Over the past few years, I’ve participated in a number of conferences and gatherings focused on fatherhood absence and the general decline of “men-kind”. I’ve also spent many days and hours nodding and apologizing to my 20- to 40-year-old single girlfriends on behalf of the other sex as they lament with Kay Hymowitz: “Where have all the good men gone?”
As Hymowitz’s article highlighted, today’s man is “neatly crystallized” by the 2007 hit movie “Knocked Up”; its 23-year-old hero “lives in a crash pad with a group of grubby friends who spend their days playing videogames, smoking pot, and unsuccessfully planning to launch a porn site”. An article in The Atlantic last month highlighted how primetime is fully loaded with men who are “unemployed or underemployed, love to play video games, and are desperately in need of a makeover… [men who are] diseased and dysfunctional, ranging from placid to sad to furious, fumbling around in the office, the supermarket, or the bedroom while the rest of America laughs.” Some call it a “Mancession”, other call if “the emasculation of men on TV” and even “the end of men”.
And in a CNN article out yesterday, William J. Bennett outlined why men are in trouble, stressing: “for the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men. We celebrate the ascension of women but what will we do about what happens to be the very real decline of the other sex? The data does not bode well for men. In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%; by 2006, it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two. Women’s earnings grew 44% in real dollars from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6% growth for men.”
Bennett continues, “The warning signs for men stretch far beyond their wallets. Men are more distant from a family or their children then they have ever been. The out-of-wedlock birthrate is more than 40% in America. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. In 2010, that share had risen to 27%. Men are also far less religious than women. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men attend church regularly, compared to 47% of women… Increasingly, the messages to boys about what it means to be a man are confusing. The machismo of the street gang calls out with a swagger. Video games, television and music offer dubious lessons to boys who have been abandoned by their fathers… movies are filled with stories of men who refuse to grow up… men, some obsessed with sex, treat women as toys to be discarded when things get complicated.” Interestingly, today, 18- to 34-year-old men spend more time playing video games a day than 12- to 17-year-old boys.
I’ve also talked to far too many adolescents whose fathers come home from work, only to disappear to their offices for a few hours of online pornography, creating a new kind of absentee fathering.
So, parents, I must ask, are you raising your sons to be men or are you leaving them confused? If you’re an absentee parent, it’s pretty likely that you are actively fueling the “decline of men-kind”. Earlier this week, we challenged you to do your homework when it comes to the video games your kids are playing, but are you also doing the important work of being an example? Fathers are you present with your children? Are you escaping the hard work of parenting by spending time playing a video game or by immersing yourself in porn-filled fantasy?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in American—one out of every three—live in biological father-absent homes. Kids with absent or disengaged fathers are far more likely to live in poverty, have multiple sexual partners, experience child abuse and be arrested for violent or drug-related crimes.
Responsible fatherhood is key to our social fabric and critical to the health and wellbeing of our children today.
As Tim Allen’s character says in the new show “Last Man Standing”, “What the heck is fantasy football? I got a fantasy for you. Get off the fricking couch. What happened to men? Men used to build cities just so they could burn them down. They used to get a haircut from a guy named Hank. Modern men, what do you do? You run from things, from responsibility, from fatherhood. You can’t even change a tire! Get off the couch, and go outside! See something bright called the sun. It’s like a tanning bed, but it’s free!”
Fathers: it’s time to stop running. The health, future and welfare of your sons, daughters and “men-kind” depend on it.