This isn’t a book review because I haven’t read Hanna Rosin’s book, The End of Men, yet.
But I noticed, with dismay, that the comments on David Brook’s NYTimes opinion post on the topic, Why Men Fail, were closed within 2 days, and indeed, many of the comments were rude and politicized. Not to mention sexist, in both directions.
I’d like to try a different – maybe a more humane – tack.
This is not to be down on men but to explore the sad reality of gender and economics in our society right now. Men are failing, socially, economically, and physically. But ‘we’re all in this together.” And I’m not sure we’re going to get anywhere if we isolate and blame 50% of our population.
If anything, I wonder if it is women (as much as men) who expect men to stick to old ways. We want to have our chivalry cake but eat it with empowered feminist icing. I’ve known plenty of women (perhaps used to be one, cough cough) who want a sensitive, intelligent, handsome, feminist-minded, loving man – who is also muscular, traditionally-attractive (that is, like a superhero) – but who also opens the door and pays her way, and doesn’t mind if she doesn’t look like a supermodel.
Not to mention the homophobia in this country that tells men if they behave in a loving and flexible way, they are either feminine or gay.
Men are subject to a huge number of stereotypes that are both rigid and contradictory. The stereotypes come from everywhere – media, female AND male parents, relatives, and partners. My mom likes to tell an anecdote about an acquaintance who burned her bras with the best of ’em, but then raised her sons to be “good ol’ boys.” Her boys were expected to get a high-earning career and work outside the home for their entire career.
These social expectations govern what men wear, how and what they talk about, who they’re allowed to hang out with, and what they do with their time.
I’m saddened most when I see little boys’ clothes in only the three colors they’re “allowed” to wear – blue, red, and black. As though color were not a way to express oneself, and to appreciate beauty, but only a signal of conformity.
Maybe we women could consider changing how we think about men so they can more easily change how they think about themselves. Perhaps then they’ll feel safe enough to be less rigid, more communicative, and more flexible.
And wear pink!