"The end of men," a phrase coined by journalist HannaRosin, captures the proposition that women have [...]made such remarkable progress in all domains—and men have suffered such declines and reversals—that women are effectively surpassing men and becoming the dominant sex. This interdisciplinary conference evaluated claims about "the end of men" and consider their implications.
Feminist diagnoses of sex discrimination have fueled changes in law and policy, as well as in cultural norms. Should recent claims about the status of men likewise prompt redress? The conference examined empirical assertions about men's and women's comparative status in concrete domains, such as education, the workplace and the family. It examined how the data supporting claims about the end of men—and progress of women—look once differentiated by class, race, region and other categories. It provided historical perspectives on current anxieties about imbalances between men's and women's power, opportunities and status.
Hanna Rosin acknowledged her contentious choice of words that places men at their “end” under a high earning “matriarchy.” The data show that women comprise half of the workforce with less earning power than men in the same positions. But the story Rosin set out to tell moves beyond economics into relationship dynamics within couples where women are earning more than men. “Breadwinner wives” received particular attention during the Great Recession when three-quarters of the lost jobs had belonged to men. Rosin shared reflections from working class men in post-manufacturing Alexander City who ultimately lost the provider role that gave them their identity—“suddenly, it’s us relying on the women” instead of taking care of them.
Rosin also listed social consequences of changing gender roles. She sees a drive in women that is common for marginalized groups who must “move forward or fall through the cracks.” Many single women on college campuses are “actively avoiding being pinned down” in long-term relationships, which might distract them from becoming “independent and secure.” The advent of “seesaw marriages,” in which spouses trade breadwinning, reveals that women coming into power is not necessarily linked with men coming out of it. These marriages join two economically independent individuals. But the trend toward “consolidation of knowledge and wealth” may turn marriage into “something that’s reserved for the educated and the elites.”
The conference also offered comparative and international perspectives on the "end of men" thesis, testing it in a variety of contexts in Europe and the Middle East. Papers and proceedings will be published in the Boston University Law Review.
Hosted by School of Law on October 12 + 13, 2012.