Date: Wed Jan 19 2000 - 03:34:03 PST
Funny . . . I don't get "huge bouquets." But if I did, I can think of a
better place to shove them.
SLATE CULTURE: Tues., Jan. 18, 2000
Masculinity, That Fragile Flower
By Judith Shulevitz
JAN. 17 (APE)--The boom in business media is damaging male
self-esteem, a new study shows.
The study's findings were unveiled yesterday at a news conference
in lower Manhattan co-hosted by MALE, the Men's Association for
Label Evaluation, an organization devoted to challenging negative
stereotypes of men, and the two psychologists who performed the
research. The psychologists, Dr. Eric Smith and Dr. Adam Cohen of
New York University, interviewed 500 American men between the ages
of 15 and 45 over a period of five years.
"It's a wake-up call," said Dr. Smith of the results. "We are
losing our brightest young men to a devastating disorder. They are
squandering their enormous potential for growth and personal
happiness on a meaningless obsession with dot-coms, bandwidth,
relative net worth, and the fleeting indices of success, such as
The study suggests that some men may be so affected by the
proliferation of business television and financial services
magazines that they fall prey to what Smith and Cohen call an
obsessional disorder. Said Smith, "They binge and purge, or rather,
purge then binge. Because they feel worthless, they punish
themselves by coming in too early to the office and staying too
late, whether they need to or not. Then they waste time on endless
day trading and deplete their bank accounts on frivolous
items--watches, suits, cell phones with Web browsers, huge bouquets
they'll send to girlfriends alienated by their long hours and
tedious business gossip, even though the girlfriends will just
throw the flowers in the garbage."
The periods in a man's life when he is most vulnerable to the
condition, according to Smith and Cohen, are "troughs"--moments of
transition, such as leaving high school and entering college,
leaving college and entering the job market, hitting 30, and so on.
In a trough, a man may develop an emotional attachment to
"aspirational media," which traffic in celebratory stories and
photographs of highly powerful men and the symbols of their
success, such as the corporate titles they have acquired and shed,
the venture capital they haven't spent yet, and the wives they have
married and divorced.
These publications and programs also contain how-tos about getting
rich quickly and yet investing wisely that may make readers feel
confused and inadequate, said Smith and Cohen. "For instance," said
Cohen, holding up the current issue of Fortune magazine turned to
an article by columnist Stanley Bing, "he humorously dismisses the
typical New Year's resolutions, then pledges to 'make a lot of
money.' It's role models like him that are laying waste to an
entire generation of men who could have had richly nurturing
relationships with their spouses and friends and gone on to be
perfectly happy and productive professionals with children in
progressive schools and summer rentals in western Massachusetts."
Several noted psychiatrists confirmed that this disorder had become
increasingly evident among their male patients. "More and more
young men in their late teens and 20s are exhibiting signs of
distress," said Dr. Winston Thurston, a professor of
neuropsychiatry at Yale University.
"These boys have gone from being bright young things on their way
to a college degree and a promising career to feeling broke,
hopeless, and doomed to professional failure because they haven't
started and walked away from their own companies yet," Thurston
said. "It's as if they've been brainwashed by all the admiring
profiles of Bill Gates and Steve Case into thinking that their own
considerable achievements aren't big enough."
Thurston, a member of the editorial board that oversees the
publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, or DSM, said
the group was debating whether to expand a previous category of
addiction in order to cover the new condition. "Let's face it," he
said. "What we're talking about is men getting hooked on the
pornography of success."
Contacted by APE, Susan Faludi, author of Stiffed: The Betrayal of
the American Man, agreed with Thurston's definition of business
media and said it amounts to a plot against men.
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