In Katie Roiphe's world, the boy crisis is fictional. Not in the sense that the much-hyped threat to manliness is a fiction. No, the provocateur argued in Sunday's New York Times Book Review, that evidence of masculinity's decline is found in fiction -- more specifically, in the imaginary sex lives of imaginary male protagonists in novels written by men. This is a new take on a familiar argument, but Roiphe places the blame on the very same culprit framed for ruining the real-life sex lives of real-life men: feminism.
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She seems to believe that men, be they real or fictional, are supposed to emerge cocksure on the other side of young adulthood -- or at least convincingly appear to. Even the hot pink graphics accompanying the article practically scream: C'mon you sissies -- grab your balls, be a man! But I dare say the real issue here -- for men and women, too, clearly -- is growing up, not manning up. (Tracy Clark-Flory, “Male writers go limp,” Salon, 4 Jan. 2010)
feminism isn't it; it's that allowance, in general, largely ended, late 70's
80s on, we all became more aware of how best to please, how to convince yourself "this is living," while really doing what you can not to seriously piss anyone off. And it has come at the cost of self-definition, true enablement -- personhood. So it is possible that a whole generation could amount to something of an interlude, with their predecessors having the great fortune of living at a time where there was more allowance, less in your way (despite all they'll say) to drive you to school down all your desires, growth, so self-consciously. It's the true rule from "Almost Famous": something really awful happened at the end of the 70s that has made even rock-and-rollers seem like just couldn't break past the (w)all of mother's disapproval.
If we want people to seem less like they're all too well broken in, we need boomers now to appreciate that good growth from their youth means, not just well-behaved leftists, with their all As, pleasing world-concerns, their striving for Princeton, but people whose thoughts and behavior will likely make them angry (a point Barbara Ehrenreich has made recently -- "hey professors, do you want free-thinkers, or don't you?"). Real change -- for the good -- is going to piss you off: because it will mean surrection of a belief system, an ethos, you cannot make claim to -- it will be all about them, not you -- will mean they are prepared to pass you by.
It is nearly impossible to mature when the culture -- note: even the indie escapes -- around you wants to keep you pliable, deferent, afraid of looking ridiculous, of being caught out --Tom Cruise-like -- on your own. We may have to wait for a new era, and be kind to those who would have been pilloried if they persisted in any effort to be more ballsy.
Feminism has become something which keeps pretty much everyone at bay. But it's not feminism but rather the era that has temporarily shaped the nature of its mission. This has not been a good era for any ism; however much its fight to provide and empower, it will have been bent to kow and control. People say we've been through a period of ridiculous excess, but it strikes me most, as one of atonement.