It's a Man's World, or Is It??
It is an interesting thing to observe in a retirement community in Florida. The community is made up of people aged 50 to 75 with the average age being 65. When there are community or group activities, including having dinner at someone's house the males and females separate. Characteristically, the men talk about sports and fixing things and the women talk about clothing styles and local gossip. Why does this happen? Why do men and women sit and talk separately? It is an artifact from an age that is fading away because of changes in gender roles. In other words, the men believe that it's not masculine to sit with their women. Is this relevant to life today?
According to an opinion piece in the New York Times in 2006 Dean Jennifer Delahunty there is a widening gender gap in achievement between males and females. She points out that young men today do not think it's masculine to do homework and study. As a result there is a decline in the number of males who enroll in college as compared to the number of women. The same applies to the number of women who graduate. According to Sociologist Michael Kimmel this gradual decline has been going on for forty years. Kimmel says there is an anti intellectual attitude among men reflected in the fact that they value "He Man" figures such as Arnold Schwartzenneger. It is interesting that there are 70% more women graduating from college with high honors as compared to men.
The fact is that today's definition of being a man has changed. There are many more men who are stay at home dads, caring for the children while their wives work at high profile professional careers earning enough money for the entire family. Men and women are now competing for the best jobs in the market. When I was in college during the early 60's female veterinarians were rare. That has changed in that field as well as in medicine, law and corporate businesses.
We need to train our children to value education, whether they are male or female so that they can compete in the work world. That cannot happen as long as education is viewed as unmasculine. The old days when dads could tell their sons, "Get a real job" meaning something where you work outside and sweat no longer makes any sense.
It is time that we get over the stereotyped and unrealistic attitude that school is for effeminate boys and that the only reason for college is to compete in athletics. That Ancient Greek philosopher wrote about the leader/scholar who was athletic and scholarly. During the 16th century this same concept was referred to as the well rounded man. The well rounded man is, again, the man who is athletic, artistic and scholarly. It seems that we have lost this way of thinking. Instead, we tend to see our male children as future football and basketball players. That is OK if we equally emphasize scholarship as did the Ancient Greek and the 16th century Europeans.
What do you believe about the role of men in today's world and what is defined as masculine?
Allan N. Schwartz, PhD