Tallulah, in the Mississippi Delta, is picturesque but not prosperous. Many of the jobs it used to have are gone. Two prisons and a county jail provide work for a few guards but the men behind bars, obviously, do not have jobs. Nor do many of the young men who hang around on street corners, shooting dice and shooting the breeze. In Madison Parish, the local county, only 47% of men of prime working age (25-54) are working.
The men in Tallulah are typically not well educated: the local high school’s results are poor even by Louisiana’s standards. That would have mattered less, in the old days. A man without much book-learning could find steady work at the mill or in the fields. But the lumber mill has closed, and on nearby farms “jobs that used to take 100 men now take ten,” observes Jason McGuffie, a pastor. A strong pair of hands is no longer enough.
“If you don’t have an education, what can you do?” asks Paxton Branch, the mayor. “You can’t even answer a phone if you don’t have proper English.” Blue-collar jobs require more skills than they used to, notes Katie McCarty of the North East Louisiana Workforce Centres, a job-placement agency. If you want to be a truck driver, you need at least an eighth-grade education to handle the paperwork, she observes; that is, the mental skills a 13- or 14-year-old is supposed to have, and which men disproportionately lack.
Orlando Redden is in his mid-40s and sporadically employed. He is big, strong and, by all accounts, a hard worker. But he is inarticulate, hazy about numbers and has no skills that would make an employer sit up and take notice. He has bounced from job to job throughout his adult life: minding the slot machines in a casino, driving a forklift, working as a groundskeeper, and so on.
The forklift job, at a factory that made mufflers for cars, was the best: it paid $10.95 an hour. But then the factory closed. He lost his groundskeeper job, too, when a new boss merged two roles (groundskeeper and maintenance man) into one, and gave it to the man with more skills. He recently found a job with a paving contractor, which is better than nothing but requires him to commute more than 30 miles (50km) a day.
Tallulah may be an extreme example, but it is part of a story playing out across America and much of the rest of the rich world. In almost all societies a lot of men enjoy unwarranted advantages simply because of their sex. Much has been done over the past 50 years to put this injustice right; quite a bit still remains to be done.
The dead hand of male domination is a problem for women, for society as a whole—and for men like those of Tallulah. Their ideas of the world and their place in it are shaped by old assumptions about the special role and status due to men in the workplace and in the family, but they live in circumstances where those assumptions no longer apply. And they lack the resources of training, of imagination and of opportunity to adapt to the new demands. As a result, they miss out on a lot, both in economic terms and in personal ones.
For those at the top, James Brown’s observation that it is a man’s, man’s, man’s world still holds true. Some 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are male, as are 98% of the self-made billionaires on the Forbes rich list and 93% of the world’s heads of government. In popular films fewer than a third of the characters who speak are women, and more than three-quarters of the protagonists are men. Yet the fact that the highest rungs have male feet all over them is scant comfort for the men at the bottom.
Technology and trade mean that rich countries have less use than they once did for workers who mainly offer muscle. A mechanical digger can replace dozens of men with spades; a Chinese steelworker is cheaper than an American. Men still dominate risky occupations such as roofer and taxi-driver, and jobs that require long stints away from home, such as trucker and oil-rig worker. And, other things being equal, dirty, dangerous and inconvenient jobs pay better than safe, clean ones. But the real money is in brain work, and here many men are lagging behind. Women outnumber them on university campuses in every region bar South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In the OECD men earn only 42% of degrees. Teenage boys in rich countries are 50% more likely than girls to flunk all three basic subjects in school: maths, reading and science.
The economic marginalisation this brings erodes family life. Women who enjoy much greater economic autonomy than their grandmothers did can afford to be correspondingly pickier about spouses, and they are not thrilled by husbands who are just another mouth to feed.
If the sort of labour that a man like Mr Redden might willingly perform with diligence and pride is no longer in great demand, that does not mean there are no jobs at all. Everywhere you look in Tallulah there are women working: in the motels that cater to passing truckers, in the restaurants that serve all-you-can-eat catfish buffets, in shops, clinics and local government offices. But though unskilled men might do some of those jobs, they are unlikely to want them or to be picked for them.
