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.

CowDung January 02, 2013 at 03:02 PM
From what I remember from watching the Honeymooners, it seemed to me that while they didn't hold jobs outside the home, the women were the ones that were truly in control. They tended to display intelligence, strength, definitive action, problem solving and dominance in most every episode...
patchreader 123 January 02, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Lyle: Your second to the last paragraph is replete with misconceptions. First of all, you cannot classify Gen-Xers alongside Boomers. Gen-Xers, also known as “Baby Busters,” resent life growing up in the Boomer’s debris. Gen-X children, for the most part benefitting from the social movements of the 1950-70’s, both racial and gender-related, grew up under a “multicultural” rubric. Gen-Xers are thus charged with making sense of these movements brought on by the Boomers. You claim that Gen-X males resist this reality and “seek identification in the old stereotypic models of maleness,” thus driving such males to conservative and ultraconservative views that existed prior to the emergence of Second Wave Feminism. However, given that Gen-X males grew up under the foregoing multicultural rubric and having the impression that gender equality had already been achieved, such males are unlikely to long nostalgically for that which they have never experienced,” namely, the stereotyped roles of the 1950’s mom and dad. In view of this absence of any gendered identity, Gen-X males thus have no basis to revert to any gendered notion of the past.
patchreader 123 January 02, 2013 at 04:04 PM
While your notions that Gen-X males view the world and society as spiraling downward is likely not inaccurate, your insinuations that such views will lead to a civil war (at the hands of Gen-X males) is simply unreasonable. While Gen-X males have been classified as alienated and indifferent, and stereotyped as angst-ridden “slackers,” Gen-Xers are nonetheless too intelligent to resort to civil war as a solution to their problems. Get a grip, Lyle. Finally, your statement that Gen-Xer’s will recede into history as no more than an afterthought exemplifies how little you know about this generation. I suggest you talk with your own Gen-X daughter(s) and seek some reality here in relation to media-fueled, post-modern multiculturalism. You’ll also likely find that her(their) navigation of the present “post feminist” era is no less challenging than that of the males you ignorantly criticize.
Luke January 02, 2013 at 11:36 PM
I don't remember them having any children. I figure that managing their white males was difficult enough.
J. B. Schmidt January 03, 2013 at 04:37 PM
@Lyle I must disagree with you that gender is truly being eliminated. In parts of Europe, they are trying to remove male and female titles off marriage licenses completely. The medical fringe is advancing to the area of creating children using the DNA of both same sex couples; hence reducing the need for natural reproduction. Beyond that we already have people having medical procedures done to change sexual identity. If the natural production of the sexes via natural reproduction is irrelevant, then the gender designations we use is also irrelevant. When that is coupled with the idea that a woman can (and should) do everything that a man does (or vice versa) then what are we left with? Essentially the human race becomes an undefined, unregulated production of it own creation making a mess of the structure either God or evolution has put in place. Change that is undefined and unregulated is anarchy. Hence, family chaos in the inner city, single motherhood, objectification of women and broken families. None of which is good for our society. (cont)
J. B. Schmidt January 03, 2013 at 04:37 PM
@Lyle (cont) As for the my explanation of the roles of men in marriage. Would your wife enjoy a confident husband willing to take on the challenge of making her the center of his universe or a husband lacking confidence because he was told it is oppressive of the female and therefore unable to make her the center of his universe because he was told she is his equal and assuming she needs that kind of attention is sexist? I will gladly assume she would prefer the former rather then the latter. My guess is that the vast majority of women would prefer that situation. However, it is the latter that is created through the progressive feminization of men. Its a double edge sword. The feminist movement wants to teach men to be more sensitive, less confident and emotional; while the females want confident man strong enough to control his emotions when she can't. The result either a weak metrasexual man more concerned with his own appearance or women with flamboyant gay friends.
CowDung January 03, 2013 at 05:02 PM
That brings up a good point--most TV shows today also seem to characterize the 'husband' or 'Dad' as the buffoon, who is rarely respected by the wife and/or children, both of whom seem to be more intelligent and responsible than the male adult in the household...
