When W.E.B. DuBois posed the question to black America—“How does it feel to be a problem?”—he probably never imagined that just a little more than a century later, someone would be asking the same of male America. But that’s precisely what Smith, a forensic psychologist and men’s-rights activist, wonders in this incendiary, if shaky, treatise on “the crime of happening to be male in the twenty-first century.” To explain why men are “going Galt” (as in John Galt, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged), meaning intentionally opting out of institutions like marriage and higher education, Smith blames society: “Masculinity is frowned upon and belittled in every aspect of society,” the media depicts men as “goofballs and idiots” or sexual predators, and laws like Title IX and those governing child support equate to a “crackdown on… everyday college guys” and unwitting or wrongly fingered fathers. In the final pages, Smith outlines an action plan for men and their allies that includes further reading, legal advice, and information on organizations that fight for men’s rights. Some of Smith’s research is weak or anecdotal—she relies heavily on blog comments and random men she meets at bars and in the gym—but her stance is sure to incite lively debate. (June 18)
One thing that struck me as I read over it and compared it to other books on gender issues is how differently PW reviews treat authors they agree with those that they don’t. My book is described by them as an “incendiary, if shaky, treatise” and the research “is weak or anecdotal—she relies heavily on blog comments and random men she meets at bars and in the gym—.” A PW review of Kathleen Parker’s Save the Males: Why Men Matter Why Women Should Care states:
Although Parker’s deliberate provocations make for lively reading, the majority of her claims are too fanciful and unsubstantiated to be genuinely thought provoking or even interesting (erectile dysfunction is caused by young, sexually aggressive women; women serving in the army put the nation at risk). Parker makes a poor conspiracy theorist, and her statistics and unverifiable theories are unable to make her case, however vehement or entertaining their presentation.
Another book that stands up for males, Christina Hoff Sommer’s The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men gets a pretty decent review but PW can’t leave well enough alone:
Sure to kick up dust in the highly charged gender debates, Sommers’s book is at its best when coolly debunking theories she contends are based on distorted research and skewed data, but descends into pettiness when she indulges in mudslinging at her opponents. Perhaps the most informed study yet in this area, this engrossing book sheds light on a controversial subject.
The author’s counsel—gleaned from her own experiences—includes suggestions for increasing self-confidence, particularly in the business world; understanding the role of mentors and how to identify them; building emotional relationships at work; not focusing on being liked; juggling marriage and children with a demanding job; and the importance of taking risks. “Hard work and results should be recognized by others, but when they aren’t, advocating for oneself becomes necessary,” Sandberg opines. A new generation of women will learn from Sandberg’s experiences, and those of her own generation will be inspired by this thoughtful and practical book.
Suddenly, the only “research” needed is Sandberg’s own experiences! The book is “thoughtful and practical.” Funny, when I picked it up in the bookstore, I found it dismissive to men and hardly thoughtful, but then, if a book is “thoughtful” towards women, it’s good, towards men, it’s “incendiary” and “mudslinging.”
Oh, well at least the review said the stance of my book “is sure to incite lively debate.” I sure hope so!