Sunday, September 25, 2011

Slate Debate - Apparently, Men Are Finished

Slate held a debate with Dan Abrams (ABC News chief legal analyst) and Hanna Rosin (author for Slate and The Atlantic) arguing for the proposition, "Men Are Finished" and Christina Hoff Sommers (American Enterprise Institute scholar ) and Dave Zinczenko (Men's Health Editor in Chief) who opposed the motion. ABC News Nightline Correspondent John Donvan moderated.

Really? That was the best they could do on the opposition side? Why not someone like Warren Farrell (who I dislike but who really knows his stuff) or Lise Eliot (Pink Brain, Blue Brain) or Cordelia Fine (Delusions of Gender)? Why not include an expert in men's studies such as Ron Levant, or Michael Kimmel, or William Pollack?

Perhaps, too, the proposition might better have read, Patriarchy Is Finished, which is really what the debate revolved around. But the chosen statement garners a lot more attention by being outlandish and inflammatory.

Anyway, the video is included below.

Apparently the Abrams and Rosin side seriously out-argued the Sommers and Zinczenko side. The audience came in with 20% agreeing that men are finished, 54% against, and 26% undecided. A little over an hour later, 66% agreed with the motion, 29% opposed and only 5% were still undecided.

Apparently, Men Are Finished

The fairer sex won big at Tuesday's Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. debate.

In the middle of Tuesday night's Slate/Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams presented this damning piece of evidence: "Between 1995 and 2008, 82 percent of lightning strikes were on men," Even God, Abrams told the packed house at NYU's Skirball Center, has decided that men are finished.

Abrams teamed with journalist Hanna Rosin of Slate and the Atlantic to argue for the proposition, "Men Are Finished." They squared off against American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers and Men's Health Editor in Chief Dave Zinczenko, who opposed the motion. ABC News Nightline Correspondent John Donvan moderated.

The debate—lively, a little bit mean, and extremely funny—ended with a big victory for Rosin and Abrams. Before the debate started, 20 percent of the audience voted for the motion, 54 against, and 26 were undecided. By the end of the debate—in a result that Intelligence Squared deemed the biggest swing in its history—the numbers had more than reversed, with 66 percent voting for the motion, 29 against it, and 5 percent undecided.

Watch the video from the debate:
Debate: MEN ARE FINISHED ( from Intelligence Squared U.S. on Vimeo.

"Men are finished," is a bold claim—"preposterous," as Zinczenko scoffed repeatedly. Rosin and Abrams helped their cause early by defining victory down: They argued that "men are finished" did not mean complete and utter humiliation of the sex, but rather an end to male dominance. Rosin, the author of last summer's Atlantic cover story "The End of Men," used her opening statement to argue that men are through dominating because they've failed to adapt to a postmodern economy that places a higher premium on traditionally feminine attributes (consensus-building, social intuition, empathy, and communication skills). Men have narrow, inflexible ideas of what it means to be a man, and thus have pigeonholed themselves into dying industries. Women, on the other hand, are more flexible and malleable than ever before. There's "some special formula required for succeeding" today that women seem to have in greater abundance," Rosin said, while reeling off favorable statistics. In 2010, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in American history. They now hold 54 percent of managerial jobs, and are set to dominate 13 of the 15 industries projected to grow the most in the next decade. They're more likely than men to receive a college degree. Meanwhile, one-fifth of men are out of work. And images of the "omega" male (imagine the slothlike, video-game entranced, drugged-up, potbellied guys you see in Judd Apatow movies) dominate movies and television shows. "We'd like you to think of this as the writing on the wall, the sign that points to an inevitable future," she asserted. "The world where men dominate the public sphere, and where male traits lead to public success is the world we're saying goodbye to."

Sommers, author of The War Against Boys, countered that the short-term trends we're seeing are signs of equalization, not dominance: Women are joining men, or even catching up to them, as partners in running the world. They are not surpassing them. She and Zinczenko both cited Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates as proof that we need men to drive innovation in fields like technology and science. And our civilization depends on the brawn and bravery of the men—"and some women"—who fight and die to protect us. "Toughness and assertiveness are obsolete—that's absurd!" she declared, referring to the idea that male traits aren't as crucial to the postindustrial economy.
Go read the whole article.


Sage said...

Hi Bill, I just curious why you don't like Warren Farrell. For my part I have read his books and especially found "The Myth of Male Power" to be good and that book has ended up being extremely influential to me. I have never met Farrell but I also get the impression mostly by reading articles by and about him that he is sort of a douchbag. But its mostly just this feeling I get. He also seems to have some unresolved "relationships with women" issues that seem to cloud his vision. But again that may just be me. I don't really have any concrete evidence to support my impressions.

william harryman said...

Hi Sage,

I agree that he seems to have issues with women, but in general it feels to me that he rejects all feminisms on the basis of the most extreme man-hating versions.

My sense is also that he cherry-picks the facts to support his arguments. There is a good book, Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men?: A Debate (, that pits Farrell against James P. Sterba in a debate on the topic in the title - Farrell gets half the book and Sterba gets half the book.

To me, Sterba carries the best argument, but the reality is probably somewhere in between.

Generally, however, I feel that Farrell, focuses on stats and numbers, while the real issues are interpersonal and even intersubjective, as well as some implicit structural issues at the social level.

Sage said...

Thanks Bill, you answer is extremely helpful!