Hanna Rosin's anachronistic and jumbled The End of Men: And the Rise of Women (Riverhead) is exactly what you'd expect. The Atlantic editor has made a career out of writing sensationalistic headlines and tepid conclusions about subjects that a first-year gender-studies major — or just a regular old queer person — could explore with more nuance, and without all the hand-wringing.
It's clear from Atlantic pieces such as "Boys on the Side" (which is largely excerpted in The End of Men), an examination of college hook-up culture and the rise of "a new breed" of female sexuality, that Rosin fancies herself a sort of maverick sociologist. Unfortunately, her defining style — a moralizing essentialism combined with a penchant for frequent generalizations — is inherently incompatible with her subjects, whether they be breastfeeding, transgender children, or "the end of men" (she's referring, by the way, to how the knowledge economy is "feminizing" work and how that's adversely affecting Jurassic notions of masculinity and the men who subscribe to them).
The world's certainly changing, and there are a lot of bigger questions barely touched here (are learning differences in boys being compensated for in school, and is that affecting their trend away from higher education?) in favor of a hodgepodge of anecdotes and academic studies that mostly prove that Rosin's view of gender is both myopic and baffled. In fact, between high-powered female executives with "aggressive" sexuality, and a stay-at-home dad whom she "can't help" but be "startled" by when she sees him making handprint T-shirts for teachers at her kids' school, the upending of gender norms seems mostly to trouble her.
Of course, as a transgender man, I'll allow that I'm not Rosin's ideal audience (in fact, I don't exist in the context of this book). So who is, then? Not the powerful woman who's happy with her stay-at-home husband, the same man who recognizes Rosin's depiction of him and asks her exactly what about him is so "startling." She allows he may have a point: "Why should I, after all my research, be 'startled'? Why should I be anything but delighted?" she muses in the book's conclusion. Sounds like a question worth writing a book about, but my guess is there wasn't a controversial-enough title for that.
HANNA ROSIN :: Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline :: October 11 @ 7 pm :: 617.566.6660 or brooklinebooksmith.com
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