The Re-Education Of Men

There is a growing feeling of uselessness among men in the United States. In the last two years The Atlantic has run two cover stories titled “The End of Men” and “All the Single Ladies,” both prognosticating the impacts of gender role reversals occurring in Western — specifically American — society. In both articles, the point was clear: women have caught up, and are now leaving men in their dust.

We’ve all seen the statistics. For a quick refresher, here are three stats taken from the two Atlantic articles:

  • Three women now graduate from college for every two men, and the ratio of graduate school rates are even more skewed towards women.
  • Among single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 (an admittedly specific grouping), women actually earn 8% more than their male counterparts.
  • Men make up the majority in only two of the 15 highest growth job categories for the next decade (janitor and computer engineer)

In the past couple decades, public and private programs, scholarships, and professional groups have done an amazing job at providing women broader and deeper access to educational and professional opportunities than ever before. Yes, as a whole, women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. And yes, executive positions in many industries are still overwhelmingly dominated by men. Make no mistake; there is still a lot of progress to be made. Nevertheless, almost all of the indicators have been moving in a steadily positive direction for women.

I am not writing to decry these trends or request a return to a Mad-Men-era of the domination of machismo (the progress that women have made, even in the past 20 years, has been incredible and I only hope that it continues). Rather, I am writing to warn of the social costs that we could be facing as men begin to slip further and further behind.

And what a quick slide it has been. Men are now more likely to only hold a high school degree. More twentysomething men than women are moving back in with their parents. Most damningly for men, industries that were traditionally dominated by men, such as manufacturing and construction, were decimated by the 2008 recession. The majority of those jobs are never coming back. All of this has led to far higher unemployment rates for men in their prime working age than for women.

So, what are the costs? For one, jobless men, especially those without education, feel like they’re facing a hopeless situation. Especially for those with only high school education, jobs have become increasingly scarce and the ones that remain have significantly less lifetime earnings potential than just a couple of years ago. With education costs going nowhere but up, and labor jobs declining, the future is particularly bleak. Groups of prospect-less men, both in terms of professions and relationships, could lead to higher rates of depression, substance abuse, and violence, particularly against women, all of which mean significant social expenses.

Relatedly, there is a growing shortage in the pool of marriageable men. As women are attaining higher educational and professional achievements than men, the pool of men available to them (as in, men they come in contact with and are single) is shrinking. Rapidly. Now, I understand that marriage rates are also declining as fewer people feel forced into the concept of a traditional marriage. However, even accounting for this, the pool of available men for women who want to get married is still shrinking to an unsustainable level.

Personally, my background is in international development. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in African communities where there is large scale male unemployment, and most men have resorted to taking what little money their wives earn as subsistence farmers and using that to spend their days at the local bar. Men in these communities face the ultimate hopelessness of having almost no chance to rise up from their neglected communities. Within this atmosphere, a culture of gender-based violence is born. While the situation is not nearly so dire in the U.S., there is a very real risk in growing male resentment toward the successes of women. In the communities I studied, domestic assault and sexual abuse rates were high largely because of the powerlessness of men. Men facing no job prospects and an increasingly marginalized role in the status of their family were asserting their power in the only other way they knew how: physical violence.

What can be done to avoid some of these expenses without stunting the progress that women have achieved?

Men need to be re-educated, both professionally and socially. The stigmas associated with professions long dominated by women, like nursing, need to be broken down, as these professions are often the ones facing the highest growth opportunities. In all professions, men need to get used to working both with and for women. Men need to be taught to be comfortable dating women who are smarter or earn more than they do. The concept of equal responsibility in all areas of home life, be it dusting or grilling, needs to be pervasive. This is not just important for instilling in the attitudes of our generation’s children, but it is necessary for men to adapt to our current society.

Men need to be taught that this is no longer a just man’s world, and we need to stop being nostalgic for that time. That ship has long since sailed. TC mark

image – John Walker


More From Thought Catalog

  • Michaelwg

    I’m going to be a cage fighter…

  • Gregory Costa

    4/5 of the grad students (2 going for PhD’s) in my biology lab were females.  I was definitely competing in a woman’s world… on the plus side, as the sole male, this homely guy got attention he never would have received in a sea of much more attractive guys. 

    • Guest

      Same with my lab, but I think biology is has way more women at the moment than other science fields. I walk into the engineering lab next door and it’s a completely different story…

      • Gregory Costa

        Yeah, you’re right.  It is a female dominated field.  Even so, I affirmed my masculinity by being responsible for culling the mice and rainbow trout….cervical dislocation and cerebral percussion are my specialties. 

