Magazine article The American Prospect

Why Aren't You Married Yet? Apparently, I'm Responsible for the Jerks I've Dated

Magazine article The American Prospect

Why Aren't You Married Yet? Apparently, I'm Responsible for the Jerks I've Dated

Article excerpt


At a March luncheon celebrating the release of the new book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys, it wasn't long before things got really personal.

"Before [today], the fact is that primarily, a 20-year-old woman would have been a wife and a mother," author Kay Hymowitz told the crowd of about 100 at the Manhattan Institute in New York City. Men would have been mowing lawns and changing the oil in their family sedans instead of playing video games and watching television. In previous decades, adults in their 20s and 30s were too busy with real life for such empty entertainment, Hymowitz says. "They didn't live with roommates in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Dupont Circle in D.C."

What, exactly, does the modern 20-something's "fake life" consist of? For women, it's chasing a career in law, public relations, or journalism--just like Carrie in Sex and the City, the archetype of what Hymowitz calls the "New Girl Order." She says in her book: "'Writer' represents the fairy tale career for young romantics, as prized as Mr. Big himself." Living with roommates in D.C. and working as a writer? Is Hymowitz talking about me?

She certainly could have been. But it's more likely that Hymowitz's inspiration is her 29-year-old daughter. Introducing the talk, Christina Hoff Sommers, an American Enterprise Institute scholar whose work is a lot like Hymowitz's, commented on a trend she's noticed in her friend's oeuvre: "There are a lot of crises and social pathologies that seem to track with the age of her children," she joked. I've had this nightmare: My morn giving a public talk about her new book, Why Aren't You Married Yet?

More than half the audience members in the private club's walnut-paneled dining room were older men, and everyone except for me wore a work-appropriate suit. I wore what passes as a suit in my world, which gave me away as a liberal hippie from the get-go. "We have a bet going on," an attorney named Len said when I sat down at the table, "about which side you're on." (Hymowitz's book had already caused a stir, because it was excerpted in The Wall Street Journal.) I demurred and said something equivocal about being a magazine writer interested in gender issues. It was only later that I realized his question was a more personal one, aimed squarely at testing Hymowitz's thesis. He was really asking: "Do you have a man, or do you think men are worthless?"

Hymowitz argues that a generation of parents who spent their time empowering girls has left men adrift and unable to understand their proper place in society. The hypothesis that feminism is bad for boys has been floated before, most prominently by Hoff Sommers herself, but Hymowitz gives it a new spin. Feminism, she says, has created a perpetual child-man unable to grow up, leaving scores of women partner-less. Apparently, Hymowitz believes, positive stereotypically male traits--courage, fortitude, stoicism--can only be enforced through traditional family structures. Left to their own devices, men fall into their natural irresponsible state, unable to commit because society has sent the message that they are unnecessary.

For this, she blames women! The Carrie Bradshaws (and, ahem, other writers who don't conform to a buttoned-down dress code) didn't just ruin things for men but, inadvertently, for themselves. In her book, Hymowitz says women still want romance, chivalry, and babies but wait too long to get them. …

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