Men failing at life, controversial book claims

In work, at school and at home, men are being overtaken by women. Soon, they could be left behind. Now, a new and controversial book asks: is this the end of the road for the world’s men?

For thousands of years of human history, in societies all over the world, it is men who have held the lion’s share of power and wealth. Politics, business, and public life were dominated by men, while women stayed at home.

But that old model of society is changing fast. Girls have long been doing better than boys at school. At university too, more women successfully complete their courses. In the USA, three women now graduate for every two men. In the last three years, women overtook men to become a majority in the workforce in the US and much of Europe.

And although men still earn more, on average, than women do, the gap is closing, especially for those with a university education.

While women have been doing better, the situation for men has been getting much worse. The global recession following the banking crisis in 2007 caused millions to lose their jobs. Of those millions of new unemployed, around three quarters were men.

Why are men failing, and what does it all mean? US journalist Hanna Rosin examined the question in a new book* published last month. Her conclusion is clear from her title: we are living, she says, through The End of Men.

In the past, traditionally masculine qualities like aggression, competitiveness and physical strength gave men an advantage at work. But now, jobs in heavy industry or manufacturing are disappearing fast. Men have been replaced by machines.

The jobs that survive are those that require less mechanical skills; jobs that involve dealing with customers or clients, caring for the sick or the elderly, working as part of a team. Perhaps it should be no surprise that of the 15 top-growing job categories in the US this year, 12 are dominated by women.

Hanna Rosin found, in her research, that millions of families are being forced to adapt to a new and extraordinary reality: once, it was men who supported their family through work, while women looked after the home. Now, in many cases, women are doing both, while men, unemployed and unwilling to be ‘househusbands’, do nothing at all.

*The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin, published by Riverhead Books, September 2012

Battle of genders

On one question, Rosin is undecided: is this crisis of masculinity good or bad news? On the one hand, the radical shifting of gender roles has caused tension and unhappiness in many families. Women are overworked and exhausted. Men are depressed and insecure. The old-fashioned family system, that worked for hundreds of years, is breaking down.

But perhaps the gain is worth the pain. The traditional family structure provided security, but it also restricted the ambitions and abilities of millions of women. This current moment of transition, difficult though it is, could open a way to a new and more equal world.

You Decide

  1. Could you be happy in a relationship in which the woman earned all the money and the man stayed at home?
  2. Would you describe yourself as a feminist? Why / why not?


  1. Write a list of five traditional masculine qualities and five traditional feminine ones. Do you think your list is an accurate description of real men and women today?
  2. Write a short science fiction story set in a world where women run everything. Would it be a better world? Different? Or just the same?

Some People Say...

“Men are responsible for all the suffering in the world.”

What do you think?

Q & A

I’m a man. Should I be worried about my future?
No need to panic just yet. Men still have a lot of unfair advantages in society: they earn more for the same jobs; they outnumber women at the highest levels of business and government. The battle for gender equality is not over yet...
Don’t get too comfortable. Although men are clinging on now, the future may not be bright for the world’s males.
Because of the jobs thing?
Not just that. In countries where it is legal, a growing number of parents are using hi tech medical science to choose the sex of their babies. What are they choosing? To have girls, of course.

Word Watch

The lion’s share
The expression ‘the lion’s share’ comes from a fable told by the ancient Greeks. There are many variants of the story, but one basic version is this: A lion goes hunting with a wolf and a fox. After they make a kill, the lion divides the spoil into three parts saying ‘I will take the first part because I am king of the beasts. I will have the second part because I am the greatest hunter. And anyone who dares touch the third part will wish they had never been born.’
Traditional masculine qualities
Some evolutionary psychologists believe that men and women are fundamentally different because they evolved to perform different roles. Stone-age men were hunters while women were gatherers and home-makers. This theory is, however, very controversial. Men and women might just be different simply because they are expected to be.
Crisis of masculinity
Hanna Rosin notes that as traditional male roles have disappeared, men have become keener than ever on proving their masculinity with ‘macho’ activities. She calls this a sort of ‘ornamental masculinity’, where men show off their fast cars, beer drinking skills or (in America) bristling gun collections.


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