Scott Behson doesn’t see the advancement of women as the degradation of men, and he thinks framing it that way is dangerous.
In many ways 2013 was a banner year for valuing fatherhood and raising awareness of fathers’ work-family issues. But as the year ended, we had to endure one last bit of denigration.
On December 30th, 2013, Hanna Rosin wrote an appalling column on Time.com entitled “Men Are Obsolete” (this was a companion piece to Camille Paglia’s recent Time magazine essay defending men from claims of obsolescence). Why not? After all, stirring the pot as a gender-issues troll has been great business for her- her similarly appalling book “The End of Men” was a runaway bestseller.
And if you want controversy, Rosin certainly can deliver. She begins by stating that men are obsolete because men feel “entitled to power, destined for leadership, arrogant, confused by anything that isn’t them”, using crackhead Toronto mayor John Ford as the exemplar of men worldwide.
She then hedges that men aren’t fully obsolete because “we haven’t figured out a way to harvest sperm without them being, you know, alive”. Ok so we have that whole propagation of the species thing going for us, but besides that, we’re inferior and unnecessary. Also, she says men should take heart that, “Obsolete does not mean worthless. It means outmoded. The twin combustion engine made the bicycle obsolete but that doesn’t mean we hate the bicycle.”
Rosin then clicks off the reasons men are obsolete:
1. Women are doing better at school and advancing at the workplace
Funny, I see this as a triumph of equal opportunity and don’t have to frame one gender’s accomplishments as a failure by the other.
2. The traditional household with a male breadwinner is vanishing
IMO, the more progress women make in the workplace, the better, as this can open up opportunity for fathers to become more involved at home- something to which most dads aspire. I see this as win-win. Rosin, typically, sees everything as win-lose (it helps her sell books).
Rosin cites the 2013 Pew Study’s 40% female breadwinner number in making her argument. However, as I explained here, this statistic is extremely misleading (30 seconds looking at the Pew Study would clear up all confusion, but what “journalist” or “editor” has time for that?). One can only get to 40% by cobbling together the 11% never-married single mother households, the 14% single-mother-divorced households and the 15% of dual-parent households with female breadwinners. These are kinda three separate groups, no?
In short, only 15% of two-parent families and 22.5% of dual-income families have the wife as the primary earner. Men obsolete? Hardly. And even if men were no longer the primary wage earners, why would we be any less worthy of dignity?
3. Because working-class men were hit particularly hard by the Great Recession
Again, Rosin implies men are only worthy of respect if they earn money, but then celebrates that women are displacing men as wage-earners. But who cares when one can poke fun at men who lost their manufacturing and construction jobs? Nothing goes with structural long-term unemployment like a dollop of condescension. I bet Rosin’s taxi-driver father thinks this is hilarious.
4. Men have lost their monopoly on aggression and violence
I don’t know where to begin on this doozy. Would Rosin celebrate more aggression and violence on the part of men? Using the insane women on Real Housewives of New Jersey as a positive example of assertiveness? Really?
The fact that women are more assertive and can now serve in combat roles does nothing to diminish men. Let’s just move along.
5. Men now shave body hair
Yep. This is the level of discourse.
Rosin concludes by talking about her son (poor guy, I can imagine the conversations at home “Good night, you obsolete member of the lesser gender. I love you”). She states she hopes he lives in a world in which he can succeed in a variety of roles, including doing things she considers un-masculine- so that “if he chooses to take his kids to a playground at 3 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, no one will look at him funny, no one will wonder if he’s out of work, no one will think, ‘What a loser’.”
So, I guess Rosin and I agree that being an involved dad and thinking flexibly about careers are things to which men should aspire, and things that society needs to embrace. We’ll get to this place much sooner if women and men see this as something we need to work together on instead of tearing each other down.
After all, to make progress in almost any societal challenge, including work-family balance, the advancement of the full range of both men’s and women’s opportunities at work and at home is required. I am amazed that someone as obviously smart at Hanna Rosin doesn’t see that her writing is actually getting in the way of this progress.
What do you think about “The End of Men”? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
Lead photo: Flickr/garryknight