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Interview: Helen Smith Talks Men on Strike

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, what role does academia play in creating these anti-male perceptions? Glenn Reynolds wrote the Higher Education Bubble last year, which explored a myriad of problems with America’s university system, not the least of which are its costs, in which students rack up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans to get useless degrees. But how are some of the ways that college is particularly stacked against men?

DR. SMITH:  Well, I think that first of all, it goes back even before college, where men in -- or boys, actually, in high schools or before, are -- I think that it's not an experience that a lot of boys can feel connected to.  There are -- I think the schools have a lot of female-oriented activities.  The readings that they do in schools tend to be more oriented towards girls.  For example, they might have some politically correct information from Toni Morrison or other books that boys don't really want to read.

There's even been studies -- for example, there was a study done by the London School of Economics, that found that boys receive lower marks by female teachers, and that also, a lot of times boys are -- their behavior is evaluated and they get a mark based on behavior as opposed to merit.

The competitiveness in schools, the sort of politically correct atmosphere, is worse for boys than it is for girls.  And I don't think it's good for girls either, believe me.  I'm not -- I'm not saying that.  But I think for boys who tend to be, maybe more individualistic, or less likely to conform, less likely to want to sit still, I think that schools are a difficult place for them to connect with.

And therefore, when they go into the college setting, where they're less likely to go -- that's the biggest thing -- and right now we're seeing it get down to where I believe it's heading towards sixty percent of colleges now are girls.  It's basically at fifty-seven percent.  And they're saying that it'll rise to sixty percent.  And, you know, where does that stop?  I mean, are we going to get to where no boy wants to go to college?

And then, as you pointed out, I mean, colleges and the academic world have gotten much more hostile to men.  If you go in a class and they're talking about you as some type of pervert, racist, you know, pedophile, whatever, I mean, a man's not going to feel good in a setting like that.

And the other thing is, our speech codes are so draconian now, and the sexual sort of assault and sexual harassment codes are so difficult for boys, that they often -- it's a very difficult environment to deal with.

One of the things that's really concerning is the Obama letter that was sent out in 2011.  It was a Dear Colleague letter that told schools, colleges that take federal funds, told them that they needed to lower the preponderance of evidence from basically a higher level to a lower one, where if a guy is charged with sexual assault, they even need fifty percent evidence, or a little over fifty percent, to charge him, you know, with having done that -- committed that assault.  And that's a very serious charge.  I mean, to charge somebody with a sexual assault can harm a young man's career, they can maybe not finish college, they can be thrown out of school.

And we just don't take those things as seriously as we do for women.  We just wouldn't allow that to happen in this -- in today's world, to women.

MR. DRISCOLL:  The last decade has seen the entry of the unfortunate phrase, the "man cave" into the vocabulary.  What does the rise of the man cave say about the decline of men?

DR. SMITH:  Well, I mean, in the old days, Brett McKay actually did a beautiful post.  He wrote The Art of Manliness [Website] along with his wife, I believe her name is Kay.  But they do The Art of Manliness books.  He wrote a wonderful piece on the decline of male space.

And one of the things he talks about is how in the old days, men had more -- you know, you saw Dad with his slippers and a pipe, and he was right upstairs, maybe in the living room or the den.  Now, it seems like men are relegated to the worst part of the house, maybe the garage or the basement.  And I think what it says is that even though a lot of men, I think, enjoy dark spaces or like being downstairs, a lot of times I think it's just a portion of the house that's allotted to the man that's just -- you know, because the whole house is sort of run by the women and the children now, and Dad is just an afterthought, if he's available in the house at all.

I mean, a large majority of boys and girls are growing up without dads at all.  But if they have one, a lot of times Dad's in -- you know, in the basement, or it's all about how a woman allows him to have the space in the house.  And it's like the house now is the woman's, and a guy's just allowed to live there.

And I think that the decline of space -- male space in our society -- in the '80s there was just a lot of regulations about, you know, male-only clubs.  We even see -- you know, so many things are heavily regulated, we don't even see the Elks Club or all those kinds of places.  You know, men are discouraged from congregating together.  And when they do, they're either made fun of or they're shut down.

Even in schools, they -- one of the things that was interesting as I went around to try to find men's centers -- and the truth is, there are only, I think, two in the United States, of colleges that even have a men's center.  And everyone says, well, the whole campus is a men's center.  But actually, that's not the truth.

And a lot of guys, when I talked to men who actually had formed a men's law group in one of the big public colleges, and they're -- one of the heads of this law group told me that, you know, they really didn't feel welcome in the environment, and they felt like they couldn't really open their mouth, and if they wanted to talk, they really needed to go off campus to do so.  And this really sounds to me like how women might have felt, maybe in the 1950s or something.