Orion's picture

    "Men on the Sidelines of American Life"

    I blogged earlier here about how an article about the Biden administration's trucking initiative and the phenomenon of out of work men intersected got hysterically rejected. I have to put an emphasis on hysterical because the editor didn't just say "we will pass on this, thanks." He left comments in caps on the edit, saying that all the stuff about out of work men should be in another article. There were spelling errors in his corrections all over the place.

    Here is the rub - a couple years ago, it was largely women who were upset about this topic when it was mentioned. The phenomenon had not gotten to the point that you could really understand it and so, if you mentioned that men seemed to be stepping away from view in society, it was seen as an attack on feminism, women's rights, all the progress they made in the workplace, etc. 

    I don't really think feminism has a lot to do with why roughly a third of men now live without work. Women that succeed in this environment might be partial to feminism because it fits their life and mindset, sure, but it is not why so many men are in a funky place. Feminism has been around for quite a long time and this phenomenon is recent. The culture still had all sorts of male driven phenomenon well after women's rights - the Reagan era, gangsta rap, the war on terror, etc. Some right wing analysis of the phenomenon will blame feminism (look up "War Against Men") but that's not what is happening.

    We pay too much attention to ideas and ideology sometimes and, so, have trouble identifying what is right in front of us. Men are not procrastinating through life because of anything an intellectual said but instead because our modern economy and larger society is encouraging them to do so.

    What is happening is our transition to an information economy, which has also been coupled over the past few years to a transition to a health care dominated economy. In these situations, men, just by being men, appear more threatening. They seem as out of place in these scenarios as if someone brought in a stray pitbull or a timberwolf. An excellent article, "The New Superfluous Men," in American Affairs, took note of this.

    I worked at a hospital during most of Covid-19, as security. The gender dispersal was somewhat obvious. The only other men working in the hospital as hospital staff were either significantly older and had been there for some time or were very effeminate and mild in their tone/appearance. 

    As a security guard, I was donned in all black, with boots. I had weapons (not guns, I won't elaborate on what they were) on me. (I was in an area where people had been shot.) Suddenly, appearing threatening was a plus and I was hired just for it. Most men that I know have worked security. It's really easy to get in to if you're a guy. Whereas the larger society seems to put up barriers for men to be in most positions of professional responsibility, if you apply as a security guard, you could suddenly find yourself paid to oversee enormously valuable things. 

    Girls that usually would be alarmed by a man who owns weapons asked to see my taser or knives. The phenomenon couldn't have been more obvious - the guard working before me was male, the one working after me was male, and the company actually got in trouble when we had women on board who didn't really like being a guard.

    Men are usually good in positions where people want to feel secure. Being threatening is a huge problem in other scenarios but it seems to work there. It's why men do well in sales (people want to feel like the investment they are making is secure), banks, security and law enforcement.

    They don't do so well in the information technology world, driven as it now is by social media. Whatever the initial stereotype about male nerds may have been - that was back when computers were largely still a hardware trade. Women are mentally tougher and more friendly, and people would really rather hear from them when they're troubleshooting.

    In the article that got rejected, I took note of a study that was by a progressive leaning policy publication. The phenomenon has continued over the years and so, instead of arguing it, my editor just got freaked out and said it should be mentioned elsewhere and not in something related to commercial truck driving (an industry that is 80% male).

    There's also a book on the subject, called Man Out. I haven't read it yet but it doesn't appear to be ideologically motivated. In fact, it depicts how pathetic some men in this era have really become. It just observes the obvious - that men are generally on the sidelines of modern American life.


    Women peaked at 38% of Software Engineering jobs in 1984. Now they're somewhere 12-17% in the US, varies from country to country.

    Engineering is generally as male dominated as truck driving. When I'm talking about an information economy, I'm not talking about the people you call to fix the machines. 

    Software Engineering isn't mechanical or civil engineering - it's basically programming.

    Lol all right.

    You got me thinking about all those photos and movies showing armies of women in typing pools, while the men sat in offices thinking, making decisions, dictating letters and talking to colleagues on the phone (phone calls which a woman often dialed for him.) Used to be women were assigned the practical physical aspects of operating the machines in the office! 

    Furthermore that was a strange thing because once those women became stay at home moms, all of a sudden they weren't supposed to know how to fix things. (There was a sort of combo when it was like a business, keeping a large estate - there a woman could be the "housekeeper", making sure everything went smoothly operationally, but the head butler was the boss man making management decisions.)

    Edit to add, back in the office: it was always men who came in to actually fix broken machines, i.e., the xerox repair guy. But it was not a prestigious job, it was not real manly, powerless with working class tinge.

    Beneath Maytag repairman for sure. Yes, databases were for girls, data lakes and data science are for guys. Go figure. I think Big Data and data warehouses screwed it all up. If they'd only stuck to data kitchens and data boutiques... 

    Keeping and maintaining files in folders in cabinets and archives is really the same thing as data management. Think: all corporate records, all professional records like for doctors, lawyers & accountants. The "gals" were the ones who knew how to get you the data you needed.

