In this week's issue

Ladies at the helm

The End of Men describes a future where women call the shots. Yet, a world of equality and understanding between genders somehow feels more right

  • By Bel Mooney and Sadie Nicholas
  • Published: 17:00 November 23, 2012
  • Tabloid on Saturday

  • Image Credit: Getty Images/Hemera
  • Women, “The End of Men”, says are flexible and at ease with multitasking

Most books with headline-grabbing titles leave you asking, “Isn’t it more complicated than that?” and The End of Men is no exception. It skitters along the surface of arguments that leave out whole sections of society.

While Rosin’s arguments may hold true in certain liberal, metropolitan enclaves, suggest to all the young women planning big weddings and dreaming of babies that they don’t need men and they’ll probably cry.

Tell macho young blokes about a “new world order” and they’ll laugh in your face.

Matters of bias and alarm

There is no doubt that women do experience sexism, more in some professions than others — for example, more than one female Olympian recently highlighted sexism in sport.

But I’m equally alarmed by girls who think their babies don’t need fathers and by older women who revel in men being pushed to the margins — as if in vengeance for historical inequality.

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In actuality, what Rosin calls “the new world order” has been here for some time. Americans call the decline of traditionally male industries such as car and steel production a “mancession”. But this began long before the great financial crises of recent years.

In the seventies, the world was changing, as economic needs shifted and unemployment figures rose. As “man’s work” declined, girls shone and women flourished. The female of the species began to beat the male in education and the jobs market. Brains, not brawn, were in demand.

Predicting a major shift

Rosin’s findings in The End of Men were pre-empted by a book published this spring, The Richer Sex, by Liza Mundy. Describing the seismic power shift between the genders, Mundy coined the term “breadwomen” to describe the women who expect their house-hubby to have a meal on the table when they get home. Mundy believes the imbalance between the sexes will lead to a major shift in the way men and women “date, mate, marry, plan, cook, clean, entertain, talk, retire, raise children and feel happy (or fail to do so)”.

But how do such sociological theories play out in real life?

Karen Kimberley, 50, from Berkshire, owns a communications business, while her partner Stuart, 43, runs a small car-valeting firm. They’ve been together 12 years and have no children. Stuart aims to earn £100 (Dh590) a day, while Karen brings home between five and ten times as much.

“Ours is a role-reversal” she explains, “I come home from work in a suit and Stuart has dinner ready for me.”

While this may sound appealing to many women, she admits to feeling the pressure of being the main breadwinner, of having to pay the bills. “There can be tensions because of our different earning power,” says Kimberley. “We have had to learn to compromise.”

She says that while their unconventional roles have taken some getting used to, she finds their relationship more satisfying than her previous five-year marriage to a high-earning workaholic who was always busy.

However, while childless couples such as Karen and Stuart may find that the dynamic of a high-earning wife supported by her devoted husband works well, the problems usually start with the pram in the hall.

As Karen says: “I do think women will always be held back by having children, unless there are significant changes in terms of who the carer is at home.”

Ambition’s drawbacks

A survey for British magazine Marie Claire questioned 1,000 women in their twenties and thirties and found that 75 per cent rank work as “the most important thing in life — ahead of friends, family, relationships”.

Yet all the experts rate relationships above work in the happiness stakes. Those ambitious young women have a skewed view of life which may rebound in the long term.

In the end, Rosin’s ideal for marriage is mine, too: “A woman slowly and slyly teaching her husband to notice when she needs help, and a husband pliant and loving enough to start noticing.”

We’ve been debating gender differences and rights since the 18th century — and each generation needs to give these issues a fresh look. One thing is certain — there can be neither happiness nor social stability unless men and women allow each other to “rise”.

I hope that the supposed “end” for men is just one stop on the journey that leads them back towards women, to raise children in equality, together.

Not an end, but a thoughtful, flexible, new beginning.

— Bel Mooney and Sadie Nicholas/Daily Mail

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