First, relax. Despite the title, we aren’t talking about doing away with men. Instead, what needs to go away are all the worn-out stereotypes about what it means to be a man - or a woman - in today’s changing social landscape. And, boy, is it changing.
Despite the siege on women’s reproductive rights and the fact that women are still bruising their noggins on the glass ceiling, the so-called “weaker sex” is now dominating our colleges and our work forces and no longer needs a man to take care of their lives or their pocketbooks. Certainly, this doesn’t mean that women don’t want or need men, but what it does infer is that those men now need to be, well, different.
So take a gander at these provocative books, and see how both sexes need to reframe who and what they are in order to form “a more perfect union.”
The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Roisin (Riverhead Books, $27.95) Coming in September, Roisin’s provocative and passionately argued book is more about how both sexes can take a cue from the other, transforming themselves in the process. Investigating the sexual power struggle across the country at all levels of society, Roisin found that women have now come to dominate areas that were previously men-only, becoming more confidant, aggressive and self-sufficient, but men have not reciprocated, eschewing anything they think is too feminine, like being a house-husband or entering a female-dominated profession such as nursing. But the old role models, the “codes of manliness” that worked before, now have to go. “To expect men to act one way and women another is ”a collective lack of imagination,” says Roisin. The brave new world we want is one where there is diversity both in the workplace and in the home, where men and women can trade off staying at home or working, and both are empowered. Revolutionary and hopeful, Roisin’s book points the way to a more human and humane society where we all benefit.
The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family by Liza Mundy (Simon & Schuster $27) Bringing home the bacon means you get to cook up the life you want. But does more women in power mean that marriage will suffer and men will be emasculated? Not so fast. As society changes, so are men’s reactions, (men now want more flexibility at work and more time with their families, the same way women do) and it all points the way to a new societal order. Though it’s disheartening that Mundy suggests that women may have to marry less accomplished men, and she doesn’t add children into her equation, this book is still as riveting as it is important.
50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James (Vintage $15.99) Okay, here comes the throwback. Sloppily written, this mega-seller tells the tale of a young woman being dominated by a powerful man with a taste for sadism. So why are so many women reading it? Is it the siren call of a rich, handsome man who takes control and caters to your ever need? Or is it, just plain old indulging in a guilty pleasure fantasy you never really want to happen? Whatever, I can’t help but see this as a regression, and I hope that when women really are able to have and wield true power, they won’t need to read books like these.
The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women by Elizabeth Badinter (Metropolitan Books, $25) According to Badinter, a woman’s place is in the workplace, and modern day attachment parenting, co-sleeping and even breastfeeding make motherhood a prison that keep women from taking charge of their own lives. Um, Really? Definitely reactionary, Badinter’s an old-school feminist who fans the flames of the Mommy Wars, but she does start a conversation about finding the balance between mothering and career.
The Guy's Guide to Feminism by Michael Kaufman and Michael Kimmel(Seal Press, $16.99)
This is a funny, timely and incredibly hip and hopeful book for guys on how to make the most of women’s rise to power. This seismic shift can actually improve men’s lives, argue the authors, and in A to Z entries, from birth control to sex, the authors show you how.
Caroline Leavitt is all for equality in the sexes, and not only does her husband work at home to help raise their son, but he always does the dishes and the laundry. Her new novel, Is It Tomorrow, will be published by Algonquin Books in 2013, and she can be reached at www.carolineleavitt.com