Last night at the library, I attended an author event starring Hanna Rosin of The End of Men fame. She is quite feisty and talks very fast but then she had a lot of ground to cover.
I took notes. Ms. Rosin is a senior editor with The Atlantic magazine and this book is an enlargement of an essay she wrote in 2010. She writes that the feminist ideals of the 1960s have come to pass. More women than men are graduating from college; women make up the majority of the workforce (in 1950, 1 in 20 men was not working, whereas today it is 1 in 5); in many instances married women make more than their husbands; and in fact, women are not so interested in getting married right away but are preferring to get established career-wise before committing to husband and family.
So no, it is not really the end of men as in the Charlotte Perkins Gilman novel Herland featuring a Utopian society composed entirely of women and where there have been no males for 2000 years.
But there has been a shift and a rise in women. Due to the end of the manufacturing age with a labor force dominated by men, there has been a swing toward a service and technology economy to which women are suited and have gravitated. Women executives are now in positions to hire women to do the jobs of child care, elder care, food preparation and housekeeping.
I had a great question for her but she didn't call on me (although I was in the front row and repeatedly raised my hand). No matter. I will ask it now.
She told the true story of a small town in Alabama that lost its major textile employer. For many years, the town had been dominated by the men who worked at the factory. Now, it is the women of the town who are working. One manager, when he called the unemployment office, ended up talking to his former secretary who had found a job whereas he hadn't.
This story reminded me of the movie The Full Monty. The men have lost their factory jobs and their wives are working at low-paying positions. By the end of the movie, the fellows have become male strippers. The term The Full Monty refers to total nudity - a rather rousing ending to the tale.
Anyway, I wondered if any of the men in that Alabama town had become strippers (smile). And if not, what were they doing?
I also wondered, but didn't get the opportunity to ask, if this shift is merely the extreme swing of the pendulum and would encourage men to get a college degree (just as women set out to do) and in 50 years we would all be sitting around bemoaning the fact that men were on top again in the areas discussed.
I think Ms. Rosin is hopeful that we will use our imaginations to give women and men a little more room to breathe in this world.
Well, that certainly couldn't hurt.