  • Coolddudesg

    This article is absurd. You make some big macro claims about the US based on a tiny sample size in a dramatically different African community

  • Tom

    Interesting topic, but maybe could have taken this a lot further. I think any man who reads this and might share some of these feelings with you is only going to feel worse.

  • Tesslacoil

    you make a good point but you didn’t have to be such a dick
    about it. it sounds like you have a radical feminist girlfriend and were trying to
    get her approval by being hateful and bashing men as a gender as much as
    possible on the way to making (what could have been a positive, uplifting)
    point that the idea of traditional gender roles is hurting men too and people
    need to move on from outdated ideas about masculinity and its relation to home
    life and careers. also actually women have the same stupid ideas too in
    comparable frequencies “men need to open doors for me,” “men should always pay
    for the first date,” “i just want to find a rich man to support me” so the
    title/last paragraphs are similarly unnecessarily dickish and divisive

    • Emma

      I  politely disagree. Will makes strong points, but they are valid. The idea of gender equality revolutionized the way women think. Many women strive toward that goal of being a successful, independent woman, because that has become the new feminine ideal. What is the ideal for men? I have seen many of my twentysomething male counterparts who still think being tough, playing video games and working dead end jobs is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle. Truth is, the world needs highly educated, highly trained, dedicated and hardworking individuals, and women want men who are at least their equals in career success and personal development. Do men need their own revolution to see that?

      • Tesslacoil

        well the important thing is that you managed to make your point without resorting to ludicrous, laughably sweeping and sexist generalizations about men and women like “successful, independent woman” vs “being tough, playing video games and working dead end jobs.” cause of course if you had, that would render your argument meaningless

      • Steph Carcieri

         Since when are being successful and playing video games mutually exclusive?

  • Robert Wohner

    You lay out such a solid economic picture for 3/4 of this article but suddenly switch to some, slightly preachy, social talking points that don’t fully relate to your claims. You don’t explain the correlation between how men might view a woman’s role at home to why they aren’t enrolling in higher education. How do men’s dating preferences relate to their absence in the highest growing industries? Which is not to say someone couldn’t effectively make these arguments. But you haven’t here. Using a sample group from Africa isn’t enough for me. You end implying that the majority of men are stagnent economically because they object to the social mobility of women. That’s a provocative conclusion but it is too large to leave unsubstantiated. 

    • Will

      It’s a quick response to the types of articles mentioned in the beginning. It’s a topic that could really be elaborated over a lot more space, but I tried to keep it concise.

      Also, I mostly tried to imply that men are stagnating because we’re entering into an environment where the rules are different than they used to be, and we’re doing a poor job of adapting. But thanks for your feedback.

  • Guest

    Are women willing to date men that are dumber and earn less than them though? I feel like that stigma is still there

  • Andrew Rowland

    He makes a good point though, one that I see all over the place. The current generation of young men 18-30 is underperforming. On the other hand, if you are a guy in that age range that works hard and is even moderately successful, life’s never been better.

    Moral of this story, time to get your shit together, gentlemen.

  • Justine G.

    I was excited when I saw that Will Smith was dabbling in Internet blogging and terribly disappointed when I realized that this was not authored by the world’s jiggiest man in black


    I liked this article.

  •!/ZachAmes macgyver51

    Another problem with men in this age is the fact that they write articles with very specific and damning “observances” without really explaining where any of it came from nor making a definitive effort to vouch for its validity. That’s surely a writer I’d hire.

    • Will

      All relevant statistics and observations come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census reports, and various UN reports. The rest is my own personal analysis, which you are, of course, free to disagree with.

      •!/ZachAmes macgyver51

        You don’t just post a bunch of facts and figures, then wait till someone questions you to point them to the source. You at least mention the source in passing. It doesn’t have to be cited like an academic paper, but cmon. It does a good job of not only verifying the author’s claims, but lending some credibility to their “personal analysis.”

        I agree with nearly all of the article, with one addition. Men, especially when it comes to writing, would see a rise in their desirability as an employee rise with a rise in the quality of their work.

  • Carson

    This article seems to me to be very biased and unfair in numerous places.  It makes the assumption that there is a specific gender based role for men, especially with the definition of “marriageable” men.  As a previous comment stated, are women going to be willing to date/marry a man in reversed gender roles?  If you think about 50 or 60 years ago, women were kept by their parents at home until a man came and took her into his household.  If you look at men moving home as a similar situation (uneducated, not able to find a job, etc.) it is seen as unfavorable, but women look quaint in that position where as men look “pathetic”.  

