By DAVID BROOKS
NY Times Published: September 10, 2012
You’re probably aware of the basic trends. The financial rewards to education have increased over the past few decades, but men failed to get the memo.
In elementary and high school, male academic performance is lagging. Boys earn three-quarters of the D’s and F’s. By college, men are clearly behind. Only 40 percent of bachelor’s degrees go to men, along with 40 percent of master’s degrees.
Thanks to their lower skills, men are dropping out of the labor force. In 1954, 96 percent of the American men between the ages of 25 and 54 worked. Today, that number is down to 80 percent. In Friday’s jobs report, male labor force participation reached an all-time low.
Millions of men are collecting disability. Even many of those who do have a job are doing poorly. According to Michael Greenstone of the Hamilton Project, annual earnings for median prime-age males have dropped by 28 percent over the past 40 years.
Men still dominate the tippy-top of the corporate ladder because many women take time off to raise children, but women lead or are gaining nearly everywhere else. Women in their 20s outearn men in their 20s. Twelve out of the 15 fastest-growing professions are dominated by women.
Over the years, many of us have embraced a certain theory to explain men’s economic decline. It is that the information-age economy rewards traits that, for neurological and cultural reasons, women are more likely to possess.
To succeed today, you have to be able to sit still and focus attention in school at an early age. You have to be emotionally sensitive and aware of context. You have to communicate smoothly. For genetic and cultural reasons, many men stink at these tasks.
But, in her fascinating new book, “The End of Men,” Hanna Rosin posits a different theory. It has to do with adaptability. Women, Rosin argues, are like immigrants who have moved to a new country. They see a new social context, and they flexibly adapt to new circumstances. Men are like immigrants who have physically moved to a new country but who have kept their minds in the old one. They speak the old language. They follow the old mores. Men are more likely to be rigid; women are more fluid.
This theory has less to do with innate traits and more to do with social position. When there’s big social change, the people who were on the top of the old order are bound to cling to the old ways. The people who were on the bottom are bound to experience a burst of energy. They’re going to explore their new surroundings more enthusiastically.
Rosin reports from working-class Alabama. The women she meets are flooding into new jobs and new opportunities — going back to college, pursuing new careers. The men are waiting around for the jobs that left and are never coming back. They are strangely immune to new options. In the Auburn-Opelika region, the median female income is 140 percent of the median male income.
Rosin also reports from college campuses where women are pioneering new social arrangements. The usual story is that men are exploiting the new campus hookup culture in order to get plenty of sex without romantic commitments. Rosin argues that, in fact, women support the hookup culture. It allows them to have sex and fun without any time-consuming distractions from their careers. Like new immigrants, women are desperate to rise, and they embrace social and sexual rules that give them the freedom to focus on their professional lives.
Rosin is not saying that women are winners in a global gender war or that they are doing super simply because men are doing worse. She’s just saying women are adapting to today’s economy more flexibly and resiliently than men. There’s a lot of evidence to support her case.
A study by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small businesses owned by women outperformed male-owned small businesses during the last recession. In finance, women who switch firms are more likely to see their performance improve, whereas men are more likely to see theirs decline. There’s even evidence that women are better able to adjust to divorce. Today, more women than men see their incomes rise by 25 percent after a marital breakup.
Forty years ago, men and women adhered to certain ideologies, what it meant to be a man or a woman. Young women today, Rosin argues, are more like clean slates, having abandoned both feminist and prefeminist preconceptions. Men still adhere to the masculinity rules, which limits their vision and their movement.
If she’s right, then men will have to be less like Achilles, imposing their will on the world, and more like Odysseus, the crafty, many-sided sojourner. They’ll have to acknowledge that they are strangers in a strange land.
Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta
Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife, Alice (Nicole Kidman), a young couple from New York, go to a Christmas party, given by a wealthy patient, Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). Bill meets an old friend from med school, Nick Nightingale (Todd Field), who now plays piano professionally. While a Hungarian man tries to pick up Alice, two young models try to take Bill off for a tryst. He is interrupted by a call from his host upstairs, who had been having sex with a young woman who has overdosed on a speedball.
Next evening at home, while smoking marijuana, Bill’s wife asks him if he had sex with the two girls. After Bill reassures her, she asks if he is ever jealous of men who are attracted to her. As the discussion gets heated, he states that he thinks women are more faithful than men. She rebuts him, telling him of a recent fantasy she had about a naval officer they had encountered on a vacation.
