Of SYMs and Red Herrings

by Elusive Wapiti on February 24, 2011

While I haven’t yet had the chance to read Kay Hymowitz’ latest book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, I did have the opportunity to read her article more or less plugging the book in the WSJ a few days ago.  As Hymowitz’ writings have been the subject of two posts of mine in the 2 1/2 years of blogging, I would be remiss were I not to weigh in on this latest effort. For sure, her scribblings have not gone unnoticed in the manosphere, a great many of whom have answered Hymowitz’ plaintive query “where have all the good men gone?” in their own idiosyncratic ways, a selection of which I sound-bite below:

  • Whiskey: women contribute to the child-man phenomena by choosing sexy men over responsible men.
  • Ferdinand Bardamu, who, in citing Spengler’s law of Universal Gender Parity, suggests that women and men deserve each other and that women had better be “womaning up” before they dare to utter the words “man up!”
  • MikeT: Today’s single young men (SYM)s are merely the mirror image reflection of Hymowitz’ SYFs…and that today’s culture simply does not reward mature behavior in men
  • The Damned Olde Man: Men rationally responded to women’s lib by liberating themselves as well from the male gender roles of provider and protector–and women don’t like it.
  • Dr. Helen: “After 45 years of being told they are pigs, sexist, and good for nothing, men have quit trying to please others, so they slap on a baseball cap and don’t talk much. And with good reason”
  • Captain Capitalism: “[A] life of bachelortude and singledom [is] more attractive an option (economically, socially and romantically) than marrying [women]”
  • Mike @ Crime and Federalism: Women have said for decades that they don’t need men. Now they have it, and they don’t like it.

As for me, if the WSJ article/advert Hymowitz penned is indicative of the main thrust of her book, Manning Up will likely be a book-length rehash of her earlier work writing cultural human-interest articles for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal e-zine.  It was in this publication where she first profiled single young men–SYMs–two years ago, reducing the rational-slackerhood responses of young men to the new post-sex-rev reality with catchy quips like “child man in the promised land” and kvetching about the equalizing impact Game has had on the formerly fem-favorable dating scene.  And it is in the context of these writings that I find the controversy surrounding Manning Up to be interesting, for while she has previously chronicled the rise of the SYF–the Single Young Female and the custom-made-for-the-SYF New Girl Order–she has also continuously failed to publicly connect the dots between the SYFs and the SYMs who are the subject of her book.  Thus I suspect Manning Up will also fail to connect these dots, which is a shame because the two phenomena are not independent creatures, and I contend that one begat the other, namely that the SYF created the necessary conditions for the SYF’s counterpart, the SYM, to blossom and take root.

The text of Hymowitz’s WSJ article suggests that her new book still views the SYM through female socon glasses, lenses that grade the worth of men according to their ability and willingness to marry and financially support wives and children.  To wit:

For today’s pre-adults, “what you do” is almost synonymous with “who you are,” and starting a family is seldom part of the picture. Unlike adolescents, however, pre-adults don’t know what is supposed to come next. For them, marriage and parenthood come in many forms, or can be skipped altogether. In 1970, just 16% of Americans ages 25 to 29 had never been married; today that’s true of an astonishing 55% of the age group. In the U.S., the mean age at first marriage has been climbing toward 30.  What explains this puerile shallowness? I see it as an expression of our cultural uncertainty about the social role of men.  It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that…boys had to pass a test. They needed to demonstrate courage, physical prowess or mastery of the necessary skills. The goal was to prove their competence as protectors and providers.

Single men [are] more troubled and less successful than men who deliberately choose to become husbands and fathers.

Generally speaking–and I do not think I am overreaching with this claim–it is usually only women who think in terms of gaining personal satisfaction or fulfillment through their work. Contrast this with men, whom often endure soul-killing jobs they don’t like, and whom generally resign themselves to shoveling the effin gravel rather than engage in urinary olympics about who has the most glam occupation. Men work because it pays the bills, because they don’t have any other alternative. Women work for different reasons: partially because it pays the bills until they can get married, but also because, after they don’t have to pay the bills anymore, their work becomes a hobby or even a status symbol.

But the more troubling message here is that Hymowitz clearly thinks that a key marker for a man’s manliness is his willingness to present himself as a suitable candidate for a three-way marriage (man, woman, State). But they don’t, thereby stymie-ing women’s ability to choose to work in self-fulfilling occupations, and therefore achieve self-actualization Nirvana for herself.  SYMs marriage avoiding behaviors–or failure to qualify for a marriage to one of those wonderful snowflakes–are at the heart of our culture’s plummeting marriage rates and refusal to reproduce itself. If only those latter-day Peter Pans would grow up and be worthy of a woman’s hypergamous marital ambition, already. Come on, you boys! Man up!

