The onslaught of progressive gender norms alongside feminism in mainstream culture has reduced masculinity to an effete and empty husk. Men are being told to exhaustion that inherent masculine qualities are toxic and must be exorcised from their very being in order to fit in and be accepted by society at large. On a daily basis, we are inundated with progressive moral tropes in film, music, television, and the legacy media.
Young men, in particular, have been told to eradicate every element of traditional masculinity, leaving them directionless and at the mercy of a mainstream culture that offers nothing with regards to guidance or character. As result, countless men are turning on themselves at unprecedented levels.
Harry Styles’ Vogue cover was not an act of defiance but a “virtue signal” of the highest order
Harry Styles’ “historic” cover photo of him wearing a dress for the pages of Vogue was not some grand act of subversion or a nod to countercultural tropes. Instead, the viral photoshoot and interview signal a complete cultural acquiescence to progressive ideas on gender and an attempt to appear “enlightened,” to the detriment of masculinity. Such antics are a cornerstone of mainstream culture now.
To be sure, countless artists and musicians before Styles have presented themselves in various stages of drag in the past — from David Bowie, The New York Dolls, and Prince to Motley Crue and Twisted Sister. Such gender-bending choices were either attempts at artistic provocation or simply a silly attempt at marketing under some garish countercultural guise. They were not, however, attempts to encourage men to abandon traditional masculinity and demarcations of gender altogether.
Jonathan Evans, the style editor for Esquire, tried in vain to draw this analogy in defending Styles and only ended up contradicting himself in full measure: “Or how about Prince? The Purple One,” Evans argued. “Arrived a little later than Bowie. Guy slithered around in frilly shirts and frock coats wearing heaps of eyeliner. Owner of a falsetto sent down by the gods themselves and then drenched in honey and ambrosia. Women loved him. HUGE in the ‘80s. Had his fashion acolytes, no doubt, but did not, remarkably, trigger the collapse of manhood and masculinity as we know it.”
Evans then concludes his piece by stating that men should be “less concerned than ever with how they’re supposed to dress” even if “that means wearing an actual dress.”
Evans’ arguments stand in opposition to one another. On one hand, he argues that Styles is simply making a provocative, theatrical nod to the past that doesn’t threaten masculine norms at all. On the other, he insists that men casually wearing women’s clothing should be readily accepted and quotidian.
Styles himself echoes the supposed limitations of traditional gender norms in his interview for Vogue, insisting that his choices are less about style and more in accord with progressive virtues:
What’s really exciting is that all of these lines are just kind of crumbling away. When you take away ‘There’s clothes for men and there’s clothes for women,’ once you remove any barriers, obviously you open up the arena in which you can play. I’ll go in shops sometimes, and I just find myself looking at the women’s clothes thinking they’re amazing. It’s like anything—anytime you’re putting barriers up in your own life, you’re just limiting yourself.
The Left has framed Styles’ photoshoot and interview as a moral act of courage and bravery meant to further diminish traditional gender norms and masculinity itself.
The Guardian referred to the Vogue cover as “representative of a growing exploration of gender-fluidity and non-binary dressing taking place, popular among the very millennial and Gen-Z shoppers Vogue is targeted towards.” While the Daily Beast made the impudent argument that Styles – as a “white cisgender man” – was actually not doing enough amid the supposed need for “continued LGBTQ activism.”
Philip Zimbardo and “The Demise of Guys”
Lauded Stanford psychologist and professor, Philip Zimbardo, details the detrimental effect mainstream culture is having on men today in both his book and essay entitled “The Demise of Guys.” While Lombardo emphasizes the pernicious effects of pornography and incessant gaming, he also places significant blame on mainstream culture and their assault on masculinity.
He argues that men now face exhausting double standards with expectations often completely at odds with one another:
Society wants guys to be upstanding, proactive citizens who take responsibility for themselves,” Zimbardo writes, “who work with others to improve their communities and nation as a whole. The irony is that society is not giving the support, means or places for these young men to even be motivated or interested in aspiring to these things. In fact, society — from politics to the media to the classroom to our very own families — is a major contributor to this demise because they are inhibiting guys’ intellectual, creative and social abilities right from the start.
While Zimbardo insists that men are “investing too much time and energy…playing video games and watching freely available Internet porn,” he does not discount “widespread fatherlessness and changing family dynamics, media influences, environmentally generated physiological changes that decrease testosterone and increase estrogen, [and] the problematic economy” as being major contributing factors as well.
Boys are increasingly being taught to devalue themselves in school
While the impact of porn and gaming and the consequent apathy and malaise they’re inducing in men are increasingly evident, the likes of Zimbardo don’t completely address the elephant in the room. As feminism and other manifestations of identity politics take hold of our society, men are actively being taught to devalue themselves beginning in childhood and adolescence.
