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Defining the American Male in the 21st Century

Some American males seem to be suffering an identity crisis. How are males defined in today’s new society?

I came of age during a time when identifying maleness was well defined. It was a society dominated by white males and from education to occupations and family structure; the role and expectations were very clear. Societal goals for males focused on getting the proper education, whether vocational or academic, selecting a career and choosing a life partner to raise a family. I grew up in a time of limited choices. There were male choices and there were female choices. One thing was for certain; I knew, that when I reached majority, I would be working for the rest of my life. Women’s choices were limited to staying at home to raise a family or work sufficiently long enough to find the “right man” who would support her and the subsequent offspring. Of course, there were the women who were forced to pursue a self-supporting vocation or profession because, for whatever reason, marriage and family eluded them. It was never considered that a woman would want to pursue a career and forgo a husband and family.

Competition was between males, whether on the athletic field, the classroom or the job; men were expected to project power and control. Male values were associated with strength, stoicism, definitive action, problem solving and dominance.  Entertainment media reflected this social expectation; resulting in TV shows like; ‘Father Knows Best’, ‘The Honeymooners’ (The Jackie Gleason Show), ‘Ozzie and Harriet’, and from film; the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Clint Eastwood all carried the message forward. All leadership positions were occupied by males. Testosterone ruled and ruled absolutely. However, that was about to change and change in radical ways.

During the mid to late 1950s, the Second Wave of American Feminism was building and finally broke onto the shore of American Society with the publication of Betty Freidan’s 1963 monumental and life changing book, the ‘Feminine Mystique’. From that point on, the American male position of societal dominance was under constant attack. To put this into context, in a previous blog, one conservative commenter called it the “chickification” of America.

The redefining of gender roles wasn’t immediate, but the Second Wave of Feminism began initially as a movement to redefine women and women’s roles. It should be noted that the early leaders of the movement were highly intelligent and educated, using the understanding of the mechanisms of the civil rights movement and struggle, easily reinterpreted and redirected the message to women’s equality. Redefining women’s equality and roles automatically meant a redefining of men’s roles and expectations.

During the early militancy stage, women targeted the institutions of government, politics, education, business and healthcare. Healthcare reform was pushed by the introduction of the birth control pill, allowing women to finally have control and choice over their reproduction. Coupled with the various states’ legislative actions that allowed abortion on demand, that resulted in the Roe v. Wade decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 establishing a woman’s right of control over her own body; this became a hallmark victory for the movement. Men found themselves in the position that they had no legal input or rights into the fate of their own sired offspring until born. Upon birth they were obligated to take financial responsibility for the child until the child reached majority at age 18. Pieces of state and federal legislation over the following four decades leveled the playing field to the point where anticipated traditional gender roles were no longer viable. As we look at the situation today; the Second Wave of Feminism has passed and society is caught up into the Third Wave of Feminism, which is concerned more for universal rights, including equal rights for the LGBTQ communities.

The new expectations for males in the opening decades of the 21st century are on equality and sharing. Couples today are defined by shared economic partnerships; men are expected to share in child rearing, domestic work and are also expected to display the traditional feminine characteristics of honest emotional expression, open communication, cooperation and group problem solving. The changes expected of men have not been evolutionary, but revolutionary. The transition of the American male to the new expectations and values model has not been equally achieved across the spectrum of American society. This has resulted in three distinct classes of males.

The first class of males is the oldest class, represented by Boomer males. These were the males who supported and advanced the Second Wave of Feminism. For the most part, these males have successfully made the transition from the old expectations to the new realty of gender equality. They came to understand that the freedom granted to women also freed them for broader expression of their humanity.

The second class of males is the youngest class, represented by Millennial males. They haven’t had to accept any transition since they were born into society after the transition was already in place. They represent the “New Normal” and fully expect gender equality. They are their mothers’ sons.

The final and third class of males is comprised of many Boomer and Gen-Xer males. This is the group of primarily white men who are still struggling with what defines being a male. They are resisting the new egalitarian reality and seek identification in the old stereotypic models of maleness. Driven by their resistance to change, they comprise the core of the conservative and ultra conservative reactionary movements. They seem to be attracted to fundamentalist religious interpretations, conservative politics and the traditional roles for men and women, which existed prior to the emergence of Second Wave Feminism. These are the males who define the world and society as spiraling downward, the death of individualism and personal responsibility, on the brink of civil unrest and possible civil war. This is the group that envisions itself as the protectors of society and the preservers of the good of the past. Their fear of the things to come has guaranteed their ultimate demise. Within two generations, this group will have receded into mostly an afterthought, unless they can thrust us into a civil war based on reactionary ideology. But, time and history are against them.

