Girls Rule, Boys Drool

End-of-men-wide Yesterday afternoon, I let the kids turn the backyard into a mud pit, while I read Hanna Rosin's article in Atlantic Monthly, The End of Men. I would periodically look up from the article and take pictures of the boys shirtless smeared in mud. Jonah had covered his chest in mud like he was preparing for a war dance. Then I returned back to the article to read about how boys were unsuited to the modern economy. While my own boys seemed to be proving her point, I was also really put off by the article. It's not smart to write long, serious posts on Fridays, but I'm going to do it anyway.

Rosin pulls together research that we've talked about numerous times on this blog. Women now out number men in colleges. Traditional working class male professions are disappearing. There is a growing number of female bread winners. Girls have better handwriting and have more control over their bodies, which gives them an edge in school.

Rosin concludes with the idea that the future belongs to women. While women are still a fraction of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that should change very soon. Men are looking at a future of unemployment and poverty. There will be fewer men, as families chose to have girl babies rather than boys, because girls are perceived of as less trouble and as parent see rosier futures for their girls.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to see up a dating website that brings together Chinese men and Western women. Kaching!

I found Rosin's article very, very disturbing. She painted a dystopia. Who wants a future where any one gender dominates? In the best possible world, any person, regardless of their gender, can succeed if he/she is smart and hardworking. I want to see a system that enables both men and women to act as caretakers and/or be employed. A Swedish model, for example. Only someone really twisted would be joyous about a future where one gender ended up destitute.

A female-dominated world scares me as much as a male-dominated world. I
can think of plenty of women that I don't particularly want to see
running our country.

There was also something very sensationalistic about this article. Rosin cherry picked her facts and neglected to point out that elite colleges and in higher income areas, boys are still doing just fine. The problems really lie in working class communities.

Traditional working-class, male-dominated professions are drifting away. I know several families where the wife has to support the family, because the contractor husbands can't find work. The parents still haven't figured out that their boys won't be able to take over the dad's job, when he retires, so they continue to let the boys slack in school.

That's going to change. In the next few decades, more men are going to take jobs in nursing and elder care — traditional, female professions. There's going to be more attention on boys in school and their unique learning styles. There's going to be a backlash against books and TV shows that depict slow witted boys.

There's already some adjustments going on. I see parents holding their boys back a grade in school to give them a competitive edge. Jonah is a June birthday, and he's one of the youngest boys in his grade. Jonah is in the high math class at school. A vast majority of students in the high math class are male, and they're an entire year older than Jonah. One of Jonah's buddies is a held-back boy, and he just won the town spelling bee for a second year in a row. 

Perhaps articles like this will scare the crap out of men who run the country to put in place some real workplace and education reforms. More gym classes would be great. More retraining programs. More workplace flexibility programs. That's the only positive outcome from sensationalism.

15 thoughts on “Girls Rule, Boys Drool

  1. I’ve been an irregular Atlantic reader for a long, long time. When I was in college, it used to be full of articles about how the Japanese were going to take over the world. This article probably has about the same predictive accuracy.

  2. “Traditional working-class, male-dominated professions are drifting away. I know several families where the wife has to support the family, because the contractor husbands can’t find work.”
    Real estate is a traditional woman’s job, and that isn’t so hot, either.
    “That’s going to change. In the next few decades, more men are going to take jobs in nursing and elder care — traditional, female professions.”
    Some of my favorite people are male, but there’s no way in heck I’d hire a man to take care of a frail or disabled relative–too many concerns about abuse. Any time you have a helpless population, you have to be extra careful about this stuff. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to wig out about clerical abuse from decades ago and then to voluntarily put vulnerable people in the hands of male caretakers now. I’m not saying that all men are abusers or that women never are (female Florida school teachers have been real pioneers in that area), but one reason that we aren’t headed toward a unisex utopia is that men really are (on average) less trustworthy than women (on average) in certain contexts.
    “There’s going to be more attention on boys in school and their unique learning styles.”
    I hope so. That would be good for fidgety girls, too, although I’m not holding my breath. I know that Catherine Johnson at Kitchen Table Math thinks the world of her son’s Jesuit high school (she calls it Hogwarts), but outside single-sex education, I don’t know that there is a lot of attention to making sure that school works for boys, too.
    “More retraining programs.”
    I thought we already talked about how disappointing retraining programs have been, even though it sounds like such an obvious move.

