Bits of Books - Books by Title
THE END OF MEN
And the Rise of Women
By Hanna Rosin
Author watched late-20 yo business school girls flirt at the bar. If they could ignore the porn jokes, they cd hold their own on the trading floor. If they cd make the first move, then they cd also beat the guys at negotiation. This was their way of psyching the guys out, by refusing to back down in any game where, in another era, they would have assumed to be the weaker opponent.
For working class men, a repeat script. Starting in the 1970's, black men started losing manufacturing jobs. By 1987 only 20% blacks worked in factory. The men who lived in the inner cities had a hard time making the switch to service jobs or getting the education needed to move into other sectors. Over time the nuclear families fell apart as men succumbed to drug addiction, jail or violent death. In the last 20 years, it has become a matriarchal society. Instead of the man being valued as a breadwinner, he is now just another mouth to feed.
Now same thing is happening to working class white men. But the white women are getting educated and upskilling into jobs such as nursing, teaching or admin (working for the govt, dishing out unemployment benefits to the men).
2008 Census Bureau began publishing divorce rates by state, and it turns out that the ones who strongly identify as evangelical Christian (Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky) have the highest rates, with New York, California and Massachusetts the lowest.
Once the women are financially independent, they set the terms of the marriage, and they set the bar so high that the men they know don't measure up.
Now, it seems that only the rich have a stable marriage - a class privilege, just like a good school and access to health care and good food.
And the teen once-were-middle-class white girls are following the example of black teens and having babies out of wedlock, without embarrassment. And the southern Baptist churches are having to modify their teaching about women being subservient to men, in the face of an increasingly matriarchal society.
At some point over past 40 years the job market became largely indifferent to size and strength. Technology began to work against men, making brawn jobs obsolete and making people skills ever more valuable. The working class jobs which are increasing are the ones heavy on nurturing. Theoretically there is no reason why men shouldn't move into those jobs, but they are very slow to adapt. The range of acceptable jobs for men has changed little - if anything it has shrunk as women have invaded areas which were traditionally male-dominated.
(NY Times Review)
"The End of Men"? This is not a title; it is a sound bite. But Hanna Rosin means it. The revolution feminists have been waiting for, she says, is happening now, before our very eyes. Men are losing their grip, patriarchy is crumbling and we are reaching "the end of 200,000 years of human history and the beginning of a new era" in which women - and womanly skills and traits - are on the rise. Women around the world, she reports, are increasingly dominant in work, education, households; even in love and marriage. The stubborn fact that in most countries women remain underrepresented in the higher precincts of power and still don't get equal pay for equal work seems to her a quaint holdover, "the last artifacts of a vanishing age rather than a permanent configuration."
And to whom do we owe this astonishing revolution? If there is a hero in Rosin's story, it is not women or men or progressive politics: it is the new service economy, which doesn't care about physical strength but instead apparently favors "social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus" - things that "are, at a minimum, not predominantly the province of men" and "seem to come easily to women." And so, "for the first time in history, the global economy is becoming a place where women are finding more success than men."
Human history? Global economy? Her evidence for women the globe over consists of thin, small facts cherry - picked to support outsize claims. We read, for example, that "women in poor parts of India" are rushing ahead of their male counterparts to learn English so that they can man call centers. But will this impressive display of initiative really liberate them? And even if it did, are we to deduce a country from a call center?
But Rosin's real focus is the United States, and here she delivers a blizzard of numbers, studies, statistics. Consider: By 2009 there were as many women as men in the work force, and today the average wife contributes some 42.2 percent of her family's income - up sharply from the 2 percent to 6 percent that women contributed in 1970. The future, Rosin says, looks brighter for women still. For every two men who will get a bachelor's degree this year, there will be three women graduates. And even if they remain underrepresented at the top of just about everything, they have "started to dominate" in lower-profile professions like accounting, financial management, optometry, dermatology, forensic pathology and veterinary practices, among "hundreds of others."
Rosin has invented comic-book characters to explain the momentous changes she sees: "Cardboard Man" is rigid, stuck in old habits, mentally muscle-bound and unable to adapt to the fleet-footed and mercurial global economy. "Plastic Woman" (an unfortunate name choice, given the surgical "adaptability" it calls to mind) is infinitely malleable, nimble and endowed with "traditionally feminine attributes, like empathy, patience and communal problem-solving," that make her the perfect match for the new economy. For her, the only way forward is up.
