The End of Men? Not Again!
by New Dealer
Hanna Rosin has a piece in a recent issue of Time with five reasons that men are obsolete. The piece seems to be done in response to an essay from Camille Pagila from mid-December arguing that men still are and will always be the dominant forces in the world. However, this is not what Hanna Rosin has been arguing about the End of Men in an Atlantic Article, a full book, and the ever lucrative and career boosting but intellectually mixed Ted Talks. Ms. Rosin’s evidence for the End of Men are that men are failing in schools, they have not adapted to the post-Manufacturing economy, women are marrying down or not marrying because men would be another mouth to feed, women at “public universities with commuter populations” agree with her, men have lost their monopoly on violence and aggression, and men are now starting to fuss over their body hair and other grooming issues. I am not convinced by Hanna Rosin’s arguments or evidence that we are seeing the end of men.
This is not to say that Hanna Rosin is completely wrong. I think we are witnessing social changes in the economy that mean an end or change to certain kinds of masculinity. However, the title The End of Men is a perfect example of clickbait that is designed to either confirm your beliefs or make you really angry. A more accurate title would be “The End of Some Men Because of Technological, Socio-Political, Cultural, and other Changes that Ended a Period That Might or Might Not Have Been a Historical Oddity.”
The historical oddity period was the mythic age of roughly 1945-1975 when it was possible to have a good middle class life doing manual and largely unskilled labor. The reasons for whether this period was a historical oddity or not can fit a million books but there was a time when it seemed possible for a young man to graduate high school (or maybe not), walk down to the nearest factory (any of them), and get hired at a decent wage. This period is largely if not completely gone and might never come back.
This is where Hanna Rosin’s End of Men thesis makes sense and we should have sincere policy discussions. It is seemingly more common for women to be first generation college students than men. It is also probably true that women at “public universities with commuter populations” can see this happening and see men as being “another mouth to feed.” I have a Canadian friend who is know attending university as a man in his mid-30s. He was the one that alerted me to Hanna Rosin’s time article. He said that at his high school, the assumption was that all the boys would end up in a factory and all the girls would at least make a go at a university education. This kind of gender assumption is wrong but it happened.
That being said, there are plenty of men who still manage to get university degrees. Hanna Rosin’s husband graduated from Harvard. Hanna Rosin went to Stanford. She also has two sons. Does she wonder whether they are going to succeed academically or not? As I explained to my friend from Canada and to other people, I grew up in a well-to-do suburb of New York where most people had college and graduate school educated. The overwhelming majority of us, male and female, knew we were expected to attend university. My parents had an extra expectation that I would go on to some kind of advanced degree. I don’t remember this being stated explicitly until I was in graduate school. I do remember just kind of knowing that I would get some kind of graduate degree because my parents had advanced degrees. There is always the possibility that Hanna Rosin believes that a university education makes her husband somewhat less masculine though.
The last two arguments are largely silly. I am not sure it is an accomplishment to prove you can be just violent or corrupt or jerky as any man. The argument on grooming seems to keep very strict gender roles about was is appropriately masculine and feminine. I’m a guy and always considered myself one and never felt feminine but I have no real interest in sports, cars, video games, and lots of other traditional male activities. I’d much spend an afternoon at the Met or MOMA than at Giants Stadium or at a car show at Jacob Javits. I have never questioned by heterosexuality or masculinity despite or because of this.
There are real policy issues and problems in Hanna Rosin’s thesis but I think they have more to do with socio-economics than gender and masculinity. The only thing that might have more to do with masculinity is not being able to transition from the manufacturing economy. I personally have no problem with abstract work. I don’t feel empty or dissatisfied from writing a brief or other legal documents. However, many people and many men do feel empty from this kind of abstract work but they do feel emotionally complete when their work produces some kind of physical product or result. This is the shopcraft as soulcraft movement but I don’t think it is limited to men. It is why there is a rise in well-educated types producing artisanal food and other products that can be sold at stores like By Brooklyn or their regional equivalents. Why we don’t frame the end of men in terms of socio-economics is probably partially because Americans find talking about socio-economics to be taboo and partially because it does not sell well at Ted Talks or the Aspen Ideas Festival which tend to be for upper-class Technorati. There is a real policy problem in getting more men to be the first in their families to attend college and/or care about academics but it cannot be solved by arguing that men are obsolete and that we are at The End of Men.
 There are some Ted Talks which are legitimately informative and interesting but I find most of it to be ego-stroking for rich techies.
 On the other hand, my girlfriend seems comforted by the fact that I think all musicals sound alike.