Not much, says the Atlantic this month. I exaggerate, for the purposes of encouraging amusing and brittle party chatter, but only a little.
To wit, on the necessity of fathers:
The bad news for Dad is that despite common perception, there’s nothing
objectively essential about his contribution. The good news is, we’ve
gotten used to him.
Further, men aren't much good in the 21st century economy:
Earlier this year, for the first time in American history, the balance
of the workforce tipped toward women, who now hold a majority of the
nation’s jobs. The working class, which has long defined our notions of
masculinity, is slowly turning into a matriarchy, with men increasingly
absent from the home and women making all the decisions. Women dominate
today’s colleges and professional schools—for every two men who will
receive a B.A. this year, three women will do the same. Of the 15 job
categories projected to grow the most in the next decade in the U.S.,
all but two are occupied primarily by women. Indeed, the U.S. economy is
in some ways becoming a kind of traveling sisterhood: upper-class women
leave home and enter the workforce, creating domestic jobs for other
women to fill.
Best of all, the hilarious (if a little frightening) Sandra Tsing Loh looks at a slew of books and movies on women and real estate, brilliantly titled Our Houses, Our Selves, and concludes:
So what if, in comparison with Jane Austen’s time, when the heroine’s
journey was necessarily Girl Meets Boy, Girl Marries Boy, Girl Gets
Pemberley, 200 years later our plots are Woman Buys Pemberley, Pemberley
Needs Remodeling, Woman Hires Handsome, Soulful, Single Architect to
Find Perfect Farmhouse Sink but After Whirlwind Affair Boots Him Out
Anyway Because She Hates His Choice of Carpeting? We still want the
adrenaline rush; we still yearn to endlessly transform ourselves; we
still want to dream and feel and love.
It's just that men no longer seem very necessary.
Anyhow — Happy Father's Day!
2 thoughts on “Men: What are they good for?”
The fish/bicycle thing is memorable because of the truth it contains. (I’m not aware of any symmetric bumpersticker claim that men don’t really need women.)
I’ve long thought that patriarchy was a mostly-futile attempt to reorder the world so that women needed men as much as (most) men need women.
I will look for that book. And I’ll mention it to a friend, who was looking for such a story.
Mike, you’ve mentioned John Wyndham before, but as far as I know haven’t written about him — I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.