First aired on The Current (03/09/11)
He's someone we've come to know quite well thanks to a lot of movies since the mid-1990s. Neither man nor boy, he dresses like a teenager, likes to party hard and although he might have a real job, he's still only partly self-sufficient.
It's a character author and scholar Kay Hymowitz calls the "man-child." And although she might join movie audiences in laughing at their fictional antics, she finds the reality of the trend much more disturbing than amusing.
Her new book, Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, tackles the subject of the man-child, and is stirring up controversy and conversation on both sides of the gender divide.
According to Hymowitz, the man-child phenomenon is linked to what appears to be a demographic shift. People are reaching the milestones of adult life — full financial independence, marriage, children, etc. — much later in life than ever before. Sociologists have even coined a new term, "emerging adulthood," to describe the period between adolescence and adulthood.
But with this new demographic reality comes a new set of challenges. Chief among them, Hymowitz says, is the trend that sees women in this 21-35 age group out-performing men.
"They are more likely to have college degrees, and, in the U.S. at any rate, college-educated single women are out-earning men," Hymowitz said in a recent interview with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti. "This really changes the dynamics between the sexes and raises a lot of questions about the future of family."
It also changes men's understanding of their role in the world.
"Men are caught in a situation where they don't know what's expected of them," she said. "They don't know what women want from them and what the culture at large wants from them."
Hymowitz is quick to say, however, that she is not blaming women for the man-child phenomenon, nor discouraging them from pursuing successful careers, regardless of what the title of the book may suggest.
"What I'm describing is a culture that denigrates [traditionally male] qualities," she said. "One of the problems for men, and actually the irony of my title Manning Up, is that we don't know what that means any more."