We Are Failing Our Young Men

Every now and again I like to use my (very small) platform to highlight issues that I feel are slightly more important then playing with toy soldiers. After becoming a father myself, and seeing the discussions around the messaging from the so called 'manosphere', and how they affect not only my generation but increasingly that of my children's, I wanted to give some thought to the matter and voice my opinions on why such messaging is gaining traction with our teenage boys and young men.

The 'manosphere' is an umbrella term that refers to a number of interconnected misogynistic communities. It encompasses multiple types and severities of misogyny – from broader male supremacist discourse to men's rights activism (MRA) and “involuntary celibates” (incels).

On The Surface

Whilst researching for this piece, it's easy to see how the surface level messaging of several 'self-help gurus' in this space might be very appealing; work hard, get your 'hustle' on and you too can become rich, and have all the influence, power and everything else that entails (in short; money and women). 

Then When You Get The Money, You Get The Power. Then When You Get The Power, Then You Get The Women. ~ Scarface

There is also the espousing of traditional gender roles in society, with the role of the man being the provider, protector and all round king of the castle, and woman being the caregiver, homemaker and subservient to her partner in return for the protections and provisions that he provides. Overall it's not something completely out there in terms of ideology, with the former essentially being advice that your mother would give (that you would totally ignore), and the latter not being entirely out of place as a viewpoint of our parent's or grandparent's generation or in the socially conservative bible belt of America. Many proponents point towards these core tenets with an almost dogmatic level of belief and use the argument that regardless of what else they say, this advice is 'helping men' and so should be absolved of any other messaging that it contains.

The problem of course, is that along with all the apparent self help and 'traditional' values, there is a healthy dose of outright hostility towards women and their hard-fought struggle for equality in society. All manosphere groups share something in common; they are all misogynist and anti-feminist movements that believe feminism makes women dangerous to men.

A lot of these beliefs stem from mainstream thoughts about sexuality and gender; Most young men get frustrated when they cannot form meaningful adult relationships, and it's my view that we are failing our boys in not teaching them how to navigate this new world where women have higher expectations from their personal and professional lives then their grand-parents generation did. This frustration often turns to  hatred and causes those young men to seek out like minded individuals. Add to that a sprinkling of conspiracy theory and we have a heady mix of ideology that can be very appealing to disenfranchised young men looking to find their place in a society that seemingly doesn't care about their wants and needs.

Changing Roles In Society

If we look back as recently as the late-20th Century, the rise of feminism and female empowerment has had a massive shift in society, with traditional gender roles being tested and in some cases, broken by women (and to a lesser extent, men) in the search for social equality. In 2022, the UK labor force participation rate for women was 56.8%. With the advent of effective birth control and workplace reforms, more women then ever before are reaching positions of power, becoming financially independent, and have the ability to support their families; all roles that traditionally were firmly in the male sphere of influence.

It can be argued that women are going through (and rightly so) their renaissance and will hopefully in my lifetime reach true equality. Men however, seem stuck. Whilst women have high profile role models to demonstrate what a modern woman can be and hope to achieve, and probably more importantly are encouraged to talk about their issues, it is the appearance (from the outset at least) that young men have no such analogy and if they do, it is the traditional views being imposed on our boys about what it means to 'be a man' that are leaving them out of touch and unable to find their place in the world.

Generational Gaps

When I look back on my parent's generation, it seemed like they they had all of the opportunities available to them where, with hard work and dedication they could aspire to be homeowners, to have a stable job, own a car, have a family and live a relatively comfortable life. Of course because all of this is tied to the amount of money that you make, and traditionally men were the breadwinners, these were the identifiers of what it meant to be 'successful' as a man. 

There is an expectation and pressure put upon on our young people by their parents that because 'they did it' there is no reason why their children shouldn't be able to do it to. On the homeowner side at least, this was facilitated in part by access to cheap credit and housing that was 'only' 4x the average salary as opposed to 12x as it is in parts of London today. A modest 2 bedroom terrace house in 1985 (when I was born) cost in the region of £35,000 with an average salary of a little over £8,000. Nowadays those same houses are upwards of £600,000 with the average salary of £27,000. This makes home-ownership unattainable for the majority of couples, let alone a single wage-earner, and with rents at an all time high what we are seeing are increasing numbers of young (and now middle aged) men living with their parents, some having never left, and an ever increasing disconnect between what is expected of them by society and what they can hope to realistically achieve.

Similarly on the job front, we were taught that education was the guaranteed route to job stability. Study hard, go to college, get a university degree and everything will work out OK. There was a target to send 50% of students to university and it seemed at the time that education really could get you where you wanted to be in life.

Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. To overcome decades of neglect and make Britain a learning society, developing the talents and raising the ambitions of all our young people. ~ Tony Blair.

The problem was that our ambitions were raised, and our generation did go to university but just as we were coming out, through the mismanagement of the very governments that told us what to do, the 2008 financial crisis hit, economies were shocked into recession and all of that hard work (and money) seemingly went to waste. Couple that with relative wage stagnation for the past 20 years, various wars, recessions, sluggish governmental responses to the march of technology, and these teenage boys now look at their parents and ask what the point of it all was.

Even highly educated professionals such as doctors are struggling with crippling debt and are in constant strikes with the government over pay, so the overriding message we are giving to our young people is that education isn't worth it and there is no way through traditional means that you will ever make enough money to fulfill your aspirations.

Disenfranchisement With The 'System'

Going back to my earlier discussion; Because historically (and even today) the worth of a man is tied to the amount of money he makes, and women are seen, whether rightly or wrongly, as now making that money instead, more and more young men are becoming disenfranchised with the 'system'; Feminism has fundamentally broken society, people in positions of authority have lied to them in how to become successful in life with the liberal elite hoarding the secrets of wealth behind gilded doors, 'females' are taking their jobs and positions, and all the while, an alternative lifestyle is being sold to them with aspirations of fast cars, surrounded by piles of cash and beautiful, subservient women.

It's easy to get sucked into and the message is fairly straightforward; The role of men hasn't changed. Here is how to be a man. With 'being a man' equating to all the alpha-male stereotypes of yesteryear and of-course, having money.

Having covered why it's appealing to young men, the question becomes; how do we combat this ideology? It is important to have early conversations about healthy relationships and gender relations so that young people do not get sucked into the black-and-white thinking of this messaging. From a societal standpoint, young men need role models who can temper expectations and set an example of what it means to 'be a man' in the world today with a shift away from just how much money he makes, and what kind of car he drives. I believe that we are slowly moving towards this with more and more men choosing to be stay at home fathers, but from a governmental level far more support is needed.

It's no secret that in times of economic hardship the general feeling of the populous is to move in a more conservative direction so what's actually needed is for those in power to actually exercise it in a way that encourages social mobility instead of stagnation.

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