I do care.

    In recent years, I have found it useful to think: Anything not nurturing is abusive. Maybe there’s a middle ground, but that is not useful to me. Being abusive, such as hurting other men’s feelings with rudeness or rude comments, to me is toxic macho, and I won’t do it. Because it is dishonest to think that putting someone down builds me up.

    What helps me to be sure in my male identity, (so I don’t need to hurt others) regardless of how sensitive I might be, is that I spent time in the armed forces. If an ex-soldier (infantry) isn’t masculine, who is?

    If I was raising a boy I would teach him to be considerate of others, because then he would never break any laws or get in trouble with the legal system.

    Reply
  19. DJ
    DJ says:

    Have you read David Deida’s “Way of the Superior Man?” It’s compact book that’s a spiritual how-to for positive masculinity. I went to a workshop of his a few years ago and he really crystalized a lot of things I was grappling with.

    Give it a read. Most women I know who’ve read it really like it.

    It’s an easy read, too. Each chapter is no more than 3-4 pages.

    Reply
  20. ymkas
    ymkas says:

    Hey P,

    I hope all is well!

    I wanted to say that I disagree with your conclusions in this post. Men don’t suddenly not want to do chores or help. If they have been raised properly by their parents, or single parent, they will be contributing to the domestic household duties. It’s their home too and they should learn from their parents to have some pride in the way they live and keep things in order.

    Again, this post is more of a diary entry from the results of your own life rather than something I would ever take seriously.

    My husband and I are both very dominant, type A personalities and he does all the dishes, takes out the trash, does the laundry, and helps cook! There is no room for either of us to have an attitude of “This is your job because you are this gender”. If the garbage needs to go out and he’s not here, I do it. If the driveway needs to be shoveled from snow and he isn’t here, I do it. Just as he does the laundry for everyone in the house plus the dishes plus works at a job he loves. I also work as a writer and producer and can’t imagine ever being willing to put up with someone who wasn’t raised or couldn’t learn to take care of a little cleaning here and there. I think his single mom help raise him right by teaching him how to cook, do laundry, go shopping, take out the trash as if it was a part of being a normal decent human being and absolutely nothing to do with the gender he was born with.

    Continuing to push down this path I am wondering who your intended audience is meant to be? These views are outdated. Spouses help each other as a team and being a dominant personality with another dominant spouse it’s quite the lightning storm experience from time to time but we’ve been married for 15 years now and I don’t see him ever complaining about keeping the house looking nice. And I do my part to keep it clean as well… I don’t feel the need to list what I do, but it’s more deep cleaning and tidying of a 3500 sq ft home.

    If people are so up in arms about division of household chores then hire a house cleaning service for goodness sakes!! Get over it! And literally NOBODY likes cleaning. Not me, not the women I know… and not men either. But we are grown up adults who no longer have our parents ensuring we are picking up after ourselves and/or cleaning things for us… this whole topic is like the argument of a middle schooler in a debate class. It doesn’t feel like a fully formed reasoned argument for anything with any purpose.

    Reply
    • Newt
      Newt says:

      I’m sorry to say your marriage sounds exactly like my 20-year marriage right before we got divorced. Equal, stable, sharing chores … kids got older, things calmed down and we got an efficient, thoughtful, lawyerless divorce.

      You should take at least part of this article seriously.

      No one seems to want to touch how the equalization/ambiguity of roles kills romanticism/attraction between a man and a woman. It’s the answerless elephant in the room, but it is one outcome of uber-equality, I assure you.

      Please, everyone talk to their spouses about it what they truly desire from the opposite sex and do not judge!

      Good luck all!

      Reply
      • Jennifer
        Jennifer says:

        So, you think that your wife would have stayed with you if you left all the household chores for her to do? Or if the divorce was your idea, you divorced her because she wasn’t doing all of them? It is hard to divide housework evenly along traditional gender roles, because a lot of “male” tasks need to be done rarely (mow the grass once a week, fix things as they break), or are outsourced nowadays (fixing cars, plumbing, etc.), or can be put off indefinitely without too much harm to the family (building a bookcase.) While “female” tasks must be done multiple times a day (cooking, dishes), or at least daily (laundry), or are absolutely vital to the family and can’t be procrastinated (childcare-related tasks, buying food.) This isn’t a problem when one person is home all day, but when both are working, it’s obviously an issue. For women struggling to shoulder all of the “female” chores in addition to a job, the biggest concern isn’t that they’ll lose interest in their husbands if they help out with some unmanly dish-washing.

        Reply
        • Newt
          Newt says:

          I posted higher up more of a description of my experience. What I am proposing is that the diligent application of equality can undermine a marriage’s success. It’s not about perfect balance, its about doing something for your spouse that they value so greatly that they are eager to show gratitude. What would you be willing to give, if your spouse said they would do all the chores from now on? Or vice versa? You may both be winners! Obviously, this is highly subjective …

          Think of how this is highlighted during dating. You create a whole meal for someone, you treat them with the utmost respect and pamper them. You do not expect them to clean up … and levels of sweetness and affection are at an all-time high.

