In the Age of Useless Men

To rephrase a slogan from an earlier phase of feminism, a man needs unflattering data like a fish needs a bicycle. Yet, evidence accumulates that today’s women see today’s men as a dispensable bunch. A recent cover story in Time described women who are content to lead their lives without a man around the house. It noted a Yankelovich poll in which just 34 percent of women said they’d settle for a less-than-perfect mate if “Mr. Perfect” didn’t come along. Polling for Glamour, in conjunction with Young& Rubicam’s Intelligence Factory, tells a similar story. Among women age 18-34,68 percent “believe they can be single and still have a personally fulfilling life.” Men could shrug off anti-male hostility from the angrier fringe of feminism. They can’t so easily ignore the current formulation—i.e., men aren’t terrible, they’re just not terribly useful. The current John Hancock campaign (via Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos) reflects the spirit of the times. The series drew special attention with a commercial in which a lesbian couple bring home their newly adopted child, but that wasn’t the only spot in which men were conspicuously unnecessary. Another featured a divorced father about to move across country with his girlfriend, thus curtailing his already weak relationship with his son. Yet another showed an amorous couple. The woman has to leave his place so her daughter’s babysitter can get home before midnight. When the man proposes marriage and says, “I could take care of you and Molly,” the woman laughs and responds, “We can take care of ourselves.” Such is life for the newly useless man.