The Guardian has an article on how boys are a mess (h/t: TRP), there’s nothing all that new there other than its the Guardian acknowledging the problem and its somewhat RP’d. But it has this little bit that comes up with all these articles:
“Men are opting out and women are opting in. Women are working harder at jobs, they’re working harder in school, and they are achieving – last year women had more of every single category of degree, even engineering. This is data from around the world. Now in many colleges there’s a big gap as boys are dropping out of school and college.”
Zimbardo estimates that there are, in Britain and the US, 5-10% more women than men at many colleges and universities. “So they’re going to have to have affirmative action for guys because obviously one reason you go to college is to find a guy.”
Everytime the crisis of boys/men comes to the fore, there’s always the section on how women are achieving. The triumphalism varies, this one tones it down quite a bit compared to, for example, this but there’s always this note of woman are doing better.
Except, are they?
Women are going to school more, getting more education, and outnumber men in the workforce. So, they are achieving more, at least for the mediocre positions, men still dominate the elite positions.
But are they really better off? What exactly are they achieving?
To most men, work is/has been something they had to do so to obtain a wife, then provide for the resulting family. Most men probably took pride in a job well done or in creating, but the purpose of going in to work was to earn to provide for his family. He could have gotten the pride of creation elsewhere, not to mention in today’s white-collar, paperwork world, satisfaction from creating something tangible is rapidly disappearing. Likewise, since the growth of mass post-secondary education, getting a degree for men has primarily been about avoiding a job doing physical labour, getting a better job to hopefully attract a prettier wife, and provide a more materially rich life for his family. The main purpose of post-secondary education was to get a family and provide for it, while making provision easier.
Men did this work, not for its intrinsic own sake, but for the extrinsic good of the family.
To repeat, as an aggregate woman are achieving more, but what are they achieving?
Women are now doing the work men did to support their families, without having families to support, barring (the usually poor) single mothers, who are not the kinds of women-in-the-workplace these articles are happily pointing to as signs of success. In fact, statistically speaking, these women are less likely to have families and when they do these families are smaller.
So, what are they achieving?
The only thing they seem to be achieving is more consumption and more money to be spent on the consumptive treadmill. Is that something we should be proud of? Is that kind of achievement really something we as a society should be pursuing and pushing our boys and girls to pursue?
The other question then becomes, are men really being left behind?
If a young man has no need to support a family, because he doesn’t have a wife, he might not get a wife, and when he does his wife will work and IF they have children, there will only be one, maybe two, why does he need to work?
Is he really falling behind if his part-time McD’s gig pays for his quarter of the bachelor pad’s rent, beer, and the new XBox?
Is a man really worse off spending his hours playing video games and chilling with his bros rather than spending them working hard to get a bigger (but still empty) house and a (nominally) better car?
Why is empty, high-work, high-stress consumerism somehow assumed to be better than empty, low-work, low-stress consumerism?
Either way it’s empty, but the latter is a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Maybe this ‘high achievement‘ is not some victory for women, maybe it’s simply that men know the score: Work sucks, but is (was) necessary to get a wife, regular sex, and a family. Now that men can get sex without a wife and aren’t getting a wife or family anyway, why work?
On the other hand, women seem to have been tricked into thinking that grinding away at a white-collar job is its own reward. They’re doing the shit men were forced to do and mostly disliked, while not even having the reward of a wife having supper ready for them when they get home.
Is it just the boys that are mess? Are the women really achieving?