In “The End of Men”, a good book with a somewhat excessive title, Hanna Rosin notes that of the 30 occupations expected to grow fastest in America in the coming years, women dominate 20, including nursing, accounting, child care and food preparation. “The list of working-class jobs predicted to grow is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes,” writes Ms Rosin. And those old stereotypes are deeply ingrained in the minds of the men they marginalise; they no more see jobs centred on serving or caring as their sort of thing than society does.
Although there is no reason in theory why men could not become nurses or care-home assistants, few do. Most schools would love to have more male teachers to serve as role models for boys, but not many volunteer. And poorly educated men are often much worse at things such as showing up on time and being pleasant to customers (even if you don’t feel like it) than their female peers are. For the working class, the economy “has become more amenable to women than to men”, argues Ms Rosin.
Criminality, alas, remains an option for men of all skill sets, as Tallulah’s prisons bear witness. The world’s most dysfunctional people are nearly all male. Men have always been more violent than women, even if they are less violent now than they used to be. In America today they commit 90% of murders and make up 93% of the prison population. They are also four times more likely to kill themselves than women are.
For many men in Tallulah, the greatest obstacle to finding a job is that they have already fallen foul of the law. Mikel Davis, a polite 29-year-old, is typical. He graduated from high school a decade ago and got “caught up in the street,” he says. “My mind wasn’t there. I wasn’t dedicated to the right.”
He started to deal small quantities of marijuana. He was caught, briefly jailed and released on probation. “I haven’t peed dirty since,” he says, but with a criminal record “finding a job was hell.” Mr Davis applied to McDonald’s, Arby’s, Chevron—you name it. After a year he found work “washing cars in the rain”. Now he toils at a burger joint, and is training to be a welder. When Mr Davis was selling drugs, he says, he could make more in a day than he does in a week wiping tables. But crime seldom pays in the long run. It is no way to support a family.
Mr Redden has three children by three women. Mr Davis has two children by two. Neither man lives with any of the mothers or any of their children. Mr Davis supports both of his, he says: one, financially; the other, by visiting and helping around the home. He says he is still friendly with one mother, but “not in a committed relationship”.
When they talk about a man’s role in the home, though, both men sound like preachers from the 1950s. “Being a man means supporting your family,” says Mr Davis. “You’ve got to do whatever it takes so they eat, [or] you’re no man at all.” Being a man, says Mr Redden, means you “work hard, provide for your kids, have a car and [maybe] get your own house some day.” Mr Davis goes further: “If I have kids and my woman has to work, that’s not what a woman should do. She should be home with the kids.”
There is, to put it mildly, a disconnect between these ideas of a man’s role and the reality of life in Tallulah. The busy women of Tallulah are far from rich, but they are getting by, and they are doing so without much help from men.
Fifty years ago the norms for marriage in most rich countries were simple and sexist. If a man got a woman pregnant the couple got married; in 1960 in America 30% of brides gave birth within eight and a half months of the wedding, according to June Carbone of the University of Minnesota and Naomi Cahn of George Washington University. After the arrival of children, the husband’s responsibility was to earn and the wife’s was to mind the home. There were exceptions, but the rules were universally understood and widely followed. According to Ms Carbone and Ms Cahn more than 80% of wives with young children stayed at home in 1960.
Those norms have changed. The pill, which was approved in America that same year, allowed women to regulate their fertility. It used to be common for brainy women to drop out of college when they became pregnant. Now they can time their babies to fit with their careers. The ability to defer children is one of the reasons why 23% of married American women with children now out-earn their husbands, up from 4% in 1960. Few women in rich countries now need a man’s support to raise a family. (They might want it, but they don’t need it.)
With women in a better position to demand equality, many men have changed their behaviour accordingly. Studies of who does what within two-parent families show a big generational shift. In 1965 fathers did 42 hours of paid work, 4 hours of housework and 2.5 hours of child care each week, according to the Pew Research Centre. Mothers did seven times as much housework as fathers, four times as much child care and one-fifth as much paid work, adding up to 51 hours a week. Overall, men had two extra hours a week to drink highballs and complain about their daughters’ boyfriends.
Fast-forward to 2011 and there is less housework—thanks to dishwashers and ready meals—more evenly divided, with the mother doing 18 hours a week to the father’s 10. Both parents are doing more child care. The mother is doing a lot more paid work; the father is doing five hours less. Overall, the father is toiling for 1.5 hours a week longer than the mother.
