Courtesy of amazon.comApril Daniels Hussar, SELF magazine
Is it really the end of men? That's the title of Hanna Rosin's buzzy new book, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women. But of course, she doesn't mean it literally ...
"It's a provocative title, it gets people debating -- but it actually means the end of a certain kind of man," Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic, tells HealthySELF. "The End of Macho would be a more accurate title; it's not as if I literally mean that men as an entire species will become obsolete!"
Nor does Rosin mean to imply that men are no longer necessary, or even not wanted. "It's that men have to be more adaptable than they are," Rosin says, in order to be able to make their way in a world that has drastically changed. "They don't have to become women -- or even not men -- but they have to find slightly new ways of being."
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Just what does Rosin mean when she talks about a changed world? In her 2010 Atlantic article of the same name (which became the impetus for her book), she writes: "The working class, which has long defined our notions of masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly absent from the home and women making all the decisions."
Where are the men, if they're not working or at home? Many, like Calvin, the man Rosin profiles in the first chapter of her book, are living separately from their former wives or girlfriends, often disconnected from their children and unable to provide for their broken families. Meanwhile, women -- like Bethenny, the mother of Calvin's daughter -- are taking care of business: paying the rent, raising the kids, working full-time and going back to school.
In her book, Rosin writes: In the Great Recession, three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male, and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance. Some of those jobs have come back, but the dislocation is neither random nor temporary. The recession merely revealed-- and accelerated-- a profound economic shift that has been going on for at least thirty years, and in some respects even longer.
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Additional statistics serve to paint Rosin's picture: women now occupy around half of the nation's jobs; for every two men who will receive a BA this year, three women will do the same; and, she writes, "Of the fifteen job categories projected to grow the most in the United States over the next decade, twelve are occupied primarily by women."
And that's only the beginning. "The world has changed so much that you can't just patch men back into their old lives," Rosin tells HealthySELF.
However, she points out that that the other part of her title, "And the Rise of Women," is quite positive. "It's a bad economy for everyone," Rosin points out -- so what is it about women that's allowing them to "rise?"
"It's often a question of women being more willing do a lot more, to start at the bottom, to work for lower wages," Rosin says. "They're more flexible because they don't have any old, traditional breadwinner expectations they feel they have to live up to."
Conversely, says Rosin, many men, some of whom are profiled in her book, are "very weighted with expectations of the old breadwinner ways." They're looking for their place in a world that no longer exists.
"My big revelation in reporting the book," says Rosin, "was how deeply some of the economic shifts have affected personal relationships -- the decisions we make about marriage, sex, how we raise our children."
Does having more economic power help women make better personal choices for themselves?
"It seems that way, but I don't want to present it as an idyllic world," says Rosin. "There are a lot of things about this situation that throw traditional male-female relationships off balance." On one hand, she says, sexual abuse statistics are "way down" -- something she sees as being a reflection of women not being so dependent on men. "That's an unqualified good," says Rosin.
On the other hand, Rosin says, a lot of women, especially if they aren't college-educated, aren't getting married. "That's not an unqualified good," she says. Some women don't want to get married, but what about people who want to get married and raise families together, but find that, thanks to the strain of economic pressures, they can't make it work? Just because a woman's able to take care of herself and her children on her own, that doesn't mean it's her dream life scenario.
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But, wait -- wasn't this whole thing supposed to be about equality? Not about women taking over the world, but rather, being treated as equals? Do men have to "fall" as women "rise?" How does the future look to someone like Rosin, who has two sons and one daughter?
"For my own son, I think the best outcome that can come from this conversation is for him to relax his ideas of what it absolutely means to 'be a man,'" says Rosin. "If he grows up and is dating or engaged to someone who makes more money than he does, that shouldn't necessarily be an emasculating thing. It's not that I want him to become female and take on all female traits! But there are ways they can benefit in the changing world if we relax our notion of what it means to be a man."
Rosin says we as a society are in a transition moment, where both masculine and feminine roles are changing. "My hope is not to create a gender war or write a feminist manifesto," says Rosin. "My hope is to create a guide through this turmoil so we end up at a better place on the other side."
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