I had the fortune of coming across Philip Zimbardo’s TED talk on how male performance is on the decline on basically every aspect of life, named The Demise of Guys. Masculinity is a weird term in this post-feminist era as it seemed to have negative connotations to it, probably linked by a lot of people with proneness to aggression and violence.
This coupled with the increasing life standards of women and the ever growing feminism movement (which are, by the way, not bad things at all), along with the neglect towards problems faced by the male gender and the demonizing of the male gender, resulting in the male population failing to catch up, and losing interest in pursuing a meaningful life in this world that is grounded in reality. This book titled Man, Interrupted is a compilation of the issues faced by young men: it reviews the issues from various perspectives, investigates its roots, and offer solutions that multiple parties can take part in.
This may be a beginning of a movement that aims to empower the attitudes of men towards reality.
The book is written by currently one of the most influential psychologists alive, Phillip Zimbardo and Nikata Coulombe. Zimbardo has been deeply involved in research on social psychology and have published works on the psychology of evil, time perspective, and currently spearheading research on heroism. Coulombe works as Zimbardo’s personal assistant and also involved with his research project on heroism.
The book starts by calling out the elephant in the room, which is the fact that males are declining in almost every aspect of life. The symptoms are apparent, from doing badly in education and opting out of the workforce, to facing social intensity syndrome and resorting to gaming and conquering clear but virtual objectives. Then, there are also health related issues such as excessive pornography consumption, obesity and dependence on drugs.
After offering proof about the symptoms, the book continues to dig deep into the causes. They consists of familial problems (absent fathers in particular), failing of the education system, ‘enchantment’ with technology, arousal addiction, changes in the environment, turbulent economy, and last but not least, an inequality in opportunities related to the rise of women and feminism.
After calling out the causes, the book wraps out by offering some solutions that the world can begin to look at. From governing bodies to create policies to start supporting men, schools to look at other education models and means of instruction, parents to be more in touch with their boys’ development, men to cultivate healthier habits and actively approach females, women to encourage and nourish good qualities they desire in good males, and lastly the media to reconsider their portrayal of males.
Being male is no longer a privilege
Ultimately the book aims to show how being male no longer confers that advantage males used to enjoy. Rules of the human condition and social world have changed but the male gender have not caught up enough.
The digital age is a cause for men’s decline, but it is not an enemy
Admittedly, the symptoms men suffer from listed in the book have a lot to do with the digital age. Computer games, pornography, online personas, vast archives of information have subtly but surely shaped the way men communicate. However, we must also recognize that the best solution to tackling these issues do not come from entirely eliminating them. For instance, the authority in game research Jane McGonigal (2011) pointed out that the power of games can be redirected at more meaningful efforts, such as organizing enormous amounts of data.
Feminism is not an enemy either
Not everyone likes the label feminism as it does not sound very inclusive. ‘Why not call it egalitarian?’ etc. That aside, one cannot talk about femininity without bringing up masculinity. Women cannot be empowered without men being involved in the process, for the better or worse. The empowering of women and women rights is inevitable and a progress to mankind. Fighting feminism like a predatory foe will undo all the progress many have pained and sacrificed to make happen. The solution we have now is to focus on how men can do better than yesterday.
Males and females are not competing against each other, they are competing against their own pasts.
Honest and clear communication is important
Dating in the present world can be a tough matter. Without serendipitous events, dating can feel like a chore and modern young men are lost about it. Women are sending confusing messages: they tell men they want respectful and nice guys, but yet they fall for the aggressive and disrespectful ones, also known as the ‘Hero-Asshole’ Complex. Young men are not prepared to maneuver the modern complex dating world: they have to worry about making females feel unsafe around them at the same time signalling interest through more dominant advances. There is a lack of clear and honest communication between sexes and that is turning each other off.
No wonder guys are turning to video games with clear, well-defined objectives.
There are no clearly defined rules for what I should be doing, just a set of things that I shouldn’t do-all the things that would elicit results….I’ll just go play video games, thanks.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Man, Interrupted dives straight into the issues faced by men and explains them in a way that easy to understand and relate to. It is safe to say all young men will find this book an illuminating read and will hopefully instill their attitudes towards reality with hope (in Zimbardo words, from ‘present-hedonistic to future-oriented’, read more by finding more about Time Perspective Theory). I would recommend this book to anyone with a bit of free time on their hands and willing to understand reality from the male’s perspective so that hopefully some can make a conscious choice to empower the male gender.
McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Penguin.