Are Men an Endangered Species?
A new program opened in the United Kingdom in 2002 is called Man Not Included. Their logo shows a figure of a man surrounded by a red circle with a line running through it. The meaning is quite clear and, for me, the feeling was chilling.
Man Not Included helps women who want to have children without the involvement of men. They help them to get the necessary sperm and teach them how to use it. And of course they have their own website at www.ManNotIncluded.com. Clearly there are those who feel that men are useful only as sperm donors.
The idea that men are in decline and may face extinction would have seemed ludicrous even a few years ago. Now more and more people are taking it seriously. In November, 2001, the prestigious British Journal of Medicine published an editorial written by Siegfried Meryn, M.D. titled "The future of men and their health: Are men in danger of extinction?"
The British Journal of Medicine is not a publication to make wild claims. They are one of the most scientifically grounded professional journals in the world. Dr. Siegfried Meryn is not a "pop-psychologist." He is a medical doctor with a world-wide reputation in the field of men's health. He is professor of medicine at the University of Vienna and chairman and president of the World Congress on Men's Health.
"Although there is still a long way to go in most societies around the world, it is clear that women can perform (and on most occasions outperform) pretty much all the tasks traditionally reserved for men," says Dr. Meryn in his editorial. "In most of the developed world women are starting to outnumber men in medical schools and making rapid gains in terms of equality in compensation and opportunities in the workforce."
"Will we see the gap in life expectancy between men and women widen as the gaps in social determinants of health become narrower? The answer is probably yes, unless women continue to adopt the same negative behaviors that characterize men today. With the advent of sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, sex sorting techniques, sperm independent fertilization of eggs with somatic cells, human cloning, and same sex marriages, it is also reasonable to wonder about the future role of men in society."
Devra Davis is one of the top health researchers in the world. Her specialty has been the relationship between health and the environment. She is now Visiting Professor of Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz School and Senior Advisor to the World Health Organization. In her recent book, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution she devotes an entire chapter to the serious decline in male reproductive viability that seems to be caused by our destruction of the environment.
In the chapter "Save the Males" she notes that men are having increasing difficulty fathering children and males are actually in decline. "Now it looks like something is wrong with baby boys," she cautions. "Fewer boys are being born today than three decades ago, and more of them have undescended testes and effects in their penis. More young men are getting testicular cancer than as recently as the early 1990s, and they are developing it at younger ages. Some trendy magazines have even suggested that male health is an oxymoron.
So what do I mean when I say I think that men are in danger of extinction? First, I think the whole human race is in danger of destroying ourselves either through wars or environmental destruction. Obviously if we kill off humanity, the men go as well. Second, I believe that sometime in the not too distant future, society might decide that there are too many males and limit the number of males that are born. Some even suggest that we could eliminate males completely. "Man himself may in the end become redundant," says Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London. "for his sperm can be grown in animal testes, and in mice at least an egg can be fertilized with a body cell from another female, which cuts out the second sex altogether."
Third, we have seen in earlier chapters that men are killing themselves through suicide, through homicide and wars. This could lead to a severe reduction in the male population. Finally, males could continue losing significant roles in the society and might become psychologically extinct, if not physically so.
Whether these possible losses ever come to pass, they still influence our psyches. If you ask the average guy why he is so irritable he is unlikely to say because I'm afraid we're going to blow ourselves up, or because environmental pollution is destroying the quality of my sperm, or because I'm losing my role in society and might be eliminated from meaningful involvement in work and relationships, or because I'm feeling depressed and want to hurt myself or someone else. Most men will blame their bad feelings, if they allow themselves to feel at all, on such things as the way their wives treat them, job stresses, traffic jams, terrorists, the economy, the government, or general worry about the future.
Certainly things like family conflict, job stress, and the state of the economy can cause any of us, including men, to become irritable, but there is more going on than meets the eye. If we are going to help ourselves and each other prevent and treat IMS, we have to have a better understanding of the causes of our male insecurities. To do that we have to get at the core of what it means to be male.
Does this sound familiar? Drop me a line and let me know what you have experienced.
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This article first appeared on Gordon Clay's MenStuff Web site, http://www.menstuff.org/