Saturday, June 12, 2010

The End of Men?

I went to the WisCon panel on reducing global machismo, and have read and reflected on both Cat and Andrea's posts about it. And then I came across the latest issue of The Atlantic online, and found that the featured article was "The End of Men." Unlike most articles with this sort of title, this piece by Hanna Rosin is neither a joke nor a lament, but a thoughtful discussion of how society is changing in ways that appear to favor the skills and approaches usually attributed to women.

It's definitely worth a read. I disagreed with some things that were said, but it didn't come with an automatic assumption that biology is destiny, and hinted at the idea that some of the problems men face might well be cultural learned behavior.

While reading, I had a flash of insight: What many men appear to lack is flexibility. They have one idea of how to act in the world, and cannot adjust when the rug is pulled out from under them.

Now I don't believe men are born with a gene (or combination of genes) that makes them inflexible, nor do I believe that hormonal surges are responsible for their problems on this score. I suspect many men are taught that changing your mind is a sign of weakness. (In the US, we endured 8 years of a presidential administration built on this principle, and the world is still paying the price.) They are taught that certain behaviors and jobs are appropriate for men, and some are not, which leaves them high and dry in a world in which those jobs no longer exist.

Women, on the other hand, are taught to adapt to circumstances. I should point out that I consider flexibility to be a key element for human survival -- I include it as one of my seven skills of self defense -- and that my thinking on this comes from my Aikido training. That is, it's a principle of the supposedly manly art of warriorship.

At WisCon, I was thinking and talking a lot about the fictional images of women as warriors, both good and bad, and how important they are for helping women discover that they can take care of themselves and fight for things that are important to them. Now I think it might be just as important to look at fictional images of men as everything else but warriors -- as parents, nurses, teachers, and so forth. Look at them and create new ones that open more doors, based on the assumption that the stories we tell ourselves allow us to see new possibilities for our own lives.

BTW, The Atlantic is publishing a lot of interesting material these days, and doing it with a large and very usable online presence. Apparently this magazine -- over 150 years old -- is figuring out how to survive in the new world. It's worth checking out on that score alone.

No comments: