Article first published as The Beginning of Men on Blogcritics.
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most
intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to
- Charles Darwin
In the spirit of the apocalyptic zeitgeist of our time, we have been put on notice that the end of men hath come. Hanna Rosin explains in her new book The End of Men and the Rise of Women
that gender dynamics are shifting profoundly as the needs of emerging
economies that are more about head and heart than brawn give women an
edge. Channeling Darwin, Rosin argues
that it is women's ability to adapt to a changing world that is the
secret of their ascencion in the early days of this new century. David Brooks of the New York Times frames this adaptability in terms of coping with the imbalance of power and what happens when the tide begins to turn:
"When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of
the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were
on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going
to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically."
In other words, women's centuries-long oppression has better prepared
them to take advantage of this moment in the social, economic, and
political evolution of our species. I don't mean to rationalize this
oppression which has always represented a grave injustice. Rather, I
wish to acknowledge the remarkable strength and resiliancy of women in
the face of it. As painful as this may be for men, it is a necessary
step in the pathway of a human race that is emerging from its collective
adolescence into maturity. 'Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), Head of the Baha'i Faith from 1892 to 1921, anticipated such a development at the beginning of the last century:
"The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated
over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both
of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing
its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual
qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining
ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine and more
permeated with the feminine ideals, or, to speak more exactly, will be
an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will
be more evenly balanced."
Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I got an up-close and personal view
of this shift in the mixed masculinity of my father. He could definitely
embody the old-school, be-a-man, tough guy routine. But he was also
capable to remarkable tenderness and affection. The same man who
instructed me in the martial art of a proper jab (which came in handy on
many occassions) could take those big hands and sing "Ms. Mary Mack,"
rhythmically clapping with my little sister as well as any girl in the
school yard. He cooked, and cleaned, changed diapers and wiped away
tears. I was never given the impression that those were things men don't
do. He is responsible for some of my better qualities as a dad, and in
my son, who is as comfortable with a doll as a dinosaur, I think I see a
glimpse of what the future may hold.
Men should welcome this moment. We will at long last have to learn to
share this world, to share power, to rediscover and redefine what power
really means. The end of men may be just the beginning. It won't be
easy. If we're lucky, women will show us the patience and compassion
they so often have, even when we haven't deserved it. We're going to
need it because the oppression of women has left us woefully unprepared
for the time we're living in. 'Abdu'l-Baha put it this way:
"Women have equal rights with men upon earth; in religion and society
they are a very important element. As long as women are prevented from
attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to
achieve the greatness which might be theirs."
We have no idea the greatness that might be ours if we fully embrace
the ascendency of women rather than resist it. The future holds no place
for the antiquated, cartoon-masculinity many of us were raised with.
Nor will the ever-popular man-boy
model typified in Judd Apatow comedies meet the needs of a maturing
humanity. What that greatness may involve remains to be seen. We don't
know what a "real man" looks like. Because of the oppression of women we
haven't met him yet.
Image courtesy of wikimedia.com.