How to thrive in a society where you don’t have all the money, power, and attention anymore.
The very first page of Jack Myers’ new book, The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century, doesn’t offer the most optimistic forecast. “Male dominance is quickly fading,” he writes. “It’s becoming very apparent that the future of men will be increasingly defined, dominated and controlled by women.”
You heard ‘em, fellas. Resistance is futile! Bow before your new masters!
Myers makes some compelling points in his book—particularly about how men need to adapt and evolve in a world where they’re not always top dog anymore. But we’re not so sure about the “dominance” part. That word makes gender politics sound like a battle for power between Huns. It’s like saying, if you’re not doing the raping and pillaging, than you’re being raped and pillaged.
We called Myers— a former ad man turned media analyst and author—to talk about whether men really have any right to complain, and what the modern guy can do to level the playing field.
Your book paints a pretty bleak portrait of what it’s like to be a man in 2016.
It isn’t a good time for them. Young men entering their adult years, and all future generations of men, will be confronted with a very different reality than their fathers.
They’re not as educated, they’re not getting the best jobs, and they can’t even have mistresses anymore. What’s the point of getting out of bed?
Well, I can laugh along with you, but these are serious issues.
Are they actually?
Absolutely. Men today are confused, conflicted, and in crisis. When I’ve told people that I’m writing a book called The Future of Men, I’d say about 70 to 80 percent of guys respond in exactly the same way: “You mean we have a future?”
Everybody has challenges. But it’s hard to imagine my 4-year-old white son is going to grow up in a world in which he ever thinks, “Oh man, I just can’t catch a break.”
To some extent, I agree with you. Men have had the benefit of the greatest affirmative action program in the history of humanity. But it’s important to balance that with the fact that your son’s generation and everyone who’s been born post-Internet, post 1990, are learning a while new set of rules about what it means to be a real man.
Which is what? That the world doesn’t revolve around them anymore?
They’re being left behind educationally, economically and in relationships. They’re feeling disenfranchised and discouraged and conflicted about how to act and who they should be.
But isn’t that a good thing? Those old, traditional definitions of masculinity weren’t exactly working. The guys who still believe it’s a man’s world are the ones who watch Mad Men with a boner.
Mad Men used to be the reality. When I started in business, my boss brought me into the old boys network, and taught me how to be a man in the workforce. Our secretaries were there to serve us. I didn’t go down that path, but a lot of my friends did, and you were almost scorned if you didn’t. For many men, those old ideas about how the world should work are difficult to give up.
They complain pretty bitterly on social media. Some of them seem to believe that feminists are personally responsible for their failures.
Well, that comes from anger and confusion. Our society is reinventing gender relationships. And as with any transformation, there are people clinging to their old fundamentalist values and beliefs. But men can’t blame the world, or society, or women, or the economy for their lack of opportunities. We blame everyone but ourselves.
So what’s the solution? More self-flagellation?
We need to get in touch with the way society is moving. For younger men especially, you shouldn’t judge yourself by how the world worked for your father. Or by what you see in media and advertising. Like the sexist and misogynist beer commercials. Or the male characters on TV who can’t diaper a baby or take care of themselves. The media is full of powerful, dominate female characters. And the most iconic TV dads are Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin from Family Guy.
What would you like to see instead?
I want to see men who are excelling as stay-at-home dads, or are supportive partners. Male characters who are productive contributors to society and to their families.
That sounds like the least funny episode of The Simpsons ever.
And then you have the commercials. Think about how many thousands of commercials and digital ads that a 22-year-old male, or even a 10 year old, has seen in their lives for Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis. They’re having it hammered into them that the declining characteristic of a healthy personal relationship is erectile dysfunction.
They’re being told that guys are just a bunch of buffoons that can’t get hard?
Exactly. Not too long ago, I saw a copy of Cosmopolitan with the headline: “The Smokin’-Hot-Up-Against-the-Wall Passion You Deserve!” That was the headline on the cover. Think about how confusing that can be for a young guy.
It does seem a little aggressive.
If he tries to give a woman “throw-up against the wall” passion, he’s going to get thrown out of school, and may wind up in jail. But he’s being told that’s what women want him to do. What’s he supposed to believe?
So men aren’t sure how to give women what they want without being all rapey about it?
Men are getting very conflicted messages, and these messages are coming from media, they’re coming from advertising, and they’re coming from women, and they’re even coming from other men.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the April 2016 issue of Men’s Health)