Who's winning the war on women?

Are men defensive after seeing their importance in society diminished?

September 10, 2012|Susan Reimer

Things are looking up for the female sex.

We are earning almost 60 percent of bachelor's degrees, and our numbers are skyrocketing in law, medical and business schools. After graduation, we go on to hold more than half of all managerial and professional jobs.

We still earn only 78 percent of what our male co-workers earn — a number than has been stubbornly unchanged for 30 years — but we bring home 42 percent of the bacon in the family, compared to 6 percent or less 40 years ago.

Sex selection clinics report that parents overwhelming ask to become pregnant with girls, and half of those girls will grow up to play sports, compared to only one in 27 before Title IX.

Three-quarters of the jobs lost in the recession were held by men. Women now make up the majority of the workforce. And the job categories that continue to grow — health care, education and service — play to a woman's strength in communication and collaboration. And we are more likely to seek re-training in the flux of a changing economy.

Marriage is on the skids as women realize they don't require an economic partner to survive. And more and more women are choosing to have children but not a husband.

It looks like the end of men.

And that's the title of a new book by Hillary Rosin, an editor at The Atlantic and at Slate.com: "The End of Men: And the Rise of Women," out this month.

It is an incendiary title, certainly. But her reporting, both anecdotal and quantitative, is solid. And the book arrives during an election season in which women — from the high favorables recorded by first lady Michelle Obama to the nadir of the Republican assault on reproductive freedoms — is center stage.

Ms. Rozin also draws a nuanced picture of what this means on the home front.

From the Southern family where the wife is suddenly the major breadwinner and the husband finds his sense of self battered by the fact that he is the one doing the laundry and the errands because the plant closed and his job left for Mexico.

To the college senior who says men are the "new ball and chain," previewing a life choice not to marry down. Women will still date men, and even have children with them, Ms. Rozin reports. They just don't want to take economic responsibility for them. Not when they are just another mouth to feed.

Put this together with a somewhat lighter study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that shows our perception of the number of eligible partners out there affects decisions we make.

When single men are told — and shown pictures and altered news stories — that there is a "scarcity" of women in their community, they are more likely to say they will pay more ($6.01) for a Valentine's Day gift and more ($278) for an engagement ring.

But when single young women were convinced by researchers that there is a shortage of men, they were more likely to say that they plan to pursue a demanding career and less likely to talk about children in their future.

Put this all together, and the Republican challenges to women's reproductive freedoms take on a bit of a different look.

Republicans in Congress want to eliminate funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control and preventive health care to poor or uninsured women. They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or at the very least weaken the provisions that require employers to cover birth control and cancer screenings for women.

And heaven knows they don't want anybody having an abortion, no matter if they are pregnant by a relative, a rapist or someone from outer space.

Whatever happens in Congress, it is bound to inspire state legislatures to new levels of craziness, like requiring vaginal ultrasounds before abortion or having a conversation with the fetus first.

Perhaps this is not pedagogy by old, Bible-thumping white men who want to turn back the clock to a largely imagined time when mom had dinner on the table when dad got home from the factory and the kids just came tumbling out at the will of God.

Perhaps all this hostility toward women and the educational freedom and economic power that birth control gives them is an attempt to put men back on top — in the schools, in the workforce, in the manager's office and at home.

Perhaps it is a way to put an end to women.

Susan Reimer's column appears Mondays and Thursdays. Her email is susan.reimer@baltsun.com.

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