Review: ‘The End of Men’ by Hanna Rosin

by Kim on October 24, 2012 · 10 comments

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Title: The End of Men: And the Rise of Women
Author: Hanna Rosin
Genre: Nonfiction
Year: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Acquired: From the publisher at Book Expo America
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Review: In the 2008 recession, three-quarters of the 7.5 million jobs that were lost were lost by men. Women occupy just over half of the jobs in the United States, and more women than men are earning college degrees. The world is shifting to a post-industrial economy, an economy based on jobs that are better suited to women than men – at least that’s the argument that Hanna Rosin tries to make in The End of Men.

Unfortunately, The End of Men doesn’t quite deliver the answers and evidence to support Rosin’s dramatic claim. When I finished the book, it felt like Rosin was missing something essential to the argument, that the book’s reliance on statistics and big picture shifts in how society functions managed to overly simplify a world that is, in fact, much more complicated than the title of this book might suggest.

I’ve waited a long time to write this review because I’ve been worried about feeling dissatisfied with a big idea book like this one for feeling too simple. Most books that propose radical theories about changes in how the world works are going to miss something – it is unfair to expect this book to be a complete argument when its point is more to explore an idea than offer definitive answers?

But then I came across this piece in The Atlantic, which made me feel much better about my unease with The End of Men: “Why The End of Men is More Complicated Than It Seems” by Chloe Angyal. In the piece, Angyal compares The End of Men to Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls, and argues that in offering a big-picture view of how the world is improving for women, Rosin’s book glosses over some of the daily realities that make her conclusions seem unsatisfying when compared to what life as a woman is still like today.

I can’t speak to how well Angyal’s comparison between The End of Men and Girls is (I haven’t seen the show), but I can say that there are many moments in the piece when I felt like Angyal had pinpointed exactly my unease with The End of Men. For example,

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.

I might not go so far as to say that women feel like losers, but I do think there’s something important to be said about the difficulty both men and women face today as the world shifts thatThe End of Men simply doesn’t address in a convincing way.

My other dissatisfaction with Rosin’s argument is that she basically ignores the issues of women gaining positions of power in both the public and the private sectors. She does have one chapter on women and the corner office, but the issue really demands more than that. When a candidate for President tells a story about how he initially had no idea where to find qualified women for his cabinet when he was governor, it illustrates that there are some more systemic and ingrained inequalities in the system that statistics about college degrees don’t address. (I actually really liked some of what Anne-Marie Slaughter had to say on this in an essay in The Atlantic“Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”)

I guess the point I’m trying to get to is that The End of Men, despite making some interesting statistically-based observations, doesn’t feel like a complete or convincing argument. If you’re still curious about this topic after reading Rosin’s 2010 essay of the same name in The Atlantic, then grab this book. Otherwise, I think it’s safe to skip — the book misses the mark as often as it’s hits the target.

Other Reviews: The Feminist Texan Reads (awesome review) |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

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