Oh dear reader, I do wonder how many times people have to be told things before they grasp them. As an educator I should know all the tricks, varying your pedagogical methods, using diverse methods of communication, making sure you engage your students, group work, you name it. But, I have been screaming for twenty years ( metaphorically, not really, my voice would be gone–which would please some people) that if it is happening in the black community it is happening in the white community and will eventually come to the attention of society and researchers. Blacks are, and always have been the miner’s canaries of our society. Drugs? Just a black thing. Oh wait! More drug use by white suburban teens! Now it is a problem worthy of a war ( which we continue to pour money into with virtually no result by the way). Out of wedlock births? A black thing with their baby momma and baby daddy mess. Oh wait! Last year more babies were born out of wedlock in America than within the bounds of marriage! Not enough black mothers to account for that statistic by far. Now we need to look at this and the possible impact it will have on society! Horrors! Blacks and some other people of color have trouble buying house, affording college, getting hired—who cares? Wait a minute, it is happening to whites too! Stop the presses, start some legislation, this cannot go on!
In other words, as long as it is something that impacts minority communities only it is their problem. If it impacts white folks it becomes a societal problem. After decades of falling college enrollment by black males, chalked up to their inherent intellectual inferiority and tendency to want to just play sports or sing rap music, white boys are also disappearing from college campuses. Now we see research, papers, symposia, articles. Oddly enough a lot of the campuses that only began to pay attention to the falling male enrollments still are not targeting white males, they are targeting minority males in a bizarre situation where the lack of white males got their attention but their efforts to change the pattern is directed at males of color . I personally feel it is an arrogant refusal to accept the fact that white boys are not doing as well as they used to either, why that can’t be true can it?
The male of the species is seemingly under attack from several quarters. Feminism, although it is frequently not called that anymore, but women’s rights, the right having done a fine job of demonizing the term, is on the rise bringing new focus and action on reproductive rights, sexual abuse and rape, body image issues, employment discrimination, wage disparity, women’s educational opportunities worldwide, religions that abuse or suppress women, etc. Add to that the disappearance of many ways that white men with little education made money, manufacturing jobs,owning a local business–being run out by the Walmarts and Lowes of the world– jobs you could get from knowing someone–these still exist, but in the past you could become the president of one of our local businesses or banks with very little education or sense, now you need at least a bachelor’s degree and some kind of experience in business, the buddy jobs tend to be less lucrative, except in higher education, but that is another post. Interracial marriage is much more common and much more accepted so you cannot even have unquestioned primacy of selection over “your” women. And those women seem to be wandering farther and farther from June Cleaver towards some mixture of Murphy Brown and Roseanne. Your status in the country seems to be imperiled daily. Other ideas, priorities, values, mores and ethics that seem to be incongruent with what you think and believe and need are seemingly taking the day. So the beleaguered white male has to put up with articles and books and conferences and broadcasts that ask the question “Are men still necessary?” Our society has been asking that question about men of color for two hundred years. Now it seems once again what is sauce for the brown gander is also sauce for the white gander.
Black women could always get jobs working for white folks when black men could not get employment of any kind. Now we have research that indicates that fully 40% of American households are being supported either solely or primarily by the wages of women of all colors. Part of the legacy of slavery led to the absent black father, now we see it has spread to our paler households as well. If they are not present fathers and not productive breadwinners then what use might they be? This is not my question. I happen to be terribly fond of men in general and a few men in particular, one of whom I have been married to since Moses was a boy and a couple of others I gave birth to and a bunch more I just love period.
So our men are in trouble. They are being marginalized, or at least feeling marginalized to use current jargon. They are in danger of not being the breadwinners in our society–with their lower college attendance and the growing importance of having a degree to advance in almost any profession–they seemingly are no longer considered necessary by many women in raising children, they are rarely viewed as infallible as they may have been viewed in the past. It is getting rough out there for a dude!
We still have a lot of things controlled by men, don’t get me wrong, but I have to wonder if the rising open sexuality of women and their treatment of men accordingly is an indication of a true sea change. On Facebook you are as likely to see a woman posting a picture of a half ( or less) dressed man with a caption like “Yum” as a picture of a scantily clad woman by a man. As a matter of fact I think we may have trained the latter pretty much out of many men.
So where do we go from here? I do not think men need to worry too much , most women like men , as lovers, husbands, friends, partners, you name it. But, there is script change and it going to be global. The internet and cell phones and the ubiquitous You Tube mean that messages of the power of women is going to be seen and absorbed everywhere soon if it is not already. But, you do not have to be anti-men to be pro-women. The two are not in conflict with each other.
We do, however, need to understand how things have changed and will continue to change and pay attention when any group no matter what color, gender, sexual identity, religion, class, nationality or caste falls off the grid of success and opportunity. Where the boys are was a good song in the past, we do not want it to be an ungrammatical question in the future on college campuses and in families.