Gizmodo: Nope, Men don’t have to worry about becoming extinct

I’m not a big science person — if anything, I’m a social science nerd — but this Gizmodo post intrigued me. The snark in the Gawker media family gets tiresome, but every now and then, they have a good find:

For a long time, biologists have predicted that the Y chromosome—the DNA that makes men men—was gradually dying out, and that it would eventually lead to the extiniction of the male of the species. Fortunately, a team of researchers has proven that isn’t the case.

It used to be, a long time ago, that the X and Y chromosomes were the same size and shape. Then, about 166 million years ago, a huge chunk of the Y chromosome was turned upside down and reinserted. Nobody quite knows why. Since, the Y chromosome has lost 781 of the 800 genes it originally shared with the X chromosome, all thanks to mutation. It’s this which led to speculation that it would eventually disappear.

But according to research from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that’s not the case. A team of researchers has compared the human Y chromosome to that of the rhesus macaque – a primate that diverged from humans around 25 million years ago. The monkey’s Y chromosome contains just 20 genes, and 19 of them are identical to those of the human Y.

Phew! What a relief. Dear dudes: Do not become extinct. That is not what we want. This is just a note to your DNA, apparently.

The new anti-man movement

Critiquing men and manhood is not declaring war, but since there are millions of single women — more than single men — in America, I have been turning this over in my head for a little while now.

Nicole Jonson wrote a few months ago at The Good Men Project that women should stop declaring war on men:

There is not a war between men and women. From my vantage point, there are not battles, bombings, or bloodshed between the sexes. Men and women are not plotting carnage against each other. Furthermore, men are too smart to declare war on women.
Most men understand they can not survive without women. Ladies, can you say the same about men? I hope so. The truth is we would die without each other.
If there is any type of “war” going on it’s the new anti-men movement. To the ladies waging this campaign against men, I’m begging you, please: drop your weapons. You are fighting a losing battle, and ultimately, you are harming yourself and the female gender. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you need men; you can’t live without men. Moreover, I believe a portion of your disdain for men stems from internal strife and discontent.
Labels are limiting and lugubrious. We label people as a way to contain them, as well as to create a consistent, pre-determined expectation. This is tremendously unfair…
Degrees of inequalities will always exist between the sexes. Ladies, stop fighting this truth. Concentrate on your strengths, and address the internal battle with yourself before declaring men the enemy.

Because there has been a lot of talk about the Republican War on Women, in Texas and elsewhere, I wondered what others thought about the idea that there is a new strain of anti-man writing in our society. I think that patriarchy as we have always known it is starting to flatten like other hierarchies (the economy, corporations, education) in part because of deindustrialization. As that has happened, the definition of manhood has shifted, so that it cannot solely depend on women, children and job status as a man’s sole indicator of how manly he is.

In this transition, it seems that men have become vulnerable to being categorized as good men and bad men in most media coverage, with little room for the average guy. Does it seem that way to you?

Mancession or He-Covery?

I really did intend to get to this sooner, but it’s the kind of news that doesn’t get old.

I wonder what other people make of the words we make up to describe economic trends: Mancession. The End of Men. He-Covery.

This Jezebel blog had me cracking up:

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 2/3 of new hires by American companies were men. A total of 1.6 million dudes joined the workforce compared to just 600,000 women, re-widening the gap between men and women in the workforce, which means that everyone lamenting the death of the American man can just go right on ahead and shut up.
In October 2009, women comprised 49.99% of the workforce, a breath of a hair of an itty bitty thread away from being half of Americans in the workforce. Part of this illusory equality was brought on by the gendered nature of the industries overwhelmingly affected by the recession in the first place. As the recession plodded along, the jobs in traditionally male industries like construction didn’t return, and unemployment benefits started to run out. And we now appear to be moving away from gender parity once again; threatened with impending expiration of any form of aid or income, some men did the unthinkable— debase themselves enough to work women’s jobs like- gasp!- retail.

What I find fascinating about discussions around masculinity now, seriously, is that there are few stories focusing on older men and women — past well into their 40s and 50s, but not yet old enough to qualify for retirement benefits — who have to take any kind of job to make ends meet.

The way we’ve talked about the economy up to this point has been focused on the way work has become more feminine or woman-focused, despite the fact that men still make more money and hold more of the decision-making positions in society. I feel like that has to fuel some of the resentment that men have about single women. The only thing I really have to go on is the snowballing number of articles about women as breadwinners and men as stay-at-home dads or irritated jobless jerks.

I wonder if the War on Women here in Texas and across the country is related to women’s success during America’s economic downturn. Something about women being free to make decisions about their own bodies, whether they actually have money or not, tends to really piss off wealthy white dudes, I’ve noticed. “Those broads have too much independence, while the bros are struggling,” I can hear one of these guys muttering.

