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.