Millennial men feel pressure to 'be it all' in 'Me Too' era, study finds

"Men are experiencing a clear tension point between the expectation for them to be empathetic and emotionally connected spouses and fathers, to the equally strong expectation for them to be manly providers for their families."

Millennial men: fire up that barbecue, then gently weep over it.

A new study by Hill Holliday reveals that these guys are navigating multiple, and conflicting, articulations of masculinity; The 2018 man must be household grill master and braid his daughter’s hair. He must slay his career and be present at home. He must be the strongest provider and sometimes cry.

"Men are experiencing a clear tension point between the expectation for them to be empathetic and emotionally connected spouses and fathers, to the equally strong expectation for them to be manly providers for their families," said Lesley Bielby, chief strategy officer for Hill Holliday.

"For Millennial men in particular, this tension seems to be at breaking point; men just don’t seem to know who or what they are supposed to be in 2018 and beyond. This is something marketers need to explore and keep in mind when promoting their brands."  

The study, based on the views of 2,200 diverse men and women across the United States 18 years of age and older, set out to examine how to be a good man in 2018 and beyond in this "Me Too" era.

When it comes to masculinity, researchers found that 65 percent believe the most important job of a good man is providing for his family financially. Meanwhile, 92 percent of men and women surveyed chose Barbecuing as the "most masculine" activity for modern men.

Around 75 percent of Millennial dads consider themselves to be the primary caregiver, and a total of 93 percent of men would be happy if men and women have equal parenting/household responsibilities in 10 years.

The study also found that 60 percent of Millennial dads feel that their role as a caregiver has impacted their professional career, and 90 percent of Millennial men say that "Me Too" has informed their behavior in personal and work lives.

"The workplace gender gap is closing, and Millennial men are unsure where that leaves them," Bielby explained. "While on the one hand, they absolutely want women to succeed in breaking open the glass ceiling and having equal representation in and out of the workplace, on the other they are concerned about how they are expected to behave in the workplace today."

Bielby said that a lot of the confusion and tension lies in the fact that Millennial men are expected by themselves, by culture and -- in many cases -- by women, to be the patriarch figure who provides and be the person who is relied upon to protect.

Researchers found that Millennial dads want to be more present at home more so than previous generations, but worry more about the professional consequences. Most men want to spend more time with their families and want to participate in more school activities with their children. However, they are still concerned about taking time off work, and about how this would be perceived by their peers.

This group also believes they are the primary caretakers in their homes -- which Millennial moms disagree with. The study indicates that men may be slightly delusional when it comes to their role in the home. In traditional family structures, men believe that they are joint or primary caretakers. Most women disagree that this is based on reality.

So what does this mean for marketers? Bielby said that middle-aged white men have always been the brunt of jokes for advertisers. "It was the one place they could go to where they couldn’t offend anyone -- but that’s just not the case," she said.

"Our industry can use this to fuel authentic storytelling that touches on some of these issues and conflicts.There’s an opportunity to face this head-on. Don’t portray men as ridiculous -- run at the tension or portray all men in a way that is true to what’s going on in our culture. That way we’re going to get more empathy and understanding."

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