With 'The End of Men,' Hanna Rosin sees women on the rise
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Men, we are in deep trouble, and it would seem it's our own fault.
In "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women," Hanna Rosin lays out an impressive array of studies, statistics, stories and anecdotes to support her thesis that women are zooming way past men in all areas of economic existence. Ms. Rosin, a journalist and author ("God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America"), explains how and why it is happening and the trend's collateral effects on other aspects of working and domestic life.
In chapters with telling titles ("Hearts of Steel," "The New American Matriarchy"), she drives home to the reader what has been going on for at least 30 years:
• In 2009, for the first time in U.S. history, the balance of the workforce tipped toward women (and in other countries shortly thereafter).
• Women students worldwide dominate universities and professional schools on every continent except Africa. Some American colleges begin to approach the threshold dreaded by administrators of 60 percent females.
• Of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most in the next decade, 12 are occupied primarily by women. The emerging global economy rewards not traditionally male attributes of size and strength, but those long associated with women -- social intelligence, open communication, patient focus and multitasking.
• While the very top executive posts of corporations are still largely in the hands of men, in the posts immediately below women have been inching up at about a percentage point a year. Ms. Rosin believes this is "the last gasp" -- or should it be grasp? -- "of a vanishing age."
The list goes on and on and on, stretching beyond the United States to the West in general and other parts of the world, especially Asia. To read about the intensely striving "gold misses" of South Korea who work punishingly long hours is almost exhausting.
Why are men falling behind? The nuances are countless, but the basic problem is that they will not adapt to change.
The author uses examples of several couples to illustrate what she calls Plastic Woman and Cardboard Man. While anecdotal, they are convincing and can be summarized something like this:
When the local plant closes down, the laid-off women go looking for whatever job they can get, meanwhile taking care of the kids and going to night classes at the local community college to be trained for something better. The men, meanwhile, sit around complaining, hoping that the plant will reopen and wishing for the good old days, and go off fishing with their laid-off buddies -- if they don't disappear altogether.
Women increasingly move into historically male professions that pay well, demonstrated most strikingly in the chapter "Pharm Girls" about women in pharmacy school. The opposite, however, is not occurring, as shown by nursing schools' lack of success in luring men despite strong recruiting drives.
There is much, much more in here relating to how all this affects marriage, sex, children and family life. Roles once considered fixed by gender grow ever more fungible. A college senior remarked that guys "are the new ball and chain."
Women are marrying later, even in Asia, and in some countries (France, Hungary, Portugal, Brazil) they are increasingly marrying "down," that is, men with less education than they have. Couples in many parts of the world are shifting from preferring male children to female.
The chapter "Seesaw Marriage" describes the emerging phenomenon of couples' swapping earning power: Sometimes the husband makes more while the wife stays home or works part time, sometimes it's the wife's turn -- though the seesaw seems to tilt more toward the latter.
Increased violent behavior on the part of women is an apparently associated development. Violence against women has declined, but arrests of women for violent crimes have increased. Ms. Rosin says that women have become more aggressive because of relaxed societal restraints on what is considered acceptable behavior for them.
This is a compelling book, though it concentrates on the upper-middle class and those in professional fields and executive ranks. Her conclusion, somewhat anticlimactic and more hopeful than conclusive, is that attitudes are changing and men will adapt to the new flexibility.
First Published September 16, 2012 12:00 am