More than feminism, progressive politics, or Hollywood, one thing has permanently altered the role of men in society. Take a look at your smartphone or the truck you drive. Single-handedly, technology is redefining what it means to be a man in the modern era. Gender roles, jobs, and the hierarchy of society have all revolved around the place of men as the stronger of the sexes, and women as the child bearers. Within a century, those roles have transformed.
Today women have access to formula and breast pumps, meaning they can return to work and help share an equal role in making money for the household, with research showing many mothers taking on the role as the primary breadwinner. Jobs are entirely different from what they were in the early 1900's. Machines, robots, and computers make up large sections of the job market, meaning that women are capable of performing the tasks just as well as men. The world has opened up for women since World War II and the cultural revolution of the 60’s. But where does that leave men?
Traditionally masculine jobs involved providing food for the family. Hunting, fighting for the best territory to utilize resources for food and water, and agriculture all required the strength of men. In the aftermath of the industrial revolution, common sense needs turned to societally enforced norms and rules that didn’t necessarily make sense with the changes brought on through machinery. Women could technically do many of the jobs that men were doing. The only thing stopping them was a male dominated society that stated they couldn’t. When the demand for soldiers in World War II created a vacuum in the male work force, women stepped up to the plate. After the war was over, they didn't want to step back.
The fact that the feminist movement and cultural revolution followed is not surprising. As the times changed, women wanted to change with it, and many of those changes were appropriate and necessary. Keeping women relegated to one part of society when they are capable of participating in others doesn't make any sense. However since that time, it would seem the world of men has not entirely recovered.
Some would berate the feminist movement or even women altogether, stating that masculinity and society as a whole have taken a turn for the worse because men and women are not in their traditional and “proper” roles. This seems like misplaced blame. The blame would be better placed on the technology that completely altered economy, society, and in turn the meaning of gender and family structure altogether. With more and more machines taking over work, food, and even social life and interactions, the way we relate to one another is being redefined in every way.
There are a few possibilities presented to men today. Move out to the woods, forsake technology, feminism, and the modern world altogether and start a tribe. Take a passive role in life, family, and the community as a whole, because there doesn't seem to be an important place for masculine expression or input. Or maybe carve out a path for yourself and your sons the way the frontiersmen of the West did before you.
Technology has changed so much about our society. That fact shouldn’t mean that masculinity has to die. The journey into manhood may be different right now, but it is still available. Life is still perilous, challenging, and meaningful. There are still risks to take, there is love to share, and communities in desperate need of men. There is still an opportunity, creative pursuits, and the world out there to explore. The battle that many men have to fight to find out what becoming a man means only strengthens the value of what’s on the other side. We can’t take back technology and the advances and changes it has brought to our culture. But we can get back the meaning of manliness.
How do you feel technology has changed masculinity and the role of the modern day man?