I wondered about this a few weeks ago as I watched a Question and Answer session for perspective students at a large Washington D.C. Law School. The Q &A was about an hour and the admissions speaker was a lively woman who seemed very oriented to students and happy to answer questions about the LSAT, the law school and how to do one’s best in the application process. The future students were eager to ask questions and hands around the room went up quickly. There were around 50 people, about half men, half women in the room. But I noticed that the speaker mainly called on the women students, even if a man had raised his hand first. She even said “I will get to you in a minute” to a male student but then called on a couple of women instead: one woman was even called on three times! I wondered if the speaker even knew she was doing this.

I must admit that part of the problem was the way that the guys in the room were trying to ask questions. Their hand did not go up as aggressively as the girl’s hands nor were their voices as strong or as loud. They were softer and more hesitant than the women’s and I often could not hear them as well. Is this a function of men with softer voices applying to enter law school or were they more timid in this particular setting? Were they picking up that they were the underdogs in this situation and that they were not getting the same attention? If I am observing this behavior in one academic setting, how many more men are being affected by academics and administrators around the country who may be treating them differently?

As I pondered these questions, I got an email from a reader by the name of Bob who was going through more institutional bias at his college:

Dear Dr. Helen,

Just today I discovered you and your work browsing youtube! My girlfriend and I live together and go to the same college in which we have had over 5 classes together now. We can legitimized what you say about college being hostile towards men!

For example: We consistently have studied together and given 100% identical answers on tests only to find that she constantly gets better grades than I do for the exact same work and answers.

It has been really frustrating for me. It has also caused a lot of tension in our relationship from jealousy (on my part). We also found that her grades are normally given generously and mine are given accurately vrs, me getting undergraded and she’s getting accurately graded. Also in the labs after class the teachers always tend to check up with the girls to make sure they are understanding the material and staying on top of things where the guys are left to figure it out. I could write you 10 pages, but I wanted to just say, THANK YOU on behalf of the Y chromosome :)

I can’t imagine how frustrating this discrimination must be and the strain it can cause on relationships when one person gets all the goodies and the other has to work harder to get less. How will the treatment of men by these institutions affect how they view women, even their own girlfriend? If women think men want nothing to do with them now in terms of commitment, just wait until another generation of them is treated to our academic system.

There are many examples of institutional bias against men: they often need a note from their wives to get a vasectomy, men get little or no due process in college sexual assault cases and there are even misandrists in the government who tell men they are not as smart as women and that they get little say in the matter because they are “outnumbered.”

How does this institutional bias affect men? I read some comments from men that suggest that a real man would “shrug this stuff off.” Bullshit. You don’t shrug it off when the government threatens to come after your free speech or your second amendment rights. Why would a man shrug off something this important? Other men perhaps don’t notice what is happening or do notice and feel there is nothing to be done or they can sidestep these problems. But it catches up to you eventually or your son, or brother.

What are some more examples of institutional bias that I have missed? How do you think men are affected by this type of bias?