Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?

Recently, there’s been a slew of studies and reports on the gender role reversal that’s taking place in America. The shift is something that has never been seen before. It’s “a major demographic event,” according to a Kay Hymowitz article in the Wall Street Journal titled Where Have the Good Men Gone?

What we are seeing is a shift on a huge level of women who outearn men, women and men in their 20’s taking longer to enter the workforce, and a delay in the age people get married…if they do at all.

I’m most interested in examining the male side of this, for reasons I’ll explain later. Look at these graphs from the WSJ article mentioned above (click on the picture for a larger view):

The highlights:

  • The number of women earning bachelor’s degrees in the 25-34 age range is about 5% higher than their male counterparts
  • Unemployment rates for women and men were roughly the same until 2008, when the rate shot up for men only
  • The percentage of people age 25-29 who never married has continually increased since the 1970’s. Today’s age group comes in at 55%, compared to less than 20% in 1970.

So what,” you may be thinking. It’s just another cultural and demographic shift. I disagree. I am part of the 32% of Americans that rejects the new social and gender norms.

Why is this happening and why do I reject it? Let’s look at it a little closer.

One of the reasons that I am most interested in this is that I am a 23 year old man, and I am part of the middle class, “well-to-do” portion of society that seems to be most affected by the new trends. I can attest to some of the quotes that you will read about in this post. There’s something almost tangible about my generation’s understanding of how the world works. Like an unsaid rule that we think applies to us. “If I go to college and get a degree, I’ll graduate in about 5 years and make $60,000 my first or second year out,” is the general consensus among “men” on most college campuses. I have no stats to back this up, but take it for what you will – I was there less than 2 years ago.

But while men have been thinking this way for the last 10 years, women have been thinking something different. They are, in my opinion, more naturally driven and self-motivated. Both of which help you to thrive in the college world. In our current economy, a college degree is almost something that is assumed you will have before embarking on any career path. So, while the men were playing X-Box and watching Sports Center (on the third loop of the morning), the women were studying harder, getting internships, and, in the end, getting the jobs the men assumed would go to them.

Researchers call the new period in a person’s life “pre-adulthood.”

“What also makes pre-adulthood something new is its radical reversal of the sexual hierarchy. Among pre-adults, women are the first sex. They graduate from college in greater numbers (among Americans ages 25 to 34, 34% of women now have a bachelor’s degree but just 27% of men), and they have higher GPAs. As most professors tell it, they also have more confidence and drive. These strengths carry women through their 20s, when they are more likely than men to be in grad school and making strides in the workplace. In a number of cities, they are even out-earning their brothers and boyfriends.”

All of this came to a climax in 2010 when:

“…women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same.”

As a result of these changes, many people find answers to why so so many people are waiting longer to get married. But what if there was a different answer? What if the reason women are waiting longer to get married is not that they are more career-driven than in the past, but that there just aren’t any real men out there anymore. In fact, the new population of these “in between” males are just being called guys – not boys but not men.

“What [is meant] by ‘guys’ is males who are not boys or men but something in between. ‘Guys talk about ‘Star Wars’ like it’s not a movie made for people half their age; a guy’s idea of a perfect night is a hang around the PlayStation with his bandmates, or a trip to Vegas with his college friends…. They are more like the kids we babysat than the dads who drove us home.'”

Who knew that Paula Cole would be so prophetic back in the 90’s when she sang,

“Where is my John Wayne
Where is my prairie son
Where is my happy ending
Where have all the cowboys gone”

There’s an entire portion of the marketing and business world that targets this demographic. Tech firms go after them, ESPN caters to them, and magazines like Maxim seduce them. When you can fill an entire day with everything catered to you, why go out and look for a woman or work on yourself to become a better man?

Because it will only lead to a life of wandering. Spiritually, professionally, and personally. God never meant for this role reversal to happen. We can’t take this trend nonchalantly. In Ephesians chapter 5 are these words:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.

God meant for the man to be the head of the family. Not because he’s some kind of anti-feminist, but because that’s how he designed it to work. You can’t be yourself apart from God anymore than you can be a man apart from God.

The only way for the country’s men to wake up and realize what they’re doing is the same way that I realized it – submit to God and His plan for your life.

I graduated from college in May of 2009, and I resembled the guys that you read about above. I moved in with my parents after graduation as I was job-hunting. I remember being so overwhelmed with the whole thing. My girlfriend (now wife) lived almost 3 hours away, there weren’t exactly now hiring signs everywhere because we were in the middle of the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and I didn’t really understand what it was to go out on your own and become a man.

At the time I had not given my life to Christ. I grew up in a church, but never made that decision. I was reading a Christian book about prayer late one night when I was overcome with emotion. I knew that the only reason I never felt “right” in my life to that point was because I was doing it apart from Him. I knew that if He could help me then, there was nothing He couldn’t do. So I gave my life over to Him. I asked Him to guide me in my job search, in my direction of where to live, and anything else in my life. The results weren’t too shabby: a job within the same month, living where I was raised and down the street from my girlfriend, and a feeling of contentment and direction that I had never known.

If you’re feeling like I was, trust God with your decisions, questions, and let Him lead you to the life you’ve always wanted.


The End of Men by Hanna Rosin, theAtlantic.com

The Public Renders a Split Verdict in Family Structure by Rich Morin, Pew Foundation

Where Have the Good Men Gone? by Kay S. Hymowitz, WSJ.com


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