The Distorted Idea That the So-Called "Masculinity Crisis" Is Caused by Successful Women
Continued from previous page
The burden put on men to be “men,” the shifting nature of women’s roles, and the overstated crisis in masculinity have had three side effects: (1) it has conflated female success with male failure; (2) it has exaggerated the actual success that women have made (both in the world and in romance); and (3) it has led to angry and/or disaffected male behavior. I have talked throughout this book about the pressures women feel to act a certain way in romance and love, and the purpose of this chapter is to show how unfair expectations of men hurt both men and women.
Deconstructing the Masculinity “Crisis”
If you turn on the television, read a newspaper, or listen to the radio, you’d be led to believe that men are now second-class citizens and completely disenfranchised. The supposed crisis in masculinity is everywhere you look, from men’s rights activists (a small, but very loud minority of men whose primary issues include alimony and custody, but who also manage to say appalling things about women’s rights) to progressive authors. According to its proponents, the crisis is affecting men and boys starting from elementary school–aged kids and impacting men in college, the workplace, and the domestic sphere. According to critics, men are the ones supposedly worst hit by the collapsing economy.
David Brooks writes in The New York Times that we’re living in a “woman’s world” in response to the shift in women’s roles. He writes, “The social consequences are bound to be profound. The upside is that by sheer force of numbers, women will be holding more and more leadership jobs. On the negative side, they will have a harder and harder time finding marriageable men with comparable education levels. One thing is for sure: in 30 years the notion that we live in an oppressive patriarchy that discriminates against women will be regarded as a quaint anachronism.”1 Brooks, similar to many of his “men are in crisis” contemporaries, equates female success with male failure, and even goes as far as to suggest that women’s progress has been so steady that patriarchy will cease to exist in thirty years!
I can only hope that Brooks’s predication about the end of patriarchy is right, but his assertions about the declining power of men have been overstated. As I mention in the last chapter, women overall still make less money than men, nationwide. They still own less property. They still get booted from jobs for getting pregnant or are still fighting for fair maternity leave. And while women in many cases are better educated than men, they still make less money (often in the same positions).2
As much as I disagree with his assessment, it’s not just the conservative camp that’s spouting off this kind of rhetoric. The shift in traditional gender roles has irked even some progressive writers. Hanna Rosin’s much talked about 2010 piece in The Atlantic, “The End of Men,” notes that we are in a new phase of social and economic order and the rapid success of women in the workplace shows us that the times they are a-changin’. Rosin suggests that perhaps the evolutionary psychologists were wrong: It’s not a biological imperative that demands men work in aggressive, competitive fields and women at home or in pink-collar jobs; it’s social pressure and economic need that has put men and women in these roles. She poses some important questions: “What if that era has now come to an end? More to the point, what if the economics of the new era are better suited to women?” According to this argument, jobs have changed and skills that are considered feminine are more in demand—specifically communication skills, efficiency in office tasks, and multitasking—and Rosin’s claim is that since women are better at these things, they are more successful in the workplace and in life.