Are Men Obsolete?Brian Gresko
Yes, according to Hanna Rosin. On Time.com the author of The End of Men provides five reasons men — or should I say “men,” because she’s talking about men as a concept — are finished.
The piece was adapted from a recent Munk Debate that Rosin took part in, on Gender in the 21st Century. She and Maureen Dowd argued on the pro side of the resolution “men are obsolete,” while Caitlin Moran and Camille Paglia took the con side, which explains why Rosin name drops both in her piece. As far as I know, Rosin didn’t define the terms of the debate, which her side won, but she did choose to publish the piece with the incendiary lines:
“Are men literally obsolete? Of course not, and if we had to prove that we could never win. For one thing, we haven’t figured out a way to harvest sperm without them being, you know, alive.”
Rosin has been criticized before for her lack of kindness on the page, and here we have another example. This is a hateful statement, one that reduces an entire gender to their biologic necessity. And while part of me reacts against this reaction — But wait, haven’t men done the same to women in the past? Isn’t Rosin just turning the tables? — this seems like a weak excuse for sexism.
To support her claims that men are done, over, kaput, Rosin points to Toronto’s scandalous, substance abusing mayor Rob Ford (“a canary in the coalmine” of “modern manhood”), Anthony Weiner’s shaved chest — since reason #5 men are obsolete is that we too are obsessed with body hair — and the violent brawling of the Real Housewives of New Jersey. Judging by the comment feed updating every minute or so, this subject matter makes for lots of clicks on Time.com. It’s inciting, for sure. But it’s not insightful.
Which is a shame, because if you look beyond the attention-drawing hyperbole, Rosin makes some good points in the piece, ones backed by real data. In America, the income level of men is on the decline while the unemployment rate for men is on the rise, and across the globe men are falling behind in school, particularly in higher education. Culturally, men today are in a state of change. The old, traditional 1950’s-era ideas of what makes a good man are on the way out, and new models are vying for dominance. As Rosin puts it, “We can keep whatever we like about manhood but adjust the parts of the definition that are keeping men back.”
So men can be leaders, do-ers, strong, and they can also feel intensely and discuss their emotions, and act with compassion toward others, and admit that they don’t always feel in control of situations. As an avid reader, this isn’t surprising to me — novelists and writers have been covering this territory for a long time, certainly since Homer wrote of Achilles’ love of his friend Patroculus in The Iliad, or of the clever warrior Odysseus’s yearning for home and family in The Odyssey. American culture at large is finally expanding its view of what a man is, and what a woman is, and what role men and women play in the world. That can be seen as a crisis, sure. It can also be seen as an exciting moment of change, and transformation.
Whatever the case, I’d argue that it’s not so much an ending for men as it is a beginning. And it’s certainly no excuse for the kind of vile tone Rosin gives her piece.