Summary: Here is another brief note looking at the revolutions of our time that are reshaping our world. This looks at gender roles, changes that will take generations to work out and with implications probably beyond imagining.
Two of the utopian goals of the late 1960s are within reach, but their success is not fully appreciated. First, the West is at zero population growth (before immigration) — a goal coined by Kingsley Davis in Science (10 Nov 1967), although he said it could not be done by voluntary means (government action would be needed). Second, the shift to a unisex society — with the role of gender drastically reduced (e.g., in child-reading, education, the workplace, dress, behavior).
Combined these two mutually-reinforcing trends (a drastic drop of fertility made possible a more unisex society) represent revolutions larger than those in politics and perhaps even technology. History has seen nothing like these since the shift to agriculture millennia ago.
In one sense we have already made the change: in fiction. Books, TV, and films reflect a more unisex world. Change the names and pronouns in books (e.g., military science fiction), TV, (crime shows “Castle” and “Forever”), and films (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) — can you identify the gender of the characters?
Like most speculative fiction, they assume that gender roles evaporate leaving society otherwise unchanged. That seems unlikely to me. Society might take generations to adjust to the changes that have already occurred, as the existing but outmoded forms of thought and behavior only slowly adjust to the new realities. But the resulting changes might be large beyond our ability to imagine today.
There are few books that even hint at the future that awaits us. One of those is Plato’s The Republic. He describes a city in many ways more alien that that found in most science fiction stories, but which we might be approaching in this one sense. Here Allan Bloom explains how Plato’s insights illuminate our situation.
Excerpt from Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
All the romantic novels with their depictions of highly differentiated men and women, their steamy, sublimated sensuality and their insistence on the sacredness of the marriage bond just do not speak to any reality that concerns today’s young people. …