SHARE

The damn loser men in our lives can’t seem to find a job, but there are too few female exec­u­tives at Google. This is just one of the many incon­sis­tencies that fill Hanna Rosin’s mad­den­ingly anec­dotal new book “The End of Men and the Rise of Women.”

The well-written, inter­esting explo­ration of the changes in tra­di­tional gender roles fails com­pletely to account what caused the shift. Rosin is blind to the unin­tended con­se­quences of fem­inism. Strangely, she unin­ten­tionally wrote the how-not-to-behave guide for college women hoping to find ful­fillment in mar­riage and life.

Rosin presents the most shocking material in the very first chapter, “Hearts of Steel: Single Girls Master the Hook-Up.” She inter­views female stu­dents at Yale Uni­versity about their sex lives, and con­cludes that the hook-up culture works just fine for women, and they can go through it without dam­aging their capacity for future intimacy. One female student describes how much she enjoyed hooking up with men her freshman and sophomore year, but now she just wants a guy to ask her out “on a date to the frozen yogurt place.”

The anecdote indi­cates the larger problem with the book: the feminist’s lack of con­sid­er­ation for the unavoidable truth that actions have con­se­quences. Women expecting less from men has not encouraged those men to achieve more. And saying we’re just happy to hang out, hook up, and not commit has not made them want to marry us and provide. What a sur­prise.

But Rosin cel­e­brates this grand achievement. College women, according to Rosin, want to succeed in careers and not get bogged down by boyfriends. Never does she con­sider that perhaps these 20-some­things don’t know yet what they want out of life, and their decision to sleep with men casually might be — to use an archaic term — wrong. But Rosin argues for its preser­vation, calling the hook-up scene, “too bound up with every­thing that’s fab­ulous about being a young woman in 2012 — the freedom, the con­fi­dence, the knowledge that you can always depend on yourself.”

I know many more college-aged women than Rosin inter­viewed, and the number who have felt free, con­fident, and self-reliant after things got com­pli­cated with hook-up partners is pre­cisely zero. Rosin’s assessment that women can have what she calls “sexual careers” without much lasting damage to their lives is utterly incon­sistent with what I see in myself and my girl­friends on a daily basis. Did the hook-up strategy she endorses lead to her happy mar­riage with three beau­tiful children? She never says.

The rest of the book is a look at what’s hap­pened to women since their lib­er­ation. It’s depressing. Every woman inter­viewed seems mis­erable in her own unique way. Women describe hus­bands as an extra burden because men are now strug­gling to match a woman’s earning potential and can’t manage the domestic sphere. Men can’t attain the jobs they need to provide, but after inter­viewing high-ranking employees at top com­panies, Rosin diag­noses the problem as, you guessed it, not enough women. Rosin thinks pro­moting women to higher roles will “remake the work­place” and help women manage the balance of careers and moth­erhood. This is either a naive assumption or an ignorant one.

The book also suffers from dis­con­ti­nuity. Wanting to cover every aspect — the rise of women in the pharmacy industry, female vio­lence, edu­cation — she ends up merely scratching every surface, and rehashing the same tired nar­rative that “women can’t have it all” with an added indictment of the inherent faults of men. Rosin insists she doesn’t wish to pass judgment on these trends, but just to report them. That’s hard to take seri­ously when she says in the first hundred pages that she would “never not work, because that decision is loaded with fem­inist betrayal.”

But Rosin has already betrayed the fem­i­nists. She’s illu­mi­nated, as bright as the neon pink and yellow cover of her book, how little women have gained from the fem­inist movement. Tradeoffs still exist in life. Women can’t have it all because no one can.

Rosin’s book shows women picking up the pieces from the glass ceilings they sup­posedly shat­tered. Young women may not know what they want exactly, but they def­i­nitely don’t want to be the mis­erable lib­erated woman inter­viewed in Hanna Rosin’s next book.

kbachelder@hillsdale.edu