The Chief End of Men
Hanna Rosin noticed something curious on a recent family trip to Virginia: In the town square, amid shops and grocery stores, men had seemingly vanished. A run-in with a young mother in the grocery aisle provided some clues. Bethenny, 29, was earning her nursing degree while simultaneously running a daycare from home. When Rosin, senior editor at The Atlantic, asked Bethenny about her hopes for marriage, she rolled her eyes, saying that "there was always Calvin," the father of her daughter. Calvin, meanwhile, was struggling to find work that would cover the groceries and bills. He certainly had no plans to reenter Bethenny's life as the rightful breadwinner. Bethenny wanted to remain "queen of her castle," says Rosin, "with one less mouth to feed." And she was pretty happy about it.
Bethenny and Calvin's story, and their respective financial and romantic trajectories, is no random blip on the line of history, argues Rosin, but the result of seismic shifts in economy and ideology, representing nothing less than "the end of two hundred thousand years of human history and the beginning of a new era." In other words, it's the end of men, and the rise of women, the name of Rosin's provocative new book (Riverhead, 2012).
The book's title is of course hyperbolic. Rosin, also the founder of Slate's DoubleX website (think a secular-left Her.meneutics), is too seasoned a journalist to suggest that all men everywhere are failing in school and eating Doritos on the couch, while all women everywhere are exceedingly bright, unflaggingly driven, and want only to reach the corner office. The traditional work-home setup between husbands and wives—a setup that some Christians believe is divinely ordained—persists throughout Western society. All of us can think of examples where this setup prevails. But something has shifted among men and women. As she did in her 2008 Atlantic essay of the same name, Rosin sets out to prove, with statistics and stories, that the something is a gender tipping point from which there's no going back.
The statistics are hard to argue with. In 2009, for the first time in U.S. history, women held about half of the nation's jobs, after a recession in which three-quarters of all jobs lost belonged to men. And these are not bottom-rung positions: women hold 51 percent of all managerial/professional jobs, up from 26 percent in 1980. Over 60 percent of accountants are women; 45 percent of law firm associates are as well. Though the top corporate jobs remain the bastion of men, with women composing just 3 to 6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, they are highly prized, out-earning their male counterparts by 43 percent. Such dynamics can't help affecting the household economy: Today, a married woman contributes on average 42.2 percent of her family's income, up from 4 percent in 1970. And she's not passing off the diapers to Dad: in 1965, married women reported an average of 9.3 hours of paid work each week and about 10 hours of child care. Today's married woman does an average of 23.2 hours of paid work each work, as well as more child care—13.9 hours. Steven Andrews, a stay-at-home dad interviewed by Rosin, sums up the new reality well: "I'm just the mediocre house dude." Sarah, his very-pregnant, lawyer wife, "feed[s] the family" and "make[s] big money." She's the "superstar."