In 1966, music legend James Brown recorded “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” in a New York City studio. The song quickly climbed Billboard’s music charts and became a classic in Brown’s repertoire.
“This is a man’s world,” strains Brown in the raw, soulful song.
Over four decades later, Hanna Rosin is singing a different tune. As senior editor at the Atlantic, Rosin wrote a much-talked-about cover story in the summer of 2010, boldly declaring that for the first time in our male-dominated history, women are pulling ahead. In her new book, The End of Men, she describes in greater detail this shift in social order and how it is profoundly impacting the way we live.
The “end of men”—those are fighting words.
You are right. My son hates the title, which is why I dedicated the book to him. I have also heard reports of people having to hide the cover on the subway as they are reading it, so they don’t alienate the men sitting next to them.
What do you mean by “the end?” What does this look like?
What you notice about the men in the book is that they are struggling now, largely due to economic factors. We are in this transition moment where men have to really think about the future and how they can be in the future. The book is calling for and trying to make a cultural space for the rise of a new kind of man. That is where we wind up, rather than at the very end.
Women are pulling ahead of men, you say, “by almost every measure.” What specific metrics do you consider?
The very basic one is the number of women in the workforce. For the very first time, women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce. I think that is a really interesting thing to note, because our workforce is set up for a country in which somebody is always at home. We haven’t quite accommodated all of women’s ambition. So, we have this lopsided situation where the economic reality is not acknowledged or responded to in any way.
The second thing is education. Right now, it is still true that the precursor to success is a college degree. Women are just much better at getting degrees than men. It seems that school at every level plays to the natural strengths of women more than it does to men. That is true all over the world, except Africa.