The New York Times & births outside of marriage

I cannot abide people who blame the media for society’s ills. I worked as a newspaper reporter for a decade & I mostly kept my temper under control against waves of ignorant commenters, racist readers and the like. I would almost always go off on people who talked mess about the media, though. This is a disclaimer, because I am irritated by this New York Times piece about births outside of marriage. It reinforces stereotypes about black women while essentially underscoring that while “middle America” — meaning middle class white people — is starting to live more like how people of color in working class and poor communities have been living for generations now. Instead of them becoming ostracized (like in the good old days?) as they do so, they are creating ” a new normal.” The piece  reaches back to the 1965 Moynihan Report that referred to the dysfunctional, matriarchal black family (shaped so by slavery, I might add) as one that had produced “a tangle of pathology”:

It used to be called illegitimacy. Now it is the new normal. After steadily rising for five decades, the share of children born to unmarried women has crossed a threshold: more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.

Once largely limited to poor women and minorities, motherhood without marriage has settled deeply into middle America. The fastest growth in the last two decades has occurred among white women in their 20s who have some college education but no four-year degree, according to Child Trends, a Washington research group that analyzed government data.
Among mothers of all ages, a majority — 59 percent in 2009 — are married when they have children. But the surge of births outside marriage among younger women — nearly two-thirds of children in the United States are born to mothers under 30 — is both a symbol of the transforming family and a hint of coming generational change.
One group still largely resists the trend: college graduates, who overwhelmingly marry before having children. That is turning family structure into a new class divide, with the economic and social rewards of marriage increasingly reserved for people with the most education.
“Marriage has become a luxury good,” said Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

OK, so that’s all fairly innocuous. It takes a little while before we are reminded just what, exactly, is inferred by illegitimacy. Also, there is a coded mancession/masculinity-crisis swipe that I’ll let you find for yourself. Only educated men seem normal in this piece, and there aren’t that many of them. I find it interesting that the piece focuses on Lorain, Ohio, the birthplace of Toni Morrison, who I believe is a divorced single mother. This was published on her birthday, ironically.

Anyway, the piece goes on to say, women went to work, single motherhood lost its stigma and in the meantime, people stopped getting married and children happened. So, what’s my problem? The juicy stuff is here:

The recent rise in single motherhood has set off few alarms, unlike in past eras…
By the mid-1990s, such figures looked quaint: a third of Americans were born outside marriage. Congress, largely blaming welfare, imposed tough restrictions. Now the figure is 41 percent — and 53 percent for children born to women under 30, according to Child Trends, which analyzed 2009 data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Still, the issue received little attention until the publication last month of “Coming Apart,” a book by Charles Murray, a longtime critic of non-marital births.
Large racial differences remain: 73 percent of black children are born outside marriage, compared with 53 percent of Latinos and 29 percent of whites. And educational differences are growing. About 92 percent of college-educated women are married when they give birth, compared with 62 percent of women with some post-secondary schooling and 43 percent of women with a high school diploma or less, according to Child Trends.

Almost all of the rise in nonmarital births has occurred among couples living together. While in some countries such relationships endure at rates that resemble marriages, in the United States they are more than twice as likely to dissolve than marriages. In a summary of research, Pamela Smock and Fiona Rose Greenland, both of the University of Michigan, reported that two-thirds of couples living together split up by the time their child turned 10.

I don’t argue with hard numbers, but I am annoyed at the lack of any kind of alternative family structure attempt in the analysis here. No same sex families, no single fathers, just single black moms and other ethnic groups that are too much like them. The story essentially reinforces stereotypes it seeks to disprove through reminding us — though those of us who are “illegitimate” might disagree — that pretty much anything that happens outside of marriage is bad news.  Instead of posing more questions about cultural preferences, or even mentioning Ralph Richard Banks’ book about marriage (which more delicately reinforces some of the statistical data here) this piece aims at painting a portrait of women who are content to damage themselves for the “luxury good” that is marriage and alter their children’s futures in the process.

Guest Post: You deserve your love & affection

My favorite thing about the Internet is that you sometimes find kindred spirits across the vast universe that is cyberspace. In Katina Hubbard, I found a writer who blogs/writes thoughtfully and insightfully about women’s self-love and value. She wrote this lovely guest post that I wanted to share with you guys as we prepare to celebrate love this week. Enjoy!

