“Men have been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind.” This sentence is on the cover of Hanna Rosin’s ‘The End of Men’. It’s somewhat ironic considering the second part of the book’s title is, ‘and the rise of women’, you’d think they’d use the word ‘humankind’ or even ‘womankind’. I received a free copy last week in a Mumsnet giveaway, but have only read a few pages so far. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as it’s, actually quite misleading, title suggests, but in the first few pages I’ve found plenty to take issue with. I might do a full review when I’ve finished with it, but for now I just wanted to take a look at a few sentences from what I’ve read so far.
In her introduction Rosin blithely states that we have reached the end of “two hundred thousand years of human history and the beginning of a new era“. This posits the assumption that we have lived in a male dominated world for the last two hundred thousand years. Really? Recent history may tell us that men have been dominant in society, but for how many years? I attended a history workshop recently at the North East Feminist Gathering and part of the discussion was about how most of history is down to interpretation, usually the blinkered interpretation of predominantly white male historians. But some facts do speak for themselves. Something I learned is that pre 5000 B.C, over 90% of discovered human figures are female. All those Venuses. A hint that perhaps in ancient cultures women were revered, respected, even worshipped. In the UK today only 15% of statues are female, most of them royalty or classical figures of goddesses, very few real women. This suggests that patriarchy supplanted a very different society, about which we can only suppose.
From the little I’ve read of Rosin’s book I’m not too impressed, she appears to have pulled together evidence from everywhere she can to support her prediction of matriarchy, conveniently ignoring anything that doesn’t fit. Assumptions and opinions are stated as fact, and those statistics that are presented as supporting arguments often don’t bear well under analysis.
This is on the inner sleeve – “About a third of America’s Physicians are now women“. How is this meant to be evidence of the end of men, surely it indicates only their dominance? The fact that despite alleged equality of education and opportunities only ‘about a third’ of America’s physicians are women?
According to Rosin men are “increasingly absent from the workforce and from home.” I wonder where they are then, because apparently they aren’t on the streets either. (Rosin says the idea for her project was sparked when she noticed how few men were around in the resort where she holidays).
There are a lot of statistics, some of them are related to the changing world economy. Apparently three-quarters of the jobs lost in ‘The Great Recession‘ were men’s jobs. Taken at face value this seems to offer some support to Rosin’s ideas, but, if a workforce is predominantly male then it stands to reason that when there are heavy job cuts male workers will suffer. I wouldn’t disagree that changes to work patterns have been going on for quite some time, but that’s not enough to support an argument for a developing matriarchy. What else does she say, oh yeah, Iceland have “the world’s first openly lesbian, head of state“, so that proves everything, obviously. To further prove her feminist credentials, on page 8 Rosin describes women who take no time off work after having a child as, ‘mutant creatures’.
I’ve been told that Rosin makes some valid points about culture shift, and that her book is feminist, but I see little evidence of it. So far it reads as an attempt to prove an attention grabbing idea, and as some recent research has demonstrated, a few well-chosen statistics and anecdotes can ‘prove’ just about anything.
- The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Alabama matriarchy (debunking The End of Men edition) (familyinequality.wordpress.com)