Dr. Helen

Why Are Men Silent?

I just noticed that the Harvard Business Review magazine had a pretty decent article called “The Silent Sex,” which mentioned my forthcoming book Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters. From the article:


I recently heard a surprising story: A female CEO was briefed on a stellar candidate for a top job at her company. “Sounds ideal,” she said to the group in the room. “Male or female?” Male was the answer. “Damn” was her audible response. The guy wasn’t even interviewed.

Anecdotes like this one lend credence to an argument that’s been gaining steam for more than a decade. It started with Susan Faludi’s 1999 book Stiffed and continued with dozens of similarly titled books, from Liza Mundy’s The Richer Sex and Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men, both released last year, to Helen Smith’s forthcoming Men on Strike.

The message is simple and provocative: The feminist movement has been so effective in advancing women over the past several decades that the ability of men to thrive—indeed, their fundamental role in society—is now in peril.

Strangely, however, most of the people who seem to be promoting, or even debating, the theory today are women. If men are indeed getting stiffed, becoming the poorer sex, and facing their “end,” particularly in the world of work, why aren’t more of them talking about it, going on strike as Smith suggests, or strategizing about how to recover the ground they’ve lost?

The author of the article asks some men she knows to speculate about whether men are losing ground, and I think answer #3 is the most plausible:

The thesis is right, and even white-collar executives are affected, particularly in sectors like marketing or media, where more women have reached the top. But none of those men will speak up, because they recognize the historically strong position of men in the corporate world and, again, don’t want to admit their own weakened position. No man wants to be branded a whiny antifeminist by the growing sisterhood of leaders who are women. So, for example, when a female CEO openly discriminates against a male job candidate, no one says a word. Conferences and events geared toward helping women in business remain commonplace, even in industries where they’re reaching parity with men. Research centers focused on women win grants, but no one demands comparable funding for studies on men. And the National Organization for Men (NOM) in the U.S.—yes, there is one—remains a group that many potential members might be embarrassed to join.


Commenter to the article Sam Armstrong also seemed to have the right idea:

Men don’t join the conversation now for the same reason that women didn’t in the ’50s.

In the ’50s if a woman complained about her sexist boss then the entire weight of the organization and society came down on her for not playing her part, and being uppity enough to challenge the real power.

Now after decades of the government and corporate legal counsel’s actively stamping out sexual harassment, a new paradigm exists. If a woman complains about a sexist man then the man is presumed guilty until he can prove his innocence (usually because the company would rather fire him on the spot rather than risk a lawsuit or government interference in their operations). In other words, “the entire weight of the organization and society come down on the uppity man for questioning a powerful woman.”

Maybe someday we’ll achieve that actual equality we’ve been seeking, but for now it’s just safer and better for the man to move on to a less dangerous place and continue his career there.

Perhaps this is why only women seem to be speaking up. It’s safer and they typically have a feminist bent anyway. Come on–The End of Men? Seriously? That’s easy. What’s hard is speaking up about the war against men in our culture, especially if one is a man with a career.


Do you speak up when you see injustice against men in public, at work, or out in the world?

Also read: 

5 Ways to Forfeit Your Man Card

Join the conversation as a VIP Member