But this 'rise,' which Rosin so cheerfully reports, is in fact a devastating social collapse. It starts with inequality and class division. As Rosin herself shows, men at 'the top' of society are not 'ending.' It is all happening to the lower and middle classes, because "the end of men" is the end of a manufacturing-based economy and the men who worked there, many of whom are now unemployed, depressed, increasingly dependent on the state and women to support them. We know the numbers, and they are bad: since 2000 the manufacturing economy has lost six million jobs, a third of its total work force — much of it male. In 1950, 1 in 20 men in their prime were not working; today the number is a terrifying 1 in 5.
And so, a new matriarchy is emerging, run by young, ambitious, capable women who - faced with men who can't or won't be full partners - are taking matters into their own hands. For the poor, things are especially tough. One single mother Rosin interviewed fell asleep standing in the elevator of the community college where she was studying to get her degree - between caring for three children and working a night job. No wonder these women don't want to get or stay married: unless a man can pull his weight, he is just another mouth to feed. But as Rosin herself points out, the new matriarchy is no feminist paradise. To the contrary: we have been here before with African-American women, and it is not a happy story.
The matriarchy isn't just happening at the low-income end; it is happening among the middle classes too. Take the young women who are flocking to school to become pharmacists, one of Rosin's favorite fast-feminizing professions. Giddy at the prospect of a $100K salary and certain they will never not work, even if they have children, these women are planning for lives without men - or without reliable men.
That goes for the bedroom as well. If you thought today's 'hookup' culture was run by young testosterone-charged men who want sex and no commitment, think again. Rosin insists that women are often in charge and the primary beneficiaries. A steady relationship with a guy, as one researcher puts it, is like adding an extra course to an already full load. Who needs it? These women have "hearts of steel," and the hookup culture gives them sex without getting in the way of career-building. Yet Rosin's interviews with these young women are at times heartbreaking; they really do want love in their lives.
Hookups notwithstanding, college-educated men and women are more likely to marry and less likely to divorce. And although women still do a majority of the child care, men are changing, Rosin says; they are becoming, well, more like women: flexi-, plastic men willing - wanting - to share in domestic life. Some workplaces are changing too, and some women are finding more ways to work and have children. Everyone is happier.
Except, of course, that everyone is not - or not quite. Rosin's chapter on women at 'the top' indulges the soul-searching of educated women trying to 'have it all.' She gives us Silicon Valley as today's mecca, insisting that companies like Google and Facebook - flexible, new-economy places - are (in spite of their notorious frat-house cultures) solving the problems of women and children and work. But while I'm happy to learn that a woman at Google persuaded her boss to fly her child and her nanny with her around the world business class, this hardly seems a viable economic model for most companies, or most mothers.
And what about Rosin's faith in the adage that for women to make it to the top, you need to get women like Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, to the top so that they can "remake the workplace in their own image"? Sandberg aside, we know this doesn't necessarily work: women aren't always, or even usually, looking out for other women — or even being nice to them. Many prefer to work with men; and some are willing to put in the long hours it takes to wrest their way up the chain of command.
In the end, there is something smug - and wrong - about Rosin's depiction of 'Plastic Woman.' Is it really a good idea to say that we are, by gender if not by sex, open, empathic, flexible, patient, prone to communal problem-solving and the like? We've known for a long time that men do not hold a monopoly on being rigid, hierarchical, close-minded or authoritarian. Yet the women in this book are almost all organized go-getters, whereas the men come across as lazy, unambitious couch potatoes.
It is hard not to cringe when Rosin compares a Type A girl who sits still in school and makes pages of to-do lists every night with a sloppier but equally high-performing boy who can barely remember what comes next in his day. Rosin holds the girl (her daughter) up to the light and suggests that the boy (her son) will need to find his own "inner secretary" if he is to succeed in the world we live in. Well, maybe, but everything in me wants to defend the boy for just being who he is. Do we really want an alpha-girl model, even if she does succeed in the new world economy, whatever that is? Do we want a model at all? Why should a son - or anyone, for that matter - want to be more like anyone else (much less his sister - or mother)?
Above all, is it really a good idea to suggest that women are poised to inherit the economy and that over time men and boys, God bless them, may learn to adjust and become more - more what? More like us (except when we're not)? To suggest, in other words, that success - material, social, sexual, emotional - depends on (our!) gender traits and not on the legal and institutional frameworks we live in? I'm all for each of us remaking ourselves from within, but this kind of argument seems carelessly apolitical, especially at a moment when we are faced with public officials actively working to undermine access to birth control, abortion, equal pay for equal work. Talk about endings.
And I can't share Rosin's rosy faith in the global economy. Revolutions, economic or otherwise, have a way of disappointing women. They tear down the old, women step in and make strides, and as a new order sets in the strides disappear. Are Rosin's Plastic Women genuine victors, or are they - or will they become - unwitting victims? Will the women who are so diligently training themselves as pharmacists today be as flexible and confident when the winds of the feckless global economy turn against them? How flexible can a woman be when she has been training for something for years and suddenly it is blown off the map by the 'new' economy? Ask the men who are ended.
