The men dancing Naatu Naatu, the Oscar-winning song this year, were exuberant, in sync, performing feats of strength without competition, just pure joy.
Watching them, I realized once again how much I’ve been missing men.
I was a college professor from 2006-2014, and over those years there were fewer and fewer male students in my classes. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1,107,823 women got a bachelor’s degree in the U.S. in 2018-19 and only 803,184 men, so that trend has only gotten worse. I have also missed them in choirs, yoga class, book clubs, my online meditation group, adult school classes, even my fellow pickleball players are mostly women.
Without the male point of view, the male experience, the balance of life is askew. One of my students said he hesitated to participate in class discussions. “I’m afraid I’m going to say something wrong and they’ll be all over me.” Another said he didn’t open doors for women anymore because he never knew if they would say thank you or be angry. I didn’t have a cure for their feeling of rejection. The tide of feminism flowing through my classroom was not all rejection, it was also growing confidence among the women. I didn’t want to shut them up, though I wished they had been more careful with their words.
So perhaps we’ve scared you away.
In the early days of women’s liberation, the Australian activist Irina Dunn coined the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” and in many ways she’s right. We can support ourselves and our families, put the kids through college, file our taxes, and shovel the snow. The anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote that “Independence begins with economic independence,” and women have become economically independent and thus liberated to make choices and contribute to the world in ways previously denied them. The challenge is to figure out how one person can make their own contribution without pushing someone else down. The writer Katherine Anne Porter said that being both a writer and a wife were incompatible because “somebody has to do the dishes.” Included in our gender reorganization must be men doing the dishes so that women aren’t left with one-and-a-half full-time jobs, sacrificing for one, then another, but that is another discussion.
I’m in my 80s, and while having sex with a man is possible, that is not the core of my yearning. Working, studying, dancing, eating, talking, singing, debating, and playing sports with them provides an energy and attitude that makes life a few degrees more interesting and lively.
Guys, we’ve proven we can support ourselves and lift heavy things. Now, can we figure out how to be together again?