The same Pew survey suggests that most couples don’t think the compromise they have reached is wildly out of kilter. Fully 68% of women say they spend the “right amount” of time with their kids; only 8% say they spend too much. Many parents find it hard to balance work and family, but there is not much apparent difference between the sexes on this score: 56% of mothers and 50% of fathers say this is “very” or “somewhat” difficult.
As a measure of how male attitudes have changed, however, this sample is misleading. It excludes families where the father is no longer there. Couples split up for a variety of reasons, but a common complaint among women who throw out their partners is that the man was not doing his fair share. And here there is a huge class divide. Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution argues, in “Generation Unbound”, that college-educated men have adapted reasonably well to the feminist revolution but it “seems to have bypassed low-income men”.
In 1970 there was not much difference between the happiness of better-off families and that of the less-well-off: 73% of educated white Americans and 67% of working-class whites said their marriages were “very happy”, observes Charles Murray, a conservative writer. Among the professional class, marital satisfaction dipped sharply in the 1980s, suggesting that for a while men and women struggled with the new rules. But it has since recovered to roughly the level it was in 1970. By contrast, the share of working-class whites who say their marriages are very happy has fallen to barely 50%, despite the fact that fewer of them are getting hitched in the first place. In Britain, too, more-educated couples are more likely to say their relationship is “extremely happy”.
This difference is in part because unskilled men have less to offer than once they did. In America pay for men with only a high school diploma fell 21% in real terms between 1979 and 2013; for those who dropped out of high school it fell by a staggering 34%. Women did better. Female high-school graduates gained 3%; high-school dropouts lost 12%.
And the change is even more dramatic than these figures suggest. First, women are now better educated than men; the proportion of women with no more than a high-school education fell from 32.9% in 1979—one percentage point higher than men—to 11.4% in 2013, one percentage point lower. Second, many men do not work at all. In America, the share of men of prime working age who have a job has fallen from a peak of nearly 95% in the mid-1960s to only 84% in 2010. In Britain the share of men aged 16-64 who work has fallen from 92% in 1971 to 76% in 2013; for women it has risen from 53% to 67%. For those with few qualifications the situation is worse: in America in 2010 25% of 25- to 54-year-old men with only a high-school education were not in work; for those who did not graduate high school the rate was 35%.
There is no sugar-coating this: many blue-collar men no longer have the sort of earnings or prospects that will make women want to marry them. A recent Pew poll found that 78% of never-married American women say it is “very important” that a potential spouse should have a steady job. (Only 46% of never-married men said the same.) In theory, this preference should not stop men without steady jobs from finding a mate. There are roughly equal numbers of heterosexual men and women in rich countries, so you might expect nearly everyone to pair up. For poor people, especially, it makes sense. Two pairs of hands can juggle work and kids more easily. Spouses can support each other through sickness or night school. But this works only if both believe that the commitment is long-term. It is pointless to make plans with someone you fear will sponge off you for a while and then vanish.
Which brings up the other side of the control modern contraception offers. When pregnancy is easily prevented or can be legally ended, it no longer functions as a road to marriage. It makes it easier for men who choose not to stick around to tell themselves, and their partners, that a child was not part of the deal.
No single factor can account for the fragility of working-class families. But economic and technological shifts have clearly affected social norms. Some scholars blame the welfare state for making the male breadwinner redundant. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, protests that women at the bottom of the social scale end up “married” to the taxpayer. Means-tested benefits make it easier to get by without a spouse, and sometimes penalise marriage. In America, a single mother with two children who earns $15,000 a year would typically receive $5,200 in food stamps, which would fall to zero if she were to marry a father who earned the same; and that is just one of 80 or so means-tested federal benefits.
Teena Davison, a cook in Tallulah, is raising four children on her own. One father is in Texas; the other is nearby but disengaged. “Sometimes they help out but basically I do it all,” she says. She gave up trying to make either man do his share. “I don’t want to go through it because they constantly lie, you know, tell the kids I’m going to get you this and never get it.” So, she says, “I don’t even bother with them [or] make a big fuss about it.”
Nonetheless, she worries that the absence of a father might affect her children. The older ones “say bad things” about their dad when he lets them down. Ms Davison tells them to stop, “because he’s their dad no matter what”.
