Empty-Headed: How Boys Are Becoming the New Girls

Photo credit: paranerds.com

It used to be that girls were the ones considered vapid and empty-headed.  The stereotypical female was a girl who could gab endlessly about absolutely nothing, who was incapable of applying her mind to more complex or philosophical ideas.  She required the assistance of logical, sound-minded men to guide her through a life that was far too difficult for her to navigate independently.  Of course, we know that women throughout history were just as smart as they are today and simply weren’t given enough educational opportunities.  And many women cleverly used this stereotype to their advantage in order to manipulate their husbands and bosses.

The game, however, is changing.

Women are outnumbering men in college 2 to 1, and that number is quickly climbing.  There is an epidemic of men “failing to launch” and living in mom’s basement well into their thirties.  The future ramifications are clear: women will soon far outnumber men in the most powerful, lucrative, and influential positions in the world.  The next generation of women will have no choice but to be the breadwinners for their households.

Sadly, many of our boys today are choosing to fulfill the newly vacated role of the superficial simpleton.  I’m observing this trend among my high school boys, and it alarms me.  When I overhear their conversation before or after class or in the halls, there are usually only two subjects of discourse: sports and video games.  Mostly just video games.  Pity the poor child who doesn’t have them or isn’t allowed to play them.  He is excluded from male friendships because he has no common ground with other boys.  These conversations are utterly vapid and worthless.

“That level has a fire moat.  The fire moat’s awesome because if you push the zombies into it, they melt and all their stuff melts.”

“Yeah, it has some new weapons now.  If you upgrade your system, you can get more advanced weapons.  Those guns are way better than the ones in the old version.”

And on and on and on and on it goes.  It’s almost physically painful for me to hear these conversations and to realize the ramifications of video game addictions.  These boys will invest years of their lives in endeavors that produce almost no tangible reward.  They will miss opportunities to develop relationships, build real-life skills (sorry, but “hand-eye coordination” doesn’t count), and expand their minds through learning.  They will lose themselves in a labyrinthine world of instant gratification and mindless entertainment.

Some of them will never re-emerge.

Video games aren’t necessarily evil in and of themselves; playing them once in a while is usually as harmless as any other escape.  It’s the addiction that’s the problem.  And yes, one may develop an addiction to almost anything.  But when I hear these conversations, I’m slowly realizing that some of these boys aren’t just unwilling to engage in intelligent conversation–they are slowly becoming incapable of engaging in intelligent conversation.

True, girls engage in more than their fair share of flaky discourse.  But I find that they converse on a much wider variety of topics, and when the time comes for serious discussion in class, they are capable of thinking more deeply about most topics.

While some may say that it’s about time and that this new imbalance doesn’t begin to balance the scales of history when you consider millennia of female oppression, I see this as a cause for extreme concern.  Nothing works well when society is out of balance and any group is underrepresented or marginalized.

I see some young men at my school that give me hope.  They are strong, independent thinkers who will one day become dynamic leaders in their homes, churches, and workplaces.  We need a movement of young men unwilling to settle for empty pursuits.  We need young men willing to be considered unpopular in order to devote themselves to more worthwhile endeavors.  We need a society of true equality, a society in balance.

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2 thoughts on “Empty-Headed: How Boys Are Becoming the New Girls

  1. Were boys talking about science or literature in the hallways a few generations ago? I don’t think so.
    Most people are and will be simpletons, even those who went through college and are now part of the status quo. Exceptional people will always outshine the rest and the good news is that today those exceptional beings are women and men alike although the range of opportunities is nowhere near from being entirely fair. In my experience, girls have always been better students, probably it has something to do with them growing up faster, don’t you agree?
    True, women outnumber men in colleges but I believe the current world-wide economy has a larger component in the blame than video games or sports. I’m not a fan of VGs but I do believe they increase certain kinds of concentration; promote critical analysis and immediate response to challenges (within a silly or even stupid context if you will, but even so). VG fans are greedy and they want more challenging things every time (or version) so a few of them will set themselves to create them. VGs might be America’s last hope to get kids interested in studying math, engineering and computer science! (I’m overreacting for dramatic effects but you know there is some truth to that. Take a look at any scientific research group in America and see how most members come from abroad).

    There is hope for mankind, there has always been. The only problem is that a paradigm shift is always painful, and we may not like it when we get old and all we knew and all we believed in is gone, but we’ll be fine and the future generations will not understand how we were able to live under our own paradigm.

    Congratulations on your blog. I’m an instant fan 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your feedback! I appreciate a well-thought-out comment and lively discussion. I agree that boys weren’t talking about science or lit in the hallways a few generations ago, but I do think they were conversing on a wider variety of subjects.

      Even though there are few truly exceptional people in the world, society functions better when ordinary people (men and women alike) think critically about life and demonstrate focus, drive, and a need for real-world accomplishment. I worry that VGs are impeding some people’s ability to do these things.

      Yes, girls have typically been better students in elementary, junior high, and early high school, but the playing field was leveled in late high school/early college. Not so any more. Girls are carrying the advantage all the way through to graduation and beyond in many subject areas (they remain the minority in math and science fields).

      I think there’s a strong connection between increased interest in video games and decreased interest in college. For some kids, the real world just isn’t as satisfying as a world free from heartache, boredom, and actual risk. As for the benefits of concentration, critical analysis, and response to mental challenges…well, I find that other pursuits, such as reading, produce these same benefits and many more, without the heavy disadvantages. However, you’re right about the paradigm shift. We will have to acknowledge and adjust to the new normal. The next generation may wonder why people made all that fuss about video games.

      I look forward to perusing your blog as well, although I don’t know the first thing about computational chemistry!

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