How Feminists Invented the Male Midlife Crisis

When Women’s Lib Upended Traditional Gender Roles, Men Claimed Their Own Right to Self-Fulfillment Outside the Home

The term “midlife crisis” conjures up the image of an affluent, middle-aged man speeding off in a red sports car with a woman half his age. He leaves behind his wife and children; yet he—not they—are in “crisis.” Because most tales and treatises about this near-cliché of midlife crisis center on men, you might be misled to think they have nothing to do with women’s lives.

For example, in his recently published book Midlife, the MIT philosopher Kieran Setiya looks at the topic from a philosophical perspective. Declaring gender differences irrelevant, …