Sex ratios matter when it comes to forging relationships. And here the falling fortunes of working-class men do further damage. In 1960, among never-married American adults aged 25-34, there were 139 men with jobs for every 100 women, with or without jobs. (This was because women typically married somewhat older men.) By 2012 there were only 91 employed men for every 100 women in this group. “When women outnumber men, men become cads,” argue Ms Carbone and Ms Cahn in “Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family”.
Even a small imbalance can have big effects. Imagine a simplified “mating market” consisting of ten men and ten women, all heterosexual. Everyone pairs up. Now take one man away. One woman is doomed to be single, so she may opt to poach another woman’s partner. A chain reaction ensues: all the women are suddenly less secure in their relationships. Some of the men, by contrast, become tempted to play the field rather than settle down.
In most rich countries the supply of eligible blue-collar men does not match demand. Among black Americans, thanks to mass incarceration, it does not come close. For every 100 African-American women aged 25-54 who are not behind bars, there are only 83 men of the same age at liberty. In some American inner cities there are only 50 black men with jobs for every 100 black women, calculates William Julius Wilson of Harvard University. In theory black women could “marry out”, but few do: in 2010 only 9% of black female newly-weds married men of another race.
When men with jobs are in short supply, as they are in poor neighbourhoods throughout the rich world, any presentable male can get sex, but few women will trust him to stick around or behave decently. Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, two sociologists, asked a sample of inner-city women of all races why they broke up with their most recent partner. Four in ten blamed his chronic, flagrant infidelity; half complained that he was violent.
Such experiences make working-class women distrust men in general. They still have babies with men, but they seldom marry them. A whopping 50% of births to American women without college degrees are non-marital, but only 6% of births to college graduates are. Similar trends can be seen in Europe. In Britain 90% of professional couples wait until they are married before having kids, compared with only half of those who earn the minimum wage. Looking at eight European countries, Brienna Perelli-Harris of the University of Southampton and others found that the less educated a mother is, the more likely she is to have a baby outside marriage.
Caitlin (not her real name), who lives in Hartlepool, in north-east England, first got pregnant at 16, ten years ago. She now has four children by two men. She broke up with the first one (a labourer) because they quarrelled “all the time”. “He’d argue about me going out the door,” she says. He was hardly a model father. Whether he helped with the chores depended on his mood, she says, and losing at PlayStation would put him into a foul one. He now lives with a new girlfriend. Caitlin does not trust him to take proper care of the children, so she has stopped them from seeing him. He tried to con the authorities to pay him the child benefits that should have gone to her, she says. As for the father of her fourth child: “I found out he was going to jail for GBH [inflicting grievous bodily harm] from the Hartlepool Mail.” She has concluded that: “It’s easier without men. It’s more predictable. I know whether I’m coming or going.”
Hartlepool has much in common with Tallulah. It was once a thriving industrial town, but as jobs in factories have vanished, the nuclear family has collapsed. The share of babies born outside marriage in Hartlepool has jumped from 12% in 1974 to 70% in 2013 (in England and Wales it rose from 9% to 48%).
Old-timers say life used to be simple for men. “I finished school at 16 on July 25th 1969. On August 1st I started in the steelworks,” recalls Dave Wise. “You always knew where you were going to work. If your dad was at the steelworks, you went there too.” Mr Wise now runs a community centre in West View, a down-at-heel part of Hartlepool. A sign outside says “Bite Back at Loan Sharks”—a local scourge.
Young men from Hartlepool who make it through university do just fine. But as in the rest of the rich world, boys there do worse than girls in school. They read less, do less homework and are more disruptive—which may be why teachers give the same paper a worse grade if they know it was written by a boy, according to the OECD. Raymond Steel, a 19-year-old from Dyke House, another troubled Hartlepool neighbourhood, says he didn’t enjoy school. “I lost interest quickly and was naughty until I got sent home.” The girls did better, recalls his friend Kieran Murphy, because “they paid more attention.” Both men are now learning trades—plumber and builder—but expect the hunt for work to be arduous.
They could move to London, where jobs are more plentiful. But it is hard to leave a tight-knit neighbourhood. In Hartlepool, siblings and cousins often live a street or two away, which creates a network of support. Caitlin and her sister, who is also a single mother, often help each other with the child care.
