By David Michael Newstead.
Jack Myers is a businessman, a public speaker, and the author of The Future of Men: Masculinity in the Twenty-First Century. Recently, I had the chance to talk with Jack about his book and about important gender issues in the United States. Our conversation is below.
David Newstead: What kind of response has the book gotten so far?
Jack Myers: Those who read it have been extremely supportive and positive. I generated a number of speaking engagements primarily to women’s groups: the 3 Percent Conference, S.H.E. Summit, and other women’s organizations. Some educational organizations and some human resources and talent groups have been very responsive. Mostly mothers who have read it have been very affected, particularly mothers of boys who are concerned about their sons.
David Newstead: Your book was published early last year prior to the election. Since the election, is there anything new that you would add to it? Or has your thinking about any of these issues changed given the misogynistic tone of the campaign?
Jack Myers: That’s an understatement. I did write in the book that the anti-women’s rights movement represents a backlash against the growing empowerment of women. I think we’re seeing things like The Handmaid’s Tale and other stories that kind of personifies the threat in some ways of a Trump-like future. My opinions have been reinforced by the election. I have written a number of pieces during the election. And one was a letter to Hillary Clinton and it said if you fail to recognize the issues confronting young men and address them you’ll lose the election. And I think that message has been obviously reinforced, unfortunately. But I also think that there’s so much attention being paid to Trump and things he’s doing that it almost serving as a buffer-zone to allow a lot of local governments to double down on their anti-women’s right initiatives and anti-abortions initiatives. And I really fear for the Supreme Court with Roe v. Wade. I think we’re in a continuing acceleration of the backlash rather than the election causing a response to reject that virus and that cancer that’s growing.
David Newstead: You mention in the book how a lot of people are stuck in the past when it comes to gender norms. To your point, is what we’re seeing now the last gasp of the old way or is it a resurgence of those sexist attitudes?
Jack Myers: That’s a great question. My sense right now is that we’re seeing the empowerment of that negative patriarchy and machismo and sexist and misogynistic attitudes. We should be seeing a last gasp. And ultimately, I believe that history will prove those who are pursuing those policies to be wrong and to be not only misguided, but to have been a dangerous voice in politics and culture. But in the meantime, you know until we see some election results it seems to me that we have more enablement and empowerment of outdated attitudes. What do you think?
David Newstead: You know, I think it’s nice to believe that when a less enlightened generation dies of old age some social problems will magically go away as well. You know like once all the old racists die off, then there won’t be anymore racism, right? That kind of thing. Except, unless we purposefully seek to address some issues they don’t ever really go away. They just take on new forms. For instance, a lot of women I’ve talked to get inundated with online hatred or harassment of different kinds: whether it’s on dating apps or something else. But you know, it’s just a different avenue for misogyny that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.
Jack Myers: There’s a whole chapter in the book about online dating and the interesting dynamics of it: where women get 50 emails to everyone that a man gets. Many of them being inappropriate, reflecting all the negative issues we’ve been discussing. At the same time, a lot of people are still meeting on online dating sites. Those are just the realities of progress. My concern is that with online is I keep coming back to younger generations. Tonight, I’m speaking to the parents of fourth and fifth graders at a local elementary school here in New York. I’m trying to really figure out, what is the message that I want to share with them about what their kids are being exposed to through technology and what messages they’re learning about gender relationships and gender norms. The vast majority of their teachers are female. You know, 50 percent of young people are growing up in home that are either fatherless or where the mother is the primary or equal wage-earner. So, you have this very female-centric environment. But yet at the same time, they’re seeing Donald Trump. And you know even at 7 and 8 years old, they’re very aware of the message that he’s been communicating. So, I’m concerned about the confusion that they grow up with and how that manifests itself.
David Newstead: Out of curiosity, how did you first become interested in this topic of masculinity?
Jack Myers: I came to the topic of masculinity in more of a circular fashion. It started out more of a business interest on the impact on the internet on generational shifts. I wrote a book a few years ago called Hooked Up that really focused in on the first generation to be growing up with the internet. And it recognized how female-centric and female dominant that this generation is. Then, I started questioning what’s happening to men. And that led me down a path of realizing that it was a topic that’s not really being focused on. And that led to the book and a degree of activism. I continue however to have a pretty sizeable B2B business focused on the media industry called MediaVillage. And that takes up the vast majority of my time. So, the issues around the future of men are more purpose driven and passion based than they are revenue generated or professional.