Lyle Ruble January 03, 2013 at 05:40 PM
@J.B. Schmidt....I find your use of adjectives to describe males and females rooted in Romanticism and archaic principles. There are and will be a number of technologies available for procreation that will not use the standards that we observe. However, this will always remain aberrant, with people choosing the old fashion means of coitus. Your making this point is nothing but a red herring fallacy regarding the changes in gender identification and roles. No one is advocating the elimination of gender, but only to recognize that gender is no longer the limiting factor that it once was. In egalitarian relationships, leadership is exercised on the capability of each partner. In my own marriage, sometimes I lead and sometimes my wife leads. Decisions are usually based on quite a number of variables, with previous experience often the deciding factor. Every person wants to be appreciated, counted, loved and respected. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender, but with being human. I am confident that as we work out the expectations for changing conditions, that it won't result in chaos or anarchy, but adaptive social orders.
J. B. Schmidt January 03, 2013 at 05:50 PM
@Lyle These adaptive social orders come at what expense to the current generations? It could take the inner city culture decades to fix the progressive social order they have attempted to adapt to. Romanticized as it may be, it works. Where is the proof the current direction will end as innocently as you theories?
Randy1949 January 03, 2013 at 07:02 PM
@J.B. -- Why can't your wife be the center of your universe AND your other equal half?
J. B. Schmidt January 03, 2013 at 07:56 PM
@Randy You are confusing outward expression vs. inside motive. My wife and I do discussion and come to agreements. I neither keep anything from her nor assume she is not an equal partner. The difference is I am doing it because I believe she deserves it and not because society is forcing me to give her space. In everything we do, the intent is what drives a successful end result. The progressive movement finds a problem (unbalanced gender in the workforce), then make a generalized demonization of that problem (men are oppressive) and therefore makes the generalization that all men and women have interchangeable roles. Without ever considering the benefit to an unbalanced gender workforce (ie a parent at home and less stress). It is simply an emotional response to the subjective idea of fairness. Was it unfair for the women to be at home? Maybe. Is it now unfair for children to be raised by daycare centers or single parent households? Yes. So, as we work towards this unattainable and subject levels of fairness; we have destroyed the traditional family units.
Lyle Ruble January 03, 2013 at 08:19 PM
@J.B. Schmidt...What you fail to recognize concerning the social order and culture of the inner cities is not a progressive social order or social engineering; it is people attempting to survive, with little or no resources. It is the culture and social order of poverty. It is not isolated only to the inner cities, but can be found in any number of areas, including Appalachia, the rural South, and the Native American Communities. These are the people that have been marginalized for decades and well over a century. When the economy radically changed beginning in the 1980s, these are the people that were permanently "kicked to the curb", without any concern for their long term survival. A prime example is to be found here in Milwaukee when they routed Interstate 43 through the vibrant Black cultural center of Bronzeville, displacing the residents. If you really want to know about why the inner cities are the way that they are, then you need to do some serious research about the foundations of the culture, beginning with slavery to present.
Luke January 04, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Husbands are obsolete. Government is the new "significant other."
WPN1488 January 04, 2013 at 12:37 AM
@Luke, good point. Government (the taxpayer) has been the Baby Daddy for decades and it's not getting better. I spoke recently with a MATC educator who is dealing with a single mother, mid-30s, with 12 children and a 13th on the way. The kids have an assortment of fathers with one thing in common—none married their mother. This woman’s womb is a poverty factory and we're all paying for it. Sterilization now, sterilization forever!
Lyle Ruble January 04, 2013 at 01:06 AM
@Eugenics now; what's next, "the Final Solution"?
J. B. Schmidt January 04, 2013 at 06:57 AM
@Lyle Poverty is a cop out. It does nothing to explain the lifestyle that exists with NBA players, rappers and Hollywood.
Lyle Ruble January 04, 2013 at 11:52 AM
@J.B. Schmidt....Those that are raised in the culture of poverty, once they come into big money, the culture remains.
Luke January 04, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Lyle, The problems in many poor, black neighborhoods ARE largely the result of progressive social engineering, insofar as the black population has believed the narrative that has been propagated by the left, and have therefore been discouraged from taking the alternative path followed by wave after wave after wave after freaking wave of poor immigrants because they had their optimism stolen from them by their progressive patrons.
