Losing out at work, sidelined by IVF… is the male of the species now redundant
02:06 GMT, 11 October 2012
Most men won’t have noticed, but they’re on the way out. Hopeless cases, heading for the exit. Redundant. Finito.
Soon they’ll be flattened by a horde of stampeding women, brandishing top-notch qualifications and fat salary cheques, shouting triumphantly that they don’t need men any more. Not for any purpose.
That’s the idea doing the rounds on both sides of the Atlantic, sparked by a controversial new book by journalist Hanna Rosin called The End Of Men and subtitled And The Rise of Women.
This idea reminds me of those old-fashioned weather-houses that had a little lady emerging into the light as the man retreated into darkness — they could never be out at the same time.
Stamped out: Writer Hanna Rosin thinks men will soon be surpassed by women with better qualifications and higher salaries
But Rosin’s statistics, interviews and anecdotes imply we don’t need a weather vane to know which way the wind blows. The gales of rapid social change have blown men out into the cold.
From the sexually voracious college girls who embrace ‘hook-up culture’ (one-night stands with no strings) to women who prefer single motherhood and ambitious high-fliers who are the family breadwinners, Rosin describes a brave new world where Alpha women rule. ‘The age of testosterone is over,’ she tells us.
Most books with headline-grabbing titles leave you asking, ‘Isn’t it more complicated than that’ and The End of Men is no exception. It skitters along the surface of arguments that leave out whole sections of society.
While Rosin’s arguments may hold true in certain liberal, metropolitan enclaves, suggest to all the young women planning big weddings and dreaming of babies in Britain that they don’t need men and they’ll probably cry.
Tell macho young blokes who hang out boozing, playing video games and watching porn about a ‘new world order’ and they’ll laugh in your face.
The age of the Neanderthal may be over, but plenty of men still behave like cavemen.
There is no doubt that women do experience sexism, more in some professions than others — for example, more than one female Olympian recently highlighted sexism in sport.
But I’m equally alarmed by girls who think their babies don’t need fathers and by older women who revel in men being pushed to the margins — as if in vengeance for historical inequality.
The end of men God forbid. Because that would mean the end of women, too. For no society can go forward unless the sexes live and work in harmony together. Still, there’s a lot of truth here to make us think.
Modern woman: 'I didn't need a man to love my child. All I needed was a sperm donor,' said Caroline Saddington, pictured with son William
In actuality, what Rosin calls ‘the new world order’ has been here for some time. Americans call the decline of traditionally male industries like car and steel production a ‘mancession’. But this began long before the great financial crises of recent years.
As a young reporter in the Seventies, I covered the decline of the mining, shipbuilding and steel industries. ‘Man’s work’ for tough guys. The end result was seen in the hit 1997 film The Full Monty — redundant steel workers emasculated by their joblessness, while women were strong, even voracious. The brilliant comedy couldn’t disguise the sad undercurrent of that movie.
The world was changing, as economic needs shifted and unemployment figures rose. As ‘man’s work’ declined, girls shone and women flourished. The female of the species began to beat the male in education and the jobs market. Brains, not brawn, were in demand.
'Women will always be held back by having children, unless there are significant changes in terms of who the carer is at home'
Most of Rosin’s facts and figures are American, but ours tell the same story. Girls are already ahead in most subjects by the age of five, and the gap widens as they get older. Each summer we read about girls out-performing boys at GCSE and A-level (although, this year, for the first time, fractionally more boys gained the A* grade), even in traditionally masculine subjects such as engineering and construction.
Last year, there were 40,000 more female applicants for university places than male — a disparity made all the more shocking when you consider there are around 65,000 more boys aged 18-20 than girls. Women outnumber men by three-to-two in many universities.
The rise of women continues in the world of work. Rosin notes that in the Sixties women contributed 6 per cent of U.S. household income; now it’s more than 40 per cent.
Last October, academic research revealed that a quarter of UK women are the family breadwinner — five times more than at the start of the Seventies. More and more women work, and their earnings have soared 44 per cent, compared with 6 per cent for men.
The latest British figures show there are three men unemployed for every two women and between the ages of 18 and 24 that figure rises to five men.
Hanna Rosin’s findings in The End of Men were pre-empted by a book published this spring, The Richer Sex, by Liza Mundy. Describing the seismic power shift between the genders, Mundy coined the term ‘breadwomen’ to describe the women who expect their house-hubby to have a meal on the table when they get home.
Mundy believes the imbalance between the sexes will lead to a major shift in the way men and women ‘date, mate, marry, plan, cook, clean, entertain, talk, retire, have sex, raise children and feel happy (or fail to do so)’.
If she is to be believed, no aspect of our relationships, or our lives, will be the same. But how do such sociological theories play out in real life
Breadwinner: 'I earn ten times my partner's pay – it can cause tensions,' admits Karen Kimberley
Karen Kimberley, 50, from Berkshire, owns a communications business, while her partner Stuart, 43, runs a small car-valeting firm. They’ve been together 12 years and have no children. Stuart aims to earn 100 a day, while Karen brings home between five and ten times as much.
‘Ours is a role-reversal’ she explains, ‘I come home from work in a suit and Stuart has dinner ready for me.’
While this may sound appealing to many women, she admits to feeling the pressure of being the main breadwinner, of having to pay the bills.
‘There can be tensions because of our different earning power,’ says Karen. ‘We’ve had to learn to compromise.’
Karen says that while their unconventional roles have taken some getting used to, she finds their relationship more satisfying than her previous five-year marriage to a high-earning workaholic who was always busy.
‘It’s great to have a man supporting me practically and emotionally,’ she adds.
