AN American writer called Hanna Rosin has declared in a new book that men are finished, that the recession has destroyed us as breadwinners and that women are rising to take our place.
This is, she says, the end of the age of testosterone: the end of men.
At the risk of sounding patronising: you've got it all wrong, dear. In fact, the exact opposite is true: the recession may have been caused by men – a particularly unpleasant type of men – but it is women who are suffering its effects the most. And rather than heralding a crisis for men, as Rosin suggests, the recession is reversing much of the progress women have made in the workplace, and in wider society.
A good example would be this week's news that the meat processing plant Hall's of Broxburn is closing down. Look at the pictures of the production lines: women. Look at the pictures of the staff at the gates: women. About 55% to 60% of the Hall's workforce is female and next year, they will all be laid off.
Not only is this awful for the workers, it reflects several bigger trends that are driving a knife into women's status in society. Firstly, unemployment among women is rising faster than among men – even in America, where Rosin's book The End of Men was written and published. Between January 2009, when Barack Obama became president, and March 2012, there was a net decline of 740,000 jobs and 92% of those were filled by women.
In The End Of Men, Rosin's counter-argument is that it is largely male industries like building and city finance that have been the worst hit by recession (and the Americans, as they're prone to do, have given the phenomenon a garish, neon-lit name: he-cession).
But even on this, the facts are racing ahead of Rosin's argument. Yes, industries such as house-building may have been among the first hit by recession, but now it's retail and the public sector that are suffering, both of which are predominantly staffed by women. So much for the end of men. This is the end of women in shop jobs and council posts right across the country.
The problem women will then face is how to recover from this, because men in this crisis have a few in-built advantages. Firstly, men rely less on welfare benefits, which are about to be severely cut back by the Government, and secondly, men are much more likely to get back into the workforce before women largely because those doing the hiring are by and large men and will play safe and employ men just like them.
What all of this means is that not only are men still, economically, the dominant sex, we are likely to consolidate this position in the years to come. And I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I'm worried about what's happening to women and that the downturn is making things worse, particularly for mothers who work full-time. On the other hand, because I am a competitive man, I'm pleased it is males rather than females who are likely to emerge from the recession in better shape.
And we need to think about the consequences of any other scenario. If Rosin was right, if we really were seeing The End of Men, we would have to fix that at once – we would need an immediate Rebirth Of Men. Rosin is correct to point out that women are doing well at university and beginning to dominate certain professions – most notably veterinary medicine and teaching – but by the time men and women get into their forties it is men who still bear the main burden of full-time work largely because many women have gone part-time or taken maternity leave.
And that is unlikely ever to change; it is unlikely that, even if the so-called End Of Men actually happened, women would ever be in a position to take over. The recession was a male phenomenon, driven by testosterone on trading floors and Number 10, but the good news for men – less good for women – is that our recovery from it is going to be just as male.
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