Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Death of Male Privilege

Taylor, Kelly, Lindsay, Leslie, Ashley, Jamie. What do these names have in common? They used to be guy's names. If you go to the Baby Names website operated by the Social Security Administration, you can see the relative popularity of all these names, for both genders, for over 100 years. And those former guy names used to be more popular, but their popularity declined after a subsequent surge in popularity where parents would appropriate these "guy names" for their female offspring.

If enough people start naming their daughters with traditionally guy names, it'll eventually prompt other people to stop naming their sons with those names. The reason is obvious: there is no male counterpart to a tomboy. Because every major society has males at the top of the social structure, it has been advantageous for females to mimic and adopt male traits, activities, and even names. The same cannot be said for males who want to be more feminine. Society shuns and mocks them. That type of behavior is actively discouraged.

That means that traditionally male pursuits have more and more female participants. A major portion of the growth in NFL viewership has come from women. And there's still room for more growth. Which is why the league has recently forced its players to wear pink shoes and gloves during October. The league wants to be seen as more women friendly to grow its viewership even more.

What separates football from other male activities is that it is considered at or near the pinnacle of masculinity. You would be laughed out of any room if you suggested women have a place alongside men on the gridiron or if they should play by the same rules with the same equipment. But other activities, once they become co-opted by the fairer sex, lose their "masculinity". For example, in the US, soccer isn't considered masculine. Decades of soccer moms and female soccer players (not to mention the perennial powerhouse that is the US women's soccer team) have turned soccer into a near punchline in American adult culture.

This is the first mover disadvantage that men find themselves in. With the growing feminization of the workplace, many men feel escalating threats to their masculinity. Because they can't co-opt a female thing, they're left with two options: football or outlandish and in your face things that reek of insecurity. Hence the rise of the bacon craze, the man cave, the extreme and growing popularity of the NFL and college football despite the controversy around chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The recession was the final blow to the traditional American male. There is a seemingly irreparable gulf between the men at the top and everybody else. And in between that gulf is a swelling rank of women. If you look at the gender gap in graduation, employment, average starting salaries, everything is starting to move in a much more feminine direction. A majority of all management positions are now occupied by women. 3 out of 5 college degrees awarded are to women. This is the foundation of a new, more female oriented power structure.

The world's changing. And male privilege is dying a relatively quick death. Instead of trying to play on an even field, most men would rather watch football in their man cave eating a BLT.

1 comment:

  1. Males do not want to take up the female's former role. Call it against their nature. This leaves a void in both male and society.

    The last election was fairly interesting. It showed the increasing favor of feminine characteristics over ans often against masculine ones. I remember reading a long rant praising one candidate for his nurturing nature among other things usually sought for in females.