If Hanna Rosin, author of the newly released (and much talked about) End of Men is correct, 200,000 years of male domination, female suppression, patriarchal societies and hunter-gatherer stereotypes are now over.
Hurray! The feminist, women’s-college-educated, mom of a tween-aged daughter in me wants to do a little happy dance.
But then I stop and pause.
I’m also a mother to a 5-year-old son. If this is the “end,” what does this mean for his future?
Rosin presents some compelling arguments, many that are research-based, and plenty more that are anecdotal and rooted in her own pop-culture observations. It’s entertaining stuff (especially the bits about the new breed of sexually aggressive women dominating college campuses, 21st century trends in sperm sorting, and wives who call their husbands “bitches”) but I also found myself doing a fair amount of eyebrow raising.
Are we really entering a new world order — one where “people skills” are ruled by women and the men are “the equivalent of the family left behind in the Old Country, beloved maybe, but inert and frustratingly stuck in the past,” — or will things to go back to the way they were once the economy improves?
After all, history has a way of ushering in the women during times of need (wars, industrial revolutions, economic crises), stirring up all kinds of exciting advancements. But after the dust settles, it seems as if men go right back to their seat at the head of the table.
Who knows what the future holds. But here’s what keeps me awake at night: Our boys are in trouble.
Statistics pulled from Tom Mortenson’s oft-cited Postsecondary Education Opportunity “For Every 100 Girls ... ” show us that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with learning disabilities, repeat grades, get suspended from school, be incarcerated, and are less likely to graduate from college or pursue higher education.
Rosin takes it a step further, looking into the crystal ball of job prospects:
Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer. Women have everything else — nursing, home health assistance, child care, food preparation. Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, “replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.” None is especially high-paying. But the steady accumulation of these jobs adds up to an economy that, for the working class, has become more amenable to women than to men.
So … computer engineer then. That’s what it has to be! I joke — but I’m only half kidding. Rosin goes on to say that “brawn jobs are obsolete,” and “the modern economy is becoming a place where women are making the rules and the men are playing catch-up.”
She has a lot of good points. Women dominate colleges and professional schools on every continent except Africa. Manufacturing jobs have nearly all been outsourced or dried up. The middle class is turning into a matriarchy, “with men increasingly absent from the workforce and from home, and women making all the decisions.”
The likelihood that my son will have female bosses and mentors throughout most of his career is high. The chance of achieving his current career objectives (when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” his answer is “a two-trailer dump truck”) is low.
His wife (if he’s lucky enough to get married — I’m working on the dowry now) will probably make more money than he will. He might be a stay-at-home dad.
Given these prospects, here are my goals for him: He needs to know how to kiss up to a woman in power. Be a good cook. Take care of the bills and keep a budget. Listen. Make eye contact. Not be an arrogant jerk. Stop chewing on his shirt when he gets nervous, and refrain from adjusting his package in public. Learn the skills that are needed in our new service and information economy (“social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus”).
Most importantly, though, I want him to stay out of trouble.
Perhaps this is my greatest fear: Unable to find or keep a “good job,” my son will turn into one of the “Omega Males” that Rosin describes — the unemployed bottom feeder losers who move back into their parents’ basements and play video games and watch porn for hours.
Ugh, can you imagine?
It’s enough to motivate me to become more Tiger Mom-ish in hopes that he can keep the same pace as his sister. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that my daughter would never, ever succumb to that lowest common denominator. And not because of anything I’ve done — it’s more society’s expectation of her. She has more choices. She’s the one with the bright future. For decades we’ve invested in her, and it’s paid off.
As for my son, I’m afraid that he’s getting the short end of the stick. That “being a boy” is an anachronistic relic of the past — and that in order to survive in the world, he needs to woman up and act more like a girl.
How about you? Do you think the end of men is here? And if so, will you raise your boys differently?
Allison Ellis is a mother of two, freelance writer and brand strategy consultant who lives and writes in Seattle. Read more of her work at www.allisonellis.com