by Stella Ramsaroop
(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 06 July 2007)
An editorial from this newspaper last Sunday pondered the ever-expanding situation in the West Indian society of the disappearing male. Indeed, there can be no doubt that something significant is changing in the traditional structure of the male’s position in the family and society as a whole.
Concerning this alarming phenomenon, the editorial lamented, “We have noticed that men are not seeking jobs as teachers, and even in traditional male enterprise they seem to have surrendered their pride of place to the woman. So we have the bulk of the public service being women; most of the teachers being women; most of the security guards being women; and even the bulk of the prison service being women.”
I have addressed this changing of social roles a time or two before, but as I read the editorial I could not help but ponder the reasons again. Of course, the most likely suspect would be the women’s movement toward equality. Time and again I have heard that women are destroying the traditional family unit by insisting on getting an education and going into the workplace en mass.
One certainly cannot ignore the possibility that the women’s movement has indeed reorganised the entire social structure in the last century, but is the opportunity for female equality the culprit that is causing men to retreat from their traditional roles in society? And if this is the case, then why?
Could it be that the entire male gender as a whole has carried the sole leadership role in society for such a very long time that exhaustion has pushed them to move aside and allow the now willing woman to step in so he can take a long-needed vacation.
On some levels, this would certainly seem to be the case. As the aforementioned editorial pointed out, “Some argue that the male has found it very unprofitable to work for the sums of money being paid as wages and salaries. Others contend that the male has once more become a free spirit bent on a life that is unencumbered.”
On this point of males being exhausted leaders who want to gladly hand over their leadership roles and go on permanent vacation, I can from personal experience say that this does seem highly possible.
Even recently I have seen men running away from their responsibilities for a life as “a free spirit bent on a life that is unencumbered,” – as the editorial put it. However, on the other hand, I have also seen a number of men around me realise the importance of their role in society and gladly assume their familial, academic or societal responsibilities.
So it does not seem that all males want to run away on permanent vacation from their functions in the survival of the human race. Therefore, there must be another reason for this phenomenon of the disappearing male in the West Indian society, which is also very evident in many other societies as well.
I do have another speculation on this matter. In fact, it seems to me that this theory is the most probable. Allow me to first point out that the new opportunities afforded to females in the past few decades are extraordinary. Women are finally in roles of leadership within the government, the judicial system and the business sector.
As such, it could be that these new opportunities for women are also opening new opportunities for men. For example, much like women very seldom had any other choice other than to stay at home and raise the children, clean the house and cook the meals; likewise, men have long been expected to be the leaders in society and in the family.
Could it be that when the door of opportunity opened for women, it also opened for men as well? Perhaps men have decided that if women want to assume the roles previously reserved for males, then it was finally time to find something else to do.
Still, when the door did open, women knew exactly what it was they wanted to do. They wanted a place in government. They wanted to start businesses. They wanted to be doctors, lawyers, judges and teachers. They wanted to have a say in all of these aspects in the framework of society.
However, as women realised their long-time dream of equality and began to fill the positions that were previously reserved for men, the males – glad to finally share the burden of societal leadership with their feminine counterparts – had no plan on what to do with themselves. There are an infinite number of paths for men to choose now and they are being required to form a new social identity.
Men have the opportunity to redefine their roles in society and some are doing this by choosing to be the ones to care for the family at home while the woman builds a career. However, the machismo mentality that is so strong in some cultures will not allow many men to assume what has been traditionally viewed as feminine roles.
Fear of how others will view him if he chooses to raise the children and clean the house; many young males are choosing to form their new identity on the social fringe with drugs, theft and other such “masculine” activities as they abandon their social and family responsibilities all together.
It seems some apt guidance is in order for those who lose their way as men attempt to redefine their role in society. This situation could become a global crisis, but if handled correctly, it could usher in a new day for humankind where both males and females are capable of choosing rewarding and satisfying careers without detriment to the other gender.
It seems to me that just like the global environment is changing in very distinguishable ways (like trees popping up in the Sahara Desert), humanity is also changing in marked measures. All that is needed is a shifting in the way we view ourselves as a species so that we can adjust to the new social structure that is being formed.