Why Men Are Out

Sep 23, 1999 |John Thomas

Men are declining says Prof. Tiger. The question remians: Why?

A review of The Decline of Males, by Lionel Tiger, Ph.D.

Several weeks ago, my wife and I sat straining to hear a sermon, becoming deeply annoyed with the young fellow in the pew in front of us. My first inclination was to thump the back of this lad's uncombed head, recalling how well that tactic worked on me in such similar circumstances. This reluctant worshiper squiggled and squirmed and prattled and tugged and shifted and shuffled, while his poor grandmother did her level best to keep him settled. It was no use. She might as well have been roping an octopus. He simply could not sit still and be quiet.

In his new book The Decline of Males, Lionel Tiger argues that I should empathize with the little guy. According to Tiger, this pew-climber is simply trying to cope with his hunter/gatherer instincts, a man-in-the-making built for aggressive and dangerous activity, stuck in a world that no longer admires, nor even needs his services. Rather than sit and listen to someone espouse the benefits of propitiation, he'd frankly rather be chasing a wildebeest through the outback.

But these skills, believes Tiger, developed and passed down over millions of years of evolutionary adaptation, are now more a hindrance than help. He and the other members of his sex are square pegs trying to live in a round-hole world, where men no longer hunt and protect; they sit quietly in their cubicles and pews and classrooms — frustrated, resentful, demoralized and confused — relics of a bygone era.

Best known for his research on male bonding and author of Men in Groups (1969), Tiger has now turned his attention to the male demise in post-industrial society. The Decline of Males analyzes the "pattern of growth in the confidence and power of women, and of erosion in the power of men."

The View From Down Here

Tiger's not part of Promise Keepers, nor did he pay tribute to the Southern Baptist position statement on wives "graciously submitting" to their husbands. It might surprise you that he is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University, an evolutionist who echoes what Christians have been concerned about for many years. Men are on the decline. Their role in society, and in the family, is less clear than ever before.

According to Tiger, the key to explaining this erosion is not the influence of feminist activist groups or equal rights legislation or a decline in family values. The reason men are on the decline is because they've not been "equipped" for a society that values money over muscle. Evolution did not prepare them, he believes, for a world of white-collar needs.

Tiger offers numerous examples as proof that the power and influence of men are on the decline. Women as a group are working more and earning more. Men are working less and earning less. More women than at any time in history are having (and rearing) children without men, and as a result, more men than ever before are without the love of families. In 1998, for the first time in the United States, young women completed high school and graduated college at higher rates than their male peers. The growth of jobs for women now outpaces that of males. The number of men in full-time employment is falling by about 1 million per year.

"A fundamental change in the lives of men and women has flowed from a striking new reality," says Tiger. "It has overtaken us altogether. Once upon a time many, if not most, women could expect to secure some education, then perhaps work for a few years. Thereafter they would marry and have children. Forever after they would be part of a family supported by a husband who would supply virtually all his earnings until he died ... There was no thought that men were being exploited because they had to work or that women were being deprived because they didn't. It was life's deal. Dwellings, time, resources and a sense of life's meaning were shared."

But no longer. Tiger says the power is shifting from males to females. In the mid 1990's women earned 7.6 percent more than they did in 1979, while men earned 14 percent less than they did then. Women, on average, now earn 40 percent of the family income. Working outside the home is perceived as more prestigious for women than being a homemaker. And they're making this choice in droves. Meanwhile the majority of college students in the United States and Canada are women, a trend that has profound implications for tomorrow's workforce and family life.

But the most significant shift has been in the area of sexual power, driven by the introduction of the birth control pill. The pill changed everything, says Tiger. For the first time, one sex was able to control reproduction. The pill "moved the [reproductive] power to women" by giving them authority over whether the sexual experience would have reproductive consequences, effectively leaving men in the dark. When one gender is solely in control of reproduction, says Tiger, that sex controls the most important function in life.

And for Tiger, an evolutionist, life is ultimately explained by biology. She who controls the biological forces is in the driver's seat. This leaves men greatly confused about their responsibility in the area of sexual relations and reproduction. Is she or is she not on the pill? A man can never truly know. He is powerless. If she does not need nor want his seed, she can discard it. If his seed is needed, she can use it without his knowledge. Over time, his importance as a character in the plot fades, and he moves into the shadows, hearing the message that life can be done without him, thank you very much.

And increasingly, life is being done without him. Tiger calls this ever-growing form of "family" structure "bureaugamy" — a family consisting of a mother, a child and a bureaucrat. The male in his fundamental, biological role, as provider and protector, is no longer needed. A government worker has replaced him.

Beyond Evolution

Tiger believes the issue is simply biological, that the introduction of birth control, has caused tremors in the natural process of evolution. "As Darwin theorized, what created our nature today was the sexual behavior in which we engaged over countless yesterdays ..."

But Tiger's view cannot explain why fathers shirk their duty. He can't explain why deadbeat dads harm society. He can't account for the studies that have shown how important dads are to the well being of their children. And it is no coincidence that the large majority of those who populate our prisons are sons who never knew their fathers. Any glance at the inner city demonstrates what happens to society when men reject their design and turn away from family and community responsibilities. The fallout from male decline is very unnatural.

When men embrace their roles as faithful husbands and loving fathers, then wives, children and communities flourish. Just ask a woman whose husband has lived with courage and integrity. When men reject their design, when they believe the feminist lie that males are effectively no different than females and that a man offers nothing unique to the gender equation, then children are harmed, families are fractured, and communities are weakened. Just ask a single mom.

I'm happy that Tiger is willing to acknowledge that males are in decline. It's too bad he doesn't understand what it means.

Copyright © 1999 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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