"Manning Up" Unlikely For Twenty-Somethings
Kay Hymowitz, The author of "Manning Up" says that today in the U.S., there is a society of "pre-adults." Men party and play, while women in their 20s and 30s are out-performing, out-earning and out-maturing men, leading to "relationship mismatch, miscommunication, misery, and more business for sperm banks."
GUEST: Kay Hymowitz, author of "Manning Up: How the Rise of women Has Turned men Into Boys
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CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The phrase man up has recently become a favorite among female conservative Republicans who generally use it as a challenge to what they see as lilly livered democratic lawmaking. So the term seems to be both an empowering statement for strong willed women, and a reaffirmation of gender stereotypes all rolled up in one. The new book, manning up, takes the idea a step further. Into the realm explored by the Peter pan syndrome. Looking into the reasons why some young men seem to be going through an extended adolescent. Of and where that leaves young women who want to start families with them. I'd like to introduce my guest, Kay Hymowitz is author of manning up, how the rise of women has turned men into boys. And Kay, good morning.
HYMOWITZ: Good morning.
CAVANAUGH: We invite our listeners to join the conversation. What does the term man up mean to you? Do you think --
HYMOWITZ: Well --
CAVANAUGH: No, no, no. I'm asking our listeners, Kay. I'll ask you in a minute. Do you think many young men become stuck in adolescence? Give us a call with your questions and your comments, the number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Now, Kay, you say a new sociological phenomenon has emerged in this country which you call preadulthood. What is preadulthood?
HYMOWITZ: Preadulthood is the period that usually -- where in the past, young men and women would have been married but now are single and delaying their marriage and child bearing, and even delaying their entrance into the labor market because of schooling. So the twenties and the early thirties, some sociologists refer to it as emerging adulthood. I prefer the term preadulthood for reasons that should become clear during our conversation. Of.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. And the past, you refer to, I would emergency is the earlier part of the 20th century, not necessarily the renaissance?
HYMOWITZ: Well, the past I'm referring to is the more immediate past which is the middle of the 20th century. In the western world, it's true that people have often married in their late twenties. Of but this is the first time ever -- well, number one, that we're at a historically high numbers. The average rate for men is 28, and for women, 26. And for the college educated group that I'm writing about, it's considerably higher. It's in 30 and 28. And higher even still for people who are getting graduate degrees. They're marrying well into their thirties. And what that does is create this new demographic, this new period of life, that marketers have been very delighted about. And one of the things I mentioned in the book is that there are a lot of shows that have suddenly appeared in the early 90s, Seinfeld, Friends, and those sorts of shows, which were all about this age group. And indeed they loved watching themselves as we all do.
CAVANAUGH: Right. Now, is it your premise that this sort of preadulthood syndrome affects mostly men?
HYMOWITZ: No. It affects women too. The difference between men and women as I describe it is that women have this inherent limit to their preadulthood. And certainly by the time they reach their late twenties, and definitely by their early thirties, if they have not settled down, and married and settled down, assuming that they will eventually, they look around and realize that they don't have forever. There is this implicit time ending to their preadulthood. Men don't have that. And I have had any number of men say to me, well, why do I have to even be thinking about this? I could be well into my thirties or 40s even before I marry. Of what's the difference? Because they don't have the biological clock.
CAVANAUGH: And you're speaking primarily about women who want to have children.
HYMOWITZ: Yeah, and according to surveys that's about 80 plus percent. Men and women, by the way. So I'm talking about the vast majority of American young people.
CAVANAUGH: And what demographics have you used in this book? Are you talking primarily about whit middle class men and women?
HYMOWITZ: The book is really about college educated people. It is mostly about white for this reason. The gap between male and female college graduation is even considerably higher than it is for whites and has been for some time. And the kinds of issues they're dealing with are a little bit different, I think. So it is primarily about whites, I think it's applicable to blacks in certain cases. But it is mostly about college educated, middle and upper middle class kids.
CAVANAUGH: I am speaking can Kay Hymowitz, she's the author of manning up, how the rise of women has turned men into boys. And we're inviting our listeners to join this conversation. What does the term man up mean to you? Do you think many young men have become stuck in a sort of perpetual adolescence so to speak? The number here is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Emery is calling us from La Jolla. Good morning, Emery, and welcome to These Days. Of.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning.
