For most of human history, men have been the dominant sex because of their capacity to compete, take risks, and fight for resources. But some claim these masculine traits have become obsolete. Today we need other qualities: empathy, social intuition, emotional intelligence. Here it appears that women excel. Some say men are just passe. Is this true? AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers looks at the evidence.
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I don’t buy this “men are finished” fantasy. Women are joining men as partners in running the world, but they are not replacing men and never will. Yes, women are flourishing in unprecedented ways. But men have hardly vanished from the scene. It is still men who are more likely to start businesses, file for patents, tell jokes, write editorials, conduct orchestras, and blow things up. Males succeed and fail more spectacularly than females: More males are Nobel laureates and CEOs. But more are also in maximum security prisons. Men commit most acts of wanton violence—but it usually takes other men to stop them. The male declinists seem to imagine a world of busy, consensus-building women, happily and competently interacting and managing the new economy. They point to the explosion of jobs in the caring, nurturing, and communicating professions: social workers, website designers, personal coaches, executive producers. Sorry to disturb this idyll, but you cannot sustain a network of nurturers and communicators without those hard-driven innovators, manufacturers, builders, and transporters—not to mention the military. And men still hold the lion’s share of dangerous, dirty, and necessary jobs that few women seem to want. Men tend to be the truck drivers, builders, coal miners, and sewer workers. Are those jobs passé? We are told that toughness and assertiveness are obsolete. That is ridiculous—the world is as dangerous as ever. Think of China with all its millions of unattached young men, or those volatile patriarchal societies where radical Sharia law prevails. Our civilization still depends on the brave men who are willing to fight and die to protect us. Some brave and admirable women too, of course, but the warriors will mainly be men. Today women make up fifteen percent of active duty military personnel and very few of them want to be in combat—only about 7 percent of Army women, according to one survey. And consider science and technology. In fields like psychology, biology, and veterinary medicine, women are overtaking men. But those numbers don’t hold in physics, computer science, and engineering, where men still prevail. In those fields, there’s little sign of significant change. Several years ago, Hasbro Toys tested a furnished playhouse it was considering marketing to both boys and girls. But it soon became clear that that girls and boys did not interact with the structure in the same way. The girls dressed the dolls, kissed them, and played house; the boys catapulted the toy baby carriage from the roof. A Hasbro general manager came up with a brilliant explanation: Boys and girls are different. I would add that when they grow up, they complement one another. When parents take a child to a jungle gym, the mother typically says, “Be careful.” The father, “Can you get to the top?” Today it’s fashionable to claim that we no longer need the catapulters or the “can you get to the top” crowd. But we do. The cartoonist Nicole Hollander once asked, “Can you imagine a world without men?” Her answer, “There’d be no crime, and lots of happy fat women.” Well, crime would certainly decline, and we’d probably put on a few pounds. But would we be happy? Not most of us. Women, alas, love men, and need them. Their fate is our fate—this is not a zero-sum competition. Men are not finished because neither men nor women will permit that to happen.
Are Men Obsolete?
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