The news cycle is dominated by stories of bad behavior by men.  The “Me -Too” movement has exposed countless examples of sexual abuse and harassment by men especially by men in powerful positions.   It has galvanized women to become more involved in politics and to add new energy to gender equality issues – equal pay, paid maternity leave, etc..   The call to finally put an end to male supremacy in all walks of life is again at the forefront of the feminist agenda.  Nothing mentioned should be opposed by thoughtful men who respect the best of their masculinity   However,  there seems to be unintended consequences..  According to the LA Times, only about half of all boys expect to work in well-paid professional jobs when they grow up, compared to nearly three quarters of girls. In other words, we’re somehow teaching young boys that either learning is ‘girl’s stuff’, or that there’s no point in being aspirational.

There appears to be an enormous disconnect between the beliefs and behavior of adult men –  the patriarchy  – with the beliefs of boys.   Yes, a small percentage of men have looked to the retrograde “manosphere” to reinforce their attitudes about male supremacy.  On the other hand, the vast majority of adult men, without feeling overly defensive about their masculinity, have rallied to support gender equality and championed the end of sexual abuse not only in the workplace but in all aspects of society.   But what about our boys?   Does the data reported in the LA Times suggest that many boys have simply given up and see manhood as being subjugated by matriarchy?  What will the result be if boys have given up?   One could easily make the argument that the school shooters are non-aspirational lost boys who have channeled their powerlessness into pointless violent acts.   If we ignore our lost boys we not only increase the risk of violent acts but lose the potential that these boys can contribute to our society.  Educators and parents need to make sure that we are not losing our boys and find ways to help them take pride in their gender that is not based on the diminishment of women.

Hopefully we can expand the conversation about male dominance and gender equality to include the impact on those men young and old who are struggling to recalibrate their attitudes about their masculinity.  Girls are rightfully being given the message that they can achieve their fullest potential without fear of sexual abuse and gender discrimination.    What message are we giving our boys?

Me Too Backlash?

Recently a Meet Up invitation arrived in my mailbox with just one word as a descriptor – Fight Club.   Intrigued,  I wondered if this was just a direct reference to the 1999 movie Fight Club or was this a symbolic invitation to join the hyper masculine “manosphere.”   After further research I came across two other online communities who also worship the gospel of Fight Club.  The Red Pill, which describes itself as a place for “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture lacking a positive identity for men,” and the more hard line group Men Going Their Own Way(MGTOW), which refuses to engage in any relationship with women whatsoever. Members from both groups see Fight Club as a story of redemption, the tale of a beta male achieving his true alpha potential. The manosphere’s affinity for Fight Club stems from a common central, biologically deterministic claim: ” Men are naturally predisposed to being violent, dominant hunter gatherers, who, having found themselves domesticated by modern civilization, are now in a state of crisis”.

My sense is that increased attention to the “manosphere” is a result of the perception that the  “Me Too” movement is an attack on men and masculinity.  Men are on the defensive and many feel they have to apologize not so much for their own behavior but for the gender in general.   My concern is that the unintended consequence of  “Me Too” will push more men into to seek refuge in the  manosphere  which will only bring more polarization and less of the constructive dialogue that is desperately needed to restore common sense in the workplace.    It is crucial that the same mistakes made by many of the diversity programs adopted by corporate America will not be repeated by sexual harassment programs.   The data suggests that overly prescriptive trainings focusing on do’s and dont’s have actually impeded workplace diversity.   Introspection and constructive dialogue between men and women in the work environment  is needed and will only happen if we lower the temperature of the most strident voices and avoid the inevitable gender wars with casualties on both sides.