With a record 98 women being elected to the 113th American Congress this year — 20 in the Senate and 78 in the House — would it be possible to agree with Hanna Rosin, author of the provocative The End of Men And The Rise of Women, that it really is the time when men take the back seat?
“We had the most exciting election for women in history [this year],” the American journalist and Obama supporter told The weekend tabloid! via e-mail. “We have the highest number of women senators and perhaps more importantly, Mitt Romney got largely the support of white men and he lost. I do indeed see a woman president in the very near future”.
End of Men released a couple of months ago and has been making waves in the western world. The title, however, was not the author’s choice.
“The title was actually chosen by the editor of my original magazine story, which ran in 2010. I was quite shocked when I saw it myself,” explained Rosin. “For the book, I struggled over whether to keep it or change it to something less harsh, like The End of Macho, or the End of Male Dominance? Ultimately I decided to keep it because it’s very poetic, the four short words, and I like the fact that it evokes an immediate and powerful emotional reaction, from both men and women”.
The book depicts a female utopia — Auburn, Alabama — where we see the collapse of male power. Just before the release of the book, Rosin published an article in The New York Times where she spoke to various residents of Alexander City in Alabama.
“Suddenly, it’s us who are relying on the women. Suddenly, we got the women in control,” Rosin quoted Charles Gettys, an Alabama resident, in the article Who Wears The Pants In This Economy, published in August. Gettys once headed a Fortune 500 company but had to hand over the reins of the household to wife Sarah Beth after being laid off. “For years I was the major breadwinner, and this has flipped the family around. Now she is the major breadwinner.”
Patsy Prater, another Alexander City resident and a family services director at the city’s housing authority, explained how she supported her husband Reuben’s riches to rags life. She completed her college, which she’d left to marry her husband in the 1980s and took up jobs that “suited her skills”, such as teaching music at day care centres.
“I’m the househusband,” Reuben said, half-joking. Sometimes he helps Patsy with work, doing research or helping set up an event for clients, just as she used to help him, apart from shopping for groceries and doing laundry.
Rosin speaks of how women are overtaking men in the workplace but we still see these mainly headed by men. If a woman is not heading the boardroom she’s seen as physically, mentally, emotionally incapable of being a ruthless corporate head. Alternatively, a woman who is, is stereotyped as being a heartless, ruthless go-getter. Worse, if she’s married, she can never take care of her family.
“You have hit upon the central problem of the workplace,” Rosin agreed. “Right now it’s difficult to rise to the top of a corporate hierarchy and still be a presence in your children’s lives. Some women have managed to do it but not all that many. Workplaces still operate like its 1962 and one person is always at home, and they are not very good at adjusting for the fact that a majority of women work and take care of children”.
Does it then mean that a woman is incapable of reaching such heights and maintaining a loving, thriving home or must she sacrifice either part of her life?
“It will take some creativity to figure out how to let women continue to be ambitious and still raise their children, which is what most women want,” she said.
Moreover, Rosin, who is happily married to a high-achieving man with whom she has three children, uses the analogy of women being like plastic while men are like cardboard. In the US, two distinguished academics have expressed fear that if men can’t change, women will be in trouble. While anthropologist Michael Kimmel’s book Guyland suggested that young men are regressing — behaving with a misogynistic pack mentality, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo claimed that men’s brains are becomind “digitally rewired” by the internet age.
Research has proved that women are the better survivors but did this refer to the fact that they are more materialistic?
“What I mean by ‘plastic’ is [being] more adaptable. Women have changed their roles drastically over the course of the century, the way they behave in the public sphere. They used to not work at all, and then not work when they had small children, and slowly they have broken through all those barriers. They have also started to work in professions that were reserved for men. So they have adapted and changed over the century. Men, meanwhile, do not change so easily. They are less willing to go to school and learn new skills, and less willing to do things that might make them look ‘feminine’,” explained Rosin.
Feminism, however doesn’t teach us one-upmanship (pun intended). It’s more about equality. Zimbardo claims that young men with their “digitally rewired” brains can no longer cope with relationships — “especially relationships with equal-status female mates”. No wonder some women are deciding to do without men. Is the end of men, then, really happening? But, giving the laws of nature and society, can women actually survive without them?
“No. That’s not what I mean by the ‘end of men’. I deeply believe that men and women need each other. What I mean more is the end of male dominance. Yes, my description there is tongue in cheek. But still, I think feminism has taught many things over the years and a brief phase where women out-earned men would be good to change our notions of who is the more dominant sex. In the part of America I describe as the emerging American matriarchy where the women seem to be doing everything — working, going to school, taking care of kids, and the men seemed to have dropped out of society — these developments are not positive. We really want the men to be involved in their children’s lives. You are likely to be more educated than the men around you, making more money, and feeling very independent.”
Rosin feels these changes are happening everywhere in the world, not just in the West.
“The Washington Post recently ran a story about how educated Saudi women were so frustrated because they did so well in school and had no place to go. Iran just outright banned women from certain majors, merely because they were doing well. I recently got a letter from a woman, Reem, 30, in Gaza who was reading my book with some friends in a book group. They were mostly seamstresses, and here is what she wrote: ‘If I sit at home for three days in a row I get so bored I want to cry. Now, we work, or we marry. The universities, look at them, they are all women. Things have changed in Gaza. We don’t sit at home anymore. If somebody comes [to marry us], and we don’t like him, we can say no now, because we work, so we don’t have to get stuck with a deadbeat.”