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MEN today are haunted by the 'spectre of a coming gender apocalypse', Hanna Rosin declares in her new book, The End of Men. How worried should they be? It is true that women are contributing more than ever to household income. They dominate university attendance around the world. In South Korea more women than men pass the foreign-service exam, which has sparked the foreign ministry to implement a minimum quota for men. In Brazil nearly a third of women earn more than their husbands, a phenomenon that has caused men to form church support-groups calling themselves 'Men of Tears'.
Ms Rosin, an editor at Atlantic, whose book grew out of an article she wrote for the magazine in 2010, acknowledges that men are not about to become extinct any time soon. But women today are excelling, while men founder. As part of her research, Ms Rosin travelled to many corners of America, among them Auburn-Opelika, Alabama, where women's median income is 40% higher than men's, and men are encouraged to watch virtual simulations to teach them how to get jobs.
The financial crisis has been especially unkind to men: three-quarters of the 7.5m American jobs lost in the recession belonged to men and were in traditionally masculine industries, such as construction, manufacturing and finance. Manufacturing's flight from America and the evolution of technology in the workplace have left many men jobless - and often despondent. The book is filled with anecdotes from those who are trying to make sense of what has happened to them. "Probably no one has had their wife move up the ladder as far as I've moved down," says one man. Another, who is annoyed that his girlfriend earns more than he does, complains, "All the things we need to be good at to thrive in the world ...are things that my female friends and competitors are better at than me."
The argument Ms Rosin puts forward does not spell out the end of men so much as the deterioration of their condition. The new service-based economy rewards communication and adaptation, qualities that women are more likely to have. Only about 3% of men have taken over raising children full-time while their wives support their families. Instead, many men, especially young ones, have retreated into a world of video games, drinking and prolonged adolescence - a phenomenon identified in 'Guyland', a 2008 book by an American sociologist, Michael Kimmel.
But what happens to men has great consequences for women, and vice versa. Many poorer women who are not well educated are forgoing marriage, believing that a man is simply a drag and an additional mouth to feed, Ms Rosin argues. Educated, wealthier women, on the other hand, are experiencing more fulfilling relationships in which they share responsibilities with partners as each takes up slack at different times. She calls these 'seesaw marriages'. One result of women's rise is that men have more retirement income, better health and happier marriages.
Hard as Ms Rosin tries to argue that the world has embraced matriarchy, however, the data does not support her thesis. Only 3% of Fortune 500 bosses are women, as are only 20 of the world's 180 heads of state. She dismisses evidence that suggests her book is inappropriately titled: "Men have been in charge for about 40,000 years, and women have started edging them out for about 40. So of course there are still obstacles at the top." She also eschews a more nuanced approach by letting what is mostly an argument about American gender trends strive to be global. For example, she mentions that women own more than 40% of private businesses in China, and that in many countries parents prefer having a daughter. But nowhere does she acknowledge that aborting female fetuses remains a huge problem in China and India.
The End of Men is notable, however, for what it says about America's thinking on women today. In another provocative article in the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All", Anne-Marie Slaughter argued that women are deluded if they think that they can have a high-flying career and a family without something giving way. Ms Slaughter used to be a senior official in the State Department, a job she recently gave up in order to spend more time with her children and return to academia. A high-powered job can be compatible with child-rearing only if a woman is wealthy, has a job with flexible hours or works for herself.
Ms Rosin also argues for greater flexibility in the workplace, but ultimately takes a more bullish line than Ms Slaughter about women's ability to change their workplaces to suit their needs. Both young men and women of the millennial generation want more flexible work hours and see the value of working remotely. And they will seek out employers who try hard to make better work-life balance a reality.
This is not the first recession that has triggered a crisis of masculinity in America. After the recession in the early 1990s, Susan Faludi wrote "Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man", which lamented that men were underworked, underachieving and undersupported. This time the story is somewhat different. Had Ms Rosin put off writing her book for a few years, she would probably have seen women's jobs go the way of men's. The economic dislocations that have erupted in male-dominated industries, such as construction and finance, are making their way into industries dominated by women, as governments cut back on services, teaching staff and the like. The real story about men and women is about how this economic crisis will harm both genders, and future generations.
The age of testosterone is over. Men may have been the dominant sex since, indeed, the dawn of mankind, but their time is passing. Brawn is no longer rewarded; education, empathy and social sensitivity are. It's women, with their adaptability, people skills, intelligence and capacity for hard work who are increasingly earning the money and shaping society in the modern world.
