Rise of the Beta Male
As I watch my one football game of the year, share for a moment my perplexity at a Super Bowl commercial showing a pathetic gaggle of men in their underwear marching resolutely across a prairie meadow proudly singing “We wear no pants! We wear no pants!”Â Dockers. Wear the pants–the kicker punch implores. Say what?
The high-dollar point of this Super Bowl ad went zing over my head. But months later, I got the punchline. Oh my. My wife passed me the Atlantic Magazine article on a summer flight to or from somewhere. The title read “The End of Men.” It’s 8000-word message (and Dockers’) is clear: today, she wears the pants.
“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same” begins the long and thorough report. All but two of the 15 job catetories expected to grow the most are dominated by women. (Males will still hold the lead as janitors.)
The statistics of gender role change in America (and the world) in just the past few decades are staggering in their implications. The transformation has come with whip-lash rapidity, so that out-of-the-loop elder-males like me might be taken completely off guard. The causes are complex, and the consequences mixed.
The gender transformation goes much farther than a reshuffling of the workforce, a female-to-male ratio made even more gender-shifted lately by the disappearance of male-dominated heavy-industrial jobs gone overseas and by a general loss of young-male employment with manufacturing and construction’s decline in the current anemic economy. (High finance also was ruled by males. But that was then.)
In choose-the-sex fertility clinics, females are increasingly the choice–in some, almost two to one. Women want girl babies, because they like who they are, and because they see how cultural selection is shifting in favor of the feminine. A girl might have the better shot at the good life in the future than a boy.
While there’s more than this, the shift may have much to do with the way the world has changed–centuries ago–and our societal adaptation is finally catching up to the new realities. In the accustomed order of things, the traditional roles of male and female have resulted in large part from our biology, the generally greater physical size and strength of the male making him “faster, stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources” and bring home the bacon. And driven, once upon a time, to make a killing on Wall Street.
But the age of testosterone may be over. Women are at last moving forward towards and often beyond parity with men, now that the cultural circumstances of our era reward the strengths, skills and temperaments the ladies possess.
While her world diversifies, his stagnates, as if today’s males were “fixed in cultural aspic.” Intellectually, the genders are on par, but they think and learn differently. And when it comes to communications skills and social intelligence, woman are gaining ground, while men are not adapting well to make the changes necessary to at least share the pants.
Boys in this decade have been described as “the new girls.” The pendulum has swung too far, and today, it is boys that are the underdogs, an academically mis-served population in need of advocates and support. Girls move on to become the majority of proficient readers, high school honor society members and valedictorians. “Girls get extra help while boys get Ritalin” reads the telling title of a 2003 article in USA Today.
Compounding the gender divide, there are few male teachers standing at the front of the class in our schools. An increasing number of boys don’t have fathers at home. Television, from Archie Bunker to Homer Simpson, has been emasculating males since father knew best.
There may even be a hormonal cause underlying this societal shift of gender dominance. Guy fish and frogs show the feminizing effect of PCBs, DDT, BPA and other endocrine disruptors in our water,Â and we drink from the same well–a disturbed and uncertain toast, to the rise of the beta male!