What’s the matter with kids today? In part, undead sexist cliches.

This weekend, I stumbled across an article from Philadelphia Magazine revealing that young men today are losers: They live with their folks instead of on their own, don’t have any career goals, watch lots of porn, and have low sperm counts. And it’s at least partly the fault of feminism.
We’ll get to the sexist bits in a second, but first, I’ve got to say the article does not impress me.
While the writer, Sandy Hingston is apparently shocked to discover guys living at home, it’s been in the news since the “boomerang kids” of the late 1980s (back then it was the tail end of the Baby Boom or the front end of Gen X). Hingston asserts that as twentysomething women are critical of their male peers, that proves there’s some kind of substance to her critique, but I’m not sure why: When I was a teen and a twentysomething I could hear plenty of “Ohhh, (wo)men!” comments among my friends.
And as Echidne of the Snakes pointed out (I emailed to ask her thoughts), this is kind of fuzzy without some statistics to back it up. Hingston argues that we can’t blame the recession for male unemployment because a lot of guys dropped out in the boom years—but popular though this argument is (Charles Murray made it recently in discussing the immoral poor), it ignores that boom years for techies were not boom years for a lot of others hit with outsourcing and other woes. Hingston cites several guys living at home, but according to her stats, 50 percent of guys are out there on their own (and 30 percent of women live at home, which undercuts her thesis it’s all caused by some distinctively male torments.
Finally, some of her work is just bizarre. For example Hingston asserts that sperm counts have been dropping for 50 years—and 50 years ago, a majority of college students were men! How women going to college caused a drop in sperm is left unstated.
And that brings us to the first sexist cliche, Hingston’s tossed off observation that “male disengagement in colleges and schools is a result of the ‘feminization’ of our educational system: Boys are told to sit down, shut up and drill to the test; if they can’t, we put them on Adderall.”
I first encountered this cliche back in the 1990s, when lagging male achievement grabbed the attention of various right-wing pundits (according to later studies, if you eliminate for poverty, race and similar factors, the lag doesn’t exist): Schools work great for girls because they’re quite and dutiful and everything nice. Boys—wild, rebellious, frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails, can’t be expected to sit still and do nothing. It’s one reason Leonard Sax, whom Hingston quotes a lot, favors single-sex education (and he also blames the male malaise Hingston talks about on futile efforts to ignore gender differences—if women weren’t 1950s style girlie girls at heart, why do they like Twilight, huh?)
The obvious flaw in this argument is that it doesn’t explain why boys’ achievement should be dropping now: Does Hingston seriously think schools are more regimented and more disciplined than say, 50 years ago? Or 100 years ago. School has always been about sitting still and learning, and there used to be a lot more emphasis on rote and discipline and whacking with rulers and hickory sticks when you got out of line, or so I’ve always understood it. So the argument that feminization is the problem no more makes sense here than when discussing feminist control of television.
This will continue in the next post.


Filed under Undead sexist cliches

6 responses to “What’s the matter with kids today? In part, undead sexist cliches.

  1. Pingback: That Philadelphia article, part two « Fraser Sherman's Blog

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  5. Pingback: Undead Sexual Cliches: It’s women’s fault that murderers walk among us | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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