Saturday, September 29, 2018

What's Happened to the Men?

     I went to get my flu shot this past week. Don't forget to do that. For odd reasons, my visit to the clinic made me think of a post I wrote awhile back about men and women.

     One of my pet peeves (along with hectoring people about safe driving) is hectoring people, especially men, about taking care of their health. In my experience, a lot of men ignore their health, somehow thinking it's a sign of weakness to go to the doctor, or eat their vegetables. This contributes to a basic inequality between men and women: on average, women live four years longer than men do.

     I think of myself as a feminist. Everyone should be treated equally and should have the opportunity to fully develop their talents and their lives. So in that spirit -- and hoping it's somewhat relevant and not insensitive in light of the hysteria around this week's news -- I repeat:

     I lost my job at age 53, never to find full-time employment again. Now over ten years later, I find myself sitting at home, working around the house, playing golf with my friends, doing volunteer work and picking up a few freelance assignments -- while my better half goes off every day to her job as a librarian. (This was two years ago. B is retired now -- she retired when she turned 65 and qualified for Medicare.)

    But my situation was not unique. I look around at my friends . . . still today. One lost his job in his late 40s. He couldn't find another job so he tried to start his own business, then he had some health problems, and now at age 60 he is being supported by his wife who commutes to the city. My friend Joe was forced into early retirement at age 57. His wife had gone back to work after the kids went to college. Joe became the house husband; his wife the bread winner -- until, now, Joe died last year at age 65, and his widow is still working but has been able to cut back to part time. Yet another friend took early retirement from the government after his wife landed a high-paying job in another city. Now he's fixing up their house (still) as she goes off to work every day.

     A few years ago, in 2012, Hanna Rosin came out with a book and TED Talk The End of Men, which argued that the era of male economic hegemony is gone for good. She pointed out that most of the jobs lost in the Great Recession were in male-oriented industries, while women working in health and education were not affected so much. According to the New York Times, today 12 of the 15 fastest growing professions are dominated by women.

     Meantime, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since 1970 female participation in the workforce has increased  from 43% to almost 60%, while male participation has gone down from 80% to 71%. And while older men still make up the majority of senior executives, today women in their 20s actually outearn men in their 20s. The tide has turned.

     A variation of this issue came up in our lives, when B was helping to run the charity auction at her church. She was looking for an auctioneer. "I think a man would be better," she mused, "but there aren't many men who come to church."

     "What about the elders?" I asked. I was thinking there must be at least one man among the group of elders who run the church.

    B paused.  "Actually, there aren't many men who are elders." She counted them up. "Gee, it used to be all men," she concluded. "Now there are hardly any." She gave me a significant look (as though it was my fault) and said, "Where are all the men?"

     I could only think that men, in large measure, are no longer in leadership roles, (okay, I get it, not in Congress, but isn't Congress behind the times in a lot of ways?) and in many cases no longer even working. Women have taken their place. Her boss, the director of the library, is a woman. So is the president of the library board of trustees. The PTA is run completely by women -- although men still dominate the volunteer fire department.

     It's no secret that the path to a good job is a good education. Today, more women than men go to college.  The college enrollment rate for high-school graduates is 72% for young women and 65% for young men -- the result is that 57% of undergraduate students are women.

     One Minnesota college admissions officer noted ruefully that the admissions pool had recently fallen to just 30% male. In the past year it had increased to 34% because, he admitted, "We actually did a little affirmative action."

     Meanwhile, women earn 63% of master's degrees and 54% of doctoral degrees. But hold on. Men do still "win out" in one category. Their high-school dropout rate is 10% compared to 7% for women.

     Currently some 80% of K-12 public school teachers are women. Perhaps one solution to male underemployment would be for men to enter the field of teaching, expanding their career opportunities and possibly helping today's young males make more of their school experience.

     None of this affects me directly. I don't need a job, and even though I take an adult-education class, I probably forget more than I learn. Yet I can't help but think how different the world is compared to when I started out -- let alone what it was for my parents.

     A lot of things have changed, mostly for the good. I have two children, a boy and a girl both in their early 30s. I just hope they both have equally good prospects for their careers -- and their lives.


