It’s a simple enough question, but according to businessman and writer Jack Myers, who’s preparing to release his latest book, The Future of Men, through digital publisher Inkshares, it’s a question that guys have trouble answering without resorting to a little dark humor.
“I’ve been working on [the book] actively for almost three years now,” said Myers, “And as I’ve been telling friends, colleagues or just people I’m meeting that I’m working on a book about the future of men, the women are fascinated and interested — and the typical reaction I get from a man is, ‘Is there a future?’”
It’s not a surprising conclusion when considering the past three or four decades and how severely they’ve rocked the gender landscape in North America, in Europe and increasingly around the world. The huge gains that the feminist movement has secured for women’s rights, lots of men imagine, come at the expense of rights, privileges and opportunities that they once had. Acceptance to prestigious colleges. Positions at powerful corporations. Even the right to speak their mind, or to sit the way they want, seems to be coming under attack. Everywhere they turn, it seems, men are portrayed in the media as belonging to an increasingly limited palette of characters: the villain or the idiot — and sometimes, both.
“It’s been eye-opening that men have, first of all, more of an awareness of the issues confronting us as a gender, but also how cavalierly they treat the issue,” Myers admitted. “One of the realities that I’m confronting in the book is that we are past the point of being able to treat issues affecting our future cavalierly. We have to really take them very seriously and open our eyes to the realities — they’re not just going to go away, they’re not just going to get better and we can’t just do what many of us as men have always done, which is just kind of toss them off because we’re guys and we can do that.”
What are those issues affecting men’s futures? For those who are paying attention, there’s a long list.
“Today, we have 13 of the top 15 growth industries dominated in the junior and middle management by women,” Myers notes. ”Two out of every three new jobs created in the United States require college education, and 60% of college students are female. You’ve got a huge gain in economic power by women. Over the last several decades they’ve gone from 4% of income in the U.S. to 40% of income in the U.S.; from less than 30% of wage earners to more than 50% of all wage earners.”
So what drives a successful 67-year-old businessman and author to start considering the looming downfall of his ilk and become a student of gender issues who can rattle off such statistics with ease? Myers admitted he came to the question a little by accident.
“My last book [was] called Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World,” he said, “and it was a study on the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile — a subset of the millennials who were born from ’90 to ’96, who are a bridge generation. I did a lot of research that was originally focused on the transformation from pre- to post-internet, and what I found instead was within that bridge generation, research was clearly showing differences in male/female relationships and a real societal transition from male to female dominance, highlighted by the fact that 60% of college grads for the last decade are female. And as I was out on my speaking tour for that book, I kept getting the same question — ‘How come the men aren’t going to college? What’s happening to the men?’ And I didn’t have satisfactory answers.”
Myers isn’t the only one being drawn to difficult conclusions about the role of men in society — Atlantic writer Hanna Rosin’s 2012 book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women painted a vivid picture — and, if you’re a man, a potentially grim picture — of the way gender is shaping the future of the world economy.
“In the past, men derived their advantage largely from size and strength, but the postindustrial economy is indifferent to brawn,” Rosin wrote. “A service and information economy rewards precisely the opposite qualities — the ones that can’t be easily replaced by a machine. These attributes — social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus — are, at a minimum, not predominantly the province of men. In fact, they seem to come more easily to women.”
In that light, gender is a zero-sum game. The opportunities that would have gone to young men just 20 years ago are now more likely to go to young women, and with the way women are outpacing men in the academic sphere, there’s a very tangible worry for many men that, unless something changes soon, we’re on the road to extinction. It’s from that same fear that men’s rights activists spring.
But whether they’re (as many allege) concerned with exposing feminists as hypocrites or (as they claim) fighting for men’s rights, things like getting to see their kids post-divorce, the misogyny that many see as running rampant through their ranks has led to a discrediting of the MRA concept entirely in the public sphere. And while Myers doesn’t mention men’s rights, he does think men should be paying more attention to feminism.
“I believe men need an advocate and an evangelist for identifying, recognizing, acknowledging and communicating clearly what the implications are going to be from the success of the women’s movement over the past 30 years and will continue to be over the next 30 years, while at the same time acknowledging that these successes are going to continue and men need to understand the importance of supporting those advances in the women’s movement as opposed to some of the backlash we’re seeing.”
Divorced from the stench surrounding MRAs as they’re known, what would a true movement for men’s rights look like? One that’s concerned with ensuring today’s men are teaching the next generation not to distrust or reject the ascendance of women but to understand it and its importance, to understand what men have been and how they can better become men who aren’t relics, or dinosaurs caught on the wrong side of history, but truly modern men?
For Myers, one of the changes needs to happen in the media.
“The narrative that [men have] been watching in beer commercials for the past 20 years where men are gathered together as a cohort to be served by beautiful, scantily clad women, or that men are total idiots who can’t even pick out their own analgesic if they have a cold, or know how to change a diaper or know how to wipe up a wet counter,” he said, is a problem.
“Even in the role models on TV — the most iconic TV dad of the last 20 years has been Homer Simpson. What does that say about the role models that men have been presented with on TV and in commercials? We really need to recognize that we need to change the narrative and we need to change it right now. We need to be much more aware of and conscious of and focused on the way men are portrayed in television, just as we’ve been conscious of the way women have been portrayed as sex objects.”
So where do we go from here?
“I think the single biggest issue that men are facing right now is that we cannot sustain the kinds of behavior that we have thrived on for the past centuries any longer, and the time is now to begin recognizing, acknowledging and making changes in the way media presents men, in the way advertising presents men, and the way men think about themselves,” Myers said. “Instead of saying, ‘You mean there is a future?’ it needs to become, ‘Yes, we have a really important role in the future — and let’s start thinking about what that is.'”
You can pre-order Jack Myers’ book The Future of Men at Inkshares.