The Demise of a Particular Type of Guy
Let's celebrate inclusive and emotionally literate men.
Posted May 26, 2012
Professor Philip Zimbardo is an academic renowned for his infamous Prison Experiments, where a group of young men were pushed beyond ethical and moral boundaries to commit physical and psychological violence against each other. Since then, Professor Zimbardo has developed a research agenda that looks at the use and abuse of power. Now, in his new e-book, based on a survey for TED and a partial review of the academic literature, he has turned to writing about masculinity and a supposed downfall of men in America.
In The Demise of Guys, Professor Zimbardo argues that young men are struggling: emasculated by dominant women and infantilized by parents whom they continue to live with, young men are eschewing work, marriage and responsibility in favor of porn, video games and online friendships. The bleak picture that Zimbardo paints is attributed to changing social structures and “the dramatic rise of gals.” Masculinity, it seems, is in crisis. Again.
So, how can we explain the stark difference between the men described in Professor Zimbardo’s book and those in the academic literature? First, it is clear that a survey and selective literature review is no substitute for the richness of data provided by ethnographic research. But I suspect rather more important is the masculinity that we, the writers, value. For example, I agree with many of the “symptoms” Zimbardo discusses. Young men are undoubtedly living longer with their parents (a result of changing labor markets and something which women are also experiencing); they are playing video games, tweeting and maybe even reading blogs such as these; and they are, of course, watching porn. The difference is that I don’t see these changes as an indictment of masculinity.
It seems that Professor Zimbardo is yearning for a masculinity that I am glad has demised. Discussing an academic who was instrumental in stopping his notorious prison experiment, Zimbardo wrote, “The security of my men and the stability of my prison was at stake, and now, I had to deal with this bleeding-heart, liberal, academic, effete dingdong who was concerned about the independent variable!” It is clear that Zimbardo values a form of masculinity where men are castigated for being feminine, caring, liberal or soft in any way.