Monday, September 17, 2012

Not the end of men...but the beginning of a new attitude to men?

Jennifer Homans is a historian and a distinguished scholar in residence at New York University. She is the author of “Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet.” Homans reviews the Rosin book, The End of Men, in the New York Times, September 16, 2012, an excerpt is included here.

In the end, there is something smug — and wrong — about Rosin’s depiction of “Plastic Woman.” Is it really a good idea to say that we are, by gender if not by sex, open, empathic, flexible, patient, prone to communal problem-solving and the like? We’ve known for a long time that men do not hold a monopoly on being rigid, hierarchical, close-minded or authoritarian. Yet the women in this book are almost all organized go-getters, whereas the men come across as lazy, unambitious couch potatoes.
It is hard not to cringe when Rosin compares a Type A girl who sits still in school and makes pages of to-do lists every night with a sloppier but equally high-­performing boy who can barely remember what comes next in his day. Rosin holds the girl (her daughter) up to the light and suggests that the boy (her son) will need to find his own “inner secretary” if he is to succeed in the world we live in. Well, maybe, but everything in me wants to defend the boy for just being who he is. Do we really want an alpha-girl model, even if she does succeed in the new world economy, whatever that is? Do we want a model at all? Why should a son — or anyone, for that matter — want to be more like anyone else (much less his sister — or mother)?

Above all, is it really a good idea to suggest that women are poised to inherit the economy and that over time men and boys, God bless them, may learn to adjust and become more — more what? More like us (except when we’re not)? To suggest, in other words, that success — material, social, sexual, emotional — depends on (our!) gender traits and not on the legal and institutional frameworks we live in? I’m all for each of us remaking ourselves from within, but this kind of argument seems carelessly apolitical, especially at a moment when we are faced with public officials actively working to undermine access to birth control, abortion, equal pay for equal work. Talk about endings.
And I can’t share Rosin’s rosy faith in the global economy. Revolutions, economic or otherwise, have a way of disappointing women. They tear down the old, women step in and make strides, and as a new order sets in the strides disappear. Are Rosin’s Plastic Women genuine victors, or are they — or will they become — unwitting victims? Will the women who are so diligently training themselves as pharmacists today be as flexible and confident when the winds of the feckless global economy turn against them? How flexible can a woman be when she has been training for something for years and suddenly it is blown off the map by the “new” economy? Ask the men who are ended.
Thanks Ms Homans, for bringing some balance to the picture painted by Ms Rosin in her book, The End of Men.
Gender stereotypes have never worked, never demonstrated the whole truth in any argument and do not pave the way for a more integrated present and future. It is in the competition with women that men bow out from. We have never wanted to compete with women, yet we are hard wired to compete with other men from a very early age.
The notion of "men who are ended" is both tragic and apparently unfixable, if we are to listen to M Rosin.
However, we do not share that view.
Here are some things men could consider to bring their "social status" back to a level playing field with women:
  1. Start reading novels.
  2. Start watching movies like the 2005 version of the Jane Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, without a janudiced eye, just enjoying the interactions between men and women.
  3. Start learning to listen to their own bodies, thoughts, feelings and starting walking into the beach of charing those "words" with their female partners, lovers, friends, sisters, and daughters.
  4. Start to take their bodies on solo walks, bike or motorcycle rides, and breath in the air, and celebrate the view.
  5. Look for little ways to offer help, encouragement and support (not just the programmatic, and robotic words, "I'm sorry") to those they can see are in distress, both men and women.
  6. Try initiating conversations about other topics that the weekend sports results, and the latest machinations of the car, industrial, investment and geopolitical worlds.
  7. Read another novel, or a biography that will bring 'the other' to life in your mind, in a way you had not expected.
  8. Get tickets to the art gallery, the symphony, and the latest theatre production and open to what you are watching, listening to, taking in, enjoying and even what is ticking you off a little by the performance.
  9. Turn the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL off your television for at least a month and replace that time in frace-to-face conversation with your spouse, lover, friend, sister, daugher, mother, grandmother.
  10. Start a journal, in which you write about any incidents, thoughts, feelings, reflections, opinions, or ever fears that enter your head, without any thought of letting anyone into your private world.
  11. Start looking for ways to offer your insight, imagination, innovation and expertise where you work, volunteer, help, or even when you are with another human being, not to bully the others, but to test your resources.
  12. Call another male, and share what you have begun as your own little "project" of change, and evolution.
Don't listen to your buddies who tell you you are becoming "girly" in your new direction.Who knows, it could turn a few of them around too, if you stick with it!
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