However, while childless couples such as Karen and Stuart may find that the dynamic of a high-earning wife supported by her devoted husband works well, the problems usually start with the pram in the hall.
As Karen says: ‘I do think women will always be held back by having children, unless there are significant changes in terms of who the carer is at home.’ About 20 years ago, I met a woman who ran an environmental charity — a job she loved. She told me how her husband had given up his profession (chartered surveyor) to stay at home and raise their two daughters.
Over the years, I watched her trajectory and thought how lucky she was to be married to a man so at ease with himself that he had no problems playing ‘mother’.
I also know a couple in their early 40s who met through online dating. She was a solicitor, while he was unemployed. They fell in love, married and had a daughter — raised with devoted efficiency by the tall, handsome, athletic dad, who takes a pride in his baking and his breadwinner wife.
Those couples seemed unusual — but then we return to the research by Aviva Insurance and Oxford University that found women are the main breadwinner in one quarter of British couples. It works as long as both partners are comfortable with the role reversal, which is more likely if they’re educated and middle-class.
Rosin writes: ‘For the 70 per cent of Americans without a degree, the rise of the breadwinner wife is associated with the destruction of marriage.’
'Women may pretend to enjoy one-night stands, but the day comes when they begin to feel cheap'
Men demoralised by their wives’ superior earnings are hardly likely to embrace childcare. Women may ‘rise’, but Neanderthal man still believes that nappies are ‘women’s work’.
Rosin, who is happily married to a high-achieving man with whom she has three children, has come up with catchy titles for the qualities she believes define each gender — ‘Plastic Woman’ and ‘Cardboard Man.’
Plastic is bendable and infinitely useful, while cardboard is stiff and unyielding and disintegrates under too much strain. When writing this article, I chatted to a few women, all in stable relationships, about this subject. Without prompting, they asserted that the trouble with men is ‘they can’t multi-task’ and ‘are set in their ways’.
At the core of these comments is the idea that men are inflexibile.
In the U.S., two distinguished academics have expressed real fear that if men can’t change, women will be in trouble. Anthropologist Michael Kimmel’s book Guyland suggested that young men are regressing — behaving with a misogynistic pack mentality.
Worryingly, psychology professor Philip Zimbardo claims that young men’s brains are becoming ‘digitally rewired’ by the internet age so that they can no longer cope with relationships — ‘especially relationships with equal-status female mates.’
With this in mind, perhaps it is no wonder that some women are deciding to do without men.
No need for a man: 'I'm happier divorced. I don't want a husband to share my life with', reveals Sarah Archer
Sarah Archer, 35, from Walsall, West Midlands, works in communications and has one child. She ended her marriage four years ago because of the widening gulf between her and her husband in terms of education and success.
Sarah earned more than her husband and began to resent the fact that he spent her money with abandon. ‘He was frivolous with money and liked to splash out and buy designer clothes, all from our joint account,’ she says.
Sarah says she has no need for a life partner, but ‘I’d want a man who shared my aspirations to climb the career ladder, have adventures and travel’. In other words, an equal.
In the meantime, she is happy to bring up her daughter alone, with her ex still involved.
Significantly, Sarah sees her daughter’s future as mirroring her own: ‘I want to ensure she has a good education that will open doors to a career, so she can be independent and won’t need to rely on a man financially.’
Sarah adds: ‘I think we are seeing the end of men, in terms of putting food on the table.’ But she acknowledges that ‘every women is different in terms of what she wants or needs a man for’.
Some women are going even further. Caroline Saddington, 39, is a children’s nurse who lives in Nottinghamshire with her son, William, four — conceived via artificial insemination using sperm from an anonymous donor.
‘I knew I didn’t need a man to provide a child with the love, care and attention they deserve — just his sperm.’
The procedure cost her 1,500.
Despite having many relationships, Caroline had never met ‘the one’ and reached the stage when she had everything in life, except a child. Now she has no interest in finding a man, preferring to focus on her son.
‘My decision to be a single parent
was the right one. My son doesn’t have to share me and I have never ever
once wished I had a man as a co-parent. I’m lucky that my mum helps a
lot and William has a grandpa and godfathers, so he gets some male
As Caroline points out, he’s hardly alone in being raised by a single mum.
‘At least six of his friends also have single-parent mothers, either through adoption, donor sperm or a failed marriage,’ she says.
‘Statistics say children are more likely to go off the rails if they have single parents. But surely it’s worse to have a father who’s hardly ever around or isn’t interested. William knows that he’s the centre of my world.’
Karen, Sarah and Caroline — like the interviewees in The End Of Men — are all intelligent, capable women carving out independent lives. But, of course, there’s a less rosy side to this story.
Women may pretend to enjoy one-night stands, but the day comes when they begin to feel cheap.
Female breadwinners enjoy the cut-and-thrust of their careers, but secretly long to be taken care of.
A survey for British magazine Marie Claire questioned 1,000 women in their 20s and 30s and found that 75 per cent rank work as ‘the most important thing in life — ahead of friends, family, relationships’.
Yet all the experts rate relationships above work in the happiness stakes. Those ambitious young women have a skewed view of life which may rebound in the long term.
In the end, Rosin’s ideal for marriage is mine, too: ‘A woman slowly and slyly teaching her husband to notice when she needs help, and a husband pliant and loving enough to start noticing.’
We’ve been debating gender differences and rights since the 18th century — and each generation needs to give these issues a fresh look.
One thing is certain — there can be neither personal happiness nor social stability unless men and women allow each other to ‘rise’.
I sincerely hope that the supposed ‘end’ for men is just one stop on the journey that leads them back towards women, to raise children in equality, together. Not an end, but a thoughtful, flexible, new beginning.