This weekend’s New York Times Book Review features a critical treatment of Hannah Rosin’s The End of Men. Though there’s presumably no coordination between the book review and the op-ed pages, it still makes for a nice counter to David Brooks’ unfortunate column of a week ago on the same topic.
The reviewer, Jennifer Homans, objects not only to Rosin’s statistical cherry-picking and “invented comic-book characters,” but to her apparent blindness at the real origin of the phenomenon she so triumphantly describes. The latest wave of feminine economic ascendence has its origins not in some massive social sea-change (as earlier waves, in the 1960s and 70s, did) but in the rise of the global economy and its meritocratic directors:
“[T]he end of men” is the end of a manufacturing-based economy and the men who worked there, many of whom are now unemployed, depressed, increasingly dependent on the state and women to support them. We know the numbers, and they are bad: since 2000 the manufacturing economy has lost six million jobs, a third of its total work force — much of it male. In 1950, 1 in 20 men in their prime were not working; today the number is a terrifying 1 in 5.
With this in mind, Honans notes, Rosin should realize she’s basically celebrating the destruction of a working class ethos, which saw the virtue in restraint, whether in a person’s relentless career striving or in more intimate matters.
So, yes, some women are gaining from these changes: intelligent, college-educated, first world women might find more opportunities, but in a sense the lifestyle libertinism Rosin celebrates (especially her effusive praise of the “hook-up culture”) is a kind of economic luxury a narrow upper echelon of women can afford. But others? As Honans notes, this mentality can be devastating: its effect on inner-city women of color, for example, has been almost entirely negative.
Read Honans’ full review here. If anything, it should serve as a good reminder that “social issues” aren’t speculative concerns floating in the aether, and they can’t be contrasted with the pursuit of social justice–they’re integral to it. Behavior of the kind praised by Rosin has not only a moral and spiritual consequences but also a real physical and economic price. Unfortunately, this has become invisible to many of our elites because it’s a toll they can afford to pay.