Disturbed by Alice’s revelation, Bill is just then called to the deathbed of the father of a now-engaged female friend, who impulsively kisses him and tells him she loves him. Putting her off, Bill takes a walk and meets a prostitute named Domino (Vinessa Shaw), and goes to her apartment. His wife phones as he begins to kiss her, after which he calls off the awkward encounter.
Meeting his friend Nick at the Sonata Cafe, Bill learns that Nick has a following engagement where he must play piano blindfolded. Nick tells him about beautiful women he glimpsed when the blindfold slipped at the last gig for this customer, allowing him to surmise some of the goings-on. Bill presses for details. To gain admittance, one needs a costume, a mask and the password. Bill drives late at night to a shop called “Rainbow Fashions”, whose previous owner he knew. He offers the new owner, Mr. Milich (Rade Serbedzija), a generous amount of money to rent to him now. Searching for a costume, the owner catches his teenage daughter (Leelee Sobieski) with two Japanese men and expresses outrage at their lack of sense of decency, and threatens to call the police.
Bill now takes a taxi out to a country mansion where a quasi-religious sexual ritual is taking place. One woman takes Bill aside and warns him he does not belong there. Bill then with another girl walks through a few rooms where an orgy is taking place. The first woman catches up with Bill and insists he is in terrible danger for they suspect that he is an outsider. Bill is then interrupted by a masked porter who tells him that the taxi driver who is waiting outside wants to speak with him. However, the porter takes him to the main room where the masked, red-cloaked Master of Ceremonies confronts Bill with a question about a second password which Bill is unable to answer. The Master of Ceremonies insists that he “kindly remove his mask”, then asks that he remove his clothes. The masked young woman who had tried to warn Bill now intervenes and insists that she be punished instead of him. As she is taken away, Bill asks what is going to happen to her. The Master cryptically replies her fate is sealed and Bill is ushered from the mansion and warned not to tell anyone about what happened there.
Just before dawn, Bill arrives home guilty and confused, where his wife Alice is now awake and tells him of a troubling dream in which he and she were in a deserted city without their clothes. She felt frightened and ashamed while he went off to try to find their clothes. She then felt better, finding herself, still naked, in a beautiful garden. The Naval Officer emerged, stared at her, and the two of them began making love surrounded by many other couples doing the same. She then started having sex with many of those men and laughing at the idea of Bill seeing her with them.
Next morning Bill finds Nick’s hotel from the waitress in the next-door cafe; the desk clerk (Alan Cumming) tells Bill that a bruised and frightened Nick checked out a few hours earlier after returning with two large, dangerous-looking men. Nick tried to pass an envelope to him when they were leaving, but it was intercepted, then he was driven away by the two men in a limousine.
Bill goes to return the costume and the shop owner, with his daughter by his side, states he can do other favors for Bill “and it needn’t be a costume”. The Japanese men leave; Milich implies to Bill that he has sold his daughter for prostitution. Bill has misplaced the mask, so is billed for it. Bill returns to the mansion in his own car and is greeted at the gate by a man with a note warning him to cease and desist his inquiries. At home, Bill thinks about Alice’s dream while he watches her tutor their daughter.
That evening, Bill goes to the home of the prostitute with a gift. Her roommate greets him, telling him Domino has just discovered she has HIV. Bill leaves and notices a well-dressed man is following him. After losing him, Bill reads a newspaper story about a beauty queen, Amanda Curran, who had died of a drug overdose. She is the Mandy he had treated at Ziegler’s party. He goes to the hospital, claiming to be her doctor, and examines her body in the morgue.
Ziegler summons Bill to his house and tells him he knows all the events of the past night and day. Ziegler was one of those involved with the ritual orgy and his own position with the secret society has been jeopardized by Bill’s intrusion. Bill asks about the death of Mandy, whom Ziegler has identified as the woman at the party who’d “sacrificed” herself to prevent Bill’s punishment, and about Nick. Ziegler insists that Nick is safely back at home in Seattle, but does not know where to contact him. Ziegler also insists that the “punishment” had nothing to do with Mandy’s death; she was a junkie and she has died from another accidental drug overdose. Bill does not know if Ziegler is telling him the truth, but says nothing further.
When Bill returns home, he sees the rented mask on his pillow next to his sleeping wife. He breaks down in tears and as Alice awakes, he decides to tell her the whole truth of the past two days. The next morning they go Christmas shopping. His wife muses that recent events do not define their life and they should be grateful they have survived and are still together and that she loves him. She then says they need to, in her own words, “fuck” as soon as possible.
- Julian Castro at DNC 2012 (via holtthink)