You could call it 'Testosterone Lite." Or maybe "the eunuch in the parlor" is the inevitable result of "the Myth of Masculinity," but you don't have to be a major in women's studies to notice that the Alpha Male has become the Beta Bum. "From kindergarten to grad school," reports Business Week, "boys are becoming the second sex."
They wear the baggy prison pants like hip hoodlums in the 'hood, deck themselves out in Armani "cool" and grow fuzzy little beards on their chinny chin chins, swagger like Eminem and call a woman "ho" and "bitch." But if we believe the statistics - and there are lots of them - they're searching for a "male mystique" to guide them through a hostile 21st century.
To paraphrase Betty Friedan, men suffer from the problem that has no name. They're deep in the shallows of the blahs. The wolf has morphed into a male Virginia Woolf and he's looking for a womb to call his own. Freud would surely ask: "What do men want?"
Women earn more BA's and master's degrees than men. For every 100 men who earn a bachelor's degree, 133 women do; by 2010, according to the U.S. Education Department, the gap will widen to 142 women to 100 men. Undergraduate women outnumber undergraduate men by 60-40 on campuses as varied as the University of North Carolina, Boston University and New York University. More women than men are in law school, and they're closing the gap in medical schools.
Women can celebrate, but the gain is not without pain. There's a formidable imbalance in the mating game. Since the better educated of both sexes earn more, competition for the most desirable men becomes ever fiercer. The phenomenon is even more pronounced among blacks, where two women earn bachelor degrees for every man who earns one. Three of every 10 black women between the ages of 40 to 44 have never married.
Modern feminism has freed women to work, but it liberated them to be lonely. Those who get the most gratification from the sexual revolution are men in their late 20s and 30s who enjoy the life of Don Juan (without having to cultivate the charm), picking from a new crop of single women every year.
A woman may need a man like a fish needs a bicycle, as Gloria Steinem famously said, but women listening to the tick-tock of their fertility clocks, no matter how successful they may be in a career, want to marry a man who will be a good father to the children they yearn to have. Their love lives, alas, are often limited to the transitory terms of hedonistic "hook-ups." (Ms. Steinem finally got her bicycle.)
Some churls see this state of affairs as male chauvinist revenge for the world created by the feminist sensibility that first relegated boys to second-class status. Classrooms are often organized to suit the female sensibility. Sugar, spice and smarts win. It's easier for girls to sit still and "cooperate" with the female (and often feminist) rules. They get better grades, too.
Boys in general hare much more restless than girls, but instead of giving boys more recess time to draw on their physical energy, the schools diagnose them with a disease. They either suffer attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity.
Ritalin (or the generic methylphenidate) is a wonderful drug for those who actually need it, but the number of prescriptions given to young boys suggests that doctors suffer from an attention deficit of their own. One study finds that 20 percent of white boys in public schools in affluent Fairfax County, Va., are diagnosed as hyperactive and are on Ritalin-like drugs by the time they reach the fifth grade.
It's no secret that little boys are less mature than little girls. Girls and boys develop differently. This affects running and jumping as well as reading and writing. Anatomy and biology, along with left/right brain distinctions, create sexual differences that feminist rhetoric ignores. Rap 'n roll obscenities directed at women no doubt often camouflage authentic male feelings of inferiority.
Coinciding with the shallow pool of eligible men for women to mate is a burgeoning business in cosmetics for women. "Americans spend more money each year on beauty than on education," reports Economist magazine. American women are the customers who created the $160 billion-a-year vanity industry of scents, creams, paints, hair oils, cosmetic surgery, diets, health spas and fitness clubs.
In her book Survival of the Prettiest, psychologist Nancy Etcoff writes that "good looks are a woman's most fungible asset, exchangeable for social position, money, even love."
Unfortunately, there's a shrinking buyer's market in men.