“More and more men are living their lives around an unhealthy trifecta of porn, pot, and video games… We can call it the male crisis, the masculine malaise, the dude deficit… Where are all the good men?”
So asked Hugo Schwyzer, an author, speaker, and professor of history and gender studies at Pasadena City College, in a talk he gave last Friday at Pomona’s Women’s Union (WU). In the talk, “The Martha Complex and the Slacker Dude: The Gendering of Perfectionism and Anxiety,” Schwyzer discussed the pursuit of perfectionism among today’s young men and women and the role of the media in shaping attitudes toward this perfectionism.
“One thing that’s really fascinating is that we live in a culture where two of the hottest issues are sexuality and body image, but there’s not a lot about [how] sexual decision-making intersects with body image,” Schwyzer said.
A self-described feminist, Schwyzer said the hardest thing about his job is “pushing away the cookie plate” and not letting the praise he receives for doing the unconventional go to his head.
“I was raised with Ms. magazine on the coffee table by a feminist mother,” he said. “I would have majored in women’s studies if it existed back then.”
According to Schwyzer, an unprecedented 57 percent of college students today are female, a huge jump from approximately 19 percent in the late 1960s. He said that at some state universities like University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, the gender ratio is so skewed that admissions officers have begun to employ affirmative action to admit more white middle-class males.
When asked by an audience member if he thought that this practice would be effective in getting the male population back on its feet, Schwyzer said he feels the male “drop out” problem is not one that requires outside help and public policy to be fixed. He said this problem is not a result of external oppression, as are cases of traditionally underrepresented groups in society.
Despite national trends, recent changes in 5C demographics have not reflected a decrease in male representation, according to data collected from the websites of the Claremont Colleges. While Pomona is evenly split between males and females, 60 percent of Harvey Mudd College’s (HMC) student body and 54 percent of students at Claremont Mckenna College (CMC) are male. Pitzer College is the only co-ed school among the 5Cs that has more female representation than male, with female students comprising 59 percent of the student body.
Another focal point of Schwyzer’s talk was the added pressure that is placed on women today who are faced with more opportunities than their predecessors. He pointed to the female emphasis on perfectionism as a reaction to an abundance of opportunities—and expectations—for today’s young women.
“Women now have more opportunities than their grandmothers, but they have to realize that they don’t have to take every single thing that comes their way,” Schwyzer said. “Young women seem to be always anxious to prove something.”
To remedy this problem, Schwyzer urged his audience to try “desexualizing the relationship between males and females and creating a relationship of mutual respect… [by] giving both genders room to develop mutual respect.”
Schwyzer finished his discussion on the topic of modern feminism.
“We’ve opened the doors to women, but when they play by men’s rules, they have to be less feminine,” he said. “We need to stop the constant policing of how women perform gender.”