Boys and men are failing in life at an increasing rate. A traditional breadwinner role and identity for men has become obsolete.  What do we replace it with? What does it mean to be a good man today?

I'm a filmmaker and storyteller, my world is images and narratives, here's how I see things.

In agricultural society, things were equally hard on women, men, and children. It was brutal. Droughts, plagues and flooding. Good years and bad years. The average lifespan was 30-40 years.

Industrialization and urbanization introduced the fridge, penicillin and electricity. Great. With men working in factories and offices the paycheck was deposited in his bank account, creating a power imbalance in the family. Urbanization broke the social bonds, support, and communities of the village.  

Political and social reforms enabled women to enter the workforce  - childcare, labor laws, anti-discrimination, tax reforms.  All good and important - no woman or man should be restricted from living their dreams and potential.

The village was replaced by a family unit of twosome-ness with a man, woman and their children. Today, the length of a marriage in the U.S. is seven to eight years, on average, with divorce rates of 50+ percent. I think it's fair to say that this is not a sustainable model. And, as any parent knows, it takes a village to raise kids.

By now women have noticed that the workplace is fiercely competitive and men and women are competing for the same resources - promotion, increased pay, leadership.

Not all women are happy about this transformation. Here's Billie Rae Brandt @billieraebrandt reflections and predictions on TikTok...

With women no longer depending on a male provider, men as husbands and fathers became nice-to-have. A choice, rather than necessity for women.

Where does this leave men? No reforms were introduced to secure a fathers bond with his children. Default shared custody in divorces, fatherhood, visitation rights... the responsibility for raising children stayed with the mothers.

It is what it is. It happened and we now got to figure out what to do about it. The man-woman-children twosome-ness family is not sustainable - now, how do we raise our children?


Michelangelo created Pietà depicting the Blessed Virgin Mary cradling the mortal body of Jesus after his descent from the Cross. This is one of the most powerful image we have in our Judaeo-Christian narrative. The mother, woman, virgin. Protect and serve her at all costs. 'Women and children first'.

Pietà by Michelangelo - Wikimedia

So men did, and it was a great evolutionary win - a man can have 10 children in a year, a woman one, possibly two. Men provided for and protected their families - women and children.

This idea has been with us for a very long time, an image and identity which does not fit most women for sure, locked into holy motherhood in need of protection.

The Virgin Mary 

Structural vs Individual

If someone is obese, or commits a crime, or is out of employment, the default is to look first to structural, external causes. Poverty rates, unemployment rates, access to education, and access to housing.  

But not for men - we alone are somehow individually responsible for our misery. Fixing this is not easy within a narrative which assigns structural causes for women's problems and individual responsibility for men's problems.

Suicide rates. Addiction to drugs. Violence. All individual responsibilities for men.

It is one thing to point out that there are aspects of masculinity that in an immature or extreme expression can be deeply harmful, quite another to suggest that a naturally occurring trait in boys and men is intrinsically bad.

More prone to addiction we have our sons immersed in unlimited access to hard-core porn and never-ending first-person-shooter computer games. But no, 'it's patriarchy' according to Arwa Mahdawi in the Guardian

Men aren’t naturally stoic: they’re just taught from a young age that feelings and emotions are for girls. They’re taught to lock up their feelings. They’re taught not to put as much value in relationships as women. They’re taught that they’re “less naturally relational”. And then people sit around wondering why young men aren’t in relationships and are so lonely. It’s not porn that’s the problem, it’s patriarchy.

There are structural issues affecting men and we refuse to see them. Workplace, family law, domestic violence, substance abuse, pornography, isolation, homelessness.  

Pietà of the New Millennium

The artist Jago decided to create a contemporary Pietà of the New Millennium and started with a block of marble - not a 3D printer.

Pieta by Jago - credit

Strangely, art critics can't even see a boy in the arms of the man. Maybe that means something. Maybe it's a typo.

The male advantage

Raw strength and risk assessment, generally an advantage for men, is not so much in demand in the workplace.  "Real jobs" requiring muscle and grit are mostly gone - heavy machinery and robotics replaced them with service and keyboard jobs.

