Lack of self-esteem. Anxiety. Fear of failure. One might ask, what do these things have in common? In America, all of these negative emotions are brought to the mind of young males after years of neglect and judgement from society. Whether it be people ignoring men’s mental health, men not being able to properly express their feelings or society not recognizing the decrease in men attending universities, teenage boys are being failed by their peers and destroyed by the standards of American society.
Throughout history, men have been considered the breadwinners of the home and have had ample opportunities to attend college, find a career and earn money for their families. Since the 1980s, however, the number of men attending college has decreased significantly. Although society has in some ways boosted male presence throughout the workplace and colleges, America seems to fail to notice the decreasing numbers of males attending universities. For example, at the University of Alabama there are approximately 21,488 female students and only a little over 16,000 male students. Even though no one has to attend college to become successful, the hope is that people will attend college to find a career they are passionate about. These declining numbers become concerning when men’s mental health issues and fear of failure are considered.
Throughout recent years, there has been a greater chance of male students dropping out of college over female students, with that statistic seeing a 20% increase in recent times according to TimeImpact. One of the many reasons that this statistic has become so drastic is the pure neglect of male self-esteem. Even though society has put an emphasis on self-esteem issues for women, it seems to forget that men also experience these issues.
Whether in movies or real life, male students are almost always depicted as the inadequate student or even a “slacker” compared to gold star female students. Sometimes, male students are even labeled with the stereotype of being lazy. This lack of reassurance not only leads to poor self-esteem, but a fear of failure. Authors Matt Pinkett and Mark Roberts exemplify this in their novel “Boys Don’t Try? Rethinking Masculinity in Schools,” where they describe how “boys are more likely than girls to self-sabotage their academic outcomes in an effort to protect their sense of self-esteem.”
Men’s lack of self-esteem becomes even worse with competition from both boys and girls to get into a university. Unlike men, women have always been told that through studying at colleges comes independence. Men, meanwhile, have always been handed the opportunity to go to school. Even through associate and bachelor degrees, there is a major difference between males and females earning such degrees. According to the Center for Education Statistics, women are earning these degrees with men falling nearly 20% behind. This could be due to a fear of failure that leads to men not trying because of the increase in competition with women.
Another reason for the lack of men attending universities could be because of the military. Throughout the United States, there are 19 million soldiers, and 89% of those soldiers are men. With such little female participation, the high male statistic could be attributed to men feeling the need to join the military to prove themselves. Some men may want to say that they were in the military to protect their masculinity because society ridicules men who are considered “weak.” Although the military is becoming more diverse, there are still more men going into the military than women. This not only furthers the possible insecurities that one’s male counterparts may experience but women are also given ample opportunity to work and attend school without joining the military. Even though many women dedicate their lives for America, it’s the evolution of going from homelife to a career that has given women a sense of motivation.
Although America seems to fail young men by making them feel inferior and enabling laziness, there are still plenty of young males attending universities. At schools such as Columbia University, there is a higher male population than female, meaning not every school is going to have a larger female population. The lack of males could be because of financial needs, current employment or the constant anxiety of Covid-19. There are many different examples as to why men may not be attending college; however, the reasonable answer may in fact be a feeling of inferiority and the overwhelming population of girls.
A suitable option for a more inclusive society would be for everyone to check in on their male peers and see if there is anything going on in their lives that raises concerns. As a community, it is important to bring awareness to male matters in order to bring awareness and solve the problem. Society cannot just let men struggle while they have a difficult time with their future endeavors, mental health and more. It needs to become accepted for men to talk about issues they are experiencing and for the world to listen. Their voices matter just as anyone else’s. American society should never dictate someone else’s future, especially its men who seem to be thrown into the shadows and overlooked. Men should be able to live their lives without fear of failure and ridicule for discussing their problems.