Ryan Jones is less than pleased with Hanna Rosin’s ‘The End of Men,’ and he’s not afraid to talk about it.
This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
Thinking people should be beyond the pseudo-intellectual, allegedly-but-not-really researched nonsense Hanna Rosin spouted in that Atlantic piece. Rarely have 9,000 words in a respectable publication been less necessary. I hate that we’re even talking about it. But here we are.
So: I’ve not seen it commented on, but the irony of Slate’s promotion in all this is too rich to ignore. Slate loves undressing newspaper “trend” pieces as the lazy habit of time- and inspiration-pressed daily newspaper writers that they too often are. What makes a cheap and easy trend piece? A handful of seemingly illuminative anecdotes, backed up by statistics, quotations, and more anecdotes that seem to prove a conclusive point. Again, too often, the point doesn’t really exist. Slate kills these sorts of pieces.
“The End of Men” opens with a fun anecdote about a once-prominent male biologist with proudly Neanderthal social views—it turns out he literally almost is the Marlboro Man—who in his old age has seen the light or the truth or whatever it is Rosin wants him to see, and who waxes about how tack-sharp his granddaughter is while lamenting how his grandsons’ “eyes glaze over” when it comes to getting anything out of school. It’s a terrific anecdote, with more ironic detail than any writer could hope for. If I’d been writing this story, I’d have led with it too.
(I would not have written this story.)
The second great anecdote tells of a “teacher and social worker” in Kansas City who addresses a classroom full of men who’ve been busted for not paying child support—most, apparently, because the recession cost them their jobs. How does this teacher-slash-social worker explain to these men the reality of their plight? By conveying the mindset of their estranged wives and girlfriends, who don’t need men who can’t bring home a paycheck, and therefore clearly don’t need these men at all. Ultimately, he tells them, “She’s calling you ‘bitch!’”
The third gem involves three sorority sisters. One, a “self-described ‘perfectionist’” on her way to grad school, complains about her slacker fiancé, who can’t decide on a major and who, the girl and her sisters decide, will “definitely stay home” with the kids this woman is apparently going to have with this slacker who, despite having her act so much more together than, she’s apparently stupid enough to eventually marry.
Again, they’re all great anecdotes, and there’s lots of statistical analysis of a sort squeezed in between. And what it all adds up to is nothing. The point of the article, as stated in the deck, is how “modern postindustrial society is better suited to women.” It’s phrased as a question, but that’s disingenuous. This is an epic troll, and it isn’t asking questions; it’s stating its argument as fact.
I could counter this with all sorts of anecdotes of my own. My wife and I graduated from the same well-regarded state university in 1995, both with journalism degrees. I started at a small daily newspaper in northeast Pennsylvania. She started at a trade publication in Manhattan. Three years later, I was at a slightly better paper in a slightly bigger market; she was working for a successful newsstand business publication. Today, I edit the alumni magazine at my alma mater; my wife hasn’t worked full time in nearly a decade.
And a roughly comparable set-up applies to nearly every couple we know.
How Neanderthal is that? Not very, actually. My wife chose to quit her full-time writing gig to freelance, and two kids and a move from the Big Apple to a Midwestern college town later, it’s never made sense for her to return to full-time work. I’ve been the breadwinner ever since. Most of the couples we know balance similar roles; we know plenty of female professors, but none of them are married to househusbands. We also know plenty of women with college degrees who are full-time moms.
So there’s that. Anecdotes that prove nothing, necessarily, but certainly reinforce my point of view. It’s awesome how that works.
And the flipside of that POV: Without fail, every one of the “dads” in our extended peer group is an involved parent. Every. Single. One. We coach our kids’ sports teams. We cook dinner. Some of us (guilty) mow the lawn and fix the toilet and do the laundry and the dishes. We show up at the parent-teacher conferences and walk our kids to school, and then we go back to the jobs that put food on our families’ tables. This may make some of us pushovers in the traditional sense—I’m sure Marlboro Man would point and laugh (and cough) at the likes of me—but it hardly marks us men as a species on the brink.
Listen, I’m thrilled women have caught up to and are in some cases surpassing men in certain fields. My three-year-old daughter is psychotic in the way only three-year-olds can be, but she’s also smart and funny and talented, and I want her to have every opportunity her smart, funny, and talented older brother will have. Rosin would have me believe my little girl will have nearly infinite opportunities, and that my son can hope for little better than a job detailing the luxurious European sedan (designed by some German lady, no doubt) that his little sister will drive to her job as president of the pharmaceutical company she started to sell the cancer cure she discovered.
It’s just all so lame.
The whole premise is based on generalizations that are outdated, if they were ever even accurate. Part of me hopes Rosin is right, of course—if we’re stereotyping, then having the nurturing gender running things means peace in our time. I’d love that for my kids. But: A President Clinton or Palin strikes me as every bit as willing to send in the troops as any of us guys (also: remind me how nurturing Maggie Thatcher was again?). I don’t get the sense that Ms. Whitman or Ms. Fiorina would create a kinder, gentler corporate America. And what was the name of that girl who took those pictures with the bound and gagged Iraqis at Abu Ghraib?
I’m not sure I’m even making a coherent point here, but I figure that’s better than 9,000 words of disingenuousness for the sake of pageviews. Here I should confess I actually didn’t read Rosin’s piece word for word; I only skimmed it. Had the GMP editor who asked me to write this been a woman, I suppose he’d have been smart enough to task another woman with this assignment. She would’ve had her shit sufficiently together to read the whole thing.
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