On Hanna Rosin's "The End of Men": The End of Men? Maybe Not, But Thanks for Asking

So I’ve been reading Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men (2012)—why? out of sheer obstinacy, no doubt—which is at turns annoying, blockheaded, fascinating, fun, and scary. And for all those responses, it must be doing something right. I would have loved to review this one when it first appeared. It’s a study in contrasts: the first chapter, which at times reads as both gullible and myopic, is about sex, especially of the (mythic) “hook-up” variety, and for my money, should have been placed elsewhere, if not eliminated altogether. It’s the least convincing section of the book, and right out front. But after that unfortunate beginning, some of the chapters are both fascinating, and, at times, unintentionally funny. I’d love to do a parody of the typical anecdote in one of the later chapters. The pattern works something like this: It depicts a hard-working young woman somehow romantically linked/shacked up with a loser boyfriend/do-nothing husband, and how their typical day unfolds. All through the use of ‘semi-fictional’ identities, full of demographic tags: “Rebecca, 31, a part-time paralegal who is working her way through law school, gets up early to make breakfast for her six-year-old daughter, Jasmine, and her loser boyfriend, Chuck, 33 (and looking a lot like 40). Chuck hasn’t worked since his car broke down on the freeway two years ago, when he was fired after he walked home, dispirited, and cried on the phone while complaining about his bad luck to his mother. Chuck spends most of his day eating pizza, masturbating, and watching reruns of Nascar races or football games. He’s decided to grow a beard, and tries to help out with the care of young Jasmine, but really, he’s hopeless. Meanwhile Rebecca works all day, comes home and studies Chinese for two hours, and now and then takes advantage of the sexually available Chuck to relieve some tension.” It’s funny in its own way, and sad, too: Much as I can laugh at it, and feel superior (Hey, I don’t eat that much pizza, and I do have a job), I have to begrudgingly admit that at times her anecdotes more or less accurately describe the 21st century Feckless Male. The book has more in common with Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (2012) than it would like to admit (Rosin being a Liberal feminist, and Murray most definitely not), I’m sure. It also spawns some juicy knee-jerk reactions, like this amusing one, here. I think everyone should read it, if for no other reason than to give us something to argue about, and a laugh in the same breath.

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