The Abolition of Men

The most recent issue of Atlantic features a woefully confused victory paean to feminism, “The End of Men.” In it, author Hanna Rosin smugly describes how marvelous it is to suddenly discover that women now constitute “the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history.”

Tellingly, she links this trend, immediately and directly, to the potential sexual elimination of men, noting that (at least in America) new sexual selection technologies are being used to choose girls over boys. Even better, techno-biologists have all but made men superfluous—sperm can be coaxed out of stem cells.

The end of men is good news to Rosin, a glorious revolution. “Man has been the dominant sex since, well, the dawn of mankind. But for the first time in human history, that is changing—and with shocking speed.”

The economic shock? “The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength.” The less the marketplace looks like a jungle and the more machines take over the guy task of picking up and moving large objects, the more men slip into obsolescence, withering like a vestigial organ.

When you look more carefully at Rosin’s economic analysis, the twist in her tale begins to appear. Part of the reason woman have surged ahead is that, in the current economic carnage, “three-quarters of the 8 million jobs lost were lost by men. The worst-hit industries were overwhelmingly male and deeply identified with macho: construction, manufacturing, high finance.”

For her, that is a salutary paring away of guy jobs that don’t fit into the new economic order. “Men dominate just two of the 15 job categories projected to grow the most over the next decade: janitor and computer engineer,” she reports cheerfully. “Women have everything else—nursing, home health assistance, child care, food preparation. Many of the new jobs, says Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress, ‘replace the things that women used to do in the home for free.’ None is especially high-paying. But the steady accumulation of these jobs adds up to an economy that, for the working class, has become more amenable to women than to men.” The feminine caring industries will prevail economically.

She adds this peculiar thought: “the U.S. economy is in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other women to fill.”

Let’s try a different spin on Rosin’s twist. What really seems to be happening is that the natural functions that wives and mothers lovingly fulfilled for their own families—caring for the young, caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, and so on—are simply being done by other women lower down the rungs of the new social ladder. The economic abolition of men turns out to mean the creation of a large economic underclass of women that fulfills the exact same function as the slave or servant class did in previous societies.

Apparently missing the irony, Rosin further points out that many of the escapees are engaged in the kinds of tasks they left behind, doing for pay what they used to do for free in the home (then either turning around and paying another woman to do it in their own home or rushing home to do it themselves after work).

One might object that men should take their turn as stay-at-home mothers. But here’s the double rub. As Rosin herself notes, the biological obsolescence of men is running in parallel to their economic obsolescence. Why should a man get married? He’s been given the biological pink slip, and no provider-types need apply. Moreover, Rosin’s argument for the superiority of women in the new economic order rests on feminine qualities that used to fit her for motherhood—the obvious inference being that men, lacking them, are far less fit for motherhood duties.

Despite Rosin’s optimism, the abolition of the sexual and economic niche for men will yield a society where men will shun marriage for the carefree life of economic independence or government assistance and sexual predation, a society in which an ever larger underclass of female workers will swell up to take the place of what women used to do as wives and mothers and the new idle class of men refuse to do—a society swarming with male drones, a large underclass of female worker bees busily taking care of the entire hive, and a smaller number of queens at the top. The abolition of men yields a dystopian, rather than utopian, vision.

In his classic Abolition of Man, written over a half-century ago, C. S. Lewis warned us of the new revolutionary spirit that would seek to transform human nature by endless manipulation. And what is a more fundamental aspect of human nature than man and woman, and hence, more dangerous to fiddle with or erase?