    As with all inequalities in society, I think that women are for the first time finding their position in the world and seeing that they can compete with men on equal footing and are naturally trying to express their freedoms and rights (which will naturally make things seem unbalanced), but given 2 or 3 generations (barring any other sort of inequalities that come up), girls being born now will not feel the need to compete with men and we’ll see balance restored.    Genders are not in competition with each other and unless we’re going to resort to cloning of a sort to reproduce, both genders are here to stay for a long while.  We might as well get used to each other and just treat each other as equal human beings, each with specific talents and skill sets, instead of writing articles like this, that make it seem like there is some sort of inherent competition in life, and that if we don’t do well enough we’ll disappear or something.

  • Guest

    World’s smallest violin happening now. 

  • Anonymous

    We know that on average men and women have similar IQs. This difference in college graduation rates is largely down to changes made in the education system which fail to motivate boys and young men.

    By treating everyone as special the system has eliminated that atmosphere of competition which motivates boys.

    Setting aside phonics for a whole language approach to teaching reading results in vastly inferior results for both sexes but especially males.

    And today’s litigation-happy culture has resulted in a strict clampdown on any small deviant behaviour, but we know that boys have a tendency to get into trouble. Many successful men today grew up causing a bit of trouble in their school days, but today we tell those boys they’re troublemakers and dismiss them, and tell them repeatedly they will amount to nothing. When you tell someone repeatedly they won’t amount to anything, eventually they’ll believe it.

    The re-education of men needs to be achieved. It needs to be accomplished by nothing less than wholesale change in the education system, in such a way that will benefit both sexes. Anything else will be insufficient.

    • Guest

      wow sexist and missing the point. This is such a “boys will be boys” view which is really pretty inappropriate. It has nothing to do with them being boys–girls misbehave just the same, and allowing bad behavior from boys and not girls is pretty obviously not okay. I agree with your last paragraph, however, the education system does need a change.

      • Anonymous

        ‘Boys will be boys’ is an appropriate view in terms of inherent biological and psychological characteristics, but not necessarily  for socialised traits (i.e. not what society tells you is a male trait). Their misbehaviour is of a different character and severity; why else do boys have higher discipline-related dropout rates?

        I agree that bad behaviour needs to be dealt with, but aside from heavy-handed punitive measures there needs to be engagement of the kind which is sensitive to the unique situation of boys. Puberty combined with testosterone can be difficult to deal with, but it must, despite it being socially unfashionable to be sensitive to and care for the plight of boys.Also, what of the other two points: competition and phonics?

        It is not sexist to acknowledge the differences between the sexes. By being sensitive of the situations of each we can correct imbalances and create an egalitarian society.

  • erin f

    I am literally speechless at the ridiculousness of this article.

    Don’t worry America, maybe if the GOP wins the presidential election, all your poor destitute men can return to ruling over the evil women.

    • Nathaniel

      Is that what the article seems to be about to you?

    • CourtneyB

      I am not at all sure that you understood the point of this article, or even read it completely. The author has multiple valid points and states pretty clearly at least twice that people should not be looking for a return to past times of male domination. He mostly seems to be saying that the world has changed, and men need to adapt to it, or it will cause and continue causing major problems in various facets of life for both women and men.

    • Pinion

      Fuck off back to Fuckheadsville with this cervical outpouring of misdirected feminism.

  • Neha

    I get where this article is coming from. My first thought was along the lines of “why can’t men accept being lower on the totem pole for a little bit? they’ve been in the dominating position overall for much of our civilized existence. Feeling insubordinate? welcome to a woman’s world”. But it’s like the tortoise and the hare. It took a while for women to get where they are today, but its been a constant struggle/battle. Men have kind of settled into and taken for granted their role in society. They “fell asleep” thinking the world would be the same place when they wake up. So yes, for true gender equality, both male and females need to be on equal footing; men need to up their game.

    • Carson

      Why exactly do men need to up their “game”?  Is life some sort of competition between the two sexes?  Women wanted to know what it was like to be ahead, but now that they are in some senses, some of them complain because men aren’t there to still be providers or even have the machismo they used to because they were subjugating women.  Why can’t both sexes just exist and do what they want without having to worry about providing for one another or being better than one another?

      • Neha

         No, I completely agree that there shouldn’t be any competition between the sexes. When I think equality, I mean complete equal footing. But with women striving so hard to outdo and be equal to men, there is a competition. Shouldn’t be there, but its a sort of reality nowadays. Now the scales are getting slightly tipped and there needs to be a balance. By “upping their game” I only meant that men need to work equally as hard as women are now; no gender can just lay back and wait for the other one to pick up the slack, whether it be in the workplace or in the home.

      • Neha

         oh and we coexist, we play off one another. How can we not worry about providing for one another? We aren’t talking about different countries, we’re talking about males and females. I don’t think that we can “just exist” separately.

      • Carson

        But that makes no sense, on one hand you’re saying that there shouldn’t be a competition, but since there is, just go with it?  We don’t really exist separately, but we also don’t need to say what the other gender should be doing.  If men aren’t on par with women now, what does that say about women 50 or 60 years ago?  Does one sex need to be better than the other to be able to justify their humanity, or can we just do what we want, some guys and girls will move back home, some will get jobs, and some will get advanced degrees.  In other situations women will be providers or men will it shouldn’t make a difference.  

        My biggest gripe is the idea that any one HAS to catch up with anyone else.  If men don’t “up their game” and become “marriageable” material, whose problem is that?   Those complaints sound like they come from women who don’t want to take care of someone, which is the reverse of the situation not half a century ago and even today if different parts of the world and the US.

      • Neha

         Well as far as I’m concerned, I completely agree with you. Its just that the way things “should be” aren’t the way things actually are and you can’t change the way society thinks or perceives gender roles. My thinking is most likely flawed, but I guess I’m just trying to say that in order to get where there is no competition, we need to work to get there. Compete until there isn’t anything prove anymore to each other or anyone. I’m trying to see where we’ll really end up with this; comparisons between men and women can’t just vanish as much as we might want them too.

  • Abc

    Will Smith, you are the voice of our generation. 

  • Anonymous

    Must be super cool or super awful to be named Will SMith on the blogosphere… 

  • Jeremy Sheeler

    You’re totally right: “this is no longer a just man’s world” (and I’m not pointing that out just to be a dick).

  • R Nicator

    Simpering, apologist drivel.  Men have been historically dominant, not superior, and that’s the way women like it.  Nothing drives a manjawed feminist crazy quicker than a cultural phenomenon like that silly shades of grey book that’s got women all frothy.  There are powerful, physiological impulses at play in our lives and overriding them with unnatural constructs of intellect is a shortcut to societal decay and misery. 

    Who is it complaining that men used to make so much more money than women?  Is it the charming, pretty woman that’s spending all of Daddy/Hubby’s aforementioned money?  Or is it the misshapen feminist that’s been forced into the workforce because she can’t influence a quality man? 

    Here’s a hint folks: feminism was never about making women equal to men.  It’s about putting ugly women on a level playing field with charming, beautiful women. 

    • Alice

      Wait, so you’re not necessarily getting your panties in a bunch about the fact that women are beginning to achieve economic equality with men, but that *ugly* women are achieving that equality?    

      • R Nicator

        My knickers are in a twist because of the extreme irony of this article.  Men, and women, have already been ‘re-educated’ by feminism and the other whorsemen of the apocalypse.  The writer of this article makes himself the posterboy for this labotomization by saying (presumably not in jest):

        “(the progress that women have made, even in the past 20 years, has been incredible and I only hope that it continues)…I am writing to warn of the social costs that we could be facing as men begin to slip further and further behind.”

        Really?  If it were actually ‘progress’, would you have to warn society of the costs of furthered ‘progress’?

        Oh well.  Back to bedding beautiful young co-eds who actually believe that they can sleep around ‘like a man’ and still attract a successful, charismatic husband when they’ve hit the wall and the clock is winding down.  Thanks, feminism.  Oh, and you might want to do some more re-educating about that pesky clock and it’s deep, hormonal power…it lends creedence to the outdated idea that the genders are fundamentally different… 

      • Norwegian Prison Guard

        Dammit, Anders, how many times do we have to tell you there are no co-eds in prison

  • guest

    There’s a ton of young men that instead of going to college still join the military which is disproportionately male…are they factored into these statistics?

    • Guest

      This is exactly what i was thinking, were still winning wars!!! kind of

  • guest

    Here’s the real rub- it’s not that men don’t want to be with a woman who is smarter or more well off than themselves but a majority of women who want a strong provider who scoff at the idea of being with a man who is not bringing in the main income.  So when you think about it.  With a dwindling male income and a raising of women’s standards as they themselves become the breadwinners wanting someone who can match them financially it’s not about the pool of marriageable people lowering it’s about the pool of “eligible” high quality bachelors dwindling.

    I do not believe in feminism.  I believe in equality.

blog comments powered by Disqus