Christina Hoff Sommer’s groundbreaking book The War against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men argued that it was boys, not girls, who were suffering from loss of self-esteem and bias against them in the school system. The book stirred up a hornet’s nest, and Hoff Sommers was roundly denounced, especially by the more radical feminist theorists.
Well, now Hanna Rosin has an article in the Atlantic Monthly that makes some startlingly similar points and is headlined “The End of Men.” Let me rephrase: As her title implies, Rosin actually presents a much grimmer picture of the status of men than did Hoff Sommers. She notes:
In feminist circles, these social, political, and economic changes are always cast as a slow, arduous form of catch-up in a continuing struggle for female equality. But in the U.S., the world’s most advanced economy, something much more remarkable seems to be happening. American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind’s eye.
What if the modern, postindustrial economy is simply more congenial to women than to men? For a long time, evolutionary psychologists have claimed that we are all imprinted with adaptive imperatives from a distant past: men are faster and stronger and hardwired to fight for scarce resources, and that shows up now as a drive to win on Wall Street; women are programmed to find good providers and to care for their offspring, and that is manifested in more- nurturing and more-flexible behavior, ordaining them to domesticity. This kind of thinking frames our sense of the natural order. But what if men and women were fulfilling not biological imperatives but social roles, based on what was more efficient throughout a long era of human history? 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?
There are some fascinating facts in Rosin’s article. It should be good ammo the next time somebody argues that we of the formerly weaker sex need special treatment. But her portrait of a world in which male values are no longer needed won’t appeal to everybody.