Are white men losers?
The short answer is “yes,” and that answer helps explain why over 60 percent of white men vote Republican.
White men have been losing for over a century. Take voting. In the beginning, i.e. 1776, only white men with property could vote. We were kings of the hill. We started sliding down the power hill in 1920 when the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Then in 1965, the Voting Rights Act fulfilled the intention of the 14th Amendment, passed in 1866, by ensuring that African Americans would have no obstacles to voting. That same year, Asian Americans had the status of “aliens ineligible for voting” removed. All of this was right and fair, but white males nevertheless experienced a loss.
Signed into law in 1972, Title IX “requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.” Although many schools do not comply with the law and forfeit federal funding, white males have nevertheless been pushed a bit further from the center of the stage.
An article in the Economist Magazine stated, “The economic empowerment of women across the rich world is one of the most remarkable revolutions of the past 50 years. Millions of people who were once dependent on men have taken control of their own economic fates.
“Women now make up almost half of American workers (49.9 percent in October). They earn almost 60 percent of university degrees in America and Europe. The rich world has seen a growing demand for women’s labour. When brute strength mattered more than brains, men had an inherent advantage. Now that brainpower has triumphed, the two sexes are more evenly matched.”
“In America, three out of four people thrown out of work since the recession began are men; the female unemployment rate is 8.6 percent, against 11.2 percent for men. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that women make up more than two-thirds of employees in 10 of the 15 job categories likely to grow fastest in the next few years.”
Again, all of these changes might be just and long overdue, but if you are a white male, the change may well be experienced as a loss.
In a review of A Woman’s Place, The End of Men and the Rise of Women By Hanna Rosin, Jennifer Homans writes, “But this ‘rise,’ which Rosin so cheerfully reports, is in fact a devastating social collapse. It starts with inequality and class division. As Rosin herself shows, men at ‘the top’ of society are not ‘ending.’ It is all happening to the lower and middle classes because ‘the end of men’ is the end of a manufacturing-based economy and the men who worked there, many of whom are now unemployed, depressed, increasingly dependent on the state and women to support them.”
Understanding the justice of having a woman or minority get a job instead of you feels like a loss in your gut if you are a white male, even if in your head you know it’s the right thing. Put it this way: Say you are making $100,000 a year and your salary is cut by $40,000, and your neighbor is making $20,000 and her salary is doubled. Which of you is going to feel empowered, energized and hopeful?
In The Masculinity Crisis and the Gender Gap: Why White Men Vote Republican, Hugo Schwyzer wrote, “The end result of women’s emancipation has been, as conservatives like Charles Murray and Mary Eberstadt have argued, the psychological dislocation of American men. Raised to be ‘good providers,’ young men cannot possibly compete with a ‘Leviathan’ state that provides far more to women and children.
“The much-exaggerated contemporary masculinity crisis is the inevitable consequence of robbing men of their natural and primary source of self-esteem, the ability to provide for their families.”
It’s not rational, of course, and cynical politicians and talk show hosts exploit the feelings of those being marginalized. Nevertheless, it doesn’t help matters to demonize white guys, point fingers and say, “Just grow up.”
A lot of us white guys know that many women and non-white men love us in spite of our weaknesses and faults. We also know what the right thing to do is. All many of us want is to feel like we are on the same team as we go through the hard work of adjusting to the new normal. Help us celebrate our new-found freedom to enjoy having feelings and participate more fully in the raising of our children.
Also, allow us to point out, from our own sad experience, that becoming a CEO and being part of the rat race might not be worth the effort to get there.
Finally, don’t assume that because the white guy in your life votes for Romney that he’s a racist.