by Rick Bayan
(January 1999) Men are in trouble. The signs are subtle, like an afternoon sun sliding almost imperceptibly toward the western horizon. But signs are signs, and the sun seems to be hanging a little lower in the sky for men these days. Our generation is witnessing the slow descent of the bearded ones, those bold and brawny toolmakers who wear their reproductive organs on the outside and never stop to ask for directions.
I've long suspected that all was not well in the fraternity of men. What finally convinced me was the release of three separate studies that reveal just how disadvantaged a minority we've become.
One report discloses that women now significantly outnumber men at U.S. institutions of higher learning. Despite marginally higher standardized test scores, men have been shying away from academia like vampires from sun-lamps. It might be true that union bricklayers earn more than teachers and White House interns, but bricklayers don't influence the course of society or read Salon magazine. These practical young men are selecting themselves out of our culture.
Male liberal arts students are scarcer today than honest politicians. Women will be carrying the torch of learning into the new millennium, much like the medieval monks who copied the works of Plato and Aristotle while the rest of us burned peat to warm our huts and backsides. Just as important, women will be deciding whose work is worthy of perpetuation. I think it's safe to predict that, given the current biases of our scholars, future generations will be reading more Toni Morrison and less Jonathan Swift.
The second report — a study of work habits — shows that women are more inclined than men to toil steadily over long stretches of time. Men, by contrast, expend their energy in short bursts and need regular breaks to recover their senses.
What this study suggests, of course, is that women are better adapted to the modern corporate environment, where a cheerful acceptance of monotony and long hours significantly boosts one's survival odds. As a grudging participant in corporate life myself, I've noticed that women seem to fit the mold more readily than men. They're relentlessly organized, always pointing to the facts in their little portable planners. Unlike most men, they're willing to accept the realities of the tribal hierarchy; they don't fume excessively and curse their stars for being mere middle managers. They're neat and hygienic. They communicate effectively, especially when they want something. They leverage their superior social skills by forming alliances with people who can yank them up the ladder. They're nimble, efficient and maddeningly productive. And, of course, they're able to tolerate nine or ten hours of the most stultifying work, day after day, and make it seem like so much needlepoint. A woman's true place is in the office.
The third study compares men's and women's physiological responses to shopping, and (no surprise here) finds that men's blood pressure is more likely than women's to shoot skyward during the hot pursuit of merchandise.
The significance of this finding is twofold: that men are more sensitive to stress, and that one man's stress is a woman's reason for living. Shopping excursions, typing, two-hour phone conversations, church socials, obligatory visits with neighbors and in-laws, catered parties and even, for God's sake, WEDDINGS — you name it, women revel in it. Not only do these activities NOT raise their blood pressure, they probably send a euphoric wave of endorphins coursing through their lithe bodies. For men, such activities only serve to hasten death.
Let's look beyond the trio of studies for further evidence that men are an endangered sex:
- The traditional male role of breadwinner is already a lost legacy as women close the pay gap and exhibit an alarming fanaticism for work.
- Women no longer require the brute strength of males for protection against large carnivorous mammals and club-wielding foes; they simply need to pack a semi-automatic.
- Despite several documented cases of men outliving women, males in general are statistically more likely to perish from virtually every affliction known to our species — including suicide, overwork and driving into telephone poles.
- Men are chronically overrepresented among the ranks of idiots and psychopaths. Whenever you hear about a serial killer who stashes body parts in a basement freezer, you can reasonably assume the perpetrator is a lifter of toilet seats.
- Male politicians are a public disgrace, leaving the door open for any female candidate with a halo and wings.
- Male clergymen, once the spiritual leaders of our communities, have shown a lamentable penchant for dallying with choirboys and loose women. By contrast, female clergy tend to project an admirably sexless aura.
- What few remnants of moral authority men haven't squandered through their own stupid behavior, hard-line feminists have stripped away during their equally stupid thirty-year assault on "phallocentric" institutions like sex and grammar.
- Men have been forced to give up their exclusive colleges and clubs, including Yale, Princeton and the United States Marines.
- Viagra has robbed male sexual performance of its macho bravado; any retired male librarian can achieve the same effect now by popping a pill.
- New Age culture is essentially a celebration of passive, spiritual, non-invasive, quiescently vegetarian (i.e., anti-male) values. No arterially clogged beefeaters need apply. Men must wear sandals and smell of incense at all times.
- Political Correctness has served primarily to curb the natural male impulse to accost attractive women and mock the unfortunate. Where will men find their merriment now?
- The so-called Men's Movement was an abortive comedy: clandestine pow-wows in the woods, participants wearing antlers and beating drums, and the ghastly sound of grown men sobbing over their lost Cub Scout uniforms.
- The widespread use of artificial insemination has reduced the need for biological specimens of manhood in the population, other than an occasional shirtless gardener or movie stud to whet a woman's fancy. The rest of us could be culled like young roosters. As a wise cynic once said, men have planted the seed of their own obsolescence.
What's left for men, then? The golden orb is descending ever lower in the sky, taking on the bloody hue of sunset. Men have been deconstructed, devalued and debunked. We've been toppled from our venerable position of provider/protector/inseminator. Sisterhood outsells brotherhood in the bookstores and magazine stands. Rude jokes about male members are mouthed by sarcastic actresses on evening sitcoms. Where will it end? The former tribe of spear-carriers and master-builders appears to be headed for a prolonged and depressing eclipse, if not outright obsolescence.
Granted, men will continue to dominate selected fields of endeavor; the lumber business, strip-mining and metallurgical engineering seem safe for the moment, as do the Mafia and model railroad clubs. Women will always require the services of men to move furniture and extract dead rodents from roof-gutters. No woman will ever whack seventy homers in a season against major league pitching — unless the pitchers are women.
But aside from performing prodigious physical labors with our rippling muscles, what can we men do to reverse our sickly decline into a second-rate sex? We can take pride in our past, for one.
Look upon the achievements of our fathers, O ye men, and rejoice! It was men — yes, my friends, MEN — who built such memorable monuments as the Step-Pyramid of King Djoser, the Baths of Caracalla, the Woolworth Building and the first Wal-Mart. MEN composed Pachelbel's Canon and all of Beethoven's string quartets. It was a MAN who penned the immortal lines, "Hail to thee blithe spirit, Bird thou never wert!" MEN wrote the popular songs "Massa's in de Cold, Cold Ground" and "Yes, We Have No Bananas." A MAN invented the lightning rod, bifocals and the Franklin stove. The Battle of Hastings was fought primarily by MEN.
And look at the great names we've bequeathed to civilization — names like Samuel Gompers, Rutherford B. Hayes, Pericles, Enrico Fermi, Canute the Dane, Calvin Coolidge and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. All of them MEN.
MEN have discovered and named many fine places, like Hispaniola and the Bay of Fundy. We're more proficient than women at arm-wrestling, fresco-painting, ice hockey and particle physics. We make better cabinets, sun decks and booster rockets. We know how to read a map. In the movies, most Westerns and martial arts films would be poorer without our presence.
We may die younger, on average, but we tend to enjoy ourselves with greater gusto during the heady years that count — driving fast, chugging beer by the six-pack and dropping water balloons onto unsuspecting pedestrians. This is life as it was meant to be lived... the good life as delineated by Socrates, Epicurus and the other great moral philosophers — most of whom were MEN, by the way.
So let's renew our male mission and wear our antlers high on our heads. Let's stand up straight, aim well, and exercise our prerogative to leave the seat up. After all, we're MEN, and we hold a proud heritage in our hands.