Over the past few months, talk in the media about the supposed decline of masculinity – an Atlantic Monthly article this summer even ran with the headline "The End of Men" – has been heating up. Newsweek recently weighed in with the idea that men just need to reimagine manhood in the same way that women have rethought womanhood over the past century. And this section was no exception – emasculated male, anyone?
My own thought: I've now got a great angle for Halloween. Men sometimes use the occasion to try out a female alter ego, and if The End of Men is truly upon us, it might be the year to do just that. Here are my top picks for creative cultural gender bending, each with a therapeutic twist.
Before The End of Men, you were: Better at playing video games than getting a girl's phone number.
For Halloween, try: Megan Fox.
The "herbivores" – a trend in Japan of men who live abstinently and take women as friends instead of lovers – is often trotted out in articles about the fall of masculinity, the subtext being that once guys start to be emotionally nuanced part-time househusbands, they will no longer possess a primal drive for sex.
Please, nobody hold their breath for that to happen.
But, for whatever reason, if you do feel a wane in your mojo, it's time to channel your inner Fox. Megan Fox is possibly the world's hottest sex object – her recent ads for Armani are the latest evidence – but she also owns her sexuality.
"I'm not promiscuous. I'm extraordinarily sexual within a monogamous relationship," Ms. Fox once said. Another time, she told Cosmo: "Women hold the power in relationships because we have the vaginas. If you're in a heterosexual relationship and you're a female, you win."
Sounds like the battle is back on.
Before The End of Men, you were: Coasting through university with no plans for grad school.
For Halloween, try: Peggy Olson/Joan Holloway.
Maybe it's a cop-out, but I suggest you do a split-personality costume of these Jekyll and Hyde figures of feminism from Mad Men.
In the show, Peggy challenges gender norms and beats the admen at their own game. And if it's now a woman's world where manufacturing jobs are increasingly replaced by communication gigs and where women represent the more educated sex in this regard, guys will have to do the same.
Of course, Mad Men is set in the 1960s, and 50 years later, women are still working towards goals like gender equality at the top. So can we all just chill and give men a decade or two to find their feet?
In the meantime, like Joan, some dudes may find themselves having to use their sexuality as a workplace tool. How that's going to look, I don't quite know. Probably not as good as Christina Hendricks.
Before The End of Men, you were: Punching the clock at your 9-to-5, from which you got laid off. Your wife is about to leave you.
For Halloween, try: Christine O'Donnell.
All the other guys are going to go as Sarah Palin, but Christine O'Donnell – the Tea Party senatorial candidate for Delaware – is the buzzier option.
We've all heard the narrative that women are better at team-building and are more empathic leaders. Sure, but, like Ms. O'Donnell, sometimes you have to be Machiavellian.
She lied about going to Oxford. She didn't pay her taxes. And, by opining that people shouldn't masturbate, she has implied that she doesn't. (Yeah, right). Nevertheless, with all of these gaffes – not to mention her ridiculous and offensive political platform – exposed, she manages to rewrite the story at every turn, making her failures sound like battle scars.
Masculinity isn't like a job you can lose – it's a story. Keep spinning your own version so that you come out looking good.
Before the End of Men, you were: Insecure about your already ambiguous and unique version of masculinity.
For Halloween, try: Lady Gaga.
Lady Gaga plays around with gender roles onstage and recently created a male alter ego for a Vogue Hommes Japan shoot whom she named Jo Calderone. In fact, for years, Gaga has confused people to the point that there has been a rumour that she might actually be a guy, or at least half-guy.
Instead of jumping into a conventional feminine mould, she has turned her creative gender identity into fuel for more fame, star power that she then routinely uses to support gay rights, most recently speaking out against the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule, suggesting that it instead instate a policy to kick out homophobic soldiers.
A friend recently told me that she longed for a man like her father, who was simultaneously strong and respectful. Like Gaga, he used his power to protect marginalized folks in need.
If you go as Gaga, wear a cape, because I think the question shouldn't be whether Gaga is a man, but instead: Is she Superman?