Saturday, 12 February 2011

Contemporary Masculine Identity in America

I looked at an article called ‘The End of Man’ by Hanna Rosin: This article describes and illustrates how the male role in American society has changed in recent years and the implications this could have in the future.

Firstly, the article focuses on biologist Ronald Ericsson who came up with a way to separate sperm carrying the male-producing Y chromosome from those carrying the X in the 70s; thus allowing parents to choose the sex of the child, it was advertised as a way to make sure you get a son however in the 90s most parents were choosing to have girls. This not only shows how back in the 70s males were the first class citizens but how in a few decades females quickly rose up to become equals; this supports the idea that American masculinity is always shifting. Ericsson is describes as having a ‘Old West, cowboy swagger’ and his agrees with the image of ‘a guy riding on his horse along the river, no bureaucrats, no lawyers. He’s the boss’. This goes back to the image of taming the wild and self-made men but he’s represented as a dying breed. This contrasts to the image of men at the end: ‘unemployed, romantically challenged loser can show up as a perpetual adolescent...a charmless misanthrope...a happy couch potato... He can be sweet, bitter, nostalgic, or cynical, but he cannot figure out how to be a man’. The main reason for this change is the shift in economy: well paid, ‘manly’ industrial jobs vastly decreased and post-industrial jobs replaced them, these jobs are ‘indifferent to men’s size and strength’. Instead attributes such as ‘social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus’ are more valuable and these traits are predominantly feminine; therefore women excel in this economy and the once valued traits of ‘real men’ are no longer necessary.

Also, it describes how there is a major student gender gap with the majority of graduates being women: ‘women now earn 60 percent of master’s degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees, and 42 percent of all M.B.A.s. Most important, women earn almost 60 percent of all bachelor’s degrees—the minimum requirement, in most cases, for an affluent life. In a stark reversal since the 1970s, men are now more likely than women to hold only a high-school diploma’. By comparing these statistics to a time when the stereotypical ‘real man’ was privileged and women’s place was in the home, the complete contrast is shown; Rosin even infers that this role reversal will go even further. It says ‘college is the gateway to economic success, a necessary precondition for moving into the upper-middle class...[this] defines our society. And demographically, we can see with absolute clarity that in the coming decades the middle class will be dominated by women’. It is suggested that one reason for this is because many of these women’s parents began careers later in life and therefore urged their daughters get their own careers.

Due to the increasing number of professional women, the number of married women has decreased: it states how only 60% of women aged 30-44 are married compared to the 84% who were in 1970. One factor contributing to this is because women are too busy with their jobs but the other is due to a lack of ‘marriageable’ men. The article suggests that women are becoming the breadwinners of their families and that men have little to offer anymore; so even when men are married the woman is the more powerful one: ‘[households have] turned into matriarchies, with women making all the decisions and dictating what the men should and should not do’. The article also draws attention to the Cougar phenomenon; saying that it’s not about desperate old women but desperate young men trying to latch onto their power. This idea of men being desperate and the weaker sex would be completely unthinkable a few decades ago. As Monday’s lecture stated perhaps it is now similar to when black men felt they were robbed of their masculinity because they were controlled, this article leads us to believe that men (especially white men) are now controlled by women.

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