I can’t help but feel that many so-called experts are wrong when they say that men are poor communicators…The problem today is that society is not listening to what men have to say if they do open up, at the same time, the risks for men in talking about these politically charged issues keep them silent, making it hard to glean the truth.” – Helen Smith author of Men on Strike
In her controversial book Men on Strike, psychologist (and female author) Helen Smith explores the anti-male challenges today’s men face in nearly every facet of the lives, thanks in part to the rise of misandristic policies created and supported by feminists. In the book, Smith argues that men are opting out of excelling in school, marrying, and starting their own families because society has devalued the number of incentives men used to enjoy for being responsible figures to their families and communities. Men now face an environment where they are vilified on college campus, punished harshly in family court and mocked ruthlessly as bumbling fools in film and television.
Smith argues that men face a number of major issues that are often overlooked by the mainstream (read: feminist-controlled) media and political sphere:
Lack of reproductive rights
In the United States, men do not have basic reproductive or paternity rights, and are often held responsible to contribute to child support for children who are not their biologically offspring (i.e., paternity fraud). During divorce proceedings, many divorce courts do not take account the wife’s infidelity. More than one million American men face what’s called paternity discrepancy, a phenomenon where men are unknowingly caring for children who were fathered by other men. When it comes to child support, men are more likely to be awarded support and more likely to pay more: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011, 32 percent of custodial fathers didn’t receive the child support that had been awarded to them, compared with 25.1 percent of custodial mothers. In 2011, America’s custodial fathers were owed a total of $1.7 billion and custodial mothers were owed $12.1 billion (…though single mothers outnumber single fathers 9 to 1).
Ostracization in schools
Males are failing school at an alarming rate. Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to flunk or drop out of school. Many experts say that the very nature of the schooling system is anti-male: Boys are likely to get into more trouble than girls because of their higher activity level. Physical activity is low in school because they spend too much time sitting and not enough time learning by doing, making and building things. “The culture of schools, especially for young children, is much more feminine than masculine,” said Joseph Tobin, professor of Early Childhood Education at Arizona State University and author of Good Guys Don’t Wear Hats. “There are almost no male early childhood educators. Many teachers of young children find boys’ interests in violence, gross things, and bodily functions to be boring or stupid.”
At the college level, women outnumber men in higher education with 56 percent of bachelor’s degrees and 55 percent of graduate degrees going to women. Men are often targeted on college campuses in unfair ways—men’s only groups are frowned upon and males must endure sexual harassment lectures and workshops where they are made to feel like predators. Title IX has drastically changed colleges by requiring schools with relatively few males to have fewer male teams.
Diminishing due process
If you follow the mainstream media, it appears sexual assault incidents have increased on college campuses. The truth is that colleges (pdf) have changed the way that they categorize rape to include all incidents where women engaged in sex while intoxicated (err…because only men can be held responsible when they are drunk?). College campuses are swiftly prosecuted sexual harassment claims so that they can continue to receive federal funding under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. In 2011, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, circulated a Dear Colleague letter requesting that schools curtail due process rights of men accused of sexual harassment.
Lack of male spaces
As more women become students and join male-dominated industries, men have fewer and fewer places to bond with other men. Discrimination laws have essentially banned fraternal lodges, male-only clubs, boxing gyms and private male restaurants. Even within the home, men are often subjected to carving out their own personal spaces (i.e., man caves) free from their spouses and children. Garages, attics and basements have become designated spaces for men.
First there were too many generalizations in the book. Much of the text included blog comments and informal responses from male speakers. I would have preferred that Smith include much more scientific research in the book to substantiate her claims that men are unfairly targeted by society. For example, we all know that men are asked to pay exorbitant amounts of child support every month, so it would have been nice if Smith include studies about child support payments in the U.S. To be fair, Smith mentioned in her book introduction that more research is needed on the subject of male discrimination.
Second, I disagreed with Smith on a number of points, the first being that men are subjected to unfair reproductive policies. The varying nature of reproductive rights between men and women can be explained by the differences in our biology. Women must bear the physical ramifications, risks and consequences for giving birth and having children, which explains why women enjoy more reproductive rights and privileges. It should be a woman’s choice if she chooses to have an abortion. That being said, I agree with Smith than men are unfairly held responsible for children once they are born—a woman can choose to give a child up for adoption without the father’s consent, while men do not have the same option.
I have a personal bone to pick with Smith’s recommendation that men make it a habit to test all of their children to establish paternity. Let’s not forget that not all paternity tests are accurate! In fact, paternity test results are notoriously unreliable, and blindly trusting those tests can have lifelong devastating consequences (see here). In my own family, an incorrect paternity test gave one of my relatives an excuse to walk out on his daughter nearly thirty years ago—how might everyone’s lives been impacted differently if a second “quality control” paternity test was taken?
Finally, Smith recommends that men move in with their girlfriends before they get married to test the relationship. We at Ladies Again know that that is a terrible idea—couples who live together before an engagement are more likely to experience poorer communication, lower levels of commitment to the relationship, and greater marital instability down the road. Multiple studies have shown that those who live with their partners before an engagement are less dedicated before, and even after, marriage.