Are Men Obsolete?

(by Lance Erlick)

Yes and no. How’s that for fuzzy thinking?

Men traditionally measured their value in terms of strength, earning power and being head of their household. However, technology has automated many of the jobs that require strength, women have made great strides in raising their own independent earning power, and men are increasingly finding they are no longer head of a family household.

Traditional male roles of physical labor in manufacturing and construction have been heavily automated or outsourced over the past few decades. In its place, the economy has shifted toward knowledge and social based skills that no longer favor men. At the same time, roughly 60% of all degrees are now going to women, who are responding to the changing economy by furthering their education and skills.

Male dominated jobs took a bigger hit in the 2008 economic crisis, and many men struggle to adjust. According to Hanna Rosin (“The End of Men”), women dominate all but 2 of the 15 job categories expected to grow over the next decade. The two growth areas men continue to dominate are janitor and computer engineer. The latter requires knowledge skills. Thus, having lost the most in the recession, they are not well positioned to pick up jobs going forward.

In the middle management ranks, women already make up more than half of these jobs in the United States, though they still are rare among the top executives. What this basically says is that the alpha males remain in control at the top, but below that, men are struggling to hold their own in a changing economy.

As a result of these changes, greater numbers of women are out-earning their spouses, meaning men are no longer the primary breadwinner. Women are increasingly looking to themselves for economic support instead of a partner and thus are rejecting traditional family relationships, including postponing marriage, being choosier about partners, and having fewer children.

According to Rosin in “The End of Men” the working class is becoming a matriarchy with women increasingly making all decisions. This may be because there is no man present, because the woman is economically supporting the family, or because the man has abdicated his role.

Because girls now have greater prospects in the United States than ever before, women using fertility clinics are asking for more daughters than sons. Will this in time shift the gender mix of our society, particularly when women continue to live longer than men? To add insult to injury, recent fertility research is closing in on the ability to allow two women to have children without a male contribution. This could remove the last crutch of women needing men.

Let me first say that I applaud the advances made by women and place none of the burden men face on the lap of women’s advances. My grandmother received her bachelor’s degree a hundred years ago when that was rare for women. My mother put herself through school to finally receive her PhD and work in education. My sister has made great strides in her career. And I am proud of their accomplishments.

But come on, guys, are you going to keep taking it on the chin because a handful of alpha males still retain all their glory? I know this all looks dismal for the male, but I would point out that men benefit from millions of years of evolution. What does evolution tell us? First, that the adaptable males will find a home in the new economy and society by demonstrating their value in more than just strength and money.

Alpha males will always find their place in society or die trying. When one door closes, they will find another. As long as they can make a place for themselves in our society, they will do so. If they can’t, they will overturn society so that they can create their own place. That is the nature of the alpha male. So, I don’t worry much about the alpha.

But for the rest of men, they have been kicked off their perches over the past 50 years. They are finding they are no longer head of a family household, no longer the direct economic support of their families, no longer the voice to be heard. Unless they adapt, they will become 2nd class citizens, obsolete, or fall prey to various unscrupulous alphas who will use them for personal gain.

So, how do men adapt? First, by recognizing that strength may not provide you any advantage in the new world and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The strenuous work you might enjoy at age twenty, wears a bit by age forty or fifty, leading to men dying younger. Second, while overall, men still out-earn women, don’t count on having superior earning power over your significant other in the future. Without that, be prepared for a more cooperative rather than hierarchical social arrangement at home, which just might enhance your prospects of finding a suitable partner. Third, look at the skills the new economy will require and make sure you get the proper training. It might not be college, but it most likely will involve investing time in getting skills. Finally, consider what you have to offer to your family and community beyond your physical prowess and economic earning ability.

Do men know how to adapt? Absolutely, we have been doing so for ages. Do we have the knowledge, communications, and social skills to compete in the new world economy? Newborn babies do not have these skills and yet as they grow, they develop them. There are few things we cannot become masters of within four years except for becoming doctors or lawyers, which require more training. Can we adapt to the social economy in which cooperation and interaction become more of the model rather than the hierarchical organizations of the past?

We can if we choose to. The alternative? Well, evolution teaches us one other thing—those who do not adapt, perish.

Let us make ourselves of value to the future of our families, communities, and country.