As if David Zincenko’s USA Today op-ed heralding “The Great He-cession,” wasn’t enough, now we’ve got Reihan Salam claiming “The Death of Macho” in Foreign Policy. Salam’s argument, thank goodness, is a bit more sophisticated than Zincenko’s–essentially he’s arguing that the fall of the financial sector, loss of jobs, and psychological frailty of unmarried men (I’m not kidding), is going to lead to the end of macho culture. He uses lots of international examples–from China to Russia to Western Europe to prove his point. Men, he goes on, will have two choices when confronting this new reality–adapt or resist. Resistance could possibly be “very violent.” Geez.
Claiming that sexism is over just because we’re finally paying attention to these issues is like claiming that racism is over just because Barack Obama is president. Sexism has way deeper roots than Zincenko or Salam realize.
I don’t think anyone can herald the “death of macho,” or that men are an “endangered species” (Zincenko), until things actually change. Women still aren’t making equal pay for equal work and still are disproportionately targeted with subprime mortgages. As Dana Goldstein reports in “Pink Collar Blues,” sixty percent of impoverished children are living in female-headed households. The poverty rate is still higher among women than it is among men of any race. One out of six American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
As I wrote in my column last week, this sort of men vs. women thinking is all a bunch of unproductive nonsense. Why does it have to be a man’s world OR a woman’s world? Why can’t it be both. This either/or thinking doesn’t acknowledge our interdependence. It just makes for shocking headlines.
And what about all these frickin’ gender essentialisms being thrown around nilly willy? Amanda Fortini of Broadsheet puts it well:
If the recent mistakes of certain men at the highest levels of finance and government have altered our beliefs and opened our minds toward the possibility of more women in power, that’s progress. But to conclude that the mistakes of a handful of men say anything conclusive about the entire gender is wrongheaded. And as for Salaam’s assumption that women aren’t aggressive or daring, well there’s only one word for it, isn’t there? Macho.
I’m taping a segment of CNN This Morning on the topic today. Will let everyone know when it’s going to air…