David Newstead: I sympathize. And I’m sure you may have had a similar experience, but once you start looking at it you realize masculinity connects to a lot of different issues in our society. So, there are plenty of topics to discuss.
Jack Myers: Indeed, there are. So, I’ve really begun trying to build up a movement around some of the core issues mostly relating to media and the way men are portrayed by media, education, mentoring, business, and stay-at-home dads.
David Newstead: In the book, you describe a forward-looking vision of the future in terms of women’s empowerment and things like that. But in the short-term, how do you think we can get there?
Jack Myers: The book is positive, but I’ve been called all kinds of names by the angry men’s movement online in response to some of my blogs and commentary. I think in the short-term, we get there by really helping young men and men in general understand that it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be emotional. When they are, rather than putting them down or make them feel uncomfortable to acknowledge them. To encourage young men who are in high school or even earlier to enter into careers that are normally reserved for women: health, education, administrative, library sciences.
I believe the most important things we can do is to start paying attention to the way men and boys are portrayed on television in commercials and sitcoms. Rather than portraying them as the Homer Simpson buffoons and the helpless dads or the sexists or misogynists in beer commercials, we can present positive messages of men and their sons just as we present positive portrayals of women. You know one thing I’ve noticed is the commercials that do have positive portrayals of dads invariably they’re with their daughters and not with their sons. And I find that really interesting.
David Newstead: I’ve noticed that on some Super Bowl commercials. To your point on career tracks, I was wondering if you could comment on gender-based occupational segregation?
Jack Myers: We’ve certainly have had that in almost every traditional category of business. If you go back – other than teaching and nursing and secretarial work, men have been dominant. Now, we’re seeing an increasingly diverse population of doctors, lawyers, and others. So, there’s a breakdown, but those breakdowns have happened primarily where the males have been dominant and they haven’t yet happened where females are dominant. And that’s where the opportunity is. Two-thirds of all the new jobs created in America are going to females, because the jobs require a college education and there are more female college graduates than male college graduates. The jobs where the opportunities are in the public service, in nursing, in teaching, and in those careers that have been traditionally designed for women. And I think we just have to find ways of creating a comfort level for young men and boys to want to be in those careers without demeaning them for it. In the same way, I think we have to change perceptions of stay-at-home dads from being out-of-work dads to being men who are doing the best for their family and their partners. It takes a long time to turn these perceptions around. It’s taken 30 years of encouragement from the women’s movement to begin to see more and more women in the STEM careers. It could be 20 or 30 years before we really begin to see a balancing in these other careers. But I don’t think it will. I don’t think it will take that long, because we have too many out-of-work men right now who are struggling to find a career path.
David Newstead: We’ve been talking about the future of men and women. But outside of those binary terms, what’s the future for people who don’t fit into these two boxes like the LGBTQ community?
Jack Myers: It’s a great question. It’s interesting. I have a chapter on Will & Grace, the TV show, and how influential it was in changing perceptions of gay people in America. And now Will & Grace is coming back with the original cast on NBC again. You know, there is an openness toward gay people has definitely shifted over several years and will continue to shift. This young generation that’s growing up now that’s in their late teens and early 20s, they don’t see gender differences for the most part. Obviously, it’s a generalization. They don’t experience them. They just don’t see gay, straight, male, female as a big issue. And then, they get out of college and come into the workforce and all of a sudden they begin to confront those issues as being primary in the culture and they don’t know quite how to respond. They start dealing with older people who have those biases and start being confronted with it. And instead of being comfortable with their own opinions and their own perceptions, they feel they have to adapt to the culture that exists instead of rejecting it. A challenge in society today, as I said before, is a lot of organizations are still holding on to these outdated perceptions.
David Newstead: One closing question. If you could give one piece of advice to young men, what would it be?
Jack Myers: Follow your own path. Don’t conform. Don’t feel you have to conform to society’s norms about masculinity. And be proud of who and what you are.