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Gen-Z Men Face an Opportunity, Not a Crisis

The Crisis of Masculinity some Gen Z men are feeling could be a good thing.

Man struggling to survive in today's world.
Shutterstock/Dilok Klaisataporn

The Manosphere, Red Pill, incels. If you’re a Gen Z man, chances are you have content like this on your For You page. If you’re a Gen Z woman, chances are you’ve heard some of this content from men in your life quoting social media influencers like Andrew Tate, Jordan Peterson, or other Red Pill content creators, things like High-Value Males, the Perito Principle, or even “life would be easier if I was a hot woman.”

While society is on the brink of launching into a new frontier with things like AI, renewable technology, and seemingly magical medical advancements like CRISPR gene editing, it seems that Gen Z men are becoming increasingly attracted to antiquated conservative ideals.

Well, for starters, that’s not entirely true. Men in America are no more conservative today than they were 30 years ago. According to an American Survey article, political views of men aged 18-29 overall have not drastically shifted rightward over the last few decades. While it is true that Gen Z men are more conservative than liberal, the plurality of men is moderate (43%).

This is normal in the context of American political ideologies, with a 2021 Gallup Poll showing that 37% of Americans identified as moderate, showing no drastic change since the ’90s. 

Men today are lonely.
Shutterstock/Rachata Teyparsit

Yet the feeling that young men are experiencing some sort of crisis is palpable, and there is some data to back this up. Men are 2-3 times more likely to die of drug overdoses, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. They also made up 80% of all suicides in 2021. This is most likely because men are far less likely to be open and honest about their mental and emotional health, which can be supported by any number of polls and anyone who has talked to a man (of any age) recently.

Couple this with the rise of misogynistic social media influencers, and what you have is a generation of men who are not drastically shifting toward one political ideology or the other. Rather, Gen Z men are simply stuck. 

How We Got Here

Women fighting for equality.
Shutterstock/Luis Osuna

Second-wave feminism brought a myriad of different issues to the forefront of American politics, but none of these issues saw more progress than education. Title IX made sex based discrimination in federally funded education programs illegal in 1972.

Before this, women were at a huge disadvantage in the field of education. The United States put two men on the moon before a single woman was admitted to Yale as an undergrad, both happening in 1969. Today, more women have college degrees than men (39% to 36%, according to Pew Research Center).

That is a massive shift in a very short amount of time. Couple that with manufacturing jobs and trade unions practically disappearing from the US (barring recent labor movements and wins), and what you have is an entire generation of men who were raised to be “providers” feeling lost and useless. 

In this confusion, misogynistic trends like incel culture and scam artists like Andrew Tate can easily exploit people who are lost and lonely. Instead of embracing and celebrating the academic and economic liberation of women as men should, they are terrified of becoming obsolete because the patriarchal system that their fathers and grandfathers grew up in is no longer a viable model for social cohesion.

Western capitalism taught men their value in this world is based on two factors. The first is financial: how much money they make, how many assets they own, and that is simply not needed today. In 2022, women made up 46.8% of the work force in the US, and 40% of women are either the primary or co-breadwinners in their household, according to the US Department of Labor

The second is sexual appeal towards women, and in a capitalist society where the dollar is God, money plays a key role in this as well. In other words, men were never taught to be good people. Kindness and empathy, emotional vulnerability and asking for help are things that exhibit weakness in the eyes of men who grew up in a patriarchal system, which is all of them. 

Where to Go From Here

Men need friends.
Shutterstock/Gatot Adri

Instead of a crisis, Gen Z Men (straight men in particular) should frame this as an opportunity to redefine what masculinity means in the modern world. Instead of how many cars and homes you own or how many women you sleep with, men today should focus on things that lead to a happy and fulfilling life. After all, Gen Z men are living at a turning point in history. They have the power to shape future generations of men for the better.

A great first step is dismantling the notion that a solitary man is a strong man. Men’s social media feeds are riddled with things like “lone wolf” content or “sigma males” being glorified. One could argue this is not only reinforcing toxic patriarchal standards but actively contributing to the downfall of Gen Z men.

The fact of the matter is, men today are more lonely than ever before. One possible reason why manosphere content and incel culture has taken off so much in the last 10 years is because thirty years ago, over half of men reported having at least six close friends. Now, that number is around 27 percent, with 15% of men reporting having no close friends at all, according to a 2021 survey conducted by the American Survey Center.

Things like the pandemic only made things worse, shutting people off from the outside world and forcing people to stay inside was detrimental to a lot of people’s mental health and social circles. That 15% with no close friends found solace in certain corners of the internet, and they are the ones who are loudly proclaiming a return to “traditional family values,” not the majority of Gen Z men.

Another great step would be dismantling men’s notions around sex and dating and purging toxic phrases like the “the friend zone.” There is a perception amongst young men that being friends with someone of the opposite sex is somehow a failure, a symbolic rejection of sorts illustrating a man’s inability to “seal the deal.”

This is probably because the majority of men report having little to no female friends. This is because men have been taught that the main value of women is romantic at best and nothing more than sex objects at worst. Men need to hold each other accountable in this regard, and stop teasing and criticizing their friends and family members when they utter the phrase “we’re just friends.” 

Last but certainty not least is dismantling the notion that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Gen Z as a whole is more likely to be open about their mental health and seek professional help for it, but men are still significantly less likely to do so. 

Stronger Together

We are stronger together than we are apart.

Individual men holding each other accountable to be the best version of themselves is a necessary and phenomenal first step. However, collectively, men and women need to band together to legislate social safety nets so everyone can have access to affordable and accessible mental health options, trade schools, good high-paying union jobs, and enough free time for both men and women to build meaningful relationships and friendships outside of work.

Individual work is absolutely needed, but collective action will grant the space for this work to take place. 

Written By

I am a 26 year old grad student interested in politics, basketball, literature, and cooking.

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