Why Young Men Aren't Manning Up
Where have the good men gone? Chances are you've counseled a frustrated young single woman in your church who has asked you this question. Or perhaps you've asked it yourself. This question is the catalyst for Kay Hymowitz's book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, an in-depth analysis of the state of the average middle-class American male in his twenties.
By her analysis, he has simply decided to remain a "pre-adult," stuck between adolescence and adulthood. After reading her book it's easy to understand why. In a nutshell, women, who graduate college in greater percentages (earning more degrees by a ratio of nearly 3:2) and with higher GPAs than men on average, are quickly making up ground in our current "knowledge economy," which places a premium on educational credentials. While young women have been energized by historic, unprecedented opportunities for a self-supporting career in the workplace, young men have been gradually shrinking from adult responsibilities such as marriage, job, and family in favor of entertainment and diversion.
It's an argument in the vein of Hannah Rosin's seminal article for The Atlantic, "The End of Men," and was recently picked up by William J. Bennett, author of The Book of Man. Their solution is invariably that men should simply man up, take responsibility, get married, adapt to the changing cultural environment.
But this assumes that young men have a motivation to "man up." These authors underestimate the self-perceived freedom of "child-men" (as Hymowitz labels them). And they won't easily give it up. Young men are being shaped by prolonged adolescence and perceived obsolescence, and powerful social forces are at work to keep them that way.
For instance, a much-publicized Relevant magazine article highlighted a study that found 80 percent of evangelical Christians have had premarital sex, slightly below the 88 percent mark of society at large. Sex is readily available and as a motivator for pursuing marriage seems all but off the table. Fear of divorce further undermines the draw of marriage.
For another example, I've already hinted at the fact that the current growth sectors of the job market are geared more to the skills of women. In addition, average college loan debt post-college is more than $25,000, so even men with their act together often must delay taking on the added financial burdens of home and family. Women, despite their newfound financial independence, still expect to marry up. Many young men, unable to handle adult expectations, have simply chosen not to try.