The most grounded and naturally confident men I've met were tunnel builders moving mountains with dynamite, construction workers building houses and bridges. These are extremely competitive jobs based on competence and trust, with very little regard for your appearance. In these professions, you start as an apprentice with very little status and learn alongside the senior masters of the craft.

Service jobs require social skills and good looks, women have an advantage here. Men became ornamental,  judged on appearance instead of competence. This is something women have been struggling with no end when entering the workforce.

Suggested, that if men become more like women, things would be better for us. More emotions, less violence, more parenting.  Less masculine.  

"Men are naturally different than women, but only in ways that are bad."

But we have lost purpose. Unable to bear children having a sense of purpose is existential for men.  We need purpose, more than anything else.


We have two kinds of humans living side by side. Men and women. We're distinctly different biologically.

Men don't have a uterus, we can't give life to a new human so we find purpose and identity by creating things - houses, roads, power-stations, airplanes and corporations. If we are successful we can attract a woman and start a family. You see, we're not doing so fine without you. Music sound better with you. And we know that. Illustration here from

Partnered vs unpartnered men

20% of all men don't get that chance. Not all men are 'suitable for fatherhood' in a woman's eyes. So we have to perform and deliver to be considered.  We compete. Aggressively. Still, women have - and must have - the reproductive decision.  

The most valuable thing a man can give is his commitment. The most valuable thing a woman can give is her intimacy. This sets the stage for the dance of the heterosexual relationship.

So, men fight for women's attention and we offer our commitment. We court women and make sure we have what's needed - basic social status, some cash in the bank, a job, decent lovemaking skills, some trips to the gym, and a nice haircut.

What happens when women give no value to men's commitment? It's nice-to-have and women don't really need it anymore. It serves no purpose. This is a massive change.

Some boys try to learn the new rules from internet personalities; keep frame, be assertive, and never commit. But we can't build something sustainable when constantly "playing our A-game". This erodes the ability to engage in deep loving relations. Vulnerability is the key to building trust, and any long-term relationship will expose you to the core.


Purpose, integrity, respect - fundamental values for a man. Things we live by. Stocism. Existential values.

And a boy craves them. Respect from his father and peers. Integrity in keeping promises and standing by his word. Purpose in.. that his life has meaning.

Else, you might as well kill yourself. So we do, 80% of all suicides are male, finding no purposeful existence in a world of oceans, mountains and a starry sky against the milky way.


Some men go outwards. Strong body, independence, brotherhood, wealth. We end up admiring Andrew Tate with 4.3m followers on Twitter. Or become part of a gang -  instant belonging, respect and a purpose.


Or we go inwards. We find yoga, connectedness, deep emotions and nature. We find the king, the lover and the wizard, archetypes and a psyche deeply coded to protect, nurture and serve.

A sustainable purpose

So, women can now take care of themselves. Education, jobs, income, child-care. Women have a choice to build a family with the father of her children, or she may choose no to.  Few jobs require traditionally male capabilities - strength, grit and endurance. A visual culture where looks and identity are key features.

Can we try compassion for men, please? There are structural problems limiting our options for change, and they need to be fixed.  Richard Reeves, author of "Of Boys and Men" writes in The New Statesman

Millions of boys and men are desperate for help answering the question of what it means to be a good man today. If we don’t like [Andrew] Tate’s answer, we need a better one ourselves.
Jago - Pieta -

Pietà of the New Millennium is displayed in the Chapel of the Crucifix of the Chiesa di Santa Maria in Montesanto, the church of the artists. More on this work on the artists website

Pietas | Jago

Further reading

For an in-depth story on Men, women, boys, girls, society and sex differences and society's denial read Richard Reeves in BigThink

Toxic masculinity is a harmful myth. Society is in denial about the problems of boys and men.
Toxic masculinity is an awful term. Very few males react well to the idea that there is something toxic inside them that must be exorcized.

I also made a printable PDF of the web page...