As in Tallulah, many men in Hartlepool have old-fashioned views. Mr Steel says it would be “a bad thing” if his future wife earned more than him—“You’d feel you were not providing.” When men and women expect different things, relationships fail. Some hard-up mothers have all but given up hope of finding Mr Right. They strive to become financially independent and insist on controlling their own households, notes Ms Sawhill. “They often act as gatekeepers, by denying a father access to his own children.”
Single motherhood is much better than living with an abusive partner. But the chronic instability of low-income families hurts women, children and men. The poverty rate for single-mother families in America is 31%, nearly three times the national norm. Children who grow up in broken families do worse in school, earn less as adults and find it harder to form stable families of their own. Boys are worse affected than girls, perhaps because they typically grow up without a father as a role model. Thus the problems of marginalised men tumble on down the generations.
Men who never shoulder family responsibilities miss out on a lot of joy, and so do many fatherless boys. In Britain, fewer than half of the children of divorce say they have a good relationship with their father. Mr Redden complains that his son, who lives with his mother, “doesn’t listen to me...we ain’t that tight like I’d like us to be.”
Sweden has done a better job than most countries of fostering equality between the sexes, and its success is particularly apparent in child care. You can’t throw a ball in a Stockholm park without hitting a bearded man pushing a pram. Fredrik Blid, an engineer, is taking two of his small children for a stroll. “Day care is closed,” he explains. Mr Blid and his partner (an art director at a firm that makes things for babies) split the child care 50/50. If a child is sick, they take alternate days off work. They did not discuss this before they had children. “It was natural,” he says.
Perhaps. If so, though, nature has been helped along by the Swedish government’s decades of work aimed at promoting gender equality, effort which consistently sees it get the highest scores on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index. The equality seen in parenting is supported and shaped by generous parental-leave laws. Each couple is entitled to 480 days off work (between them) for each child. The government pays the stay-at-home parent up to 946 kroner a day ($112) to replace lost wages. Sixty of those 480 days are reserved for men, and are lost if not used. The government offers a bonus of up to 13,500 kroner per child to couples who take equal time off work.
Such policies have had an effect: the share of parental-leave taken by men quadrupled from 6% in 1985 to 25% in 2013. But the government is not satisfied. It sees the unequal division of child care as one of the biggest remaining obstacles to women earning as much as men. Two of the smaller Swedish parties (including the Feminist party, which is bankrolled by Benny Andersson of ABBA), want to compel men to take 50% of parental leave.
This goes too far for many Swedes, particularly those with manual jobs. Working-class Swedish men often make much more money than their wives, thanks to strong unions in heavily male industries. When a waitress makes only 20,000 kroner a month, having her 50,000-a-month construction-worker husband take time off represents a significant cost, says Karin Svanborg-Sjovall of Timbro, a free-market think-tank in Stockholm; many might see it as an unreasonable one. Among white-collar workers, wages are more equal and there is a less macho culture, so child care is split more evenly.
The parental-leave policy works well for professional women, many of whom work for the government, which is happy to accommodate their long absences (65% of managers in the public sector are female). But it has been a mixed blessing for blue-collar women in the private sector. Employers know that young female job applicants are likely to take a lot of time off. None would admit to discriminating, of course, but it is striking that 25% of blue-collar women are on temporary contracts and 50% work part-time—of whom nearly half say they would like to work full-time but cannot find an opening.
Some liberal Scandinavian men find their new roles demoralising. Karl Ove Knausgaard, a Norwegian novelist married to a Swede, writes of walking “around Stockholm’s streets, modern and feminised, with a furious 19th-century man inside me”. One expects novelists to be disgruntled, but they are not the only ones. In a recent poll 23% of Swedish men supported the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD)—more than twice the number of women who did. A similar pattern can be seen in other European countries: men are far more likely than women to vote for protest parties such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik, the Netherlands’ PVV and France’s Front National.
The SD is an anti-immigrant party: its supporters fret that hordes of refugees from Somalia and Syria will bankrupt Sweden’s welfare state. However, it is also in revolt against what William Hahne, an SD leader, calls “extreme feminism”. The SD wants to return to a family-based tax system that would favour single-breadwinner homes. Mr Hahne complains that “If a man is masculine in Sweden today he is seen as bad.” A hunky blond ex-paratrooper, he had to apologise after getting drunk and abusive in a bar in Iceland in 2010.