The problem with Hymowitz’ female-centric indictment of the SYM is three fold: First, she forgets that where women go, the culture follows.  I am on record as stating that, while men transmit civilization to the next generation, women are a civilization’s center of gravity. If one wants to change the direction of a culture, one somehow must convince the female half of the species to talk/walk/think/act differently. Thus, all this focus on how SYMs are shiftless losers who can’t get a date and are therefore the cause of the marriage dearth is a diversionary red herring, distracting from the real work at hand, which is readying girls and young adult women to be able to form enduring patriarchal marriages with men and therefore beget the next generation of civilization.

Second, women themselves are adrift, casting about for their moorings in a culture that decided two generations ago to discard all the old touchstones of what it means to be valuable contributing female member of society. Hymowitz herself proves useless in helping girls identify these markers that help girls make the transition to womanhood, claiming

It’s been an almost universal rule of civilization that girls became women simply by reaching physical maturity

This my friends is idiocy raised to the idiot power.  A girl becomes a woman merely by sprouting breast buds and pubic and axillary hair? A marker of maturity for her is shopping, travelling, and buying Jimmy Choo shoes? No test to pass, no criteria to discriminate between a girl and a woman, nothing to qualify them for membership in the club of fully formed adult females except the ability to consume or successfully gestate a baby?  Nothing to distinguish them from mere social parasites? No wonder many girls go on to become SYFs who dither away their youth in shallow materialistic consumerism and alpha/thug/jerk carouseling, only to run, not walk, to a sperm bank in their mid-30s to quell the thunderous ticking of their biological clocks, all because their beta male peers couldn’t measure up to their romantic fantasies. There is no expectation for them to do anything but. And what of the girls who do settle for Mr. Right Now? Well, some may find marital bliss, but a great many of them will find that Mr. Right Now becomes boring or contemptuous and desperately wanting a way out…and why not? She settled for him, rather than the Mr. Big she deserved.

If Hymowitz and the culture at large is going to demand that, to be counted as a man, that men should get a job and get married, individual women, to be counted as a woman, should become a wife, spawn some kids, and raise them.  Ouch, such high, fun-killing standards.  Whodathunkit that for a woman to demand that a man “man up!”, she must first “woman up” as well, with all that requires.*

* Womaning up includes getting and staying married, till death do you part, having at least 2.2 kids, having sex with your husband often, and shoveling the effing gravel that being a wife and mother entails. No divorce allowed, except for barbarous abuse and infidelity.

The third problem with Hymowitz’ indictment of the SYM is especially tragic because she almost touches upon it…and that is the culture’s near-universal disenfranchisement of the nice guy, the rock of a stable society, the non-glamorous beta male provider:

Today’s pre-adult male is like an actor in a drama in which he only knows what he shouldn’t say. He has to compete in a fierce job market, but he can’t act too bossy or self-confident. He should be sensitive but not paternalistic, smart but not cocky.  Today, with women moving ahead in our advanced economy, husbands and fathers are now optional, and the qualities of character men once needed to play their roles—fortitude, stoicism, courage, fidelity—are obsolete, even a little embarrassing. 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.

Hymowitz says next to nothing about the cultural conditions and social attitudes that have obliterated most of the reasons for men such as these to aspire to be husbands and a fathers, the two conditions that Hymowitz and her ilk would presumably use as indicators of male maturity.  In fact, Hymowitz would do well to study how women have teamed with the machinery of government to make husbands and fathers largely irrelevant.  Thus, having been declared a fish to a woman’s bicycle–and loudly told this since birth for the last 40 years–is it any wonder that men would eventually take women at their word and seek amusement and fulfillment elsewhere? Isn’t this what women wanted, after all? Control, suffrage, work, influence, responsibility? No?  Hmmm.

So, where indeed have all the good men gone? A good question. I suggest that Hymowitz start by encouraging her sisters to look in a mirror to begin to answer to this question.


About the author: EW is a well-trained monkey charged with operating heavier-than-air machinery. His interests outside of being an opinionated rabble-rouser are hunting, working out, motorcycling, spending time with his family, and flying. He is a father to three, a husband to one, and is a sometime contributor here at Spearhead. More of his intolerable drivel is available at the blog The Elusive Wapiti.

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