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Sex, Lies & Video Games

Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys by Kay S. Hymowitz

reviewed by Rebecca Edwards

We've all heard that women are victims in our society, discriminated against in the workplace and in society at large. But is this really the case? Mightn't today's women even be higher achievers than men in certain respects?

According to Kay S. Hymowitz, author of Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, this is very much the case. Hymowitz, who has written extensively on American childhood, family, and culture, paints a convincing picture of men's gradual decline, beginning with the Industrial Revolution, and of the corresponding ascendency of women.

Hymowitz attributes the rise of modern women to a combination of factors, including technological developments that made household tasks easier, modern birth-control methods, the feminist movement, and economic changes that created jobs particularly well-suited to women. These things helped untether women from their homes and ease their move into the formerly male-dominated career world. Young women now pursue careers with enthusiasm, having been carefully groomed for success by their parents, teachers, and society in general. As for the fathers of these modern women, Hymowitz writes,

They loved having daughters who played sports . . . it sure beat jump rope and tea parties. Sports, they realized, promoted the strengths their girls would need to make it in a competitive marketplace: discipline, courage, and a rivalrous spirit.

It has been almost universally true throughout history and across cultures that boys become men once they are able to support and protect a wife and family. In Western countries, however, this expectation has drastically diminished. Gone are the days when boys underwent rigorous trials and rites of passage to establish their status as men and their ability to undertake familial responsibilities and cultural leadership. Today's boys are often left aimless, without being given a clear picture as to what makes a man. Largely free from societal expectations, they waste away much of their 20s and 30s playing video games, watching ESPN and Adam Sandler movies, drinking, and enjoying casual sex.

The author calls this historically new life-stage pre-adulthood. As these pre-adult men falter through life, their female counterparts increasingly excel in both school and career, often outperforming the men. But in order to pursue their dreams, many young women delay starting a family. Then, as they approach their mid-thirties, with biological clocks ticking, they discover that there is no suitable life-partner to be found.

Some, determined to have children anyway, resort to sperm banks. Single motherhood is on the rise, but this exacerbates the problem, for again, it leaves men out of the picture. This is clearly not good for the children—as many studies show—but it is not good for men or women, either.

The problem is clear, the solution less so. But Hymowitz finds encouragement in studies indicating that most pre-adult men and women still desire a family, even if they don't know how to go about achieving it. Her advice: Women need to be more aware of their biological limitations (i.e., try to marry and have children sooner), and men, well, they need to grow up.

Manning Up refreshingly gives the flip side to the conventional modern story, arguing that women are on the rise and it is young men who are left stumbling through life. Hymowitz isn't eager to bash men, but she objectively presents a major sociological change in our culture. Her book is packed with enlightening statistics, studies, and quotes that lend support to her argument. For the young woman who is frustrated with what she finds in the dating world, Manning Up may explain why; as for the adrift and perplexed young man, this book may help him find his bearings and begin to make his way from pre-adulthood to real manhood. 

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