The End of Men? Don’t Be Silly. We’ll Save Ya.

There’s been a lot of chatter about the recent Atlantic cover story about the End of Men. Even Stephen Colbert brought the author, Hanna Rosin, on his show. Most of the commentary on the Atlantic site seems to indicate that readers never got past the title and assumed the article was hostile toward men, rather than concerned about them.

(Look. I have a son who just applied to colleges that are all 60% female. Don’t think for one second that I’m not concerned, even pissed, about this. More on that another time.)

But actually, the article, which argues that men are falling behind at work, on the homefront, and in school isn’t anti-men. If anything, at least how I read it, it’s a little melancholic. Rosin argues that certain male behaviors and perhaps attitudes have made them less adaptive to the post-industrial (and, I would suggest, post-agricultural, post-hunting, post-military) economy.

When it comes to Rosin’s assertions about women’s greater “adaptability,” here’s my hypothesis: women are currently rocking because of always having been Plan B. When you’re the fallback, you cannot fail. Men went off to war, and the women stayed behind. Women had to do women’s work and men’s work. Women had to rig up systems for the heavy lifting. Work arounds, whatever it took.

If the village got attacked, women had to fight off the invaders. If women got raped, women had to survive. If the invaders moved in, women made accommodations. If there was plague, women nursed the survivors. sadler

If women lost children, women coped. If husbands lost jobs, women went to work. Women dealt, and dealt, and dealt. Of course that makes you more adaptable.

Whereas men had the option of dying/being killed, going insane, becoming drunks, losing their jobs. Failure was always an option.

That’s the simple version, and it wasn’t always that simple. Of course there men who coped.

But for most of history, women have been Plan B.

In the fallback role, you learn to adapt because you have to. You learn to be less specialized. More versatile.

(For more on the above photo, check out this cool blog: http://thefbomb.org/2009/07/wwii-women-pilots-honored/)

This hallowed multitasking ability of women? I don’t for one minute believe that men can’t multitask, or that women are naturally better.  I sucked at it till I had a kid. Then I had to learn. I noticed that my ex-husband later married someone who was even worse at multitasking than I was. Nowadays he drives down the road talking on a cell phone, steering with his knees, jotting notes. AND handing toys and bottles to his two toddlers in the backseat. (Get off the road when you see him coming.)

But when he was married to me? He would sit in the kitchen drinking a beer, after his “hard” day, watching me as I prepared dinner, changed a diaper, carried on a phone conversation (with his mother, probably), and mapped out a strategy for stopping an environmental catastrophe involving a local gold mine, all while shaking his head and claiming he could never do all that at once.

Yeah, right. 

So, according to me, one reason why men may not have been able to adapt to the “new reality” is that women have been backing them up. I’m not sure this is going to get better, unfortunately, with the current trend in helicopter parenting. I’ve read articles about mothers—professional women—who drive hours to do laundry for their sons at college, as if these women didn’t have enough to do. And I’m judging them for that.

Judging us all.

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6 responses to “The End of Men? Don’t Be Silly. We’ll Save Ya.

  1. Kim Putnam Lanier

    OMG, Miss Claudia! You have hit IT right on the head. This is one helluva great piece!!! Of course, as the sister of the mentioned ex, my shorts started bunching a bit – BUT you just nailed the reality. I shall re-read this for the rest of my life. Why – I might even EMBRACE IT! lol Thanks.

    • Ah well. I thought about disguising to protect the guilty but this is the liabilty of being related to writers. There are lots of agonized posts/essays etc out there on this topic. As in, should I wait till everyone’s dead before I write anything? Most people say: no. Though a novelist was recently sued for writing recognizable stuff about an ex-husband. That was disturbing. The writerly world was up in arms about it, because just about everyone could be sued for that. Think of Sylvia Plath! Anne Sexton! Jesus Christ! I mean, wait. Anyhow.

  2. We have moved out of the industrial age and into the information age, information means communication, I would be the first to admit that a woman’s social and communication skills are twice or three times what mine is!
    Women have always been whispering into the ears of their husbands, providing guidance and perspective in every culture and age.

  3. Hm. Gary, you’re a teacher, right? So I’m betting you rock at communicating.

    I’ma gonna push you a little bit. Do you think it’s possible that when men say, women are better at this or that, it could sometimes be a way of getting out of doing it themselves? Not necessarily intentionally of course, and I know that *you* in particular try to be very conscious, but I feel I have to raise this question. I always felt that way about multitasking at any rate. That actually men could be a lot better at multitasking if they tried. And that women secretly maybe didn’t want them to be because they wanted to own this ability.

    But I personally always resented it. Go juggle all your own shit, I always thought. I HATE multitasking and like to concentrate. I figured if I could learn to do it, so could any guy.

    So I wonder about that when anyone says men or women are better at one thing or another.

    HUMANS are versatile. Women can rig up pulleys and levers if they don’t have men to lift stuff. Machine guns work all right if you really need to kill someone. I think a man can learn how to whisper in someone’s ear, don’t you?

    I believe that individuals may have innate talents, and even that some groups may be more blessed with this or that tendency. But overall I think that barring outright handicaps everyone has a chance to develop almost any strength he or she sets a mind to.

  4. I can multi-task, sure, but my version is jumping fanatically from many different projects, back and forth while finishing none! My wife says it’s more like ADHD than multi-tasking….
    Oh, there ARE gender differences in our brains, not just due to upbringing, but genetically based construction issues. Humans are not all the same with different anatomical additions and subtractions.

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