If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed men are back in the news. With YouTuber Andrew Tate in the headlines, the focus has shifted to masculinity in all of its forms.
I’m reminded of a recent debate held by Vice, the online news platform, in which men discussed what it means to be a man today.
Interestingly, all nine participants found common ground by agreeing on one issue – there’s a crisis of masculinity in our modern world.
One debater explained that being a man is being someone who “gets the job done” and “provides”, but went on to say he doesn’t “know what that means any more”. It got me thinking – why are men, particularly young men, feeling so adrift these days?
In his book, The Boy Crisis, Warren Farrell asks: “Why are we so blind to the boy crisis?” He describes a “gender empathy gap”, stating that, to survive, society has learned to see boys as more disposable than girls. The gender empathy gap enables us to overlook when men and boys are struggling.
I would agree there is a masculinity crisis. Many men are unsure of their place in the modern world and are left wondering what it means to be a man. Where once men were the breadwinners for their families, we have realised that women can occupy that role too.
According to the Central Statistics Office, Ireland in 2019 had around only 10pc more men in the workforce than women. Women in the workplace is something to be celebrated, but it means men have had to reconsider their roles.
For young men in particular, it may seem like the very idea of masculinity is under attack. The rise in popularity of figures like Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and Jordan Peterson among male youth is no coincidence – they offer clear explanations of masculinity in an age when it is not so cut and dry. There is a comfort to be found in these corners of the internet, because too often men are vilified in the media.
Take film, for example. The original Star Wars trilogy springs to mind. Luke Skywalker was once a brave, courageous and optimistic hero men and women could look up to. That is until the second instalment of the recent sequel trilogy, 2017’s The Last Jedi, in which Skywalker is portrayed as a grumpy, disenfranchised old man in an attempt to deconstruct the masculine hero.
Instead of mentoring the young female protagonist, it is he who learns from her. The message is clear – Luke Skywalker’s masculinity is
no longer an acceptable standard for cinema to uphold. It was “toxic”. But that film is only the beginning. You need only scroll through Twitter for five minutes to see why young men are feeling disaffected. Those who posted the hashtag “not all men” in response to the feminist movement in 2021 are labelled as idiots and misogynists.
TikTok, a breeding ground for divisiveness, is filled with clips telling white women to abort their baby if they know it will be a boy.
The phrase “all men are trash” is popular. You can even get it on a T-shirt. The word “misogyny” is everywhere – the word “misandry” is not. Many don’t know what it means, and many who do dispute it even exists. Among other things, the feminist movement preaches the following – take up space, let yourself be important, value your input. This is acceptable messaging among feminists. Among men, it is not.
Often, men – particularly the dreaded straight, white, cis men, the apparent root of all evil in the world – are told to sit down and shut up because their time has passed.
Far from controlling their own narrative, young men are being told what they are and how they must remedy it. Where once we celebrated diversity and inclusion, a perverse “reverse sexism” has erupted on social media in recent years, and any pushback on this issue is quickly labelled as harmful. For my two cent, I don’t believe in reverse sexism. Sexism is, by its very definition, a bias based on sex or gender.
You are either sexist or you aren’t, regardless of your victim. It’s too easy to assume male privilege alleviates men of hardship, but that’s not the reality. Many are struggling.
Society has been making recent (and long overdue) efforts to uplift minority voices, such as those in the LGBTQ+ and black communities. We should celebrate this, but we must be wary of Farrell’s gender empathy gap and make every effort to ensure we do not overlook men.
To do so would be detrimental not only to them, but to us all.