Olga Hebert said...

I got a flu shot the other day. There are not that many men in my life, but I only know of two who have ever had a flu shot -- ever.

DJan said...

I haven't gotten my flu shot yet, but hubby already got his. He doesn't miss, but I hear you about how few men are willing to take care of their health. We are both retired now, but since I made more than him while working, my social security is twice his. If I die first, he'll get mine and his will drop away. It's a different world today, for sure. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Tom. :-)

gigihawaii said...

Well, men dominate the military. Very few women are generals or admirals, if any, and few women are in the front line. Well, women have their menses periods and what if they can't find a tampon while shooting at the enemy?

Celia said...

My kid's Dad declined to show up at the doctor's appointments I made for him after he became short winded and kind of gray in the face. He had a heart attack at work, sitting on the potty. That was the scariest thing that happened in our family. Your family cares about you please take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

My brother is a retired academic Veterinarian. He said there hasn’t been a male in the Vet School in years.

Rian said...

DH and I always get our flu shots each year - ever since I had the 'real' flu in 1997 and was sick for over a month. We will schedule ours this week. DH retired 2 years before me. But at the time I was only working part-time so it worked out well. That was almost 10 years ago. When I was in Animal Science (no Vet school there then), we only had 2 girls in Veterinary medicine.

Janette said...

Wow! Important post.
It is a new generation. The women in my life worked hard to make a level playing field. ALL people are necessary in an educated society. All skills, all levels. all races, all genders. I resent that one gender is put before another. Wrongs cannot be righted by punishment of a new generation, backward or forward.
In two years the PT test for the Army will be genderless- with skill level depending on job rather then age and gender. My Army son applauds that change. The entire student leadership at West Point this year is female. The Army is changing- as academics did ten years ago.

You asked where they are--here are some of my thoughts as a newly retired teacher:
Three out of four boys are diagnosed ADHD.
Autism is 16:1
Why is it diagnosed so early in boys?
Are we now saying that that hunter instincts are bad, and gatherers are good.
We are evolving--but evolution usually takes 1000's of years.

I will assure you that the majority of non religious homeschoolers pull their kids because their boys are failing.There are more children currently being homeschooled then in private schools! My daughter pulled her son because he was placed into a remedial group- in Kindergarten He was so defeated in Kindergarten he begged not to go to school daily. He is now a gifted , "A" student, in fifth grade in public school.

I have raised a man and a woman. I have three grandsons and three grand daughters. My classroom was very kinesthetic rather then visual (90% of teachers are visual learners). In turn, I was labeled a boys' teacher.. People are all not the same. People are individuals. I thought that is what we were trying to work towards in the 70's and 80's.

OTOH- my husband is way more on top of his health than I am. He retired early and started then. He is determined to make it to 100. I will be happy with 80.

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Tom Sightings said...

Hmmm, anyone else experiencing this image-loading problem? I'll try to check it out. Thanks for the heads up!

And to Olga's and DJan's comments. We can generalize all we want about male and female behavior, but there are always exceptions. Just f.y.i. I ask for directions. B does not!

Anonymous said...

Men can't even be Supreme Court Justices anymore. Nasty women are making sure of that. Trump even said that is he has to replace Brett, he'd do it with a woman.
Women no longer have to prove their cases. Looks like they can say anything they want and they'll be automatically believed. Look at all the men who have been replaced thanks to the nasty mouths of women: Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, Charles Rose and on and on and on. I don't think you men have a chance. The wrath of women are upon you.
Can you imagine, being 15 years old, going to a party knowing there will be older guys there, drinking beers, not knowing how you got there or how you got home (your parents did it) or where you are but then getting mentally upset for the next 36 years on the way you were treated.
Yeah, OK.
All you men are doomed.
Be thankful you men can still do some housework, so your life isn't totally wasted. Women don't even need intercourse with men to have children anymore. Once robots are put into the heavy work, men will become extinct. Looks like a Wonder Woman World to me.

Wisewebwoman said...

