By Amanda Clinton

The End of Men

The End of Men? Really?

While I was standing at the check-out counter of the library, the title of this book jumped out at me. It struck me so incredulous that I took it home without even reading the blurb. It seemed at odds with so many of the statistics I have read lately: only 4% of fortune 500 company CEOs are women; on average women earn 20% less than a man doing the same job; women do twice as much child care as men, even if both parents are working fulltime. It hardly sounds like the apocalypse of patriarchy is nigh.

As a woman in my twenties at the start of my career, reading these statistics had left me feeling a frustrating mix of irate and helpless. This made the possibility of reading about the end of men and the rise of women particularly inviting, even if I was sceptical. In this book, Hanna Rosin, journalist and senior editor of The Atlantic, does not deny these statistics, but looks at them in a wider context and offers a refreshing perspective:

Yes, the US and many other countries still have a gender gap. Yes, women still do most of the childcare. And yes, the upper reaches of power are still dominated by men. But given the sheer velocity of the economic and other forces at work, these circumstances are much more likely the last artefacts of a vanishing age rather than a permanent configuration.

So if you have read some of those same statistics and you too have felt disheartened, this may well be the book for you. While the title might seem rather loaded and perhaps even a bit affronting, the content of the book is well researched, well reasoned and surprisingly objective.

Changing roles

In The End of Men, Rosin explores the rapidly changing roles of men and women, both in relationships and in the economy. Rosin suggests that women have adapted to this changing world adroitly: owning much of the power in relationships, outperforming men in education and attending university in droves, earning more than ever before, and conquering a job-market that now values people skills far above the brute strength that has been the territory of men for much of history. In contrast, men are not adapting to this changing landscape. While the definition of being a woman is shifting and expanding, the definition of masculinity seems to be stuck, and perhaps even shrinking.

A lot of the things that Rosin talks about are things we know: that compared to decades past casual sexual relationships are more common, that women are the breadwinners in a lot more households, that more and more women are having successful careers. These are all things we know, but it is not often we have time to think about what they all mean. For younger women who have been born into a world where these things are normal, I think many of us take for granted how much progress has been made in such a short time.

Progress

Reading all this took the focus away from the bitterness that often surrounds those statistics I mentioned earlier, and made me grateful for the progress that has been made. I am no longer expected to stay a virgin until I get married, then don a twin-set and settle down to a life taking care of house and husband. This means that in the past 50 years, society has made a lot of progress in the way it treats and values women. And if that much progress has been made in the past 50 years, it makes me think that maybe equality is not so far away after all – it’s certainly made me feel like it is possible.

Rosin even suggests a few constructive ways that we all might contribute: next time you see a Dad making handprinted t-shirts at kindergarten, doing the vacuuming with a cake in the oven, or earning less than his high-flying wife, try not to be taken aback. They are expanding the definition of masculinity and without these men, women cannot rise to the highest ranks of businesses, achieve pay equity over their careers, or limit housework and childcare to their fair share.

The End of Men offers a refreshing perspective on inequality, or equality between the sexes. And while you may need to hide the cover of this book in the lunchroom, it is well worth the effort. Better yet, flash it around and start an interesting discourse…

 

Acknowledgement

Amanda Clinton is a Science and Law graduate who recently returned from an OE in France. She is currently based in Auckland, working in career advice and recruitment. Amanda loves to write and is exploring a new found passion for feminist issues.

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