Derick Gomez: Not the end of men
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 9:05 p.m.
Something I can't help noticing as I walk from class to class every day is how many more women I see than men. This observation is statistically supported as the University of Florida's student body is composed of 59 percent females.
Similar gender breakdowns can be found on university campuses across the nation. It has gotten to the point where many elite colleges are instituting something akin to affirmative action to increase male enrollment.
This leads me to a simple question: Where and why are so many men falling through the cracks?
This phenomenon doesn't only apply to the world of academia. The American workforce is now primarily made up of females. For most of written history, at least in Western societies, men have had an upper hand in finding employment as women have been pressured to sacrifice potential careers and education. This dynamic is shifting in most components of American society.
A body of literature has arisen in the last couple of years that tries to explain this sea change. Perhaps the most well known of these is Hanna Rosin's article in the Atlantic and subsequent book that argue that the United States has reached “The End of Men.”
Rosin argues that our post-industrial society is better fitted to female characteristics than those of males. She states that collaboration is much more valued amongst females than it is amongst males starting from childhood. Rosin believes that this is largely responsible for the altering dynamic.
While her article often relies on cartoonish depictions of lazy, unproductive men, it is difficult to dispute with much of her reasoning in light of emerging societal changes such as shifting gender ratios on university campuses.
However, she seems to assume that differences between the genders are unalterable. Social expectations of how individuals should act are largely responsible for behavior.
Our society would benefit enormously from an insightful reflection on what it means to be a male in our contemporary culture. The ideal male in popular culture is not the type of person that can be expected to achieve much success in real life.
Many young men glorify the image of the cowboy and the thug. Modern country and rap music, two music genres that have few followers in common, both constantly project these images of masculinity. These cultural figures don't promote education or cooperation but instead a sense of “hardness.”
Few young men want to be considered by their peers as “weak”. Many boys see pursuing help in times of difficulty as a sign of frailty. This lack of response can be seen in an array of issues from bullying on the schoolyard to struggling in the classroom.
The latter can wreak particularly destructive effects as teenage males become discouraged with education and decide to pursue success through other means. As employment standards rise and male privilege (rightfully) withers away, these men will have few opportunities afforded to them.
The popular media must begin to produce the positive transformation in masculinity that we need to see in our communities. They must be on the forefront of creating the changes in perceptions of masculinity.
The efforts of women to elevate themselves to accomplishments that would have previously unavailable to their gender is highly commendable. However, success for females should not entail failure for males. Every individual should have the ability to achieve the achievement that they deserve, whether that is on a college campus or in the community.
Modern masculinity should not be a hindrance on a young man's realization of his potential.
Derick Gomez wrote this column as part of a University of Florida anthropology class, “Sex Roles Cross-Culturally.”