    I got served coffee by the office girl the other day. Turned out she's a crack physics/chemist - but guests still feel more at home with the barista. Glad at least I asked her to stay before I knew (and my smart-ass comment actually respectfully elicited that knowledge rather than getting caught as a condescending fool) 

    Andrew Yang:


    Between 1999 and 2019, the percentage of 16 to 24 year old males participating in the workforce fell 17% and that number is projected to decrease even more over the next 10 years. Other countries, like Italy, France, Spain, Sweden, and Japan, have all seen more than a five-fold increase in young men not employed. The OECD records show that the average unemployment rate for men in their late twenties and early thirties jumped from 2% in 1970 to 9% in 2012.11 That is an enormous increase and means millions of young men are not working.

    Most men, when they realize that this is happening, get mad about it, which certainly makes sense.

    It's also easy to point at men and say they are lazy but when you're talking about millions of people, that is a social phenomenon.

    However, the thing is that before our modern economy, the average man was called to military service, government employment, etc. Things like that. This is ironically a result of an interconnected free market economy, something conservatives advocate.

    There's going to be a return to such things. The current order is a bit shakier than it seems - not all these men want to be bums, that's just how society treats them, and not all of these women want to have the weight of the professional world on their shoulders 24/7.

    Meanwhile, modern men are a nation of Forrest Gumps - certainly charming and entertaining but generally appearing stupid and incompetent in the face of a complex technological society. Plenty of fun to talk to on the bench but you're not going to edit your magazine or work your front desk.

    Noticed Andrew Yang is doing a lot on the "boy crisis" recently:

    It is something that he noticed.

    I tried talking about it here years ago and people saw it as an attack on feminism and, logically, women themselves. It is what it is. Identity in America is a zero sum game, so if you say one group has an issue, well, that logically means you must hate the other group, right?

    They hold that boys are told to value themselves for external attributes – strength and self-sacrifice, embodied in a heroic ideal – that end up running afoul of long-term Emotional Intelligence. This can be encapsulated in a pretty simple phrase: “I’m fine, leave me alone.” They also write about the high incidence of ADHD accompanied by medication.

    It's surreal to hear people talk about this out loud in the mainstream media. ADHD is now actually being marketed at girls primarily, as is medication. In a generation, we might be talking about the sad state of women as society does a 180. It's more artificial than it seems.

    I grew up without a dad. I got told a lot of very negative, scary things about him and was only recently told by a sibling that those things weren't really true. There were men around but they were just around. I was the subject of violence, bullying and abuse and I returned in kind because, to be blunt about it, women don't really know what to tell men about dealing with such things. A bunch of guys threw barbells at my face in weight training class the year before I graduated - when you don't have a man around, you make up your own rules about how to deal with things like that.

    I turned out all right in the end but it shouldn't have been like that. I graduated college, started a family and even was awarded a medal for service in a hospital during Covid-19. On paper, I did what all men of all generations do, so the nutty and nasty parts can fade in to memory. Nevertheless, it was nutty and nasty like that for a lot of men in my generation and I think it was set up that way.

    This is not at all to negate the struggles of women. Childlike simplistic thinking will interpret it that way. Men and women compliment each other - they are yin and yang. Because the average men exited mainstream society, women have been left taking on extreme demands and having to deal with school, finances, work, children and/or predatory men completely on their own. It seems like a recipe for burnout, and there will conveniently be a whole bunch of starving men ready to go once a bunch of overeducated and overworked women burn out.

    When I was living in the suburbs, I had a roommate who brought multiple girls over and went at it with all of them, only for none of them to show up again. Without strong men around, women are more likely to discover such men and to then, after being burned, associate such men with men as a whole. It's no wonder things are toxic as they are. 

    It's not really a healthy situation for anyone. Also, just because most successful/powerful spaces are filled with women doesn't mean that all women are in successful/powerful spaces.

    America usually only talks about a problem when it is a bit obvious. Women and older men who screamed at younger men to get off of the couch now feel bad since they've realized that nearly alot of men are on the couch. Big universities now seem to be nearly 60% female, with men attending teaching schools or opting out of education completely. I've also noticed a whole industry of online courses that seem to be aimed a bit more at men than what is available at the in person research campus.

    nearly all men are on the couch

    Sorry, but think you're overdoing it a bit

    Okay, a whole lot of them are on the couch. 

    It's worth noting that that article was published before Covid-19.

    Something I wanted to add on this topic.

    I actually tie the loosening of traditional gender roles to the end of the military draft. The movement to get rid of the draft thanks to the unpopularity of the Vietnam war seems to coincide with a dramatic change in nearly every element of how men and women looked at each other in American society. Likewise, the long general peace in Europe saw a loosening of gender norms, as well.

    I also think people are beginning to see how much things changed for the worse given events that require collective effort. We are hit with a pandemic, increasing war footing with a major nuclear power in Russia, and a polarized, atomized society and we finally realize just how estranged we are from one another. We don't know our brothers and sisters and, in turn, we don't really know ourselves apart from what we put in our bank accounts.

    From the Works Progress Administration to the military draft, men worked and performed duties largely because they were told to. It wasn't optional. Women already know what they want to do but men have to be told. Men are wandering around, isolating themselves and generally not participating because no one tells them what to do. Forcing their way in to someplace is generally looked down upon, as well. Why show up where you're not invited?

    I don't think we're about to go back to a military draft. We use robots for military missions now. However, I do think that men will suddenly find themselves compelled to do things for the national community. It will be called something different from a draft but it will be that general concept. Pete Buttigieg floated the idea around when he ran for president.

    I am a direct product of this phenomenon but that's really about all that I have to say about it.

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