I've had this WSJ book review, Battle Hymn of the Slacker Father, next to my computer since reading it ten days ago. I should probably just let it go but there's something about the statistics quoted within and the general argument being made (and its implications) that just keep nagging at me.
'Battle Hymn' is a review of a recently released book by Hanna Rosin, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, in which she argues that the shift from a manufacturing-based economy to one that is service-based has all but eliminated the need for what have historically been masculine advantages such as brute physical strength in favor of mental, emotional, and social strengths that have been the domain of women. She argues that men are having a very hard time adjusting to this change and that the age of women is already, irresistibly, and perhaps irrevocably emerging.
Jennifer Homans does a pretty good job in her critique, A Woman's Place (published in the New York Times of all places) of Rosin's book. She points out how Rosin cherry-picks supporting statistics that support her argument and that the entire argument, for that matter, is premised on a shaky set of assumptions about economic trends and the like. I'd add that such assumptions should also include the absence of events that inevitably arise to disrupt trends and that there is a tendency in any given society or culture to cyclically vary 'left and right' (like the swing of a pendulum) from a generalized mainstream norm over time.
Thought there are a multitude of reviews of this book and commentary about the general gender issues involved in shifting demographic trends, education, the changing nature of the economy, and implications for our society, I like what the Economist had to say:
"This is not the first recession that has triggered a crisis of masculinity in America. After the recession in the early 1990s, Susan Faludi wrote “Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man”, which lamented that men were underworked, underachieving and undersupported. This time the story is somewhat different. Had Ms Rosin put off writing her book for a few years, she would probably have seen women’s jobs go the way of men’s. The economic dislocations that have erupted in male-dominated industries, such as construction and finance, are making their way into industries dominated by women, as governments cut back on services, teaching staff and the like. The real story about men and women is about how this economic crisis will harm both genders, and future generations."
In other words, before we start jumping to conclusions about the final status of 'this' or 'that,' let's see what actually happens over time and do our best to 'do our best' regardless of gender, the economy, or political outcomes.