Just as “globalism and universality” are a part of the 21st century reality, the role of the American male will continue to change. It is an exciting time to observe the changes yet to come, eliciting hope for the future of all of humanity. One thing is for certain, gender will, no longer affect merit, and that’s as it should be.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bottom Line January 05, 2013 at 05:25 PM
"The white European has been responsible for more human misery during the last 1000 years than any other group. Is that something you really are proud of?" ... are you serious? I hope you aren't overlooking a handful of contributions which certainly created the environment being better than most around the world, let alone here in the United States. While I do believe you have a lot to offer, when you take positions that wholly disregard the honor and suffering of generations in the group you continually beat on, I think you are part of the problem. When Christ told the lame man to put down his crutches and walk, he was speaking to more than that man ... and we would do well to quit handing out crutches.
Luke January 06, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Lyle, You said: "Now the question I must ask you is why have they failed? Is it because there is something wrong with the population and they are incapable of rising? Is it because what has been offered in the past has been wrong? Have we followed the wrong ideology and should we have just abandoned these people, should we abandon them now? What is the answer?" We have come full circle, Lyle. Yes, there IS something wrong with the population. One thing that is wrong with the population is that they have made a negative narrative too much of their main source of identity, and the politicians cater to that and nurture it in hopes of gaining votes. In case you didn't notice, I used examples of minority groups that my family comes from that survive to this day in their countries of origin. Their main source of identity (regardless of where they live) is not what others have done wrong to them. The Hmong would welcome equal rights in the countries from which they come, but nothing will stop them from working to better themselves to the point where they surpass all others. They, just as you Jews, are fully aware of has happened to them, but they have never allowed those things to become the main narrative that defines them. Even though they experience prejudice, they find it dysfunctional to spend too much time focusing on it. Yet in America, politicians do exactly the opposite in order to gain votes.
Luke January 06, 2013 at 12:03 PM
How dysfunctional would we make kids, Lyle, if every day we reminded short boys and "big-boned" girls that they are less liked and statistically proven to be discriminated against (which is a factually accurate!)? What would happen to them if their parents, teachers and representative politicians reminded them on a daily basis that they are "different," and that the majority does not have their best interest at heart? I think that you will agree with me, Lyle, that such a thing would be a horrible way for a child to be raised, and such an experience would result in a group of people who significantly more mentally dysfunctional and prone to crime than the norm. And although it is generally socially acceptable to make fun of fat and short people (not to mention the elderly) in our society, we would consider it abusive for the major figures in a child's life to make that in any way the focus of a child's experience or identity. Yet what is exactly what is being done to black children in America. .
Luke January 06, 2013 at 12:09 PM
So when you ask me if there is something wrong with the poor in America, I will have to differentiate the chronically poor from the chronically poor blacks. Regarding the chronically poor (most of which are not black), you should remember that I of all people have championed offering free preschool as a scientifically-proven means of increasing IQ scores, health and financial advancement in America's poor. No one who has studied the issue will disagree with me that preschool dramatically improves the prospects of poor children for the rest of their lives, because it offers them experiences that middle class families almost always offer their children, but the poor are much less likely to do, such as reading to them and participating in controlled, constructive play. Such a program is also arguably in the best interest of government, because it will pay for itself because of the reduced dependency on entitlements and services, as I have explained elsewhere. Other than that, Lyle, I would say that we need to raise kids with the focus on valuing virtue, learning and respect - respect for others and themselves. We owe a debt of gratitude to the likes of Lincoln, King and people like Lyle Ruble. But the final step of Progressivism is being led by people like me, who are motivated by academic studies and a war on dysfunction. I hope you will not stand in the way like the politicians have.
$$andSense January 06, 2013 at 12:43 PM
Just some comments. Many men I have come across (I am a boomer) have always said "It will always be a man's world". The rationale is that throughout recorded history, men are those who have fought and decided battles and win or lose in politics. Time has told us otherwise about women (eg. St. Mary, Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher to name a few), that women are as equal (as in the case of my saintly wife who tolerates me) or can do better than men in circumstances that change the course of our lives and history. I prefer the company of women over men as too often men are just alphas trying to “one up” me. Women do not restrict their caring instincts to just their children but to others despite gender, race, religion or life situation. Yes, sometimes this blurs justice in my opinion, but I would rather be judged be a woman than a man. Just my opinion.

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