In 2015, The Telegraph reported “on a programme in London Schools in which two American women, one a former sex crime prosecutor, ‘re-programme teenage boys’ sexual manners so they are fit for a feminist world”.
The late feminist icon, Doris Lessing, was dismayed by the treatment of boys in schools and considered men to be “the new silent victims in the sex war.”
Lessing elaborated on her own experiences at the Edinburgh book festival in 2001, according to The Guardian. She was appalled “at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed” and how “[y]oung boys were being weighed down with guilt about the crimes of their sex.”
“I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys,” Lessing said, “and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men…You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives.”
Christina Hoff Summers’ assessment echoes Lessing as well. Her seminal essay for The Atlantic, “The War Against Boys” details how education is failing boys. She argues that boys are fast becoming the “second sex” in schools across the nation rooted in rampant feminist ideas less true today than when she wrote her essay in 2000.
In the view that has prevailed in American education over the past decade, boys are resented, both as the unfairly privileged sex and as obstacles on the path to gender justice for girls. This perspective is promoted in schools of education, and many a teacher now feels that girls need and deserve special indemnifying consideration.
Summers followed up her essay more than a decade later for The Atlantic reporting that “[b]oys in all ethnic groups and social classes are far less likely than their sisters to feel connected to school, to earn good grades, or to have high academic aspirations.”
Lessing’s remarks and Summers’ findings almost two decades ago are proving sadly prescient. Boys continue to fall behind in school while girls continue to excel and the numbers bear out, according to The Washington Post:
When family characteristics and neighborhood income were controlled for, white boys in Florida were 5.5 percentage points less likely than white girls to be kindergarten ready. The gap between black boys and girls was significantly wider, at 8.4 percentage points. Why were black boys so much worse off? The researchers calculate that about half of these racial differences are explained by the fact that boys are more sensitive to family disadvantages than girls.
While the cited study may not establish a direct causal link between feminism and underachievement among boys, it’s reasonable to argue that it plays a significant factor. As more and more school curriculums yield to identity politics and Marxist ideas such as Critical Theory, the needs of boys are marginalized even further while notions of masculinity continue to be vilified into oblivion.
Of course, such progressive agendas fail to recognize their own contradictions. The same people who proselytize feminism and toxic masculinity are those who insist that gender is some “fluid construct” even in the face of biological evidence.
Writing for City Journal, Heather Mac Donald exposes this hopeless contradiction:
A foundational tenet of academic feminism holds that alleged differences between males and females are socially constructed. This credo usually maximizes the opportunities for charging sexism, yet it will be discarded in an instant if acknowledging the innate biological and psychological differences between men and women yields an additional trove of feminist complaint.
The only hope for boys and men alike is to recognize gender differences and their respective needs without resorting to tired aspersions. Christina Hoff Summers contends that “we must acknowledge the fact that boys and girls are different” and dismiss “gender scholars [who] insist that the sexes are cognitively interchangeable and…that any talk of difference only encourages sexism and stereotyping.”
Men are committing suicide in unprecedented numbers
Men are now turning on themselves in droves., with addiction and suicide skyrocketing in the last decade. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death for men aged 20 to 49, killing “three times as many British men as women.” As surreal as it sounds, “if you are a man…you’re more likely to die from [suicide] than cancer, road accidents or heart disease,” according to Esquire.
Sadder still, is the stigma that men who kill themselves are obvious in their despair.
“It is still the case that the type of men we think die by suicide are the unwell, the disturbed, the unlucky; who stumble at life’s biggest hurdles and are too weak to get back up. Most of us like to think we’re made of sterner stuff. We don’t know that 75 per cent of people who take their own lives have never been diagnosed with a mental health problem, or that only five per cent of people who do suffer from depression go on to take their own lives,” according to Sam Parker.
Globally, men account for more than 80% of all suicides. In America, the suicide rate is the highest for middle-aged white men, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. That middle-aged White men are vilified by the Left for upholding the supposed “patriarchy” while basking in their “white privilege” makes such a harrowing statistic seem like less of a coincidence upon examination.
How many of these men had decided to kill themselves because they could no longer see their children, had a broken relationship, or were involved in a bitter divorce? Ironically, even when you look at the suicide statistics, most concern seems to be about women who kill themselves. Apparently, our society cares so little about men that those who kill themselves are hardly news.
Smith pointedly states that we live in a “culture that often treats men as if there is something inherently wrong with masculinity, with what makes them different from women — and looks to feminize them.” She adds that “We are too busy trying to figure out what is wrong with girls and women, and men’s psychological issues go by the wayside.”
Mainstream culture continues to marginalize and vilify men to a fatiguing degree. Young men, in particular, are increasingly at a loss. The prohibition of masculinity is stunting men and ostracizing them to the fringes of society. As a consequence, men are losing the ability to rise to the occasion when faced with hardships and obstacles. Instead – out of increased dejection and despair – they’re choosing to succumb and, finally, give up.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.