Over at Hugo Schwyzer, where feminism now, today is the main event, a post on the ramifications of a study that says "college-aged women did sixteen hours more work" per week than their male counterparts. Apparently college boys are playing a lot of video games, and co-eds are making sure civilization doesn't crumble.
From Hugo's perspective, the crisis of this study has to do with women working too hard, trying to be perfect. But there is another angle. I have posted before on the evolution of male roles, and I do believe that boys and men are going through one of the most difficult psycho-social moments in the history of the species-- at least in middle-class America. I can't speak for other cultures and classes.
Here's the situation: since about 1960, men have been expected to cede an increasing amount of power to women. And, contrary to history and tradition, they have been expected to do it willingly.
Through this process, and with a lot of fits and starts, women have acquired an easily measurable amount of public power, in the form of jobs, choices, laws, rights, and expectations. It has been a revolution.
What have men gotten in return for giving up power? A lot of not easily measurable things. A more humane way of life. The opportunity to share more fully in the raising of children and managing of a household. More mutuality in marriages.
Men traditionally do not value these things. We value power, competition, and the ability to hoard, consume, and destroy resources. We have allowed women to civilize us to an extent, because there is something in us that values that. (As one woman once said on a radio broadcast encouraging guys to contribute money to a woman-oriented cause, "C'mon guys. You like us. We're soft, squishy, and we smell nice.") Many of us do, however, remain tempted to go cross-eyed on occasion.
So the fact that young men are losing themselves in aggressive, competitive, destructive video games while attempting to ignore responsibility and pretend that society doesn't exist-- well, it doesn't surprise me.
And truthfully, this has been going on for a long time. The civilization of guys is a primeval thing, and it is a present-day, present-moment thing. The wonderful story of Enkidu is a great example of that.
Enkidu is a supporting character in the ancient (4,000 year old) epic of Gilgamesh, a story which was first told around 2000 BC and went through several versions through more than a millennium of transmission. The epic, according to Professor Tsvi Abusch, combines "the power and tragedy of the Iliad with the wanderings and marvels of the Odyssey."
Enkidu, master of animals.
Enkidu is the best friend of Gilgamesh, the hero of the epic, and the one who goes through all the power, tragedy, wanderings and marvels. Enkidu shares some of that excitement, but his most interesting moment is his introduction:
The whole of his body was hairy and his (uncut) locks were like a woman's or the hair of a goddess of grain. Moreover, he knew nothing of settled fields or human beings and was clothed (in skins) like a deity of flocks.
In other words, he was playing video games in his pajamas all day.
That's not quite true: Enkidu was also actively an enemy of civilization, disrupting the hunting of animals. Trappers were put out; this wild man was destroying their livelihood.
The solution? Gilgamesh, who was king at the time decreed that a prostitute go out to Enkidu and attract him. Enkidu liked the prostitute and stayed with her "for six days and seven nights."
Thereafter, the animals that had been his friends shunned him, and he became a protector of shepherds from lions and wolves. Later, he went to see Gilgamesh, wrestled with him, was defeated by him, and the two became great friends.
The prostitute began the enculturation (some say "humanization") of Enkidu by introducing him to some of the best things about civilization. Then, importantly, Enkidu finished his maturation by intimate contact with a powerful, civilized man.
For modern-day Enkidus, there are a lot of women interested in civilizing or at least spending six days and seven nights with them. But you see where that has got us. Lots of Enkidus playing video games and enjoying themselves in other ways.
I think the key is the contact with a strong, responsible man, someone guys can look up to. Not many of those good men are out there or have ever been out there. Now, in the brave new world of equality, mutuality, and less opportunity to die early in war, they are even more valuable.
My son has had the great advantage of contact with lots of responsible men (besides me) who are fun to be around, in the form of coaches, teachers, pastors, youth leaders, and friends of mine. I try to do the same by my friends' sons, and this year I'll be advising a bunch of teenage hero boys who are facing the great challenge of these transformative days. With God's help, I'll do okay. I'll keep you posted on developments.