The End of Men and the Rise of Women
- Hanna Rosin
- 320 pp.
- November 28, 2012
As the power dynamics between men and women shift, the author foresees a world where women run the show.
Reviewed by Robert Swan
The thrust of Rosin’s thesis is that current economic and social developments indicate that the ancient dispensation of patriarchal dominance is coming to an end. Women are adapting flexibly (“Plastic Woman” is the metaphor she uses to capture this phenomenon) to the demands of a new economy no longer dominated by manufacturing. In terms of numbers, women dominate college campuses, and in many fields such as engineering and Tech Ed — traditional provinces of men — women dominate. Men, being inflexible (“Cardboard,” as she calls them) have an outmoded vision of masculine work habits, family dynamics and expectations of what it means to “be a man,” and are failing to adapt to new conditions and falling catastrophically behind both in the workforce and in terms of education. Each chapter of her book focuses on an aspect of the coming matriarchy.
Rosin shows that where men used to be in control of the family and the economy, as the primary bread winner and the romantic instigator, women are now taking control. There is even a chapter on powerful professional women ridding themselves of unwanted husbands who stand in their way and can’t keep up. We are provided with case studies, quotes from a variety of authors, colorful examples, anecdotal references, including at one point a story about Rosin’s own son and daughter, and a variety of interviews. She punctuates her story with historical overviews of the shifts in gender relations and economic and educational developments.
Rosin includes some strong evidence in support of the incontestable claim that women are a growing part of the workforce and that they currently dominate and are likely to dominate certain occupations (the pharmaceutical industry is used as a key example) and educational institutions and subjects of study. What about the other aspect of her argument that men, failing to adapt, will be left behind while women will come in time to dominate? Will these data support her case?
Rosin’s argument about the coming End of Men is predicated on the inadaptability and inflexibility of a certain portion of the male population to current economic and social trends. If males adapt and become flexible relative to changes in the economy and society, then men may catch up where they are at present falling behind. To say that some men are not at present adapting is not to say that men in general are not at present adapting, nor does it imply they might not adapt in the future.
Unless Rosin is taking the strong position that men lack free will, or are by nature unable to or are inadequate to the task of adapting to new economic and social conditions (she isn’t), no certain claim can be made that current trends will continue, or that women will come to dominate where men once did. Rosin deftly navigates between Nature and Nurture, two classic perspectives on human development, by presenting evidence that supports both sides, at times emphasizing one, and at times seeming to believe in the dominance of the other. By the end of the book it becomes clear that she does not believe in a rigid determinism for either gender.
Rosin’s book contains some intriguing reflections on the fluidity of the concept of human identity. It summarizes some of the current research on gender-related trends in business, education and even criminal justice. It is replete with fascinating information (for example, did you know that employees in South Korea are sometimes asked how many bottles of soju, a potent alcoholic beverage, they can consume in one sitting, since after work they are expected to bond over drinks?). Rosin also has some timely and cogent things to say about the growth in opportunities among women in foreign countries, and even suggests that the Arab Spring has been at least partially spurred by women who are no longer quiescent.
The reader will find much of interest in this analysis of gender relations and the upward trajectory of females in the 21st century.
Robert Swan teaches history and philosophy in the International Baccalaureate program at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Md.