          This is just a fraction of the issue. Overly masking gender behavior in the home, simply speaking, turns spouses into friends. (There is an entertaining scene at the beginning of the movie Idiocracy that shows the family tree of two married couples: one pair intellectual and the other idiots. The idiots are prolific while the intellectual couple prudently defers child birth … then one of them dies before even conceiving.)

          Reply
  21. jack
    jack says:

    I think the job pieces is very close to mark. But I’m thinking that difference can be simplified to tangible outcomes vs. non-existent outcomes. Men have always worked in healthcare, education and technology. But the work had been outcome focus. Nowadays so much of the work is throw away. Talking and connecting is fine when it helps moves things to real outcome.

    Let’s take the cabinet maker turned furniture consultant example. He will not be redesigning a poorly designed sofa. Rather, he will be assigned an amazing task like determining the ROI of using 2″ screws instead of 1.75″. He will spend the next 6 months in preparing analysis and running meeting to discuss the pro’s and cons of spending an extra $0.32783 per sofa. The outcome of the research doesn’t really matter, because the sofa model will be discontinued less than a year later. But he did such a great job, that he will be asked to repeat the task on a different piece of furniture. . .

    Pride, self-worth, and sense of accomplishment are closely tied to outcomes. If the only outcome from a career or job is a paycheck, that work is not good for person’s psyche.

    Reply
    • Not that Melissa
      Not that Melissa says:

      Scrolled all the way to the bottom to find the comment that makes the most sense. Men and women have always worked. Like if this post is going to make a case based on evolutionary biology (homo sapiens appeared 200,000 years ago) then it should at least examine all types jobs from, say, the past 200 years! You know, when there were footmen, valets, and butlers employed in intimate domestic work.

      Any discussion of gendered parenting roles should at least touch upon the “semen displacement theory” and acknowledge that our current nuclear family model is not the default.

      Reply
      • Jack
        Jack says:

        The semen displacement theory is an evolutionary one. The issues it causes with monogamy would have been around since the social creation of monogamy. The relaxing of social norms are affecting the definition of family, but it shouldn’t necessarily creating the current issues with men.

        Society In the days of footmen, valets, & butlers had much more rigid social hierarchy than we do now. For many of the lower classes, becoming a footman or valet was the most prestigious work that they could find. Butlers were the middle and senior management of the servant hierarchy. The upper class couldn’t function without the servants. Success or failure at their work is going to be very visible. Successful visible results are source of pride.

        Reply
  22. Justin
    Justin says:

    Wow, this article hit the nail on the head. I had trouble in school sitting still for long periods of time. At least in elementary school, we had a half-hour of recess a day, and Gym (P.E.) class to exercise the nervous system. By the time I got to High-school, I was done. I think there should be more effort in middle and high school to focus on a career path that suits the individual better.

    I can’t sit still for long periods of time to this day.

    A friend of mine who barely graduated high-school ended up being an entrepreneur later in his life which eventually made him a millionaire.

    Reply
  23. JML
    JML says:

    I just wanted to make a comment on medicating boys. My son has ADHD. And for a long time, I refused medication because I thought we over-medicated boys, that much of his behaviour was just him being a boy. But things got so bad – at home and at school – that I decided to try medication. And it was like night and day. His impulses are more controlled, his anger subsided. He can cooperate and tolerate boredom, frustration, and not getting his way. And most importantly, he feels better. He noticed the difference and takes the medication willingly. And I feel so guilty for having waited so long. I don’t think you should jump into medication and there is probably lots of over-medicating going on. But the research shows that boys with untreated ADHD really do struggle later in life. I don’t think medication should just be dismissed as we over-medicate. I think it’s worth exploring if the diagnosis is there (we got a second opinion).

    I have two sons and worry about masculinity and what it means all the time. Their dad is here, but I also try to surround them with as many male examples as I can (coaches, music teachers).

    Reply
  24. Jennifer L.W. Fink
    Jennifer L.W. Fink says:

    I’ve followed your work for a long time — ever since I heard you speak at a writing conference in Kohler, WI. As a mom of 4 boys (ages 113, 16, 19 and 22), I agree w so many of the things you’ve said in this post (and others over the years). I have to call you out on this part, though: you write, ” it’s so un-PC to say single-mothers don’t provide adequate parenting for boys.” It’s also inaccurate to say “single mothers don’t provide adequate parenting for boys.” I too am familiar w Farrell’s work and his work and with the research that shows boys (and girls) do better with an involved father, and I absolutely agree: children do best with 2 loving, involved parents, But we have to stop assuming that “single parent” means the other parent is not involved. I was a single mom for nearly 10 years, but my boys’ dad remained an active part of their lives during that period. We might not have been living in the same house anymore, but the boys definitely had regular access to both parents. That might not (yet) be the norm, but it’s not usual either. Co-parenting of divorced or never married parents happens and should be supported and recognized. I wrote more here: https://buildingboys.net/in-defense-of-single-moms-raising-boys/

    Reply

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