Lyle Ruble January 04, 2013 at 01:33 PM
@Luke....Strong statement, but how many incoming immigrants came in after being in forced servitude for centuries and then held hostage in the share cropping system and Jim Crow. Most immigrants that I know came here of their own free will. Also, you need to provide some research evidence to support your statement. BTW, Happy New Year. I hadn't seen your name pop up lately and I assumed that maybe you were in S.E. Asia.
Jay Sykes January 04, 2013 at 03:17 PM
@Lyle Ruble.... The specific urban routing for US-141 (re-tagged I-43) was selected to to accomplish social engineering goals. The In the early years of the 'freeway commission' it was part of City government;all of the route planning for I-43 occurred under the guidance of Mayor Zeidler(S). It was part of the 'master plan' to remove much of the blighted area(Bronzeville) and build 'projects' with a higher grade of housing and a park.(you will see this if you google it, south of Walnut & West of 6th St paralleled to I-43) Much of the early funding to remove the blight came in the form of the Federal Housing Act of 1949. The on the northern end of Bronzville, in the middle of what is now I-43 was the baseball stadium [Borchert Field (7th & Burleigh)] it was removed in 1954, for the expressway right of way, when County Stadium opened. Note: this all happened before the Eisenhower Interstate Act. Milwaukee County took over expressway planning in 1955. The the the route for I-43 was opened from the Locust on/off ramps to Silver Spring in 1963. The Marquette exchange was not completed until 1969.
Luke January 05, 2013 at 04:35 AM
In short, I'm saying that even your own argument, flawed and as debilitating as it is, would shock the very people who would hear it if a politician dared to say it..
Luke January 05, 2013 at 05:27 AM
Lyle, One more thing. In case I wasn't clear, I think that your message is different than that which the progressives are enslaving blacks with. Nonetheless, it isn't exactly correct, nor would anyone campaign on it.
Lyle Ruble January 05, 2013 at 04:06 PM
@Luke....Let me make myself clear; I am attempting to make the point that those who have found themselves in the culture of poverty through a series of events uniquely American, which trace their roots to involuntary servitude, is not the same experience that other groups have experienced upon entering this nation. You are making the serious error of comparing apples and oranges by comparing the two situations, one indigenous and the other foreign. Also, the efforts made to compensate for the history of a people that has been at the bottom of the social structure for so long is a daunting task. Every promise made since Civil War Reconstruction, beginning with 40 acres and a mule, has been routinely and systematically been reneged on. The same pattern and process has also occurred with the aboriginal defeated nations of the continent. When the national sentiment finally changed in the late 1950s and 1960s, allowing for attempts to change the traditional social structure, those attempts have met with more failure than with success. 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?
Bottom Line January 05, 2013 at 05:19 PM
The structure of these blogs make it difficult to address many issues directly without spending a great deal of time better spent elsewhere ... yet, I haven't thought of an improvement - just a side note ...
Bottom Line January 05, 2013 at 05:19 PM
That said, two things that peaked my interest in your responses ... "leveling the playing field so that merit is the only factor ..." I disagree that we have done this at all. Merit is only lauded within the groups you and other "Progressives" believe were in a former minority position dominated by the white male. I still remember watching a ceremony where ribbons were given, literally, for nearly a hundred minority students (everyone in the school). This isn't merit, and it is hardly laudable to present false reward, or to diminish real effort by those that were not in that group of individuals. The comment by Luke is one that everyone should be considering, that none alive have suffered centuries of anything. To continually pacify weakness and a lack of discipline, or worse - to excuse the terrible behavior that usually ensures their plight continues, is not "leveling the playing field so that merit is the only factor ...". It matters how we condition people, you are obviously aware. You do a great disservice to the many in the minority that accomplished great things because they refused to accept your position that they couldn't. I feel terrible that we continue to teach minority individuals that they have an excuse for failing to embrace the opportunity in this country, in most other countries I believe their plight would have been significantly more challenging.
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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