A Philosopher's Blog

The End of Men II

Posted in Philosophy by Michael LaBossiere on June 29, 2010
Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Carly Fiorina
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This blog continues my discussion of Rosin’s article “The End of Men.”

Rosin’s next step is to consider the nature of the current, “postindustrial” economy. She argues that this economy favors women. The basis for her case is that the male’s advantages in size and strength do not provide an edge in this new economy, rather social skills (such as communication) and the ability to “sit still and focus” are the dominant skills. While women do not have a monopoly on these traits, she does consider that these attributes might be held predominantly by women.

Interestingly enough, her view rests on the classic stereotypes: men are strong and woman are social. Of course, when women were regarded as the weaker sex because of this difference, feminists argued that these were unjust stereotypes. However, now that these traits are advantageous, they are lauded. One might infer that the rule is that stereotyping is acceptable, provided that it stereotypes men as being at a disadvantage and women as being superior. Naturally, the reverse of this is still to be regarded as unacceptable.

Those who are rather against stereotyping might point out that this approach is still stereotyping and be critical of such an approach. Also, those who were concerned about how women fared poorly in the past economies should now be concerned about the situation faced by men. If the plight of women in the past was a bad thing, then the comparable plight of men today should also be a bad thing. However, there seems to be an unfortunate tendency to laud the “fall of men” and there seems to be, at best, modest concern for the plight of men.

In fact, as Rosin points out, there is a tendency to blame men for the current woes. She cites Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti’s expressed desire to put an end to the  “age of testosterone.” While this probably involves the usual political rhetoric, comparable attacks on women would no doubt be seen as sexist and hateful. However, consistency requires that what is hateful for one sex should also be hateful when applied to the other.

Following the standard approach, Rosin notes that although women have made significant advances and dominate higher education, they still fall behind men in wages. However, she is quick to point out that this is changing and that the  “modern economy is becoming a place where women hold the cards.”

While Rosin might be right, it is also possible that her prediction is mistaken. While the male dominated aspects of the economy have slumped badly, it is risky to make predictions from this situation. After all, the economy might very well shift again during the course of the recovery. As such, the plight of men might not be as dire as she predicts. That said, the general trends do seem to favor women over men.

To be specific, the current prediction is that there are 15 jobs that are likely to experience the most growth. As Rosin notes, only two (janitor and computer engineer) are currently male dominated. The other 13 jobs are dominated by women and, ironically, consist of traditional female jobs such as nursing, child care and food preparation. As Rosin notes, while women have expanded into jobs traditionally held by men, the reverse has generally not occurred-at least not yet. Some, such as Jessica Grose, have claimed that men seem to be stuck in their roles and are largely unable to adapt to the changes.

Rosin and Grose seem to be fairly accurate in this point: while women face cultural obstacles when entering fields traditionally dominated by men, men seem to face even greater obstacles. One difference is that the obstacles men face seem to be internal. That is, men are not being excluded by external forces but by their own decisions not to enter such fields. For example, there have been significant attempts to recruit men into the field of nursing, but men seem to be largely reluctant to enter that field.

If this analysis is correct, then men largely have themselves to blame for this aspect of the situation. If men could adapt as women did and enter non-traditional roles, then this would counter (to some degree) the new gender gap. Making such a conceptual switch would require redefining what it is to be a man, much as women went through a conceptual change when they began entering male dominated fields.

Men might be able to do this and, in fact, might be forced to do so by the realities of the new economy. While it might be unmanly to work in childcare, it might be seen as less unmanly than being unemployed.

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9 Responses

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  1. magus71 said, on June 29, 2010 at 7:16 am

    :”If this analysis is correct, then men largely have themselves to blame for this aspect of the situation. If men could adapt as women did and enter non-traditional roles, then this would counter (to some degree) the new gender gap. Making such a conceptual switch would require redefining what it is to be a man, much as women went through a conceptual change when they began entering male dominated fields.”

    Mike,

    Will I be given artificial advantages like women are? For instance, the physical fitness test requires much, much lower standards for women. And yet promotion in the Army is partially based on performance in that test.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm

      That is an excellent question. I’ve argued elsewhere that one factor that might help explain the success of women is that they have enjoyed some significant advantages in terms of government support.

      Interestingly, Colbert asked Rosin if the success of women would mean that all the various equality programs could be stopped. That was an excellent question.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on June 29, 2010 at 8:25 am

    “While it might be unmanly to work in childcare, it might be seen as less unmanly than being unemployed.”

    Some airlines won’t let unaccompanied minors even sit next to a man.

    There is tremendous resistance from women to allowing more men in childcare.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

      I can understand the concern: most pedophiles are men. However, the vast majority of men are not a threat to children.

  3. Asur said, on June 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Yeah, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that ‘internal’ forces are what’s keeping many men away from things like nursing, childcare, etc.

    Aside from the perception that men are more ‘predatory’ and ‘dangerous’ than women, there’s also the social stigma that these are jobs for women — which is the very essence of an external force.

    You could make the argument that the only barrier here is psychological and that men could simply ignore it if they so chose, however imposed states such as this are accepted as instances of female and racial discrimination — it’s just a variation on the theme of the classic ‘hostile environment’.

    • magus71 said, on June 30, 2010 at 12:50 am

      “You could make the argument that the only barrier here is psychological and that men could simply ignore it if they so chose,”

      Good point.

  4. T. J. Babson said, on June 29, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Could a guy get away with an ad like this?

    • magus71 said, on June 30, 2010 at 12:53 am

      LOL! This rocks. I’m gonna go make a video like that right now.


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