The July/August issue of The Atlantic has a provocative lead article entitled “The End of Men,” by Hanna Rosin. Bound to raise some hackles, it’s a well-written, fascinating, worrisome piece that looks at women’s growing dominance in the West and considers whether the modern, post-industrial world is actually more suited to the female:
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 changes always reinforce each other. And the global economy is evolving in a way that is eroding the historical preference for male children, worldwide.
Rosin says the increasing preference for girls is in large part due to the fact that when people think of raising bright, successful offspring, they now think of girls, not boys. In part, this comes from the rapid gender shifts occurring in both the work force and in higher education.
For the first time in American history, more women than men are employed. Rosin says the “working class” (long known for defining what is “masculine”) is turning into a matriarchy, with men absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Over half of workforce managers are now women.
Additionally, there are more women in college and graduate school than men. Reverse gender inequality at colleges and universities is now considered a problem, though good solutions have yet to come forth:
The postindustrial 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. Women in poor parts of India are learning English faster than men to meet the demands of new global call centers. Women own more than 40 percent of private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is the new status symbol for female entrepreneurs…
No matter what one thinks of these changes, or about Rosin’s observations, it’s true that we’re experiencing a major cultural shift, along with a reshuffling of male and female roles. One of the major reasons for this, according to many social scientists, is adaptability. In a globalized, high-tech, post-industrial world, adaptability is the number one requirement for success — and women seem better wired for it.
To my mind, there are two other factors at play: our disconnection from the land (and nature, generally) — and birth control. If our physical and reproductive differences as men and women no longer play a major role in how we live, work, and relate, then we have a whole new ballgame.
What is the future of men and masculinity? I’d like to have a discussion that doesn’t so much lament the past, but considers what we can be doing constructively and creatively to forge a culture that won’t leave males behind. Rosin’s article is long, but I encourage you to read the entire thing here.