I have a piece in The Atlantic today, about Hanna Rosin’s new book The End of Men, and what it can and can’t tell us about the experience of being a young American woman.
Women are now far more likely than men are to graduate from college or from professional schools. Upon graduation, they enter a labor market that no longer puts a premium on physical strength and instead values supposedly “feminine” traits like the ability to communicate and collaborate, and in which women are outpacing men. “At a certain point in the last 40 years,” Rosin writes, “the job market became largely indifferent to size and strength. From then on, men no longer held all the cards.” Almost all the job sectors that are projected to grow the most in the next decade are female-dominated and “feminine”: child care, nursing, home health aide, food preparation. And women, in addition to being better-educated and more likely to be employed, are simply more “together” than men, Rosin argues. They’re more ambitious, more tenacious, and more adaptable. And while they’re gaining ground, “men have been retreating into an ever-narrower space.”
The End of Men offers a long view of this shift in gender and power, replete with statistics and demographic evidence. A lot of the hard data that Rosin presents indicates that many of the gender gaps that have held women back for so long are finally closing, and then some. But the anecdotal data, the experiential accounts of what it’s like to be a young American woman in this particular cultural moment where women are on top and men are “ending,” suggests that even if the statistics say that they’re winning, young women feel like losers. This year’s critically acclaimed new HBO series Girls, created by and starring Lena Dunham, takes that experience of floundering and lays it out for all to see. Dunham’s Hannah and her friends, despite their privilege, don’t feel like they’re running the world. Their personal day-to-day experience flies in the face of the rosy statistics, and the show, which is semi-autobiographical, has struck a chord with young women who know all too well what that feels like.
You can read the whole thing here.