Are Men Becoming Feminized or Humanized?Dr.Peggy Drexler

Every study, it seems, brings another assault on the masculinity of the American man.

As I read about how men are thinking more like women, and women are filling the space vacated by declining masculinity, I have to wonder: Is it a shift in gender roles, or an easing of expectations?

In other words, are we seeing men and women as they always were, but were never allowed to be?

Those in the men-are-the-new-women camp point to what they see as troubling evidence. In 2011 there was much buzz in the halls of gender behavior when a study of 5,000 American adults found that more men are interested in attachment and commitment, while more women wanted to preserve some of their independence in a relationship.

There were other findings that sounded alarms about the manliness of men. Half of single men 21 to 35 wanted kids, where for women in that age group, the number was 46 percent — not exactly a statistical landslide, but apparently troubling none-the-less.

Adding circumstantial evidence of de-masculation is the growth of men’s cosmetics, waxing, and fashion. SPANX, a company founded to fight panty lines, tummy bulge and bra fat — reports that one of their hottest new products is SPANX for men.

There is more. But across all of it, interpretations range from interested observation to predictions of the matriarchal decline experienced by civilizations past. But at the core: there is the fear that America is becoming a less manly place. We hear nothing, for example, about the hard-nosed warriors in the U.S. women’s soccer team that spoke to bad things happening to females.

But as we pine for the macho man and alpha male, let’s also look at some additional evidence of the changing American man.

Dr. Warren Farrell, the author of the book, Father and Child Reunion, points to the growing desire of dads to be a bigger part of their children’s lives. This new paternal involvement, he writes, “is to the twenty-first century what women’s desire to be in the workplace was to the twentieth century.”

A survey by the employment website found that 70 percent of fathers would consider being a stay at home parent if money were no object. Almost 50 percent of dads of school-aged children took paternity leave when their employer offered it.

The evidence is also accumulating in smaller increments. Men are free to hug more, they help with homework, they listen more, and — especially with daughters — are part of their lives in ways long denied to fathers of earlier generations. Is it feminization that has brought fathers so far from the distant, silent providers of the past?

Pick any organization, and you’ll find awareness, backed by shifts in culture, that the days of the my-way-or-the-highway manager are past. Is it feminization to realize that leadership by brute force of title must be replaced by the so-called “soft skills” of communication, cooperation and engagement?

While some wail over the declining state of manhood implied by the statistics, there is also the very real possibility that men are evolving from swaggering through life in some cartoon interpretation of what men are supposed to be — to becoming more fully-formed human beings free to find out what they can be.

So here is the question: are men less masculine, or more liberated? Are they being feminized, or humanized?

Featured image via shutterstock

  • Hilary June

    I see it like women have been forced to become “masculine” for years, and that is just expected. It’s so ‘wrong’ and ‘anti-feminist’ (omg don’t get me started) if a woman acts feminine, we’re expected to “be one of the guys”, but it’s completely “crazy” and “gay” and just not acceptable for a guy to “be one of the girls”. So annoying.

    And as for the men wanting kids thing – yeah no duh women are wanting kids less and less, when the majority of housework and child-rearing is just expected to fall on our shoulders. It STILL is. Even if we work full-time, the housework and parenting still falls more on a woman. Look it up.

    I experienced this firsthand as an au pair in Australia – where I think women and men being equal is WAY ahead of Canada and the US – both parents worked full-time, same hours, got home together. He sat on the couch/computer, she cooked dinner. She put the baby to bed while the older one played and once the baby was asleep, she put the oler boy to bed as well. All the while the dad sat there mindlessly. Then she cleaned up after the dinner she prepared and he did nothing.

  • Anne-Marie Tanahuvia

    I must say I disagree with the previous two comments. I am a woman, proud of my femininity, however I think it is sad that we automatically equate being feminine, or womanly with the ideal human. What ever happened to balance? I think our culture is in a sad state when the only male “role models” we see in the media are always made to look dumb and emotionally impotent. I think the fact that we demean the importance of having strong men in our culture is partially responsible for the fact that the majority of our future generation are growing up in broken homes with no fathers and lacking positive male mentors in their lives. A boy needs a man in his life to exemplify what it is to be a man. If your theory rings true, that men indeed are becoming more human due to the fact that they are becoming more feminine, then we must ask if women are becoming less human as we embrace what are stereotypically deemed masculine traits as we declare our equality with men? Men and women are equal, however equal in value does not mean equal in substance. We are made different and rightfully so…we should celebrate those differences and start appreciating the balance that it brings.

  • Colleen Sweeney

    Because I am in the middle of a college course detailing the world during the Middle Ages, I will say they’re more human. The male population are humans, just like we are. Over the last 600 years, men have become less brute and are less likely (less likely, not completely free from) to accuse women for being the root of problems. For this, I am grateful. Because a woman’s worth in the fourteenth century was to have babies, and preferably of the male gender. If a woman didn’t have male heirs, she was more likely to have the marriage annulled or feel like less of a woman, when now science has proven men determine the gender of their children.

  • Sally Parker

    I really enjoyed this article. I would say men are more humanized. Every woman can visualize the poor woman from earlier generations who was trapped in a marriage with a gruff, unapproachable man who is hard on the kids and won’t communicate or compromise at all. Even my own brother is uncomfortable providing sole supervision to his kids, putting the burden of responsibility on his wife.
    I see the shift in friends and coworkers- men who are willing to take the late night feeding shifts or be the one to leave work when a child is sick. I’d much rather be in a marriage that is a true partnership than seek an increasingly rare alpha male who will insist on being the rock upon which my wave breaks.

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