£12.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

The End of Men and the Rise of Women By Hanna Rosin Viking

An unconvincing economics-led theory that predicts female supremacy and male demise

The rule is not to judge a book by its cover, but in this instance one might want to defer judgment of its title too. Branded in big, screeching lettering, the titular claim seems to play to the crass assumption that the end-point for female empowerment is a Boudica fantasy in which men are crushed so womankind can rise.

For all its over-confident tone, this fails to tally with the contents of the book. Hanna Rosin, an American journalist, argues that as women have gained economic independence, as they increasingly forego marriage and the second-class citizenship of the nuclear family, they are nudging towards a power shift that will result in leaving men behind in every field, from the schoolroom to the boardroom.

The pendulum has not swung yet but it is at a tipping-point, she says. The biggest problem with her pendulum theory is that it hasn't even swung to halfway in many important respects, particularly at the top. She acknowledges this, and promptly dismisses the boring old statistics.

The majority of Rosin's data deals with an American ethnography (though she focuses on Korea in one chapter) and her findings are not particularly new. Magazine articles, newspaper columns and Mintel-style surveys have long mapped the changing economic dynamic between the sexes. Neither does her conclusion – that women are becoming the new men, of a kind, and the latter need to raise their game – necessarily follow from the evidence she presents.

In America in 2009, "the balance of the workforce tipped towards women, who continue to occupy around half of the nation's jobs". Yet women the world over are still paid lower than their male counterparts. "Women in poor parts of India are learning English faster than men, to meet the demands of new global call centers." Has this led to greater equality? There is more to gender theory than economics, after all. Iceland, she continues, has a lesbian prime minster who has vowed to end the "age of testosterone". Iceland has a fine tradition of progressive politics, but a woman at the top does not always hail an "oestrogen era", as Margaret Thatcher illustrated.

Often, promising ideas are left underdeveloped so the book reads more like a magazine article that skits too many surfaces. "The more women appropriate power, the more their behaviour will mimic that of other powerful people," she says, in a brief discussion on gender relativism. Girls are taking more risks at school age and women are increasingly becoming violent, she adds, citing new role models like Lisbeth Salander from The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo. This is an interesting line but it is stalled in favour of colourless statistical evidence.

The most problematic aspect of Rosin's argument is her tone towards the blue- and white-collar women who are fulfilling back-breaking dual roles at work and at home. There is not enough critical reflection on the long-term desirability of such intensive juggling.

In fact, she appears to mark out as exemplary the women who are "doing it all" with such intensity that they fall asleep in elevators, rather than berate the system. She cites some creative ways to manage this double role, giving Silicon Valley examples of female executives being offered the flexi-time to leave the office at 5.30pm, and begin work again at 8pm, after they have put the children to bed. This is hardly the work-life balance of which working women have dreamed. Fair and equal childcare policies on a national level need an overhaul of social policy, as in Scandinavia – which she holds up as the model, again and again. This would, in effect, require a substantial increase in taxation, an issue she evades.

She formulates new labels for the 21st-century coupling of over-achieving women and under-achieving men – Plastic Woman and Cardboard Man. The former has adapted to socio-economic changes, the latter is the dying breed who can't find new roles. If this is the economic future for the sexes, it is bad news for both, placing men in a redundant corner, and women in another form of bondage.

In Rosin's world, late American capitalism has mutated so that, in a disturbing new twist, women are the biggest slaves to the economy.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory