Daniel Tosh once asked women, “What is that like? Is it horrible? Is it awful to know you’re number two?”
Well, looks like the joke’s on you ,Tosh, because according to Hanna Rosen’s bestseller, The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, the redistribution of gender roles that have arisen over our generation, along with the crash and rise of the economy, have lead women’s overall power to be on the move, and possibly taking some of men’s power along the way.
Rosen’s overarching argument is this: for many reasons, men are bringing home less bacon which in turn is making them more vulnerable and in need for support, thus seeking comfort in their women. At the same time, women are becoming more empowered and confident in their abilities, allowing them to be more independent. Over the last few years, the question is what role does the the typical ‘macho’ man have [if he even exists at all] in a time when women’s ambitions are growing and her neediness is fading.
What is the significance of this? A post on Jezebel concerning Rosen’s book explains,
“While there’s nothing new about women nurturing their boyfriends and husbands, in the past -– at least among the American middle class -– that emotional encouragement was part of an explicit quid pro quo.”
So, now that women are not only playing the role of encouraging their husbands’ endeavors and developing their own purpose, the addition of the needy man is forcing women to play the providing caretaker.
This argument could either be completely over exaggerated, or could hold true weight that stems from our biological makeup and questions philosophers’ theories of nature vs. nurture. We seem to stuff gender ‘norms’ into the mindset that they are purely natural – that men don’t feel vulnerable like women do just because of our X and Y chromosomes. But now, taking Rosen’s argument into consideration, maybe it’s possible that man’s instinct to be standoffish and independent can partly be blamed on social constructs. The reason that we act and think in the ways that we do is a collection of natural and social forces. Maybe because the scale is constantly teetering more towards center, men might actually, for the first time, be following their natural instincts, as a result of social restrictions broadening.
While I find this theory fascinating, I do take issue with the book’s negative connotation put upon the ‘needy’ male: as if admitting the macho man is not the cool thing anymore is making the men weak and helpless. First off, let’s be honest, men are still the dominant gender by pure statistical means (getting paid more and, as far as we can see, forever ruling the financial world). While Rosen might not completely ignore this concept, she most certainly seems to suggest this slight shift of the norm is more monumental than it may be. I don’t think ‘the male gaze’ is ever going to cease to exist where women no longer are seen as objects for a man’s desire. But as women are proving themselves to be more functional and less idle, the more men have to readjust their demeanor, which has apparently come through as neediness. Secondly, men’s adaptation to the ‘passive woman’ becoming the ‘active woman’ and new reliance on this should not be so belittled. Even if this was not the initial intention, Rosen seems to say that the more women fill ‘manly’ positions, the more ‘girly’ men become. This is an awful double standard both for men and women that should instead be twisted as a positive reaction to the rise of women. Let’s stop finding new ways to encourage competition between genders and instead support any signs of equality that develop.
Of course I’m not into the guy who triple texts me about how my day is going after a first encounter, but come on women, everyone loves to be needed. That’s why the unflattering stigma of clinginess has stuck to the female gender for all these years when men constantly asserted their dominance. I think, if anything, this more humble and exposed version of man should be praised and welcomed rather than scrutinized. That’s right you nerdy-sensitive-guys out there, you’re becoming sexier and sexier.
By: Lauren Opatowsi
(Photo courtesy of sxc.hu)