By Katina Hubbard, Women Well Loved

My mom erroneously taught me that taking care of other people is the surest way to take care of myself. So that’s what I did. I treat my boyfriend better than I treat myself. I will not let him be taken advantage of. If he’s sick, I’ll stop everything to take care of him. I make sure he’s got three vegetables on his plate at every meal. And what do I eat when he’s gone? Luna bars, chips and salsa, sea salt caramels…
What makes this notion so ridiculous is that the majority of us humanoids aren’t selfless enough to hold up this facade for very long. I know I’m not. There’s a limited amount of time that I can put others’ needs before my own. Pretty soon my well runs dry and I’m tempted to point fingers at everyone who I’ve been giving, giving, giving to while depriving myself of myself.
Unfortunately, I’m not alone with this. Many women I know are learning to balance taking care of ourselves with taking care of other people.
My best friend and I haven’t lived in the same place since our first summer out of college when we shared a bedroom without air conditioning in her professor’s apartment on the Upper West Side. Our living conditions have improved but now we have to stay in touch via phone and text.
Quite often, she calls and asks me a hundred thoughtful, personal questions. How was the interview? Did you have the new dress altered? What did he get you for your birthday? What did your mom say? How do you feel? Here are a dozen helpful suggestions for everything you’re going through… She’s being incredibly sweet and understanding but I started to realize that this was her sign that something was wrong.
She was giving me help because SHE NEEDED HELP. She was taking care of me instead of taking care of herself. I’d interrupt her and say, “What’s going on in your life?” Even if she wasn’t ready to talk about whatever she was going through, I could empower her by saying: “You seem like you need some help right now, you deserve to get it.” She’s so good at taking care of other people, she’ll do it even when she’s got nothing left.
Part of it is societal. The other part is in our DNA: men protect and defend, women provide and nourish. That works well when we’ve got 9 kids running around and an attack from rebel tribes is imminent.  Today, however, most of us are privileged to have the freedom to be more than the female of the species – we can be wholly and uniquely who we are.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection.” – Buddha
Women have hearts capable of limitless love, devotion, and sacrifice. Therefore we must protect our most powerful asset. We must hold each other accountable to ourselves. Single or married, rich or poor, men or women, let us make a list of our needs and work to achieve them. Let us hold each other accountable to our dreams. Let us hold each other when we need to be held.
I can’t afford to put my own needs aside for the good of a few people around me. There is too much to do this lifetime.
The world needs us as our whole selves.
Check out more from Katina Hubbard at http://www.womenwellloved.com

Who are men, anyway?

I read this piece by Ken Solin at The Good Men Project and it got me thinking:

The only rites most men in our culture experience are religious rituals like confirmation and bar mitzvah that many of us in the audience had undergone as intended introductions to manhood. But they paled in comparison. For me—and I suspect for many others—they were empty gestures, rote recitation of ancient Latin or Hebrew that required no comprehension, commitment to principles, or courage. We hadn’t overcome any physical or emotional challenge that would change our lives forever. No wonder guys are so fucked up, I realized. No one’s teaching us to behave like men. And how can we become men if we have no idea what that means?

 

When I was a little girl, boys wore blue. They played football and played with G.I. Joe dolls. In the invisible legion of girls I rolled with, we were supposed to be dainty and wear dresses and they were supposed to be bossing us around on the playground, preparing for a life that would involve them being the boss of a wife and children.
I never liked this arrangement. I respected that boys were physically stronger than me, but I would not let them sass me with that “I’m the boss of you” attitude. I turned down my first opportunity to ride a bike when my foster mother told me that if I wanted a bike it’d better be pink and not blue. At the time, I hated pink with a passion so I crossed my arms like the brats I’d seen on TV and refused.
Speaking of TV: Movies, music and popular culture were my main frames of reference for what manhood was and should be. Men, in general, were heroes or deadbeats. The reality of their inner lives or complexities were foreign. Older men who became my mentors showed me some of the nuances, that men could be intelligent and giving and as sensitive (if not more) to a range of emotions as women.
Beyond that, I thought their main purpose was to rescue me or be rescued by me. From what? It didn’t matter.
The question of who men are has fascinated me since college, when I went to a liberal arts school that was primarily female. There, men were defined by their sexual conquests, which was strange, considering the odds were stacked in their favor — socially and statistically. We were 60 percent women and 40 percent men. The men were athletes or drama majors, they were sometimes leaders, editors at the school newspaper and class presidents.


But who were men in relation to single women? They were supposed to be smooth conquerors of my heart, I thought. Chivalrous protectors, mysteriously simple. Brute and honest. Distant and stoic.

Which means, I never came up with a good answer.
As I grew older and my conception of men as full beings grew less dependent on female chauvinism, I became acutely aware of how being a man could grow complicated. They were expected to be providers, to repress any female-like tendencies lest they be booted out of the man club. I could relate, since I had been a provider on my own for years, and I repressed my emotions for years, too. By virtue of anatomy and growing up in a world of women, though, I was not a man and could not know what it was like to be one. But this kind of essentialism is dangerous. It means that the us vs. them mentality continues in the mancession, he-covery landscape in which we find ourselves. If no one knows what a man really should be or can be, how can women know how to connect with them and relate to them inside of relationships and outside of them?

 

Thoughts on the word Mancession

Maybe you guessed this because I’m a writer, but I love words. I’m of two minds about the word “mancession” though, since I think it’s catchy and interesting as a word and concept on one hand, but overly simplistic on the other. The ladies over at The Frisky think the word is as stupid as Adorkable, which I’ve never heard.

But that didn’t stop Bloomberg, US News & World Report and Forbes from writing about how the Mancession started and how, depending on who you ask, it might possibly kind of be over. What do you think? Dumb way of saying a lot of men are unemployed (or were) or perfect description?

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