Some supporters of the Sweden Democrats are men who have been left behind as the economy shifts from industry to services, suggests Asa Regner, Sweden’s minister for gender equality. Others take a “very old-fashioned” view of the family that the majority has left behind, but a minority misses deeply. Many of them, Ms Regner speculates, “wish for a country which is simply not there any more.”
Men are not easy to help. “We find it’s very difficult to connect with [them],” says Carol Walker of Relate, a British counselling charity. “They don’t want to talk about their relationships, sometimes.” This slotting into stereotype matters more when economic times are hard. Couples badly affected by the financial crisis were eight times more likely to split up than those who were unscathed, according to a Relate-sponsored study called “Relationships, Recession and Recovery”. As ever, the connections go both ways: the same study found that an unstable relationship at home makes it harder to thrive in the workplace.
Losing a job can affect a man’s libido. “If they’ve always been strong and suddenly feel helpless, that can cause sexual problems,” says Ms Walker, who works in north-east England. Some men feel emasculated if their partner out-earns them. “It is hard to be a traditional man in a non-traditional world,” says Ms Walker.
If you offer a man counselling, he may refuse. The very notion is unmanly, some feel, though it is often quite effective. Still, there are ways to lure men into talking about their feelings. John Errington, a former lorry driver, organises a “men’s shed” in Wingate, a former mining village near Hartlepool. It is literally a shed, with a darts board and a hob for making tea. Local men meet there and do constructive things, such as plant vegetables or do odd jobs. At the same time, they socialise. Some have lost jobs or wives; others just want something to do. At least one volunteer is trained in spotting the warning signs of depression or suicide.
Hanna Rosin talks of “plastic women”, who adapt deftly to economic and social change, and “cardboard men”, who fail to adapt and are left crumpled. She has a point. The sheds, though, show some are trying. On a recent Wednesday afternoon four men in Wingate gathered to chat and cook panacalty, a local stew of corned beef, potatoes, carrots, leeks and sprouts, swimming in beef stock. “It gets me out of the house,” says Ken Teasdale, a widower. “We all help each other,” says Barry Setterfield, a retired joiner. The “men’s sheds” movement, canny in its appropriation of one of the time-honoured male preserves not normally associated with power or status, started in Australia and has spread to Britain, Finland and Greece. There are more than 40 in County Durham, where Wingate is. Boosters say they save public money by keeping men out of hospital. Participants love them.
As the sheds show, working-class men have changed with the times. At home they are far more likely to change nappies than their fathers were, or to do the ironing, perhaps while watching football on the television. But they have not changed as fast as the world around them. And that world has not finished changing.
Jobs that reward muscle alone are not coming back, so men will need to pump up their brains instead. Several countries are experimenting with ways to make school more stimulating for children in ways that boys will appreciate. The OECD suggests offering them books they might actually enjoy—about sports stars, perhaps, or dragons. Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, suggests giving boys gizmos to fiddle with and more breaks so they can run around outside and let off steam: all helpful, and all things that might be appreciated by girls, too. A greater appreciation of anti-boy bias among teachers would help, as well, as would more men teaching.
Men in the classroom do not just broaden children’s experience; they provide role models doing something both caring and disciplined. Boys need to know that their jobs will not be like those of the sports stars they read about; they also need to know that, energy having been let off in the playground, timeliness and good behaviour matter. Manners maketh man—especially in the service industries.
It is inevitable that more men will earn less than their female partners in years to come. To pull their weight, they will have to do more at home. There are few signs that women want househusbands; but though they don’t want a man who does all the housework they often want one who does more of it. And doing more chores could ultimately make blue-collar men happier, because it would help them forge happy relationships. As the experience of white-collar men shows, more equal unions can be just as rewarding for men as the old-fashioned sort.
When men live with women on more equal terms, they may grow closer to their children. Fathers may find they like being attentive, and it would certainly be good for their kids, especially the boys. As one man whose dad abandoned him lamented on Fathers’ Day in 2008:
“[Fathers] are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it. But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing—missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”
The speaker is now president of the United States—plenty of fatherless boys turn out fine. But his point, which is echoed by many more conservative thinkers, is sound. There are many ways to be a man, but not all of them are equally honourable.