end of man?
I went recently to the RSA to listen to Hanna Rosin presenting her book on The End of Man. The book has been widely publicised so you may know her main thesis: that women have overtaken men, leaving them out in the cold and lacking identity and a role.
I have quite a lot of time for much of the argument, and I like the contrast – as a generalisation – between women as ‘plastic’ ie adaptable, and men as ‘cardboard’ ie not adaptable and in some sense soggy ( though I haven’t read the book so don’t know if she actually uses this term). Where I’d put up a big question mark is the idea that women have overtaken men in the pay and career arena. At the point of entry into the labour market this may be true -at least in the US. But it’s crucial to take a lifecourse perspective here, to look at how things play out over time as women’s and men’s careers progress ( or don’t ). From UK cohort studies we can see that the earnings gap narrowed considerably between the two generations born in 1958 and 1970. It roughly halved, from nearly 20% to just over 10%. But as time went on, the gap increased. And crucially it seems to be increasing faster for the younger generation, so that the gap may be almost as big for them when they are 50 as it is for the earlier generation.
We’ll have to wait for analysis of more recent data to know if that looks like happening. But for now it seems to me that it’s premature to call time on men just yet.