Has the financial crisis caused a "he-cession"?
The financial crisis that began in 2008 with the collapse of some of the world's most prestigious investment banks (e.g. Lehmann Brothers) and the ensuing rise in unemployment, especially amongst men, has sparked debates on whether the world is now experiencing a "he-cession".
"Death of Macho"
The debate was prompted by an article in Foreign Policy (May, 2009) written by Reihan Salam, "The Death of Macho". In this article, Salam argues that since new unemployment disproportionally affected more men than women (more than 80 percent of job losses in the United States from November 2008- early 2009 were incurred by men, with projections at the time that by the end of 2009, the global recession would put 28 million men out of work worldwide), the world is in fact witnessing the "death of macho". The economic, social and legal system that supported and upheld the "macho" status quo is being faded out into a "post-macho world", and according to Salam, there are two options for men:
- Adaptation: men embracing women as equal partners and assimilating to the new cultural sensibilities, institutions, and egalitarian arrangements that entails. ... amid the death of macho, a new model of manhood may be emerging, especially among some educated men living in the affluent West.
- Resistance: Men may decide to fight the death of macho, sacrificing their own prospects in an effort to disrupt and delay a powerful historical trend. ... Western developed countries are not for the most part trying to preserve the old gender imbalances of the macho order this time around."
The vision of the 'post-macho world' for Salam is a "violent" one:
"The axis of global conflict in this century will not be warring ideologies, or competing geopolitics, or clashing civilizations. It won’t be race or ethnicity. It will be gender. We have no precedent for a world after the death of macho. But we can expect the transition to be wrenching, uneven, and possibly very violent."
The debate has sparked criticisms from feminists and economists alike.
- Salam's portrayal of men as "risk-seeking" and "agressive" seems to imply that women are the "domestic" opposite;
- More women than men have voted in the US since 1980, so the political system has no interest in alienating its female voters by favouring the economic wealth of its male voters;
- Women in power are not innately more benign than the "macho" men criticised in the article;
- Objections have been put forward that the image of unemployed men as dependent on alcohol, depressed and "historically obsolete" is an exaggeration if not a caricature of men;
- Amanda Fortini, journalist, argues that: "If women do eventually run the world, as Salam suggests, will the world change, or will running the world change women?" (Salon.com)
- The Death of Macho, Foreign Policy
- The Great ‘He-cession’, the New York Times
- The Great He-cession, Salon.com