Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brooks on the "End of Men" as seen by Rosin's book by that title

But, in her fascinating new book, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin posits a different theory. It has to do with adaptability. Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid. (From a column by David Brooks, New York Times, September 10, 2012, below)
There is both empirical evidence to support Rosin's theory, and a different perspective to push back against it. Rosin cites the former; I would like to posit the latter.
Men, for all our warts and pain, are much less likely than women to be "flexible," to use Rosin's interpretation and much more likely to be resistant, because we often see flexibility as co-dependence, or as pandering to the conventional norms or even as becoming subservient to an overwheening and perhaps abusive authority.We are less likely to be compliant with whatever we find in our experience, and much more likely to challenge that "evidence" as sceptics, and for that, the world might consider being more grateful and less judgemental. Our emotional life, while mostly hidden and repressed until it cannot be hidden any longer, is deeper, more profound and also less likely to be amended, shaped or even impacted by circumstances than others, including women, might realize. We do not like, and refuse to perform, in situations where we are reduced to "trained seals" unless and until we choose that curriculum and that culture and that life. And that includes families where the performance "standard" is imposed as "perfection" when we already know we cannot measure up. And it also includes schools where perfect compliance with the rules would and always does make for a very boring day, for us, and for the system that we believe "the system"needs to make more adjustments to accommodate our truth and reality.
And to measure us by women, is to be more insulting than anything we could imagine. We are NOT women, never have been, and never will be. And women do not possess, or incarnate, or express what must be considered the "perfect" role models for us. They are women, and for that we both love and respect them. But we are not women, and never will be, no matter how long or how hard is the push/pull to put our reality into their "container" for that reality.
Tell us women are doing better than we are and we will respond, "So?" "What does that mean?"
For us, it means only that we have left the playing field, because such comparisons are anathema to our existence. And then to hold us accountable for such failure is like saying women have all the right answers for everything, and while we already know that they do most of the time, we cannot subscribe to the world of "somebodies" (women) and  "nobodies"(men).
Men will never enter a playing field where we are compelled to match wits with women, for the simple reason that it is not a competition and must not become a competition. If women wish to see it that way, and apparently if we believe books like Rosin's they do, that is their perogative. But don't ascribe to us the same measuring stick(s) that are applied to women.
We cannot and will not give birth.
We cannot and will not play with dolls.
We cannot and will not become more like Odysseus and less like Achilles, simply because that way spells something the world calls "success".
We cannot and will not succumb to the judgement that "we are imposing our wills on the world" just because we refuse to be as complicitous, as easily managed and as "flexible" as our female counterparts.
There is a legitimate place for men, if and when they are seen for what and who we are.
There is no legitimate place for anyone who is the pawn of a system gone awry, as our's certainly has.
The fact that men, far more than women, are responsible for the violence in relationships, and for the wanton destruction of both Wall Street and Baghdad, cannot be pinned on all men, but on a stripe of men whose worth is demeaning to the rest of us. We are not Dubya or Cheney, and more men should have stood up against those bullies.
However, we are not micro-managers either, for the most part, and we find the minutiae of many worlds so confining that we ought not to enter those worlds. And that, while it is somewhat limiting, is also part of who we are.
We need our female partners, in so many ways, not excluding our need for intimacy, and we are very bad at expressing that need.
We need to be understood and held and supported and we are even worse at expressing both our need and our appreciation when it is met.
We need to make a living, and we will work our "butts off" when we are genuinely appreciated, and never when we are treated as trash...and we see our "trashing" as part of a system that sees us as part of the raw material for the production process, and not as integral to the whole system.
Like Mark Twain, many years ago, " The reports of my (our) death have been greatly exaggerated!"
And to write that we will have to be more like Odysseus and less like Achilles, is like saying we are not "OK" as we are...and there's the rub!
We are who we are!
We are not going to become something else!
We are not going to apologize for who we are and for not being something else!
And the sooner the world can see and accept and deal with that reality, the better off we will all be!
I have written elsewhere that a female supervisor once commented to me, "John you are far too intense for me!"
To which I responded without taking or missing a breath, "I am also too bald, deal with it!"

Why Men Fail
By David Brooks, New York Times, September 10, 2012
You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.

In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.
Millions of men are collecting disability. Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.
Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.
Over the years, many of us have embraced a certain theory to explain men’s economic decline. It is that the information-age economy rewards traits that, for neurological and cultural reasons, women are more likely to possess.
To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.
But, in her fascinating new book, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin posits a different theory. It has to do with adaptability. Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.
This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically.
Rosin reports from working-class Alabama. The women she meets are flooding into new jobs and new opportunities — going back to college, pursuing new careers. The men are waiting around for the jobs that left and are never coming back. They are strangely immune to new options. In the Auburn-Opelika region, the median female income is 140 percent of the median male income.
Rosin also reports from college campuses where women are pioneering new social arrangements. The usual story is that men are exploiting the new campus hookup culture in order to get plenty of sex without romantic commitments. Rosin argues that, in fact, women support the hookup culture. It allows them to have sex and fun without any time-consuming distractions from their careers. Like new immigrants, women are desperate to rise, and they embrace social and sexual rules that give them the freedom to focus on their professional lives.
Rosin is not saying that women are winners in a global gender war or that they are doing super simply because men are doing worse. She’s just saying women are adapting to today’s economy more flexibly and resiliently than men. There’s a lot of evidence to support her case.
A study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses owned by women outperformed male-owned small businesses during the last recession. In finance, women who switch firms are more likely to see their performance improve, whereas men are more likely to see theirs decline. There’s even evidence that women are better able to adjust to divorce. Today, more women than men see their incomes rise by 25 percent after a marital breakup.
Forty years ago, men and women adhered to certain ideologies, what it meant to be a man or a woman. Young women today, Rosin argues, are more like clean slates, having abandoned both feminist and prefeminist preconceptions. Men still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limits their vision and their movement.
If she’s right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land.

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