Men at the Margins

The marginalization of men, often most noticeable among working class men who have lost good-paying jobs in a manufacturing and industrial economy, suggests far-reaching consequences. The churning of family life that accompanies this marginalization -- single parenthood, step-parenthood, half siblings, unstable live-in relationships - takes its toll on children. The displacement of men, not only from the lives of their children, but also from the larger community frays the social fabric.

"Marriage plays an important role in civilizing men. They work harder, longer, more strategically. They spend less time in bars and more time in church, less with friends and more with kin. And they’re happier and healthier," says W. Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

This shift has left a considerable number of fatherless children who are much more at risk of failure. Communities where they are large numbers of missing fathers and fatherless children and unmarried and jobless men take on an unsavory character in time. In these places, families increasingly become matriarchal, and men and fathers recede the to the vanishing point. An unemployed man with a traditional view of marriage, family and children who loses his wife and children in a divorce becomes alienated in such an environment.

Seen this way, the men’s and fathers’ rights movements draw energy from some of the results of this cultural disruption.

In the long run, George Harmon’s lament in Divorce American Style ("She got the mine, and I got the shaft") may mean a lot more than just a lame joke.



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