Millennial Confusion About Masculinity

In unguarded moments, the young men I work with acknowledge their disengagement, and more than that, they articulate a confusion and even ambivalence about what it means to be a man. They can make jokes about traditional male identity until the cows come home, but at least among the Ralph Lauren/UHB crowd, there’s an inability (or severe reluctance) to talk publicly about anything distinctly male, especially anything distinctly positive and male. To do so, they tell me, one runs the risk of A. sounding like a spoiled child (their perceived privilege invalidating any objections they may raise) or B. being accused of misogyny (as if being ‘pro’-male automatically equates to being ‘anti’-female). In a Christian context, you run the risk of sounding like one of those guys. It often feels like our country’s discussion of masculinity, much like its discussion of religion, has lost all of its moderate voices.

So rightly or wrongly, these young men withdraw. Not wanting to risk failure–which they’ve been told is a fate worth than death–and afraid of crying foul, they opt not to compete, and often end up relating to women solely as sex objects. Which seems easier but usually makes the situation even worse….

—David Zahl, “Underachieving Boys and the Masks Men Wear

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