I suppose when someone writes as provocative a piece as Hanna Rosen’s The End of Men, there are going to be some interesting and equally-well-written rebuttals. A representative sample:
- Further Thoughts on Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men” (Refreshingly, written by a man)
- The End of Men (Fair feminist smackdown of the concept of “The End of Men”)
- It’s Not the End of Men (Another well-written rebuttal)
My thoughts after a weekend marinating on the subject and discussing it with several women (including Mama C.) — I’d agree that the article was a bit breathless and lot Chicken Little. However, I don’t think that the rebuttals address what I believe is the core truth:
Women are a force, not as a rapidly-rising contingent of workers but as financial equals (the true democracy) in a game where brains are favored over brawn.
That, my friends, is a shift that will have a ripple effect across society. Will it be a zero-sum game as Hanna Rosen presents it? Will it be a fantastic (and seemingly unprecedented) adaptation by both genders? Will we see an accelerated pace of redefined gender roles? Will everyone go along and get along? Are we moving from patriarchy to matriarchy, are we keeping things in place but forcing women to try to be all things to all people, or will we develop some hybrid where the “archy” doesn’t really matter anymore? There are so many questions to ask, many of which will only be answered by time.
As marketers, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what the market wants to do. We have to come up with ways to launch products and build campaigns in the midst of this change (I’d challenge that we often have direct responsibility for shaping this change, but that’s a more complicated topic). And, maybe two data points does not a trend make, but Newsweek published an article on the same day as The End of Men came out declaring “The Richer Sex: Companies had better cater to women“. It’s a light read and not particularly groundbreaking (gratuitous mentions of Louboutins, Sex and the City, technology adapted to women’s seemingly insatiable interest in stylish products and the faux self-esteem-boosting Dove Campaign for Real Beauty), but it shows that this might just be “the next big conversation”. It can be debated that this is a good thing (often, “the next big conversation” focuses on the superficial, missing the bigger picture), but it’s finally on the map.
Here’s what’s kind of scary — with the lone exception of the guy I mentioned above (loved his breakdown of men vs. women, masculinity vs. femininity, and patriarchy vs. matriarchy), I don’t see men participating in the conversation. In my search for books written about marketing to women (I bought three), I couldn’t find one written by a man. Are we afraid to talk about it? Are we willing to simply let women take the lead? Are we putting our heads in the sand? Or, as I’m discovering, is talking about it taboo, considered a threat to our masculinity?
My two-week trek has elicited some interesting reactions. My female friends (often reliable for these types of conversations and the main reason I can now spell ‘Louboutin’ without Googling it) are loving it. Others seem to think I’m a fetishist, gay, desperate for a date or just weird. The looks of horror I’ve gotten from men and women alike when openly discussing the U by Kotex campaign were/are priceless, especially with my marketing professor announcing to the entire class that I’ve now become captain feminine hygiene. But, regardless of the potential hit to my dating prospects, I believe passionately that men have to join this conversation or we’re going to come at marketing problems from the wrong perspective and ultimately lose the war for women consumers. As my good friend Meghan Skiff recently wrote, no one can afford to allow themselves to become irrelevant and, if they do, they shouldn’t have a seat at the table.
In other words, man-up guys. We hate to lose. And as scary as it might be, it looks like the only way to win in this new game is to learn more about women than we likely ever wanted to know.