NEW SPEAKER: You requested what manning up what mean.
NEW SPEAKER: I'm saying from a boy from the south, it definitely means stepping up to the plate and removing yourself from the comfort zone that is childhood.
CAVANAUGH: And how do men do that these days.
NEW SPEAKER: Well, I think it's kind of hard in today's society. It seems like I've watched a cultural shift occur while I was going through school. Of in that at one point in time, you stepped up, graduate high school, you either go to a trade school, you go to college, you become a professional. But now it seems like culturally, parents are paying for college, kids are just meandering through life, they're not pushing themselves, they're not feeling the pressure to really expand and grow in life and become a young professional, which usually leads to, you know, the family life after becoming a young professional. Now it just seems like what I see and what I've noticed in college is that people are more interested in it wasting college years partying and so on down the line.
CAVANAUGH: Emery, thank you so much for the call. And I'd like to get your response to that, Kay.
HYMOWITZ: Well, there is a gap here between men and women. Women are 57 percent of the college graduates right now. Of they are also dominating the graduate schools. So if this is this period where people are partying and not taking their lives very seriously, I think it's more common among men than women. Although you do see a lot of women certainly in their early twenties who are a little lost, not sure where they're going. But in general, my observation is, and what I try to describe in the book, is that women have it a little bit more together than guys during this period, this very ill defined period of preadulthood. Of and remember that people used to have a kind of script that they followed. Of they knew what it meant to grow up, how you reached adulthood, you -- and generally, it was associated with getting married and having children. Now that's quite optional. And even if you intend to get married and have children, it can be way off in the distant future.
CAVANAUGH: So how do you think this phenomenon started? You write that -- in your book, manning up, you write that beginning in the 1980s, the economic advantage of having a college education greatly increased. So how did this affect young men and women.
HYMOWITZ: Well, the mere fact that so many more people were going to college, and even more remarkable, so many more people were going to postgraduate school or getting professional training, meant that you were not going to be ready to settle down. You were gonna put off settling down. Now, it used to be that people did marry even if, let's say the husband was going to medical school or law school, and the wife worked for a while. But these days, of course, with women also going to medical school and law school, that books a little bit more problematic, and people are not interested in settling down for that reason. Also so many of the careers available to young people that are interesting to them require a lot of moving. You may have to move from city to city, you may have to move abroad for a while. I know an awful lot of kids who are going to London for a year or two, or Hong Kong or something like that. So that's a difficult time to be attached to a husband or wife or children if you are having to move around so much.
CAVANAUGH: We have another caller on the line. We are taking your calls and asking you ask to join this conversation at 1-888-895-5727. John's calling from La Jolla. Good morning, John, and welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thank you. It's actually more a comment than a question. I'm a clinical psychologist and I work a lot with men's issues, and men's psychology, and I definitely see a lot of young men these days kind of floating and not really knowing what they want to do with their lives or how to sort of apply themselves. And one of the theories in men's psychology is that there's been this change in terms of father hood and what their fathers do for a living, things like that. And for many years, fathers have been kind of going off to some sort of, you know, job that the kids maybe don't understand, they don't get to see, and therefore they don't get the modeling of what it is to be a man, and what the men do when they go off to work. And that leaves a lot of people just really not having any good idea of what they might be able to do.
CAVANAUGH: So there are no models that seem to be relevant nowadays do you mean?
NEW SPEAKER: Yeah. And there's actually some books and articles on kind of the fatherless America, what's what they call it. Not in the sense that the fathers aren't there, but just that they're not known exactly what they do. And so therefore it's harder for young men these days to grow up and think, I want to do that. That's what my dad did, that makes sense to me, I could see myself doing that. Of it's just this kind of gap in terms of --
CAVANAUGH: That's very interesting, John, thanks so much for the call. You know, several years ago, the take your daughters to workday became take your kids to workday, basically, both boys and girls. Kay, do you think that might make a difference?
