The demographic arguments laid out in Atlantic magazine’s The End of Men are powerful. Women outnumber men in college. Men are losing jobs in far greater numbers than women. Women, alone, raise families, work and form communities. Men, alone, struggle to do any of those things–and, in far greater numbers, drop out of school, become homeless or are imprisoned.
Those are obviously generalizations–generalizations backed by statistical research, and lined up together to form part of the underpinning for Hanna Rosin’s piece. Rosin doesn’t exactly say that men are “over.” But if you are an actual man, reading this, you might want to resign yourself to the fact that the world is no longer set up to naturally favor your son in ways both social and biological. Male dominance, in areas from education to careers to family, is waning (even in countries like China and Korea). Women aren’t just poised to pick up the slack, they already have. Girls rule, boys drool.
Men–the way we see them, and the way they see themselves–are due for a change. Fortunately, when it comes to gender-societal overhauls, there’s what you might call precedent to follow. Do men need their own Betty Friedan to blaze the trail?
Probably the most interesting aspect of The End of Men is that no one seems to want it to be the “end”–except the men themselves. Most of the people Rosin spoke to–from the women graduating with their hard-earned degrees to the administrators of the colleges–wanted nothing more than to see men return and succeed in new ways. Traditional union and manufacturing jobs that value brawn over skill have largely disappeared, but professions with growing opportunities like nursing actively recruit men. It’s the men who aren’t interested. The president of Kansas City’s Metropolitan Community College (70% female)–a man–boils his efforts to mentor and maintain male students down into one typical example, a “really smart guy” who was ashamed to show that he had anything to learn in front of women students, who was teased by his friends for studying and who chose playing “ball” over class in the spring. “He didn’t make it.”
The women students at the school worry that they won’t find men to share their lives with (and, statistically, they won’t). “I’m putting myself in a really small pool,” says one, about to graduate with a doctorate in pharmacology, and she doesn’t sound happy about the prospect of a life of swimming alone. But there’s nothing real keeping men from joining her in the water. The male problem–boys who don’t manage the process of college applications the way women do, who “high-five” each other over a C grade, who play video games instead of studying, who don’t thrive in school because they can’t sit still or they’re not interested in the traditional verbal presentation of the material–sounds, to this beneficiary of the women’s movement, awfully easy to overcome. They’re not legally barred from the classrooms, disenfranchised or even corseted. They’re just not willing to do what needs to be done.
It sounds, in other words, like time for a change–for someone to draft “The Male Mystique” and for young men, all over, to look at those statistics of women dominated classrooms, colleges and professions and vow silently to do it anyway. To push aside supposed studies showing their inferiority in a classroom setting or claiming that they just don’t have the necessary biological imperatives to motivate others or find creative solutions in order to achieve at high levels in the workplace. It sounds, in short, a little familiar. Men, don’t worry–you can be anything you want to be. You can have it all. You can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in a pan. You’re just going to have to try twice as hard as women, and prove yourselves again and again.
And it would be really cool if you did it all backwards, and in high heels. It’s your turn to follow our lead.
Photo courtesy Thomas Hawk via Creative Commons License.