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Post Father’s Day Post June 22, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in family, politics, sex, society, sports.
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A belated happy father’s day to all the fathers, dads, pops, papas, and old men out there! Bluejay Jr. and Little Miss Bluejay, thanks for making mine. You’re the cat’s pajamas and the cat’s whiskers! You can choose which one is which. And you Mrs. Bluejay, you’re the cat’s purr. I know you were behind the gifts, what with Jr. being only five and not having the wherewithal to find the security code on the Amex so that he could order them online.

Onwards. If there are two things I am fond of, they are double entendres and The Atlantic. Particularly interesting issue this month. I could do a post about each and every article. And I might eventually do one about neo-colonialism—Paul Romer’s idea for development in third-world countries. But the one I wanted to hit today is Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men.” The article is long, but the gist is short. The modern world—at least its developed third—is better suited to women than it is to men.

Everything starts with the economy. Traditional economic ballast sectors like agriculture, construction, and heavy manufacturing—with job descriptions that emphasize manual labor—are eroding. Modern economic growth is almost exclusively service-oriented. An ever increasing fraction of new and total jobs—many of these in areas like health care, education, finance, and law—do not value physical prowess at all. Today’s economy is all about intelligence. And Lawrence Summers’ arguments about gender differences in intelligence variance aside—and really, I still don’t know what quite to make of them—the relevant fact is that in the thick portion of the bell curve, men have no inherent advantage. In fact, they may be at an inherent disadvantage! Not only do today’s economic growth emphasize neurons over myofibrils, but the kind of synaptic skills it require—communication, inter-personal relations, cooperation, and the focus, maturity, and self-control needed to acquire formal credentials—are more developed in women! It’s that last bit which should really scare men. Forget about getting ahead in today’s economy. Even standing still requires a bachelor’s degree. And women are just better at getting these than men are—not to mention Masters degrees, MDs, and JDs. And not just slightly better. I think it’s a well-known fact that more women than men go to and graduate from college—what might be somewhat less known is that the ratio is much closer to 60/40 than to 51/49. 60/40! And as degrees go, jobs follow. More than 50 percent of today’s jobs are held by women. And this includes management jobs. Yes, executive management is still male dominated—Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina are exceptions among Fortune 500 CEOs. But that dominance should start to fade given the changing demographics of mid-level management. And while growing the number of F500 CEOs from a handful to 250 may take a little time—especially if Meg and Carly leave the corporate ranks for congress—correcting another distortion should happen faster. The shelf life of unequal pay (for equal work) is getting shorter. If not by bottom-up market forces, than by top-down legal action. There are now a record number of women in the House (74) and Senate (17) and there is about to be a record number on the Supremes (3 if Elena Kagan is confirmed). The day in which women account for the bulk of economic output is coming. Soon.

Society both follows and reinforces the economy. As women gain economic power, they are asserting themselves to a greater degree in the family, pushing men further out to the margins. A staggering 40 percent of children are now born out of wedlock. But the really staggering part of that statistic is that a growing fraction of these are born to post-teenage, educated, working women who simply don’t want husbands or don’t want to settle for the kinds of husbands they can find. For women, it used to be that marriage was the only path to financial security and the freedom to rear children. No longer. With more workplaces flexing to accommodate the single mother, more women are choosing that path. If men aren’t providing financial security, why put up with the raised toilet seat? Even the old bromide that “every child needs a father” is losing leg. An involved father is obviously not necessary to become president of the most powerful country in the world—at least I think the US is still the most powerful country in the world. And recent research shows that lesbian couples may make the most effective parental units! Gender preference is also starting a heavy tilt towards girls. Nearly 75% of couples and women who use artificial insemination with gender selection choose XX chromosomes for their baby. And in Asia, the historic gender bias towards male children is starting to erode. Good news for China and India, which are currently staring at a surplus of 200,000,000 single men standing on the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder.

Are we headed towards a society with a male to female gender ratio of 10/90? It’s not hard to imagine either the final state or the path to it. As demographics shift more and more towards women, heterosexual women will co-habitate and form quasi-familial platonic structures with other women. Most pregnancies will be the result of highly selective artificial insemination, with gender being only one of the criteria. A small number of men will be kept around to stock the sperm banks, satisfy residual demand for heterosexual intercourse, program the computers—although that may no longer be necessary either—and play professional football. Will Earth become Amazon? Or will it simply become Amazon? Both options are perhaps preferable, but less likely, than Earth becoming Eaarth. Either way, we should savor father’s day while we still have it.

P.S. Speaking of father’s day. I remember going to a 76ers game in the early 1990s with my dad to watch Manute Bol. At 7’7″, Manute was the tallest player in the history of the NBA. And now that I think of it, he may still be—although Gheorghe Muresan may also have been 7’7″. At 220 pounds, Manute was definitely the skinniest player in the history of the NBA. I remember cringing every time he tried to block a shot at the basket, fearing that the opposing player may snap his arm on the rim. I also remember my father and I talking about what Bol family pick-up games might have been like—Manute was a Dinka, his father was 7’10” and his older brother 7’8″. Finally, I remember talking about the fact that, sadly, Manute would probably not live a long life as his kind of extreme height often puts undue stress on the body’s core systems. Well, Manute died this weekend at the age of 47—succumbing to a combination of kidney failure and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome—one of the most painful conditions imaginable. Like fellow African and former 76er Dikembe Mutombo, Manute was a humanitarian first and a basketball player second. Whereas other NBA players—Eddy Curry, Antoine Walker—go bankrupt spending their ridiculous salaries on even more ridiculous lifestyles, Manute used nearly all of his earnings to support peace, health, and education in his native Sudan. In the NBA, Manute was a novelty. A sideshow. But I always got the feeling that he knew that and that he was “using” the NBA—both financially as well as to gain figurative stature in his homeland—as much as the NBA was using him. There aren’t many happy days in Sudan, but today is especially sad.

P.P.S. General McChrystal, Sir! Haven’t you heard of WikiLeaks?

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