This inaugural State of American Men report, “From Crisis and Confusion to Hope,” seeks to understand the realities of men in 2023.
Men in the U.S. are in trouble. Many feel that their futures are uncertain and their identities are threatened. This situation is especially acute now, but this anxiety has always been built into boyhood and manhood. Told to “man up” or “be a real man,” boys and men who inevitably cannot meet the impossible overlapping standards of toughness, self-sufficiency, dominance, or stoicism have their very identity withheld from them.
Masculine norms such as these that govern every aspect of men’s and boys’ lives – and are woven into family life, schools, sports and other community spaces – deprive young men of more caring alternatives, ways to confidently own their identity as caring, emotionally connected, cooperative people. Many feel disconnected altogether and retreat to private lives of underachievement, underemployment, online addiction and to the pretense that they can go it alone. Some may find solace in misogyny and white supremacism. Certainly, too many men ignore or oppose the necessary action we all need for women’s equality and racial justice. Some men’s anger and their clinging to harmful ideas about manhood is hurting all of us.
When two thirds of young men feel that “No one really knows me,” as this study shows, they reveal the fragility of their connections and relationships. We take that finding for what it is: a call for more honest, more grounded, more connected and more meaningful lives. We know the results of this study will be troubling for many. Conservative voices will say we are calling out men and blaming them, or that we are maligning American manhood. The State of American Men report is a call for compassion for men and a call to all of us to build and support healthy, connected versions of manhood for the good of all.
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