Hanna Rosin has received quite a bit of attention during the past couple of years. First, there was the much talked about article The End of Men, which postulated that women were taking over the economy and that we are at the start of an era of female dominance.
There are some things I like about Rosin’s work. For example, she is helping society update its view on gender issues. It simply isn’t true anymore that men make all the money or that women cannot land good jobs. We don’t live in the fifties anymore.
However, Rosin’s presentation of the issues has never sat quite right with me. For starters, “the end of men” is an offensive expression. Also, she seems to be fairly ignorant on important men’s issues, which isn’t really acceptable in this day and age.
I haven’t really had the time to commit myself to analyzing Rosin’s book, to see if my doubts about her presentation hold true. But now I don’t have to. Somebody else has already done the work.
AFTER CENTURIES OF OPPRESSION, women have won the day at last and “pulled decisively ahead [of men] by almost every measure.” This is the key argument made by Hanna Rosin in a new book, The End of Men and the Rise of Women. Mainly, it turns out, she means that there are more women enrolling in and graduating from college now than there are men, and that their ranks in the business world, in the professions, and in politics are swelling: natural enough developments in an increasingly egalitarian society that has seen its male-dominated manufacturing sector decimated in recent decades. The big question for this reader is why — at the very moment when we almost have people respecting one another as equals — we would be talking about “The End” of anybody. I don’t want anybody to end; I don’t buy for an instant that Men are Ending, and I can’t bring myself to believe that much of anyone else will, either.
Equality is the pole star of my own politics, and that made it really tough going for me to read The End of Men objectively, or maybe even fairly, because it’s evident that Rosin believes women to be literally — and inherently — superior to men. This view is not only one I don’t share, it is anathema to me. It is the exact reason why I have never been able to call myself a feminist; it transgresses against my deepest conviction, namely, a belief in universal human equality. I believe that each of us — all human beings who share the same seemingly limitless abilities, and the same unfathomable doom — should be able to develop his or her potential and live freely and on equal terms in a condition of mutual respect and support. That is not quite the Rosin view. “It’s possible that girls have always had the raw material to make better students,” she writes, “that they’ve always been more studious, organized, self-disciplined, and eager to please, but, because of limited opportunities, what did it matter?” Or: “Many of us hold out the hope that there is a utopia in our future run by women, that power does not in fact corrupt equally.” (Really, “many” of us hold out this hope? I for one would be too scared it would turn out like that old Star Trek: TNG episode, “Angel One.”)
Progress is not a zero-sum game. Society gains when the injustices against men are addressed equally with the injustices against women. Surely it would be wrong to hold one kind of progress hostage to the other. I hope we haven’t forgotten how many young black men are in jail, or how many gay men are discriminated against, or how many poor men are denied a decent education. If we concentrate on the problems that all kinds of people are having, rather than dividing everyone up into the equivalent of rival football teams, won’t we have a better chance of setting things to rights?
I don’t have very much to add to this, except that I hope that Rosin reads Bustillos’ commentary. I honestly believe that Rosin is trying to put the spotlight on an important trend in the world, but she would do well to incorporate some of the criticism that is now surfacing.
If you haven’t already, I recommend you to read the full piece by Bustillos. It’s an unusually good perspective on gender issues.