In 2016, the UK research company YouGov released polling results that should have sounded alarms in the UK and United States about the future of men in our society.
The polls were of men and women across the UK and U.S., age 18 and older. The generational divide over perceptions of masculinity was beyond shocking. The results of the study have remained relatively marginalized by most mainstream media outlets in the U.S., perhaps out of fear of reaction. For far too long the assault on masculinity has increased in strength to the point in which a generation of men may be lost to the detriment of men and women. Let me explain.
The first finding was what young men in the UK ages 18-24 believed about their own masculinity. They were asked to rate their level of masculinity from "completely masculine" to "completely feminine.” Shockingly, only 2% of those young men answered "completely masculine" (14% answered "completely feminine" and the rest were in the middle). In perspective, 56% of men ages 65 and older answered "completely masculine.”
Men age 25 and older were substantially more likely to answer "completely masculine" over "completely feminine,” though the older men answered more with "completely masculine.” In overall numbers (all men 18 and up), the men in the United States were at 42% completely masculine vs. 28% of men in the UK. However, U.S. men showed the same dynamic of feminine-identifying younger men and masculine-identifying older men.
Another surprising result from the study came with the question of whether or not "masculinity" was considered a dirty word. In the 18 to 24-year-old age group, a higher percentage of men had a negative impression of masculinity than positive. Counter-intuitively, a slight majority of young women ages 18-24 had a positive impression of the word masculinity than negative impressions.
In another perspective, the overwhelming majority of both men and women older than 24 had a positive impression of masculinity. The overwhelming majority of men and women across all age groups had a positive impression of femininity. Though American men had slightly better views of masculinity over UK men, both showed the same trends and dynamics. Same with women in both countries.
Think: The polls show that more young women had a positive impression of masculinity than young men. Quite telling about what women really want from what we see in the mainstream news.
As UK research analyst and writer Annie Holmquist put it: “Where have all the good men gone? Well, they’ve been beaten down. Many of them lack a strong father at home, having been raised by a single mother. The education system does little to nothing to help boys grow into good men. On TV, in movies, and in commercials, when do they see a strong, virtuous male? Only two come close to the traditional portrayals of strong men. One is Captain America. And even he is a superhero, not a real man. Chris Kyle of “American Sniper” is another. But he, too, strikes the modern senses as a relic of a different age."
From a further opinion by YouGov about the findings: "Even fashion is doing everything it can to make young men effeminate with skinny jeans and clothing that purposefully minimizes the male physique. We’ve come to live in Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon,” “where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average."
For the last few decades, American society has attempted to marginalize and even demonize masculinity. Unlike during previous times in history, boys being raised with a father at home are becoming the exception. Previously in American history, if a boy was raised without a father, society (school, sports, clubs, etc.) was purposed to help him develop into a man. He had the John Wayne archetype to follow in the movies. That is no longer the case, as boys are now more likely to see the John Wayne character lampooned and strong women lead weak men. This just gets worse and worse, with young women now asking Holmquist's question of where have all the men gone? The young women are also casualties of the marginalization of manhood.
It is time for America to face the truth of where we now stand and ask the question of whether this is what we want for the future. As a practical matter, the wolves (evil and truly toxic men) of the world are not going away but only growing in number. As we have seen since 9-11, the traditionally masculine virtues of the willingness and ability to protect others in a fight are needed now more than ever. America has been able to rely on an ever-decreasing number of "sheepdogs" willing to face the wolves, but this situation will not be sustainable into the future. We will still need to raise masculine boys into men willing to fight if necessary.
The kind of men our nation will need in the future are like those in the movie “12-Strong” (which was predictably lampooned as showing toxic masculinity): loving husbands and fathers, while sacrificial defenders of their nation. In 1 Kings 2:1-2, a dying King David gives advice to the future King Solomon that we should pray all fathers give their sons as they reach the end of their lives. It is what I will leave my son some day: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man.”
Bill Connor, an Army Infantry colonel, author and Orangeburg attorney, has deployed multiple times to the Middle East. Connor was the senior U.S. military adviser to Afghan forces in Helmand Province, where he received the Bronze Star. A Citadel graduate with a JD from USC, he is also a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Army War College, earning his master of strategic studies. He is the author of the book "Articles from War.”