She has noticed that young men are angry:
Anyone glancing at the responses to my article “Where Have the Good Men Gone?” can easily understand one of the reasons I wanted to write “Manning Up,” the book from which the piece was excerpted: There are lots of very angry young men out there. No, they’re not just angry at me. They’re angry at the whole sex.
It seems that the liberal order hasn't created purer relationships between men and women but more hostile and confused ones.
Kay Hymowitz then addresses one of the issues I criticised her for:
My book grew out of my observation that relations between the sexes during this protracted period I call pre-adulthood are, at best, very confused. I have tried to figure out why so many young women today complain about men being thoughtless, immature and boorish. I also wanted to know why large numbers of men have become so profoundly hostile to women.
Many readers have objected that my answer to these questions is to “blame men”...
In fact, to me the whole question of blame makes no more sense than asking whether the Chileans were at fault for last year’s earthquake. My book describes sociological and economic tectonic shifts – primarily the shift to a knowledge economy and the rise of women – that are so huge and so impersonal as to render the question of blame meaningless.
The favoured "impersonal economic forces did it" line. I still hold that to be a dodge. Feminists aimed for a particular result, they used the power of the state over a period of decades to achieve it, until they got what they wanted. And then we're told that no-one was to blame, it was all a result of impersonal, economic shifts in society.
Nor does Kay Hymowitz hold to this line consistently:
As a number of commenters have correctly noted, feminism celebrated women’s independence sometimes to the point of making men seem an expendable part of family life. Throughout the 1990’s when many of today’s pre-adult men were growing up, the entire culture turned into a you-go-girl cheering section. Girls ruled, while boys drooled, or so the t-shirts and book bags said. Boys might have also observed their uncles or fathers, perhaps good men, being taken to the cleaners by wives who kept the family house and children.
That's well put. It was not merely a matter of blind, impersonal forces. There was an ideology at work, seeking to transform society. The followers of this ideology assumed that men would simply go along with their assigned role of propping up female individualism. How much effort was put into understanding the male psyche by the social transformers? None at all.
Kay Hymowitz has also been criticised in an interesting but not quite coherent way by Helen Smith. She asks Kay Hymowitz:
What do you have to offer these men you call child-men if they do man up? Are you going to ensure that they have fair access to their children should they divorce? Will you make sure that they aren’t hauled off to jail if the wife makes false accusations of domestic violence? Will you let them keep the earnings and property that they worked for over years rather than have them turned over to their wife, even if she cheated and was abusive? Will you shield the millions of men who live in fear of their significant other but have nowhere to turn for help? Will you make marriage, in other words, as valuable to men as you think it is for women?
I doubt it. What Hymowitz and other authors in this area ... seem to want is for these men to marry women and make them happy. Rather than recognize that they are autonomous beings who are living for themselves and fulfilling their own needs and not a woman’s obligations, these analyses of the “man problem” seem to be all about what women want.
Well, such are the fruits of half a century of organizing gender relations along the lines of women’s immediate desires. Long term, it has resulted in men bailing out, going “John Galt” in the gender economy. And I can understand the disappointment. But I don’t share it. As you sow, so shall you reap.
You are frustrated that some men have turned their backs on women and have decided to live for themselves and not for you. Perhaps you should have thought of that possibility earlier. And as for that American individualism that you seem to hold in disregard?
May it live long and prosper.
The argument is very good in parts, but isn't consistent. What comes through well is that women have to consider things from the male point of view. Men are less likely to commit to marriage if marriage laws are biased in favour in women. Nor do men exist merely for the purpose of sacrificing themselves for women's "immediate desires" - men have a character and an existence of their own which needs to be recognised within a culture of family life.
That's a tremendous advance over the kinds of assumptions that were made back in the 1990s.
The inconsistency is this. Helen Smith seems to recognise the damage done by female individualism: by the idea that you could organise "gender relations along the lines of women’s immediate desires". But she then seems to uncritically accept both a male individualism ("they are autonomous beings who are living for themselves and fulfilling their own needs," "[they] have decided to live for themselves") as well as a larger culture of American individualism.
I don't think that's going to work. Can you really get women to think in terms other than their own autonomy (their own immediate desires), if you are praising the same qualities in men and in American life in general?
And if a radical individualism for women has harmed relations between the sexes, then why wouldn't such an individualism for men do the same?
Somewhere along the line, the limits of such a radical individualism have to be asserted - for both men and women.
A marriage works well when the husband acts to make his wife's life easier and the wife acts to make the husband's life easier. That's very different to living for yourself. If you really intend to live for yourself, you aren't likely to make good husband/wife material.