Not so long ago, the average American man in his 20s had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: a high-school diploma, financial independence, marriage and children. Today, most men in their 20s hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.
These words come from Kay Hymowitz, who wrote an interesting article last weekend for the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Where Have The Good Men Gone?” The article is loosely based on her recent book, “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.”
In her article (and book), Hymotwitz laments the plight of the American male: they hold fewer college degrees, lower GPAs, and waste away their lives playing video games and watching porn. Obviously, this isn’t true of all young American males, but she points to a number of startling statistics that illustrate her point. Men fitting her description are passive, directionless, soft, and immature.
After reading the article, I posted it on my FaceBook page, which generated an interesting discussion.
A psychologist reacted to the book’s subtitle “How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys”: “Turned men into boys? No. Revealed that our macho model for making ‘men’ out of boys permanently stunts them. A man raised to mistrust his tenderness is crippled, not contemptible.”
Jumping to the other side of the argument, another person responded by saying, “A man raised to mistrust his manliness is crippled…”
Then, taking the middle road, another person commented, “Hmmm, Genesis 3—blame the woman! I agree, an unhealthy view of manhood confuses and distorts male identity and then they either go to macho-ness or little boyhood—two sides of the same coin. Healthy men can interact with women as companions and equals. The ‘rise of woman’ has only exposed the problem, not caused it.”
Hymowitz seems to yearn for earlier days of traditional gender roles when men were men and women were women.
So what’s the solution?
While reading the article, Genesis 1:27 rang in my head: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NIV).
Think about it: A man and woman were required in order to fully express the image of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Man was not enough, and neither was woman.
Taking our cues from the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we know that each person in the Godhead plays a specific role. The Father sent the Son into the world (John 3:16). The Spirit gives power to every believer (Acts 1:8). You get the idea.
The assumption that men and women are interchangeable or that either gender is unnecessary seems to contradict Trinitarian theology and our basic identity.
Men need women and women need men. Men need women to be women, and women need men to be men.
So what constitutes a man and a woman? Extracting cultural differences, this isn’t an easy question to answer.
When examining issues like this, I usually begin with the account of creation in Genesis 1-3. Ironically enough, the clearest delineation of roles appears after the first couple ate the forbidden fruit. Adam is told he would experience a life of painful toil, working by the sweat of his brow while the woman would suffer the pain of child-bearing (Genesis 3:15-19). Seeing that Jesus came to reverse the affects of the curse, this doesn’t seem to offer a viable solution.
But we know this: men are different than women. If God had desired to create an androgynous being, he would have done so—but he didn’t. It wasn’t good that man was alone. The template that God used to create people in his image tells us that men are masculine and women are feminine. A stick in the hands of a little boy invariably becomes a gun and in the hands of a little girl becomes a doll.
Which brings us back to those men Hymowitz refers to, who refuse to grow up. Many of our younger men are stuck in the developmental stage of a 7 or 8 year old. They experienced childhood, but perhaps were never given the opportunity to grow into their masculine selves. From my vantage point, political correctness squelches a man’s masculinity.
So what’s the solution? Women, affirm the masculinity of a man. Men, explore what your masculinity looks like.
I’d love to read your thoughts and insights!