When Atlantic Monthly writer Hanna Rosin published an article in the magazine called “The End of Men,” she didn’t choose the headline. But once the article led to a book deal, she didn’t hesitate to splash the phrase across the cover. The book is not, in fact, about some misandrist dystopia where men no longer matter. Rather, it discusses in detail the economic and social trends that have led us to our current situation regarding gender: More women are getting advanced degrees than men, women do better in school and women are more employable. Rosin, who speaks Tuesday at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, sets out to explore how this has affected marriage, gender roles and the cult of macho.
In the book, you talk about how women will start working in any area they’re allowed to but that men will shy away from jobs they see as too feminine. Do you think that has any hope of changing?
Men, even very progressive young men, will tell me that theoretically they believe in the stay-at-home dad and really want that guy to exist and want all social policies to support that guy. But [they] don’t want to be that guy. It’s understandable: There aren’t that many cultural role models yet. We’ve just started to get characters that are men who are domestic and sexy, where he’s not an idiot or has traded his manhood for paternal competence.
Do you think discomfort with the new gender roles is behind the “War on Women” this election cycle?
The War on Women has taken on this unusually retrograde form having to do with contraception — which seems unbelievable, but I think is directly tied to the fact that the majority of American families are completely dependent on the ambition of women. America does not function as a stay-at-home-wife society at all, and I think that’s threatening to a lot of people.
It’s almost like the thought process is, “What’s helping women do better, and how can we get rid of it?”
Nobody would ever get rid of it. Society would fall apart. In the early ’60s, you could still function as a society without birth control, but you couldn’t do it now.
In the book, you point out how even with more women in the workplace, there are a lot of things that still need to change.
Part of the problem is that we don’t acknowledge what an important part of the economy women are. We pretend that we live in a society in which one person stays home and the other person is working … I think it’s going to become easier in the next generation, because young men who’ve had a hard time finding work, who have a different relationship with the office … effectively feel the same way about work as I, a 40-something mom with three kids, do. I don’t want my work to be ever-present, all-swallowing force in my life. I want to have a little flexibility, and I think young guys do, too. So, it’s not some mommy issue.