Williams pays particular attention to the way men negotiate a masculine self-image that sits uneasily with the reality of family care. How should this tension be managed? Williams favors some form of preserving masculine self-image by reframing the subject to one of worker empowerment rather than family care. This strategy aims at political efficacy and coalition building. Asking men to imitate women’s successes, it might be argued, is interesting but too threatening to be attractive. This Essay nonetheless leans in that direction.
This Essay will first look at the evidence for the decline in men’s status. Williams investigates the evidence in the workforce, and I’ll highlight some particularly interesting evidence from recent years. I will add to that evidence from elementary, secondary, and higher education, and elaborate a bit on the evidence from men’s role in families. From this section emerges the “end of men” hypothesis that begs the important question: What can be done to reverse the trend? Williams recognizes the challenge of the task and sees the difficulty in the choice to either support traditional masculine performance or to transform it. This same tension is visible in the greater literature about masculine anxieties.
I will argue that, as painful as it may be, Williams is right that the economic success of men depends on the transformation of masculinity to incorporate a desire for the skills currently gendered female in the workforce, family life, and educational institutions. In places, Williams seems to embrace a “covering” strategy for men that might sit between traditional masculinities and reformation, one that seeks to accommodate the affront to men’s dignity implied in transforming their masculine performance. I incline more toward ripping off the Band-Aid, but I embrace Williams’s general emphasis and will explicate some of the implications for extending her agenda into the debates within education in particular.
Katharine B. Silbaugh, Deliverable Male, 34 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 733 (2011).