In The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, Hanna Rosin created a metaphor for modern men and women:
Throughout my reporting, a certain imaginary comic book duo kept presenting themselves to me: Plastic Woman and Cardboard Man. Plastic Woman has during the last century performed superhuman feats of flexibility. She has gone from barely working at all to working only until she got married to working while married and then working with children, even babies. If a space opens up for her to make more money than her husband, she grabs it. If she is no longer required by ladylike standards to restrain her temper, she starts a brawl at the bar. If she can get away with staying unmarried and living as she pleases deep into her thirties, she will do that too. And if the era calls for sexual adventurousness, she is game. [...]
Cardboard Man, meanwhile, hardly changes at all. A century can go by and his lifestyle and ambitions remain largely the same. There are many professions that have gone from all- male to female, and almost none that have gone the other way. For most of the century men derived their sense of manliness from their work, or their role as head of the family. A 'coalminer' or 'rigger' used to be a complete identity, connecting a man to a long lineage of men.Clearly the female gender is far superior with its "superhuman" flexibility and success while "centuries" can go by with men mired in the same muck. But wait! In the uncountable centuries prior to the last couple, where was that vaunted flexibility and success of the female gender? It seems like women were rather stuck in the mud with the same "ambitions" century after century as well, just like men.
Ah, but I'm sure it was the oppression of the evil patriarchy that kept "Plastic Woman" from launching into her meteoric rise all these millennia. After all, it's always the patriarchy's fault. Of course, then we have to wonder why the patriarchy suddenly became incompetent at oppression in the last couple of centuries.
To play a little with a famous saying, god created man and woman, but Sam Colt made them equal. When the armaments of an age are the broadsword and longbow, which require a lot of strength to use effectively, wielding weapons of war and defense is best left to the physically stronger sex. With the development of hand guns and rifles, a woman wielding a weapon became every bit as dangerous as most men. I don't think it's a coincidence that Plastic Woman seems to have emerged with the development of modern, light, and powerful weapons. The cost of oppression was suddenly much higher and the need for male defenders swinging broadswords was suddenly much lower.
Weapons technology was one technology behind the emergence of Plastic Woman, but virtually every technology has moved all aspects of life towards matching women's nature. I realize that only an evil patriarch like myself would even dare to suggest that women and men have different natures, but I'm the evil author of this post, so deal with it.
Natural attributes of men, such as physical strength and willingness to engage in physical and even mortal danger, have been rendered nearly useless by inventing machines and refining them to tame their potentially violent and dangerous or deadly force. Though there is debate on the issue, my opinion is that one would have to be deaf to not know that women are more verbal than men (I'm using up all of my words for at least three days just to write this post), and with the increasing importance of information and complex networks in all aspects of society, verbal competency has become ever more important, playing to women's strengths. Being naturally nurturing in nursing and other jobs in the growing service sector also moves the world towards women.
Therefore, it's not that Plastic Woman necessarily has superhuman flexibility, but rather the world was dumped in her lap and she could hardly help but flourish. On the other hand, Cardboard Man has pretty much had everything taken away from the sweet spot of his abilities. From this perspective, women haven't been flexible at all and while men may not have flexed enough to keep up with the stunningly rapid change of the last two centuries, they have flexed quite a bit. Other than a few things like female prostitution, there really aren't any jobs a woman can do that a man can't, and men have made at least some inroads into most existing careers.
Ms. Rosin can continue to gloat for her gender for a while longer. But what goes around comes back around eventually, and technology, which has so far destroyed mostly only men's livelihoods while creating new opportunities for women, is relentlessly marching towards eliminating women's work as well. Within decades, computers will learn to speak, and not just the rote responses you get on the phone or from Apple's Siri. They will learn to understand what they hear and respond with knowledgeable and seemingly empathetic responses. My estimate is that this strong AI will start to be well developed within two decades.
Along the way, computers, coupled with sensors and actuators, will become better doctors, nurses and therapists than humans; better administrators; better at customer service; and better at sales. They may eventually even be better at prostitution, though robot sex may not be considered prostitution, I suppose. At that point we'll get to see if Plastic Woman is really fantastically flexible or if women also are ejected unceremoniously from the workforce and end up sitting around watching soap operas all day.
Then Ms. Rosin can write a new book with the title "The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence." Oh wait! Somebody already wrote that book.