  3. Some of my favorite people are male, but there’s no way in heck I’d hire a man to take care of a frail or disabled relative–too many concerns about abuse.
    The number of male nurses and techs around here is very high and, I think, climbing. I only know what you see in the hospitals and I suppose it is different in the private care or a senior home.

  4. Honestly, this has to be satire! Because every time that it seems as if a job type tips toward traits deemed as “feminine” (or the traits are redefined as “feminine), the prestige and autonomy of the job drops precipitately.
    Your point about the impact that the economic changes has on working class families is more interesting. The traits that Rosin praises won’t do much without the training necessary to get ahead in the economy she envisions.
    And let’s not forget how these new jobs demand portability, constant training upgrades and, very likely, the skills and resources to operate as a contractor instead of as an employee as companies continue to cultivate their bottom line at the expense of, you know!, actually employing people.

  5. And to the extent there are male risks, say with abuse of the frail or the young, there are male benefits, too. In healthcare, my guess is one of these is strength.
    I think changes in education for boys would come, not through agonizing about their needs, but through increasing diversity in the teaching workforce. So the growth of “caring professions” for men may be a end up fixing the problem. I think now the learning styles shared by the teachers, who are not only women, but likely to particular kinds of women, are more supported in school. We’ll get more support of alternatives, when we have more diversity in the teaching population
    (and, to the extent that men are more likely to abuse, we’ll have to put safeguards in place)

  6. The whole idea is disturbing if one has a son. I’m witness every day to the ways in which my own son shuns the traditional road to success. School is bleh, so he eeks by (which for us means Bs and the occasional C). Twenty years ago, when I was in high school, boys like him made straight As, went on to good liberal arts colleges and are now doctors, lawyers, engineers and businessmen. And he’s not alone. Though I know one or two of his friends who value their grades, most just shrug it off, leaving their parents wringing their hands and deciding they’ll have to settle for state school.
    I am truly worried that my son and his friends will treat college the same way and eek by, thereby closing off higher earning opportunities. And that’s the real issue. Twenty, thirty years ago, making a C average at a mid-ranked state school could still land you a decent job. Nowadays, the competition is such that the average student gets passed over.
    On the other hand, I think my son would made an excellent nurse or home health aid. He’s an extremely compassionate person and I think he’d excel at something like that. But he’s even articulated the way that those qualities are frowned upon by his peers. Gotta be “manly”.

  7. In my mind Rosin has totally missed the boat here. Women lost less in the downturn because they had less to lose — many were already underemployed. Women were less impacted when construction imploded. And women are in general better at adjusting to large changes, for reasons I don’t fully understand. It’s the “bend, don’t break” thing. So yes, I can see where women would be doing better this particular year, relatively speaking.
    But I am totally not sold on this idea that women are successful in the workplace because they get more education. Does this fit with the experiences of other readers? Do we really see our daughters, our nieces, finishing school and getting really good jobs in droves? Or are there a handful of success stories, and everyone else ended up working at Starbuck’s?
    YMMV, but here’s what I see. I see tons of kids graduating from a wide variety of 4-year institutions. And I see only a fraction of those kids getting anything close to a “real” job. Of all my nieces and nephews who have finished school in the last 5 years, only the engineering student was placed out by his college and got a full-time job with benefits right away.
    On the flip side I work every day with a wide variety of very successful people, many of whom are quite young. Many of these kids did what bj describes as “settling for state school”. Some did not even finish college. They are doing great.
    The real difference IMHO is not education level but hustle (and its parent, motivation). A kid with hustle will persist, will overcome barriers, they’ll figure something out. These are the kids who start as temps and convert to full-time, the kids who outwork everyone else. On the flip side I’ve seen many semi-lazy and somewhat entitled kids who are very good students. They don’t necessarily flourish after college unless they learn the hustle lesson; they’re just as likely to spend their energy complaining instead of solving their problems.
    This reality to me is actually a hidden advantage to boys. Boys are less likely to accept criticism unquestioningly and get beaten down; they are more willing to forge their own path; they appear to embrace more risk. And their high energy levels, which drive their parents/teachers crazy, leave more hours in the day for getting ahead.