HYMOWITZ: Well, I would actually take issue with one thing that John said. I don't think it's so much that the fathers were not around. I mean, after all, fathers have been working outside the house for probably about a hundred years now. What is different is the massive changes in the economy. I have a section in the book where I describe jobs that exist today that didn't exist ten years ago or 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago. So a lot of parents are not in a position to really give that much clear advice to their kids about their futures, not because the fathers aren't around but because the economy is so complicated and so changed. So just to give you a few examples, think of all of the jobs connected to the Internet now. And to software engineering and to video game creation and I could go on and on. These didn't exist before. Of the entertainment industry is much larger than it ever was. There are so many more positions and levels of bureaucracy between those organizations. Of how do you plan that you want to be a -- let's say a diversity administrator at a college? These are all new positions and nobody knows how to prepare for them.
THE COURT: You know, I think it would be wise of us at this point to talk a little bit more about exactly the kind of preadults, the young men's lives that you're addressing in the book, manning up. Can you tell us a little bit about the lifestyle that you're talking about? How did these young men differ from perhaps young men 50 years ago? How do they socialize? What is it that they engage in that perhaps other generations didn't?
HYMOWITZ: Right. Well, another thing that separates the preadults from earlier young people is the explosion of entertainment media that I just referred to. And there's been this real fragmentation in that media, and it's provided young men in particular with a -- all kinds of outlets for their free time that never existed before. In addition to video games, which I also mentioned before, the cable news networks now -- not cable news, I'm sorry. The cable networks now have disbursed enough so that you have a number of networks that are just for young men, there's Spike TV for instance, these kinds of things didn't exist before. Now, something like Spike comes on the air, they want to attract young men, this very demographic I'm talking about, and so they try to figure out how to give them the most pleasure. And they come up with something like one of the first shows on that network was called Babe Hunt. And the Babe Hunt was a matter of looking at two pictures of nearly naked women and deciding, you know, how they differed or something like that. So when you have that kind of shift in the media where not only was there an attempt to really appeal men but the coarsening of the culture I think was also intensified by this shift because everybody -- the competition between these various networks intensified. So you have the video games, you have the cable news, you have maxim magazine which appeared on American shores in the mid90s. All of that shifted the expectations of young men for what -- how to spend their free time. And what was permissible in terms of how they spoke to women or how they spoke to their bosses, even. A lot of managers are complaining about this generation of men and women, actually, for their manners.
CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Kay Hymowitz, author of manning up, and we're inviting you to join the conversation at 1-888-895-5727. Chris is calling from La Jolla. Good morning, Chris, and welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Gorge, I'm happy to be on the air. I just -- I'm a 25-year-old graduate student the UCSD, and I think part of this conversation is part of the larger conversation about generation Y and how sort of stereotypically lazy we are. And I don't know, I think that that's a miscalculation. I think we've just experienced very different circumstances where, like the caller said, you know, we don't have a script anymore. We have additional pressures with the economy to get more education. So I don't -- I think that this criticism that we're lazy or we enjoy video games might be misplaced. And maybe we're just trying to find or own path in this very unscripted universe. And I guess I'm finding it a little sense of where maybe even like the older generations are sort of picking on us to live a life that doesn't exist anymore. And I guess I'll take my comment off the air. I appreciate it.
CAVANAUGH: Chris, thanks so much. And I have to tell you, we do have to take a short break, Kay. When we return, I'll give you a chance to respond to what Chris said. And we'll take more calls about your book, manning up. And you're listening to These Days on KPBS.
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, you're listening to These Days on KPBS. I'm speaking with my guest, Kay Hymowitz, she's the author of a book called Manning Up, how the rise of women has turned men into boys. And the book is also about the idea that some young men seem to be going through an extended adolescence. And we are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Getting back to our last caller, Kay, I'm wondering -- he was making the point that not only didn't he like the idea that he was -- he was getting some unfair criticism, he thought, but there's no script in place. Now that the world has changed, now that centuries of male dominance in many, many areas of life has been whittled away, are we offering men any new models of maturity?
HYMOWITZ: Well, I completely agree with Chris that there are additional pressures now. And I have quite a long section in the book about this new economy. Not the recessionary economy which raises a whole other set of issues. But just the complications that I briefly alluded to before about figuring out what kind of career you want to have. I think also people are expected to work extremely hard these days in their jobs when they're young, in particular, it seems to me that the management often puts a lot of pressure on younger workers. So I agree that it's not a lazy generation. I don't see that either, I haven't seen -- I've raised three kids in this generation, and I -- they worked far, far harder than I ever did.
HYMOWITZ: At their age. How far, there is this subgroup of, you know, think of this kind of lost boys, [CHECK] men who really are unclear, that in the earlier caller, the clinical psychologist also referred to. Of as Chris did admit, the lack of a script really makes it tough. And that script really started to fall apart with the -- with the change in our attitudes towards marriage, I think. Because marriage in every human culture has been associated with adulthood. That's no longer the case. And I think for a lot of men, the idea of becoming part of a family seems so distant and so optional, you know? We really have said to men in the past several decades, well, it's nice to have a man around, it's real good for the kids and all, but we can do it alone. We women can do it alone. And a lot of them are.
CAVANAUGH: I'm wondering, instead of going back to the past and trying to dust off a script that perhaps doesn't work anymore, do you have any advice in your book for building a new script? A new way that men and women can, you know, fulfill their potential and their adulthood without necessarily going back to the past?
HYMOWITZ: Well, look. There's no way we're going back to early marriage. It's not possible. It's not even ideal, given that there's plenty of evidence that people who marry at 25 or a little bit older are more likely to have successful and happy marriages. So I would never want to go back to marrying -- recommend people going back to marrying in their early twenties of that's fine. But I do think that we, parents, and I'm one of them, have put so much emphasis on career, so much time spent on achievement and schooling and thinking about getting ahead, and finding that career, making that big career. And this is for both women and men. Of but women in particular that I think we sometimes have left out the other major task of young adulthood, this preadulthood, which is to figure out our personal lives as well. And assuming that you are expecting to get married and have children, and as I said before, the surveys suggest that the large majority of us -- of young people do. It's probably something you should be treating more seriously, even in your twenties issue even if you're not expected to marry when you're very -- in that age. But just to be taking that dating and mating scene more seriously.
CAVANAUGH: 1-888-895-5727 is the number. Jordan is on the line from San Diego. Good morning, Jordan. Kyla, sorry, Kyla is calling from downtown. Good morning, Kyla.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, Maureen, I'd just like to say I love your show.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much.
NEW SPEAKER: I am very curious the author's research about manning up is something, the question of manhood, has always been thrown around in the African American community. And I wanted to know if there's any research in her book that speaks to that specifically. Or any research that she's working on. And what are her thoughts on the economy and this lack of a role model, as it, you know, creates manhood to African American men and generation Y. So it's a fusion of all those points, I'd just like to get her perspective on that.
CAVANAUGH: Kay, can you take that? Thank you Kyla.
HYMOWITZ: Sure. As I mentioned before, this book is actually not so much about the black experience. I have written before about it in my earlier book called marriage and caste in America. I have a great deal about the black family. Not so much specific about manhood, although there is a chapter in there about it. But I suppose that I would say that I think the marriage rate among -- the birth rate among blacks is now 72 percent, and 72 percent of children, black children are born to unmarried mothers. Of and the vast majority of those children will have erratic contact with their fathers. Or even if it's regular, it won't be that frequent. And I say, I would argue that that is a recipe for deep confusion about one's manhood. Because I think when you grow up in a home where men are just not necessary and man are disappearing, I think it reinforces a certain kind of fecklessness, and I responsible, and a lack of future orientation. I mean, one thing you want to say to your kids is you should be thinking about your future. You should be thinking about who you're going to be, what kind of career you're gonna have, who you're going to marry and settle down with. But I think when you grow up in a home where there is no male models for that, you're going to have a lot of difficulties. And I think that's the -- I don't have the exact number in my head at the moment, but the number of black women, the percentage of black women going to college is far, far ahead of men. And the men really just are not doing as well in school. I think in part because they have lost this sense of purpose.
CAVANAUGH: We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Of Ruth is calling from San Diego, good morning, Ruth, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, and yes, you're right. Your program is really educational and I really pick up a lot of [CHECK].
CAVANAUGH: Thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: The conversation right now, the topic right now, yeah, her demographics is between, like, 30, twenties or midtwenties up to thirties. But I've met several men who are in their early '40s and late '40s, but they're still, like, in their preadult hoot. They don't know what to do. They don't want to settle down. I mean, does he have this age bracket where he did his survey or the demographic study, did she consider why there are men in their late '40s that still, like, doesn't want to settle down. And they don't know what to do. Of and they don't have this idea of the basic, what do you call it? The basic.
