I listened to Canadian Olympic speed-skating champion, Clara Hughes, being interviewed on CBC yesterday. What an amazing athlete. At 41 she has switched sports. Now she plans on winning a gold medal in cycling, Which means that she must completely reshape her body. One thing that won’t be changing is her lung capacity to hold oxygen. It’s ridiculously high. In a recent cycling race through the mountains, she beat a number of world class male cyclists. Chuckling, she told her interviewer that these men got “chicked”. That’s the term, apparently, for women beating men at sports events.
From an evolutionary perspective, one of the great transformation narratives of the 20th century is how society is in the process of “getting chicked”. I don’t mean this in the least derogatorily. Call it the rise of feminist consciousness or feminine power, but it seems clear that we’re making up for millenia of suppressed (and oppressed) feminine. (I realize that even using metaphors of feminine and masculine is controversial. Some feminist critiques call this impulse to label certain qualities either masculine or feminine “essentialism”. And given that patriarchy historically devalued these so-called feminine characteristics—receptivity, empathy, holistic thinking, right brain, dark, Earth, etc.—a good case can be made for this position.) Check out my friend, Chris Dierkes critique of these categories in a review of a colleague’s book.
Regardless of where you land on that issue, young men are having a hard go of it. See this article in the Atlantic by Kate Bolick on her decision to remain single and live in community with women, rather than choosing to be with what she calls the generation of “dead-beat” or “playboy” young men.
“Over the past half century, women have steadily gained on—and are in some ways surpassing—men in education and employment. From 1970 (seven years after the Equal Pay Act was passed) to 2007, women’s earnings grew by 44 percent, compared with 6 percent for men. In 2008, women still earned just 77 cents to the male dollar—but that figure doesn’t account for the difference in hours worked, or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paying fields like nursing or education. A 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30 found that the women actually earned 8 percent more than the men. Women are also more likely than men to go to college: in 2010, 55 percent of all college graduates ages 25 to 29 were female.”
And …as Hanna Rosin laid out in “The End of Men,” July/August 2010), men have been rapidly declining—in income, in educational attainment, and in future employment prospects—relative to women. As of last year, women held 51.4 percent of all managerial and professional positions, up from 26 percent in 1980. Today women outnumber men not only in college but in graduate school; they earned 60 percent of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in 2010, and men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma.”
This phenomenon is not restricted to the Western and Northern Hemispheres. A feature of all microbanking programs of which I am aware make their loans exclusively available to women, not men. Women are regarded to be trustworthy, entrepreneurial, and collaborative while men are simply regarded as part of the problem. As far as I can tell in the world of microbanking this assumption is rarely questioned.
The church is also getting chicked, as the majority of seminary students are now women, and when I look around at my congregation it is becoming increasingly difficult to find good men (frankly) to serve in positions of leadership. I realize that when I say “good” I mean men with the capacity to leave spaces in the conversation, to have their minds changed, to be flexible and creative in their thinking, and to be able to handle being wrong occasionally. Generally speaking, it is becoming difficult to find men who are have sophisticated relationship skills. Many of the young men who are coming to church seem to be having more difficulty getting on with their lives than the young women. Admittedly, this is not based in empirical research. But here’s a piece that does track gender trends in the Church of England. In that church men still hold most of the power, but it seems inevitable that this too is in the process of being “chicked”. If trends continue, by 2028 men will have all but disappeared from church.
Clara Hughes is showing that men cannot take even our physical superiority for granted. For 10,000 years we have “enjoyed” an assumed superiority based exclusively on genetics and the social construction of gender. It’s all changing. That’s a good thing. It represents nothing less than an evolutionary provocation for men to collectively step up and into the fullness of our humanity. We are being required to consciously evolve.
I’m interested in hearing what you think about this? Is it true? Does it matter? What are the long-term implications?