The end of men? Cardboard man is dead. Now let’s redefine masculinity

From The Guardian UK:

A new book is right to highlight the male identity crisis caused by economic change. But where’s the manifesto for a new man?

The Guardian, Sunday 30 September 2012

The cover of the book is as simple as can be: just bold type set into a pink and yellow design, as if to evoke the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. And the title is of a piece: The End of Men, subtitled And the Rise of Women. Published in a couple of weeks, it’s the second book by Hanna Rosin, a senior editor at Atlantic magazine, and everyone involved obviously wants to kick up as big a stink as possible. Apart from, perhaps, the author – who dedicates her work to her nine year-old son, “with apologies for the title”.

At first sight, it’s another one of those archetypal American screeds, light on research, annoyingly solipsistic, and firmly rooted in the slightly absurd milieu where, à la Naomi Wolf, people get writer’s block after being served rumly shaped pasta. But its argument is simple enough: as developed countries shed what little remains of traditional industries and the effects of the crash linger on, women are doing much better than men, something also evident in the rising economies of east Asia. “Plastic woman” – adaptable, well-educated – is besting “cardboard man”, who surveys endlessly changing realities and crumples into defeatism.

A hardened pair of stereotypes have certainly taken root in Britain, the US and elsewhere; they bubble away in political rhetoric and government reform programmes (education and welfare, among others), and sit increasingly immovably in both countries’ cultures. Men – of all classes, incidentally – are seen as slovenly and inept; women, almost axiomatically, are stronger and more ambitious.

In the UK a quarter of women are now their family’s main breadwinner – a huge rise since 1969, when the figure was 4%. For every two men who get a BA degree in the states, there are three women. Boys may have outperformed girls in this year’s stats for A* grades at A-level, but applications from young women to British universities still outstrip those from men. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that female school-leavers are 30% more likely to apply to university than their male counterparts. And get this: according to Rosin’s book, 75% of couples in American fertility clinics now express a preference for a girl rather than a boy.

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