by: George Marx
Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men and the Rise of Women" (Silverhead Books, 2012) is well worth reading for many men, despite its weaknesses. To really get something out of the book, however, one must look critically at many of the issues that she raises. The book seems written for a primarily female audience. It exaggerates its conclusions, while seeming acknowledging some of this also.
Rosin notes the devastating impacts of the closure of the Russell Corporation Plant upon Alexander City, Alabama. Many men with few transferrable job skills lost their jobs as the heart was cut out of this town's economy. Similar devastation has destroyed much of the economy of Detroit and Flint, Michigan as the automobile plants have closed (as well as many other cities and towns nationally in the U.S.). Instead of delving into the deeper issues of the outsourcing of our manufacturing economy, Rosin sensationalizes its effects. One could seriously study how men have been hurt by the changes of recent decades, and point to how men's weaknesses have worsened a difficult situation.
Rosin acknowledges some of this, but really focuses upon ridiculing caricatured men. In these areas it seems apparent both that her concerns are titillating readers to try to make her book a bestseller as well as recognizing that it's much easier to reach a female (rather than male) audience for a book of this kind.
A lot of the "facts" that Rosin states are true, though at times her emphasis distorts reality. She has an annoying habit of seemingly acknowledging the limitations of some of her theses, while presenting them dramatically as if they were clear cut and simple.
One area where I would question her conclusions is in talking about violence by men against women. She states: "Women today are far less likely to get murdered, raped, assaulted, or robbed than at any time in recent history." (p.182). Later in the same paragraph (perhaps from a 2010 White House report on women and girls? It isn't clear where the source is if not from there,) she states: "The rate of rape meanwhile declined by 60 percent since 1993, and has stayed steady at the lower rate throughout the decade."
The (U.S.) CDC's 2010 NISVS report (see: http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Report2010-a.pdf in Table 2.1) showed that: sexual violence against women included 18.3% of women having been raped in their lifetime (1.1% over the past 12 months) and 44.6% victimized by “Other Sexual Violence") (5.6% in the past 12 months). Table 4.1 of the same study showed that: 35.6% of women (5.9% in the past year) had survived rape, physical violence or stalking from an intimate partner.
This survey was based upon complete interviews with over 16,000 adults including over 9,000 women. It is probably the largest and most detailed study that has been done recently. The author seemingly "cherry-picked" her studies here (and perhaps elsewhere in the book). It seems questionable that these numbers reflect a 60% drop in violence against women!!! It seems unlikely that this is the only such example of distortions through omissions or inaccuracies in this book.
This book accurately gets at a huge, increasing divide between "haves" and "have nots". It is certainly perceptive to show some of the class differences, and to point out how working class women are learning to cope and better themselves far more readily than working class men.
The book gives superficial insights into the huge issues that we men face with our masculinity. It certainly is true that men often look at their life situation in a very surface - simple way in many cases. It is understandable that when men learn growing up to "be a man", they often give up when feeling their path blocked by their jobs being dead-end and/or non-existent. It is certainly true that many men give up in various ways and may not be as driven and creative as women are at getting ahead.
This book is useful in helping wake some men up as to the need to deal with their issues. While some of what she says (particularly examples she gives of individual men) seem exaggerated or possibly inaccurate, her basic points related to boys and men are important.
I would hope that this book might point men in a number of directions including recognizing and focusing upon the:
1.) need to get connected and involved in public education. It is important to help change how it is not reaching many boys who don't learn well in traditional public school settings,
2.) importance of career based foci particularly for boys and young men who are not coming from upper-middle class families. They need basic skills and a positive attitude finding and growing in vocations that are viable in our changing economy,
3.) need for boys to learn parenting skills in our schools and learning how to become caring, connected fathers as well as "uncles" to others' children,
4.) general need for boys and men to learn to honestly and deeply connect with their peers in meaningful ways that go well beyond "fishing together" and similar. We need to be much more aware of the social worlds around us and our parts in them. We need to recognize that we can not rely upon women such as primary partners for most, if not all, of our emotional support as well as much more.
Rosin is completely on target in recognizing that women have adapted to the major changes in recent decades while many men have been left behind. The obvious facts of the end of the simple family model with a father who is the: 1.) "warrior/protector", 2.) (financial) provider and 3.) head of the household seems obvious as well as the fact that new, positive models for men have not evolved.
It seems doubtful that most men will gather the types of insights that I’m referencing above by reading this book. The book can be useful helping men who already are connected with masculinity issues think and critically look at both masculinity and the worlds of women around them. It is unfortunate that the book doesn’t delve deeper and perhaps more honestly into much that it addresses, but it can open up a lot for many of us.