CAVANAUGH: Urge to start a family?
NEW SPEAKER: Yeah, yes. And having a family.
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Ruth. Let me ask that. So Kay, can this go on well beyond a person's thirties then?
HYMOWITZ: Well, I do hear stories like this from a number of women. So I suppose it's out there. You know, I mentioned before that human cultures have always associated marriage with adulthood. That was particularly the case for men. Look, women just by their very nature, because they do produce the babies and can nurse the babies, are in a very different mind set than men. I think that men have to -- and again, judging from anthropologist and human history and a little bit of evolutionary science as well, men need to be kind of brought into the family. And encouraged by the culture, not just as individuals, but by the culture, to do so. And I -- I think that this is a culture that is very ambiguous about men and very, you know, very happy -- or frequently saying that men are as I said before, optional.
CAVANAUGH: Let's take another call. Ray is calling from La Jolla. Good morning, ray, welcome to These Days.
NEW SPEAKER: Good morning. Very interesting. Of I'm a little older probably than most of your callers, and many of your listeners. So maybe there's some perspective on this. And I think historical -- two historical points ought to be brought into the discussion. First that our culture has changed from an agrarian culture at the beginning of this century when the majority of people lived on farms and ranches, and in keeping with your previous caller that said that role models are missing, every boy saw his father out there and was brought into the participation in responsibility every day to fetch the wood and help with things and he saw what his father and his mother were doing. We don't. We're citified now, like the previous caller said, the psychologist, we don't see that. So that's a big factor, I think in irresponsibility of young people. They don't see what should be done. Secondly, the pill.
NEW SPEAKER: The pill led to a tremendous amount of irresponsibility. Just think what it used to mean. Of the fear of pregnancy which is often no longer there. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, ray. Kay?
HYMOWITZ: Do you want me to comment on that?
CAVANAUGH: Yes, please.
HYMOWITZ: As for the agrarian world, that again, you're talking a very very long long ago. And certainly by mid-century United States, mid-20th century, we're already an increasingly urban society -- suburban and urban society. So I think that that explanation for what's going on right now is maybe a little tenuous. The and we should be focused more on what I've described as the knowledge economy, this very complex and difficult economy to negotiate. The other point that Ray made is the -- I'm sorry about the pill.
CAVANAUGH: About the pill, yes.
HYMOWITZ: I lost it for a minute. Yeah, look, the sexual revolution changed -- changed everything. And it did, you know, the good part is it saved women from so much lack of control over -- or gave women so much more control over their lives. And I certainly would never want to give that up. But I also -- but ironically, and nobody ever would have predicted this, it already -- it also loosened men's obligations to women. And that's part of I think what the caller is referring to. Of so if a guy was having sex with a young woman, and he knew that pregnancy was not only possible but his responsibility, that was a very maturing kind of thought, you know?
HYMOWITZ: That forced you to really think hard about your life and yourself. And that is, of course, not necessary anymore. And it is something that I think has in some ways made the relationships between the sexes complicated in directions that we just never could have imagined.
CAVANAUGH: I want to just ask you in closing, we have about a minute left, Kay. There's something about this thesis that to me seems like trying to put the genie back into the bottle. Things have changed, society has changed. Maybe we should find now models for both men and women to advance society rather than trying to get, you know, coeds to think more about having babies.
HYMOWITZ: You know, look, that's what people want. Well, a couple things in response to what you're saying, number one, this book is really more descriptive. It's not proscriptive. I'm not giving people advice about how to live. And I completely agree with you that early marriage and early child bearing is not in the cards and shouldn't be. However, most human beings will want to settle down in a family. I mean, particularly in the United States, we are very mobile and scattered people. And we do rely on family life to give us a sense of rootedness and connection to both the past and the future. So I don't see that going away. Also, I should remind you that we know from all of the research out there that children, the next generation of children, are going to do much better, if they grow up with their stably connected mother and father.
HYMOWITZ: So how do we create those circumstances to produce the next generation so they could also enjoy their preadulthood?
CAVANAUGH: Excellent way to end it. Thank you, Kay Hymowitz so much.
HYMOWITZ: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: Kay Hymowitz is the author of manning up, how the rise of women has turned men into boys. You can comment at KPBS.org/These Days.