Battle of the sexes: Where men still win
Hanna Rosin’s much-discussed 2010 Atlantic Monthly cover story, “The End of Men,” cast a bright light on America’s new gender order, an order in which men have been edged to the sidelines while women rise to prominence in higher education and the workforce.
To understand how these roles are playing out in 2011, look no further than this season’s new TV shows for the prototypical emasculated man. There’s also the Atlantic’s latest cover story, “All the Single Ladies” by Kate Bolick, which offers telling insight on what makes today’s woman tick. Put bluntly: Women no longer need a man, not even to have a baby.
While today’s society certainly celebrates the empowered woman, it hasn’t left guys with a whole lot of dignity. In her Thursday column, Meghan Daum wrote:
An educated, well-compensated woman over 35 is out of luck in the dating economy. Not just for Darwinian reasons (as fertility decreases, so does attractiveness and therefore "market value") but for a very new, very unsettling reason: Men traditionally considered marriageable by such women (their wage equals or betters) are rapidly becoming an elite minority. […]
It's hard not to watch Occupy Everywhere without thinking about Bolick's article. Sure, the face painters and zombie-costume wearers seem to be getting the most airplay. But look a little closer and you see a lot of ordinary guys whose currency in the world has been pulled out from under them, who might be considered "unmarriageable" by women who've found equality just about everywhere except in a partner.
At least men are funnier than women, right? About that… Men are actually losing ground on that front too.
In Tuesday’s Opinion pages, the board editorializes about a new UC San Diego study that finds men are only slightly funnier than women. That’s a shift from January 2007,when Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens wrote “Why women aren’t funny,” which was pegged to a study conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Then, he wrote, women suppress their humor because it signals intelligence, a perceived turnoff to men. It’s doubtful that theory still holds in 2011. But Hitchens’ other point -- about what drives men to joke -- most likely does. Men use humor to attract women, sure, but they also use it as defense mechanism against women. He explained:
Men are overawed, not to say terrified, by the ability of women to produce babies. […] It gives women an unchallengeable authority. And one of the earliest origins of humor that we know about is its role in the mockery of authority. Irony itself has been called "the glory of slaves." So you could argue that when men get together to be funny and do not expect women to be there, or in on the joke, they are really playing truant and implicitly conceding who is really the boss.
Photo: A still from NBC’s “Up All Night,” which stars Christina Applegate, who juggles a career and her new baby, and Will Arnett, as a stay-at-home dad. Credit: Trae Patton / NBC