The End of Men?

The title, “The End of Men,” is provocative; in fact, it’s like waving a red flag at a bull. I can just see men reacting to it like this: “Those damn feminists! That’s been their agenda all along: to get men out of the picture!” And feminists are bristling at the implication that women have won the war between the sexes.

But that’s not really what the article is about. Hannah Rosin writes in the July/August issue of The Atlantic Monthly of the changes that have occurred in the last twenty or thirty years that favor women. But nowhere does she say that men are obsolete. What she is really asking, it seems, is, do men have as much power as they used to?

What’s it really about?

I’ve had a theory for years that the reason men seek to keep women down is because in reality they fear them and their potential power. That it is precisely because women are so competent that men feel so threatened by them. Most men have ambivalent feelings about women: they like them for some purposes (which I hardly need to go into), but become uncomfortable when they step out of those roles and begin to impinge on the territory of men.

Are women becoming more important?

Perhaps it’s not really the end of men that we’re seeing, but the end of patriarchy. Not that it’s in danger of disappearing any time soon, but I don’t think anyone can deny that its hold on the world is weakening. Even cultures that are still decidedly patriarchal are beginning to recognize that the more empowered women are the better off all people are.  Consider this:

In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures the economic and political power of women in 162 countries. With few exceptions, the greater the power of women, the greater the country’s economic success. [From Rosin’s article.]

The handwriting is on the wall. We ignore the well-being of women at our peril.

Are men giving up?

But does this mean that men are beginning to give up their position of power? Hardly. It’s not in their nature. Even though women now make up more of the work force than men do (only marginally more, but still) and attend and graduate from college in higher numbers, men are not likely to take women’s growing influence in society lying down.  They still make most of the hiring and firing decisions, set the pay scales, orchestrate the promotions and own the companies.  Men primarily conduct the wars, make the laws and head government committees and think-tanks.

In other words, we’re not seeing the changing of the guard. Women are not supplanting men. There is no matriarchy developing on the horizon.

Is this true for all men and women?

That doesn’t mean that Rosin’s article doesn’t make some valid points. But when she writes about how gender roles are changing, she is mainly writing about the segment of society that has the luxury of making those changes. The woman who makes more than her husband is a rarity among the lower classes. She might be employed and he isn’t, but she’s not exactly raking in the dough, nor is she stepping into a better job than he formerly held.

Women  still have to work harder than men to get as far. And even then, they aren’t likely to make as much money. There is still a strong separation between the prestige and pay of “men’s work” versus “women’s work.” Just because some women have broken through the ranks to achieve male-like success, doesn’t mean that the barriers have been erased.

Will the war ever be over?

The problem with Rodin’s article is that she represents the gender debate as “either-or.”  As if one sex winning means that the other sex automatically loses. She asks, “What if  the economics of the new era are better suited to women?” as if one, and only one, sex will always be in charge while the other fades into the background.

There is only one answer, only one goal worth having, and that is to make sex/gender irrelevant. I’m not saying that there are no innate differences between the sexes. But these are only generalities.  It’s counterproductive, not to mention stupid, to assume that you can predict a person’s accomplishments based solely on his or her gender. When it comes right down to it, we are much more than our biology. Each person needs to be judged as a human, not as a man or a woman.

Critics of feminism have the misconception that feminists are only for the advancement of women, when in reality their goal has always been for equality of the sexes. But as long as the sexes teeter back and forth in their scrabble to be the one on top, the goal of equality will be elusive.

2 Replies to “The End of Men?”

  1. Ellen,

    The “either-or” gender debate reminds me of what I tell my undergraduate communication students…there is no black or white…only gray! Gender should be irrelevant!

    I have been a fan of Ellen’s since I first met her in elementary school. Ellen has always been a gifted writer!

    Susan Silcott, Ohio University adjunct professor

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