Share this article

print logo

Left behind: The plight of today's male

It's called "The End of Men." It's the cover story of the current Atlantic Monthly. If you read it online at the magazine's Web site, you won't even see a reassuring question mark appended to those four words.

It's by Hanna Rosin and it may be the most alarming -- and remarkable -- piece of journalism I've read from the last decade. Here is the magazine's own introductory digest of Rosin's argument:

"Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workplace for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women, too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women's progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn't the end point? What if modern post-industrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way and its vast cultural consequences."

Now that Rosin and the Atlantic have gotten our attention, the details inside Rosin's piece are even more head-battering two days after Father's Day:

"Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing, and with shocking speed. Cultural and economic change always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historic preference for male children, worldwide."

In reproductive clinics making gender choice possible, there's evidence that the choice is now overwhelmingly for girls. The "old preference for sons is eroding -- or even reversing," says Rosin in reply to Simone DeBeauvoir's notion in her 1949 "The Second Sex" that "newborn daughters" were greeted with "irritation and disgust."

"What if the economics of the new era are better suited to women? Once you open your eyes to this possibility, the evidence is all around you. It can be found most immediately, in the wreckage of the Great Recession, in which three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance."

"The post-industrial economy is indifferent to men's size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today -- social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus -- are, at a minimum, not predominantly male. In fact, the opposite may be true."

"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs -- up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America's physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms -- and both these percentages are rising fast. A white collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts. It also requires communications skills and social intelligence, areas in which women, according to many studies, have a slight edge."

"While female CEOs may be rare in America's largest companies, they are highly prized: last year they out-earned their male counterparts by 43 percent on average and received bigger raises."

If what Rosin says is true, you could write a book about all the questions it raises (and someone no doubt will, if they haven't already). The first two that occurred to me off the top of my head: 1) what if a gender assumption of "communications skills and social intelligence" elevates the malicious manipulation of a lunchroom commissar (a la "Survivor" and "Big Brother") to leadership to mete out reward and punishment via favoritism and ostracism? 2) In struggling professions, aren't machismo and innovative individualism that much more important?

But then there is this BIG question: If what Rosin says is true, men are now the new Second Sex, a la DeBeauvoir. And where are our Kate Milletts, Gloria Steinems and Bella Abzugs now that we need them and need them FAST?


There are no comments - be the first to comment