BOOK REVIEW The end of men is only the beginning of the rise of women, according to editor and journalist Hanna Rosin.
By now you might have heard about a new reality television series called "The Week the Women Went." The premise is this: All of the women from a small town in South Carolina leave an entire community of men and children behind to care for themselves as a crew films the results of this "daring social experiment." Promos for the show feature crying children, hapless men stumbling around a grocery store, and dirty homes.
While the title of Hanna Rosin's new book, "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women" (Riverhead Books, 310 pages, $27.95), might be as sensationalistic as the Lifetime promos, her writing most certainly is not. Rosin is a senior editor at the Atlantic and an award-winning journalist whose thorough research and engaging writing style form a solid foundation for a thoughtful dialogue that has only just begun.
Her book stems from a 2010 article she wrote for the Atlantic titled "The End of Men." In the introduction to the book, Rosin explains that the article was inspired by a chance meeting with a young woman, Bethenny, at a supermarket. Bethenny was struggling financially and juggling motherhood, school and work, and yet she dismissed the possibility of marrying the father of her child, seeing it as a hindrance more than an advantage. Rosin wondered: When did men become, as one young woman put it, the new "ball and chain"?
Rosin cites an exhausting number of academic studies and statistics to support her research, addressing the college "hook-up culture," women's "erotic capital" in the workplace, the rise in the arrest rate of women over 40, the shifting of power dynamics within the modern family, and the increasing social acceptance of female aggression. Rosin also includes more detailed descriptions of individual families; in one chapter she focuses on the "new American matriarchy" in a small town in Alabama. In another, she tracks a young family in Pittsburgh with a stay-at-home dad. Most of the book centers on the current social climate in the United States, but she does dedicate a chapter to the changing status of women in South Korea.
"The End of Men" is undoubtedly an attention-grabbing title, but as Rosin writes, "[the] 'end' might not be a permanent state of existence." Readers would do best to see Rosin's book in this light. It's not the final word on gender roles in the 21st century, but it's a notable starting point for a fascinating conversation.
Meganne Fabrega is a freelance writer and a member of the National Book Critics Circle.