June
15th 2010
The man question

Posted under: American history, bad language, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

I’ve got lots to do today, but if you don’t, go read this definitive takedown by Echidne of Hanna Rosin’s silly article on “The End of Men,” in which she argues that woman domination is just around the corner because women outnumber men in the workforce and in college these days, and because a certain demographic of prospective parents actually prefer daughters to sons.  ((Yawn.))  It’s too bad–I thought she had a pretty great radical feminist critique of the cult of breastfeeding last year.  I wonder what happened to the writer who was asking what had happened to all of her professional, well-educated women friends, when their husbands seem to be doing just fine and running the world as usual?

Here’s a little flava both of Rosin’s article (in italics) and Echidne’s critique.  Apparently, women are running the world now:

Next comes the major thesis which is written so that even the simplest misogynist can get its relevance;


What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?

I hate this shit. I hate it, and having to go bang my head against the garage door. Women in the past could not specialize in flexibility and nurturing behavior. They were first fucking gatherers/hunters and then fucking farmers who worked from dawn to dusk and past it. They were not prehistoric Victorian housewives and men were not prehistoric Rambos or whatever the newest killer hero is called: They, too, worked their asses off all day long, most of the history. I hate intellectual laziness and nastiness.

Pardon me for that outbreak of my nurturing flexibility. Let’s look at that paragraph just a little more: If this new era is better suited to women, were all those prior eras better suited for men? And exactly why and how? Is the only thing that has changed technology? No legal changes, say?

.        .        .        .        .

What is this “profound economic shift” she talks about? She doesn’t quite define it so we are left with guesses. Mine would be that she talks about women’s increasing entry into the labor force in the 1970s and into higher education during the same time period. That women were in the labor force in larger numbers before 1950s goes unnoticed. That women actually entered higher education in large numbers in the 1920s and got pushed back in the next decade gets unreported. History is simplified, made simple, made to support the idea of the dawn of matriarchy.

There’s lots to be annoyed by, but Echidne is correct in that Rosin’s article is unimaginable without a steaming plateful of historical amnesia.  We could also point to the “New Woman” emerging at the end of the nineteenth century, or the arguments made byMary Wollstonecraft and Judith Sargent Murray in favor of equal education for men and women at the end of the eighteenth century.  (But that would only highlight how *those* “revolutions” in women’s education didn’t end in ”matriarchal rule.”)  It’s almost as if “serious” magazines don’t want real American history or real women’s history remembered and recorded, so that they can pretend that there’s something shiny and new here!  It’s almost as if a “serious” magazine is just baiting MRA’s and misogynists to benefit from their gender panic, or something.

See also Echidne’s follow-up post, “And Even More on the End of Men.”  Happy Tuesday, friends, and remember:  don’t get fooled again!

12 Comments »

12 Responses to “The man question”

  1. Digger on 15 Jun 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    It’s a steaming plateful of *something* that’s for sure! I’m going to go join Echidne in some garage door head-banging.

  2. widgeon on 15 Jun 2010 at 5:21 pm #

    I listen to Slate’s Double X Gabfest (as a podcast) and Hanna Rosin has repeatedly referred to Jane Hull–meaning, Jane Addams founder of Hull house. I expected an abject apology the first time she made this mistake, but instead she did it again. I’m feeling better now about my somewhat hysterical reaction to this blunder.

  3. Historiann on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:13 pm #

    Jane Hull? Yegads. I guess attention to detail is not part of her M.O. Good instincts, widgeon.

  4. Canuck Down South on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:25 pm #

    She was on the Colbert Report tonight–with more of the same over-simplified generalizations. It’ll probably be online tomorrow.

    She’s often, as you point out, a fairly interesting writer–I have no idea where this came from.

  5. Historiann on 15 Jun 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Thanks for the tip, Canuck–I’ll see if I can find a clip. How interesting that she’s getting so much attention for her prediction that it’s the “end of men.” (Barf.)

  6. Perpetua on 16 Jun 2010 at 7:34 am #

    I have to say I’m not surprised by Rosin’s latest piece. I have to be blunt and say that I dislike her work intensely. I’ve read three by her now, and I’ve found the whole oeuvre to be painted with the same brush – smug, glib, and intellectually lazy (as Echidne notes). From the essay on how she loves her husband more than her children to the one on breastfeeding to this one, my impression has consistently been that she picks topics about which there is a critique – perhaps even a feminist critique – to be made, but it’s done this slick ready-for-NYT-style-section tone that has the effect of preventing a substantial nuanced discussion. She writes “controversial” pieces that get published (by the magazines and newspapers who demonstrate zero commitment to any kind of feminist thought or real conversation about women’s issues), and that’s the extent of her intellectual commitment to any of these subjects. I think Historiann is right – it seems like Rosin is making an argument about the advent of “matriarchy” but there isn’t anything feminist (or serious or historically accurate) about her presentation; thus the article gives the impression of an effort to create gender panic, since that’s everyone’s favorite topic now that we’re in a “mancession”. Displacement of men of course being the problem extraordinaire of the postfeminist world.

  7. Historiann on 16 Jun 2010 at 7:39 am #

    Perpetua–do you have a title and/or a link to the article about how she loves her husband more than her kids? (Are you perhaps confusing her with Ayelet Waldman, who made quite a splash a few years ago by saying that in the NYT?)

  8. a reader on 16 Jun 2010 at 10:39 am #

    I was annoyed until I saw that the magazine in question is The Atlantic, which for some reason doesn’t have the bad reputation it richly deserves for publishing lengthy, pontificating nonsense. One of my favorites, from around 1998, was a cover story called “Russia is Finished” — seven years after the fall of the USSR, the country had irreversibly declined into political and economic powerlessness, never to rise again. Whenever I see any kind of doom prophesied in the Atlantic, I cheer up, because it’s almost certainly wrong! And while I know this link has made the rounds, here is further evidence of their commitment to quality journalism

    It’s interesting, the Atlantic style of badness: a particularly severe and ponderous glibness, as though its slightly marginal position among U.S. periodicals gives its writers license to sprawl into unchecked, clueless melancholy universalism.

    Thanks for letting me rant here; I know it’s a bit of a derail.

  9. Historiann on 16 Jun 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Heh. I’d see a copy of the Atlantic every once in a while back in the early 90s, and I started calling it the magazine for pseudo-intellectual middle-aged men. That’s all the writers that wrote for the mag. They rarely if ever featured women writers, but as you point out, who would want to author that kind of crap?

    Unfortunately, every other “serious” magazine seems to be following the lead of The Atlantic Monthly in only publishing dudealicious dudely doodz news and views. (Oh, plus Caitlyn Flanagan–but then, maybe Rosin has been informed that she’d better conform to Flanagan’s style if she wants to sell another article.)

    I have approved of Sandra Tsing Loh’s car crashy hot mess of marriage and motherhood published in the past year or so in the mag, however.

  10. Canuck Down South on 16 Jun 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    It is pretty frustrating that as prominent an organization as the Colbert Report highlighted the article without doing any of his usual critique of it. If you’re on a hunt for a variety of Rosin pieces, check out the one she did on transgendered children about a year ago–it was one of the better ones I’ve seen with her name on it. She seems to be a hit-or-miss writer.

    In response to “a reader”–I sympathize with your concern about “The Atlantic.” It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has doubts about its quality national magazine. About 3 months ago I received an offer for a $10 subscription to it. I read a couple of short pieces online and decided that it was worth a try for $10. The first issue had a really interesting front cover piece about the cultural problems of elder care, but the last two haven’t had much worth reading. In the current issue, Rosin’s piece isn’t even the one that irritates me the most–if you feel the need to lose a few brain cells, check out the essay by Sandra Tsing Loh towards the end. It contains such let-’em-eat-cake gems as insight into how she’s learned to love housework, because since her divorce/buying a huge house she can’t pay someone else to do it anymore…I chucked the magazine across the room. I won’t be renewing my subscription.

    Anyway, sorry for derailing the thread, Historiann…I’ll go back to lurking now. Thanks for posting the critique of Rosin’s piece by Eichne.

  11. Z on 16 Jun 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    This “evolutionary psychology” comes straight from misogynist self help manuals and some of these “researchers” don’t have real research training or degrees. However, remember cultural feminism and Carol Gilligan, _In A Different Voice_? That’s similarly problematic, I always found.

  12. LadyProf on 16 Jun 2010 at 10:49 pm #

    Some years ago my sister was riding Amtrak from New York to Boston and reading the Atlantic. A blue-haired matron, looking very much a Daughter of the American Revolution, waved her hand toward the cover.
    Matron: Do you like it?
    My sister (startled): Yeah. Um, I guess so.
    Matron: The Atlantic is a white supremacist magazine.
    I’ve never taken it seriously since then.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply