Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Alpha Males Extinct

[I love this article. Apparently it doesn't dawn on the author to examine how the academic curriculum in schools has changed in the past decade and how this might affect boys' grades and test scores!?!?!?!?

Does anyone realize boys are being asked to read Jane Eyre in HIGH SCHOOL?!?!?! I love the Bronte's. I read a collection of their work - WHEN I WAS 28 - and I have a degree in English. I'm a reader's reader. I read Shakespeare and old English poetry. But I didn't get into 19th Century English Literature until College and didn't truly appreciate it until my mid-to-late 20s. So I'm guessing your standard Engineering, math-centric, 17 year-old boy MAY NOT YET BE READY for old-English romance novels - JUST MAYBE? Hmmmmmmm?]

Now that women also earn money"—in many cases, more money than guys—"men may feel that their role is diminishing."

by Grant Stoddard

Is the Alpha Male in Danger of Extinction?

As more and more guys seem to lose their drive and females become increasingly ambitious, women wonder what this means for their lives. An investigation yields some startling consequences--and they aren't all bad.
Grant Stoddard

Having a penis used to mean something. From the time our species got its start until very recently, being a guy came with a codified set of behaviors and responsibilities: hunting large, dangerous mammals, charging into battle, subjugating would-be usurpers. Men who displayed prowess in these areas quickly rose in status within the group and increased their popularity with the ladies.

One reason for their success: For heterosexual women, sexual attraction is sparked by a collection of encrypted biological signals that offer vital clues about whether a man can protect and provide for a prospective family. And on a gut level, neuroscientists say, women respond favorably to Alphas—men who exhibit the right genetic stuff in their looks, intelligence, resources, and leadership. In fact, a 2007 study published in Nature Neuroscience demonstrated that when females (well, female mice) were exposed to the pheromones of dominant male mice, their tiny girl-rodent brains actually grew new cells that guided them to choose the Alphas as mates.

But it looks like among us humans, the behavioral Alpha signals men can emit—machismo, cockiness, the aggressive protection of their place at the front of the pack—are getting progressively weaker and less common as women's roles in relationships, jobs, and the economy become stronger and more central. With their traditional dominant, moneymaking position eroding, where does that leave men? Consider what might happen if the peacock didn't bother to fan his spectacular plumage, if the ram could no longer muster the will to clash horns, if the mighty lion neglected his patrolling duties. Can humankind handle the diminishment of the Alpha Male?

An uneven playing field
Right now, a woman's chances of finding a man who is as educated and financially secure as she is are small and, according to recent studies, dwindling. Women earn a greater share of high school diplomas as well as associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Significantly fewer men enroll in college than women, and an even smaller percentage graduate.

Those statistics suggest that men are both lazy and quitters, bringing to mind recent pop-culture depictions of dudes enjoying a prolonged adolescence of beer and PlayStation3 marathons—think Knocked Up and numerous other Judd Apatow and Seth Rogan films—and freeloading off Mom and Dad (even before this recession, twice as many men as women ages 24 to 34 were living with their parents).

In his book Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men, Leonard Sax, M. D., Ph. D., identifies a maelstrom of factors heralding an era of arrested male development, including video games, environmental toxins, and what he describes as "our culture's neglect of the transition to manhood." Sax notes that this phenomenon is not solely confined to Western cultures, and he disagrees that it's a consequence of women's achievements. "Think of Qatar, where women are still oppressed— yet a growing proportion of boys and men there are unmotivated."

Whatever the causes of men's waning drive, the women outperforming them in academia will surely have an impact on the future job market. But that market is already shifting radically along gender lines. While women working full-time still earn only 77.8 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, the recent economic downturn has highlighted the diametrically opposed trajectories of our work lives: The male-dominated construction and manufacturing sectors have taken a huge hit, whereas the overwhelmingly female-staffed professions of education and health care have been relatively insulated. From November 2008 through last April, employment among men declined by 2.5 million, while among women it was down by fewer than 700,000 jobs. And some economics experts think that women are better suited to the new "knowledge economy," in which such traits as sensitivity, intuition, and collaboration are valued over typically Alpha jockeying-for-power games.

This new female-centric model may in fact signal a return to gender equilibrium rather than a break from tradition. For much of human history, being a skilled provider wasn't tied so closely to earning money—it also meant hunting; farming; gathering materials for food, clothing, and shelter; and protecting one's goodies from covetous neighbors. "During most of our ancestral past, individuals in a family had to produce all the material and social goods," says Elizabeth Pillsworth, Ph. D., an evolutionary anthropologist at UCLA's Center for the Study of Women. "This created an interdependence between men and women."

Once our society became centered on a wage economy, she continues, "if you had cash, you simply purchased all the goods you needed. As men became wage earners, they assumed the role of sole provider. Now that women also earn money"—in many cases, more money than guys—"men may feel that their role is diminishing."

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