The disparity in lifetime earnings is a huge issue if women decide to contribute to the population, usually they do not resume their high earning capacity after a pregnancy. Borne out by stats.

Also 70% of male earnings is there in the lesser positions.

And yes, elected officials in the US and #metoo has a huge bearing on rights and freedoms.

And whatever happened to ERA?


Anonymous said...

Tom, this question of the future of men is serious. I'm on the board of trustees for a university in the South - this year's incoming class was 70% women. I'm honestly delighted for them, but where are the men?

Anonymous said...

This hits close to home for us (by the way thanks for the reminder for the flu shot). Early in our marriage, DH was the higher earner in our joint family (2nd marriage for both). He was let go from his long time job as an editorial illustrator for the local newspaper but was able to obtain similar employment, although an hour and a half away. Three years later, he was again downsized (let go) and was unable to find similar work as a graphic illustrator. He eventually found employment, in his mid-50's with TSA but after 5 years had to leave due to health issues. He stopped working at 59 with my support. My career took off throughout those years and I became the primary breadwinner. When his health took a turn, I assured him that we could make it on my salary alone (and we did) until he qualified for early Social Security. I have 2 adult children. My daughter is also the primary breadwinner in her home, although both work. My son earns good money as an editor in the film industry but the work is contractual so there is never any guarantee. His fiancee is a Physician's Assistant and it is her job that provides financial stability. I certainly hope the future will be kind to my grandson and granddaughter.

Salvador Ortega said...

I don't have adequate data/research to back this up, but it's likely that this phenomenon is correlated to the wealth/income redistributions that took place this century. Families need dads and moms (or if nontraditional- truly committed partners) to function optimally. Functional men are found in the upper income demographics and in ethnic communities that are thriving this century. They "get" the importance of family and legacy. Hanna Rosin's reality is not their reality. It certainly is not mine- I found the tone of her Atlantic article irritating. "The End of Men" as the triumph of women is just a lame concept.

Barbara said...

I haven't gotten my flu shot yet. I tend to react to them as I do with many drugs. The last time I got the shot, I got the flu anyway. My doctor said the flu shots that were given did not protect against the type of flu that struck that year. He explained that they (I'm not sure if it was the doctors or drug manufacturers) had to guess at the strains that were most likely to attack and that was the vaccine they prepared. Having said all that I always prepare for Hurricanes (thank you Harvey) so I'll probably bite the bullet and take the shot and suffer through the side effect.

Diane Dahli said...

Women seem to gravitate towards the 'caring' professions, and men to the occupations that require skill—I know that's a generalization, but it's a fair observation, I think. There are vastly more men than women in the 'tech' professions, and certainly in CEO positions. So the men are out there, working and contributing, but women seem to be in the forefront, working with people with everyday needs.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! Interesting question. And a lot of interesting answers too! As you say, women are still noticeably absent from most high leadership positions. And women still don't earn as much for the exact same job as men. But it IS changing--so men had better get used to it. But as evidenced this week with the "hearings" some are taking it VERY hard. ~Kathy

Snowbrush said...

Men still make a strong appearance at the Episcopal Church I started attending in June, but I think that what applies to men going to doctors generally does apply to men going to church. Even as a teenager when I was very religious, I had the sense that real men (i.e. macho men) didn't attend church. In my 46 year marriage, gender roles are often reversed. Peggy was the primary breadwinner and me the houseperson for most of our marriage; I go to doctors but have to coerce her (former nurse that she is) to go at all; and I go it church while she never does. Yet Peggy projects femininity, and I'm secure in my maleness.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your post Tom, always do. When I read your tag line "Why Men should behave more like Women" I thought it was yet another Judge Kavanaugh commentary on the differences between what women say vs what men say. Thank goodness your article is about the similarities we find between genders and not more of the differences.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

I got my flu shot. The guy I live with lost his job (in the movie business) when he turned 60. He decided to retire at 62 and has a pension. Since then, he's been hanging around the house. I've always worked freelance. I wish he would have found something else to do to keep busy and now he's in ill health. Men hanging around the house all day lose their sense of purpose. It's not a good thing.

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