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In fact, most of the guys I know are actually wildly empowered by these forces, invigorated, challenged and hopeful in all the right ways. In other words, most of the guys I know already live in this new and progressive reality, a gender intermixed paradigm in which they thrive just fine. Maybe I gotta get out more.
It is, perhaps, one of those jarring trends, one of those cultural knots you think has been loosening over the last few decades, when it’s really been hardening. It is like obesity rates, like the organic food movement, like gun ownership, like hybrid cars and LED light bulbs and New Age marriage counseling, all manner of hope-drenched possibility that sometimes induces a feeling that we’re finally moving in the right direction at a healthy clip.
And then, slap. You find out that, despite all the supposed progress and awareness-raisings, obesity rates are higher than ever, CO2 emissions are still skyrocketing, gun shops can’t keep enough bullets in stock, the divorce rate is unchanged and carefully composting your pizza boxes and dryer lint has done absolutely nothing to reduce the size of the Pacific Garbage Patch. Oh.
Is this time any different? Is this election’s standard-model, white-male dread more pointed and true than ever? Maybe.
Maybe this time we can tie it in to the relatively silly but also fascinating “ the end of men” microtrend, in which fine writers like Hanna Rosin are telling us, via books, articles and various cherry-picked stats, that women are surging in education, family planning, power and control like never before, whilst obstinate men and the hard-hat roles they once so nobly, so violently, so historically inhabited (breadwinner, warmonger, soldier, tribal leader, leveraged buyouter, executive backstabber, heavy lifter, device fixer, seed implanter) are being shoved aside for the new, more fluxive, more feminine, socially networked information age.
Upshot: confused middle-aged white guys of every height and state are looking around in increasing terror/desperation for some hint of stability, someone to validate – however wrongly, however dishonestly – their waning powers, and finding only charlatan mushball Mitt Romney and the sneering misogyny of the GOP. Hey, better than nothing, right? Here you go, bro, have a beer and a layoff and some Glenn Beck jeans to go with your sexist binder full of women, courtesy the Bush worldview and Romney’s promise of more of same. Hey, at least he hates the gays!
We must remain calm. It’s far too easy to generalize, to say that all men are reactive and panicky, that they all fear the liberal, pro-women progress Obama represents because they see in his success the demise of their own stiff egos, attitudes, responsibilities. Not true.
Similarly, it’s also too easy to be infuriatingly flummoxed at how any modern female in America could possibly be a part of the misogynist, anti-choice, get-yourself-a-husband-you-dumb-wench Republican party, or could possibly see in Romney a source of feminist fuel to keep the revolution moving.
Nevertheless, the gap is as wide as ever, and the weird knot remains, as petrified and impossible to untie as ever. The good news is, the roles are changing rapidly, the next generation is coming fast, terrified old white guys are a dying breed. The bad news is, with so much at stake this time out (Supreme Court nominees, gay marriage, energy, health care, et al) the evolution of the species can’t come fast enough.