THERE ARE MEN—AND WOMEN, TOO—who say the sorry state of American men is women’s fault: Screech all that feminist propaganda long enough, and of course you’ll wind up with low-sperm-count losers trolling the Internet for porn. And there are, mostly, women who are celebrating what journalist and Philly native Kay S. Hymowitz has anointed “the New Girl Order.” Even Hymowitz, though, called the guys out in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece:
Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man.
An article by Hanna Rosin in the Atlantic, “The End of Men,” postulated that modern, post-industrial society is simply more suited to women than it is to men. As my 22-year-old daughter puts it, “Maybe it’s just our time.”
But while they’re perfectly willing to rule the world, women still yearn to get married and have babies. Kathleen Bogle says that when she asks young women when they want to marry, they’ll frame their response as “no later than” and give an age. Ask men, and they say not before a certain age.
Despite their sturdy self-esteem, young men sense that they’re not exactly cutting it. “To say my ego is large is kind of obvious,” says Connor. “But it’s … emasculating to be home. Is that the word?” Patrick, who’s 27 and moved home almost five years ago, says, “It wasn’t something I wanted to do. It still carries a little bit of shame.”
The sad fact is, women may have doomed their own hopes by being so successful. Gender identity, sociologists say, is developed oppositionally. If boys see girls behaving in a certain way—working hard and excelling in school—they define masculinity in opposite terms: A real man doesn’t work hard at school or get good grades. The more that women try to set an example of responsible adult behavior, the more the guys shout along with the band Deer Tick: “We’re full-grown men but we act like kids!”