  8. jen,
    It’s hard to improve on that.
    “But I am totally not sold on this idea that women are successful in the workplace because they get more education. Does this fit with the experiences of other readers? Do we really see our daughters, our nieces, finishing school and getting really good jobs in droves?”
    Looking at my young relatives (cousins, siblings, in-laws, 95% of whom have at least BAs), it’s a mixed bag. My one young male relative who has been unemployed for about a year now has graduate degrees in both architecture and structural engineering. He’s still applying for jobs in those areas, but he’s also gone to trucking school, where his classmates are other skilled people from the construction industry (electricians, etc.). His brother is in a different field of engineering and employed, but had a scary episode right after graduation when he relocated for a job offer and then the job offer was taken back. Elsewhere in the family, I can think of two young women with 4-year degrees (both in poli sci, if I’m not mistaken) who both talked about going to law school, but show no signs of going there. One does clerical at a law office and the other does the same at a nursing home.
    I can think of three of the younger generation that have a lot of hustle, two female, one male. Interestingly, the three of them were by no means the most academic kids in their families. The most extreme is the male cousin. He was a bit of a late bloomer, a bit slow early on in school, but decided to become a pilot. It’s a long-shot, but with a high potential payoff, and he’s been paying his dues in his profession, is VERY smart with money, and has worked at banks along the way. If the airline thing doesn’t work for him, he’ll do fine–he’s just that kind of guy. Then there’s my sister, who owns a cafe, a store, runs river trips, and rents out a cabin. I swear she bilocates, because otherwise, I have no idea how she keeps all of the stuff running.

  9. My twelve year old told me his life plan is to become a professional video game player and thus rich. On the other hand, the daughter of a friend of mine is now facing some jail for reckless driving (107 mph) and has no higher ambition than to be a cosmetologist, so it’s hard to lay this all at the feet of boys.

  10. @ Jen “This reality to me is actually a hidden advantage to boys. Boys are less likely to accept criticism unquestioningly and get beaten down; they are more willing to forge their own path; they appear to embrace more risk. And their high energy levels, which drive their parents/teachers crazy, leave more hours in the day for getting ahead. ”
    I’d like to see actual data on this that is not anecdotal since my anecdotal evidence is the exact opposite. The girls I work with take criticism much better than the boys (most famously, after I spent close to an hour explaining to a boy why his paper was a D, and this on top of a typed page of written comments, he left the room saying, “We’ll, I think it was pretty good.”). They are involved in more activities and do more outside of school as well. The boys do a lot of video gaming. They know that most colleges are desperate for boys to keep their sex ratios near even and therefore they don’t sweat it. They are fully aware that, contrary to popular belief, the single biggest affirmative action category in competitive college admissions is men. As a guy, it just hurts to see these boys slack. Sigh.

  11. Are high school boys really aware that they are an affirmative action category? Wow.
    There is some data that women who excel in school are having trouble adjusting to the different expectations of the workplace. I’ll post it when I find it again.

  12. “The girls I work with take criticism much better than the boys (most famously, after I spent close to an hour explaining to a boy why his paper was a D, and this on top of a typed page of written comments, he left the room saying, “We’ll, I think it was pretty good.”
    But, I think this is what Jen is saying — you’re seeing your criticism as potentially improving the work, and seeing the girls as being more able to incorporate the criticism and improve. Jen is saying their casual acceptance of criticism without fighting back eventually causes their downfall, because eventually, criticism comes in a form that requires you to remind yourself “it’s still pretty good, or even great” and to fight to have your work accepted. So, the unwillingness to accept others evaluations of your work and to fight for it is maladaptive in Western Dave’s classroom, but adaptive in other environments.

  13. Jen is saying their casual acceptance of criticism without fighting back eventually causes their downfall, because eventually, criticism comes in a form that requires you to remind yourself “it’s still pretty good, or even great” and to fight to have your work accepted.
    I have always been the sort who wasn’t very willing to fight back against criticism. Lately, I’ve been over compensating the other way (except in writing because I’ve learned the value of editing). I’ve managed to piss-off about three of my most annoying neighbors without irking the others. It has really improved things. Next week, I start a similar, but more polite, in-law initiative.

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