From the paper that brought us “Why Can’t We Hate Men?” comes this (Washington Post, 1/18/19). It’s written by former New York Times journalist Andrew Yarrow and verges on the excellent. It’s not excellent for reasons I’ll go into later, but it gets close. Yarrow gets close to “getting it.”
Unsurprisingly, Yarrow calls himself a liberal, but he means that in the classic sense.
Helping all people in physical, socioeconomic and psychological distress should be a defining characteristic of a humane, caring and democratic society.Like any true liberal, Yarrow extends his morality, his sense of right and wrong, his empathy, not just to currently politically correct groups, but to everyone. And when that demands that he care about the issues men – even white ones – face, he accedes. That also means that he criticizes progressives for their “wokeness” that coincidentally excludes half the population.
Millions of American men are disconnected from work, children and family; are in poor physical and mental health; suffer from addiction and isolation; and struggle with what it means to be a man. Yet most progressives — who claim to care about all of society’s underdogs — seem to assiduously avoid these issues. Instead, their main concern when it comes to men is that too many men remain wedded to “traditional” notions and norms of masculinity…
The very phrase “men’s issues” conjures up images of bitter, angry white guys who stupidly don’t realize that they are oppressors and on top of the world. In the era of #MeToo, men don’t have problems; they are the problem.Indeed, we’ve just seen the American Psychological Association do exactly that in lockstep with the misandry that’s taught in seemingly every college and university in the land.
Unlike the preponderance of the current public discourse, Yarrow grasps the obvious.
[T]he fact that women remain victims in many ways does not negate the reality that many men are struggling and are victims of economic and cultural changes — ones that often also hurt women, children and society. Men are not a monolithic group, and it is not a zero-sum game in which men win and women lose (or vice versa)…
These men on the sidelines of American life are of all races, places and classes, and include millennials, better-educated late-middle-age men and former prisoners.Yarrow doesn’t shrink from delving into the many deficits that plague the male half of American society.
The data on male well-being tell a bleak story for a large minority of American men. About 20 million men have abandoned work (or work has abandoned them), as the male civilian labor force participation rate has fallen from 85 percent in the mid-1950s to 69 percent in November (and this excludes 2 million incarcerated men). Median inflation-adjusted income for all U.S. men was just 1 percent higher in 2017 than it was in 1973, and incomes for about 80 percent of men have stagnated or declined. About 8 million to 10 million fathers never or rarely see their minor children — and most of those fathers are not “deadbeats.”
Young adult males have higher poverty rates than their counterparts 40 years ago, and 25-to-34-year-old men are significantly more likely to live with their parents than women their age. Twice as many men than women are hardcore gamers. Compared with girls, boys have more behavioral problems and lower average academic achievement, and they are much less likely to graduate from college. The millions of formerly incarcerated menhave few prospects for a decent life.
Health and mental-health problems among men are increasing: Life expectancy, which remains stagnant among women, is declining among men. Males bear the brunt of opioid overdoses and alcohol addiction. Suicide is three and a half times more common among men than women. Many men are lonely or disengaging from society, as membership in unions and organizations that foster male camaraderie, such as Rotary and Elks clubs, has cratered.That doesn’t get close to exhausting the list of ways in which men get the short end of the stick in today’s United States, but readers possessed of hearts and minds will get the picture. The problems are deep and serious and any society that pretends to the liberal tradition will not ignore them. Yarrow rightly excoriates both the Left and the Right for their willingness to ignore real problems that debilitate not just men, but society generally.
Many on the right have drawn attention to men’s problems — some thoughtfully, but more often to bash feminism and women. Many on the left are silent because they are implausibly unaware of such issues or, more likely, less willing to highlight them because doing so would be deemed politically incorrect.True, all true. The Post and Andrew Yarrow have done the right thing. They’ve demanded of liberals that liberal morals, liberal values must apply to men as well as everyone else. Anyone who fails to do that simple thing can’t call him/herself a liberal or, for that matter, a decent, compassionate person.
But Yarrow needed to say a lot more. Right as his article is, it lacks a lot. More on that next time.