That's the argument of Hanna Rosin, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine in Washington, who has looked around her and observed a social earthquake as women move into roles once thought of as male. The end of men means the rise of women. From Asia to South America, women are flooding into higher education, marrying later and earning more than they ever have before. They dominate higher education on every continent except Africa - this year, 60% of America's graduates will be female. A third of American doctors are women; so are almost half of lawyers and more than half of managers. The speed of change has been astounding. Whereas women in the 1960s contributed 6% of American household income, now they earn more than 40%. In a substantial minority of prosperous households, wives now out-earn their husbands.
It's not just professional women who are doing well. In the poorer regions of the country, where traditional manufacturing, mining and blue-collar jobs have disappeared and male unemployment has soared, it is women who have become the breadwinners for their children, often holding down one or two jobs and simultaneously trying to earn qualifications along the way. While the displaced men in these areas give way to hopelessness, spending their time drinking or taking drugs or fishing, Rosin believes that the women, like their richer sisters, have discovered a new drive and determination. She says their future looks bright. Of the 30 job categories expected to grow the most in America over the next decade, 20 are dominated by women.
Rosin's thesis is that in these, and in many other ways, women are proving themselves to be marvellously plastic in their response to contemporary challenges, unlike the more rigid, cardboard men. Take sex, for instance. Rosin goes to talk to students at Yale and at an Ivy League business school about how they are managing today's hook-up culture, where between the ages of 18 and 33 no-strings sex is common, men often fail to acknowledge their sexual partners the following day and committed relationships are not the norm.
Rosin sees this change in relations between the sexes as liberation. Feminist progress, she declares, depends on this casual sexual culture. She says women benefit greatly from the freedom of living in a world where they can have sexual adventures "without much shame", and where the important business of getting grades and building careers can happen without the distractions of serious partnerships. She commends women for their sexual malleability and their acceptance of the fact that men are now frequently allergic to monogamy.
This argument, like much of Rosin's thesis, is a determinedly positive and positively misleading interpretation of what is actually happening to the two sexes. It's clear from the conversations she has, and the research she quotes, that women are frequently bruised and hurt by these coarser sexual codes. They go along with it because that's the situation they find themselves in, but they are constantly trying to disguise their vulnerability. Rosin is critical of the fact that men's sexuality is apparently rigid and unchanging. Wherever they live, at whatever time, they would like lots of available women with whom they can have lots of sex. That's pretty much what the hook-up culture delivers for them now, to women's deep discomfort, and yet Rosin sees that as a triumph of women's adaptability. It sounds more like a wholesale defeat to me.
I have the same unease about Rosin's framing of what's happening to the bottom 70% of American society. She reports on the astounding way in which gender roles there are being upended by the fact that as good male jobs vanish abroad, women no longer want to marry men, or even live with them. They don't need another dependent. Lone parenthood is spreading upwards from the poorest classes to the destabilised middle. Marriage is, as one sociologist reports, in danger of becoming a luxury good that most Americans won't be able to afford.
This is a psychological and financial disaster for men, who are losing their economic and social roles simultaneously. But it's impossible to see this as a triumph for the exhausted, overloaded and often ill-paid women that Rosin meets, who are working and parenting alone. Indeed only this month, The New York Times reported that the life expectancy of white, working-class women has fallen by five years - and Harvard researchers think that their newly stressful lives may be the cause. If this is the rise of women, it doesn't look like a cause for celebration.
For the elite - the 30% with college educations - it's a different story. There, as Rosin reports, women's new status and earning power are making marriages more equal, more financially secure and happier. That's because, on the whole, women are joining men as breadwinners, not replacing them. Some couples take turns at being the highest earner. And although some elite men report feeling demoralised and disoriented at bringing home less than their wives, the crisis they are facing is a private one about relative market worth, not the significant one of being publicly rejected by the market altogether.
Rosin's book is a fascinating attempt to capture the reality of huge social shifts, but I am not convinced by her conclusion, which is that the world values female qualities and men must become more like women to succeed in it. The evaporation of worthwhile middle-income jobs in America is a petrifying problem, but it's not one that will be solved by getting all men to become carers or work at Walmart. Indeed, the latest statistics show that good pink-collar jobs are vanishing, too, and of all the jobs available, it's men who are picking up more of the steady posts while women are getting many more of the temporary ones.
As for the elite - just look around you. There, male values are suiting men just fine. That testosterone drive, that preference for work over childcare, is taking them to the top of every big organisation, and as Rosin's own figures show, men still out-earn and outnegotiate women from the moment they graduate to the day they retire. The end of men? No, not any time soon.
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