Author Hanna Rosin Lectures At Booksmith
Rosin Explores Pop Culture's Treatment Of Female Characters
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
On Oct. 11, Hanna Rosin spoke about her controversial new book The End of Men at the Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner. The bookstore was filled with both men and women of varying ages who were captivated by Rosin’s witty and intelligent comments. The book began as an article that Rosin published in The Atlantic, which looked primarily at the economics of the rise of women. Her book goes further and explores the effect of women’s rise in many different fields, such as in the world of dating and internationally.
Rosin is the senior editor at The Atlantic, and also founded Double X, ‘Slate’ magazine’s all women’s section. The End of Men was inspired in 2009, at the height of the recession, when she noticed that the town that her family usually vacationed in had become strangely void of men. In 2009, women reached their peaks. They had become the majority of the population in the workforce—they were outearning men in college degrees, Ph.D.s, PEW awards, and were, according to the women Rosin spoke to, more often than not the breadwinners in their families. Using her well-honed reporter skills, Rosin investigated the way that men had failed to adapt to the changing economy. She was most shocked by a comment by a young mother in the supermarket. When asked why the father of her children was no longer in the picture, the woman responded that he was just another mouth to feed. This comment sparked Rosin’s interest in the rise of women in the workforce and whether or not the traditional male and female roles had been permanently changed because of it. Although her book focuses mostly on men and women, it also shows the growing gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in our country and the reasons for it. Rosin follows this couple through the introduction of her book, and chronicles different couples in each chapter to demonstrate other points.
During the discussion about her book, Rosin was joined by Barbara Gottfried, a women’s and gender studies professor at Boston University. The questions and comments that the two bounced off each other during the discussion and their combined depth of knowledge in the field of women’s studies was astounding. An important part of their discussion was their agreement on men’s failure to adapt to the new economy. Women have always been the minority, and have been marginalized their whole lives, so they are used to working hard and moving their way up from the bottom to the top. It is harder for men, who have always been at the top—if you were in a position of power, why would you ever need to change? Men are trying to define a new role for themselves in an increasingly woman-dominated world.
Rosin’s novel contains many references to pop culture and how it has reflected the changing role of women. Gottfried, who teaches about women in pop culture at BU, had much to say on the topic as well. A new female character is emerging in books and movies such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games who is both tough and armored on the outside, but vulnerable and confused on the inside. This has coincided with a new appearance of non-emasculating images of a man as the primary caretaker in movies and shows such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Guys With Kids, both of which show the new archetype of a “sexy dad.”
One of the most interesting and relevant discussions about Rosin’s book came in the chapter about relationships in college and the much-discussed “hookup culture.” Before she wrote the chapter, Rosin said that she had always viewed the hookup culture as by men and for men, but was surprised to learn that many college-age women were not interested in long-term relationships and instead enjoyed casual relationships where they were not tied down. She drew gasps and chatter from the crowd with an interesting statistic: the way college students date now does not erode their capacity for successful long-term relationships in the future and has not affected the rate of marriages out of colleges.
Rosin made the disclaimer that, despite the novel’s cheery pink and yellow cover, it is in no way a triumphant feminist manifesto, and that the end of men is not a direction in which she wants the world to be going. She describes the ideal world as a place where definitions of gender are less rigid, so that if one of her sons was to take his children to the park on a Friday afternoon, the sight of him there wouldn’t be an anomaly. She looked forward to a positive future where people are not defined by preset roles in society, but instead by their traits and character.