Interview: Helen Smith Talks Men on Strike
MR. DRISCOLL: Your blog is one of the most popular at PJ Media, and there are number of comments from your readers quoted in Men on Strike. Could you talk a bit about how the blog posts you wrote and the response to them by your commenters led to the new book, and the process in writing it?
DR. SMITH: Yes. I actually -- I stupidly, about five years ago, I think I had -- or maybe it was six years ago, I did a blog post asking men -- you know, just asking men, should they get married. And I thinking like, oh, well, it's -- you know, there's some nice reasons men should get married. But all the men on my blog really set me straight. And they really got me thinking and let me know that, you know something, it is not such a good deal for us.
It's really, as time goes on, so many men are afraid of the legal aspects. The psychological aspects, where a lot of the men on my blog mentioned that they -- you know, were cut off from friendships, they were cut off from spending time with family, friends. And some of the research bears this out. And I know -- well, I don't know if you call this research, but I know there was an article I was reading that was men's health, and they talked about how it was so important for men to be around their friends, and that actually it's worse for men -- for men's self-esteem to have no -- you know, not to be around friends when they're married, because men tend to be more loners, and they don't connect as well. And to lose that during a marriage is to isolate them more, and maybe you see more of a rise in depression in men, which of course, turning that around, can lead to the suicide that we were talking about earlier. That's an extreme form.
But going back to the blog posts, yeah, everything I really learned -- I learned a lot from the Internet, but it was also from my experience having worked twenty years before with so many men. And I've evaluated, you know, probably five or six thousand individuals, at least half, probably more of them being men and boys. And just hearing from them and hearing -- I think the great thing about the blogesphere, is that you can hear from so many different voices from really all of the world. But, you know, a lot of what I -- the guys I talked to were in the United States. And a lot of them actually write me from PJ Media. I mean, they write me all the time.
And one of the things that really warms my heart about the book so far, of the men who have read it -- it'll be readers from PJ Media, and it'll be guys who say, you know, what? I got your book. And my mom or somebody didn't really understand where I was coming from, why I feel -- you know, I was always told I was cynical and depressed. I felt alone.
And maybe they could, you know, give the book to their mom, or maybe it would help maybe even a woman in their life to understand a little bit more, or at least it -- the best thing is that it would make me make them feel like they're not alone, like oh, their ideas are correct. And their feeling that things are not right, that the legal and the psychological and cultural environment is -- there is this backlash against men. And I think we need to right that. We need -- and the same way we righted it against women -- we don't want to go so far the other way that we harm our -- you know, our men and boys who are so important to the production and to the wellbeing of this country.
MR. DRISCOLL: Helen, when you discuss the topics explored in Men on Strike with people who haven’t read your book or your blog, do they react negatively or surprised at the notion that men can be victims?
DR. SMITH: You know, I don't know if I really want to call it victims. I mean, I guess in some sense, that's what people say. But rather than victims, I guess, you know, can men to be discriminated against. Absolutely. But what do people say? I mean it depends who you're talking to.
A lot of times -- for example, I was talking to maybe a liberal journalist, and they would look surprised. And their mind is very closed to that type of thing, especially older men, because they feel like they've never seen that in their lifetime. If I talk to younger guys, they totally get what I'm talking about.
If I talk to women, they sometimes don't understand. Like what I'll do with women, if they talk to me a little bit, and I'll say -- they'll tell me -- they think my book -- they'll hear -- if they ask what it's about and I say men or strike or why men -- I just tell them it's why men don't want to get married, and they think, oh, I'm a -- oh, it's a psychologist writing a cute book about how to help me learn how to rope a man, or something.
And in truth, it's -- that's the antithesis of what the book's about. The book is all about why, you know, from a political and legal standpoint, men don't want to get married anymore.
But what I ask women, and even men sometimes is I'll say to them, name me, you know five reasons -- five legal reasons, men should get married. Now, I understand the psychological ones. You know, they want -- they want to be with a certain woman, they love this person, of course. But I say name me five legal reasons, and honestly, I've not had one yet that could.
So you know, I think that -- I think that sort of opens their eyes, sometimes, too -- and I think that the reaction from women is -- I don't think women have ever put themselves in men's shoes. Women talk about being the empathetic sex, but in reality, I'm so bothered, in some sense, that women don't have empathy, a lot of times, for men. But at the same time, there are a lot of great women out there who, if you just sort of -- if they stop and think about it, they think, oh, well, maybe that sort of makes sense.
But the other thing I wanted to turn around is say is from a men's perspective, a lot of men just deny that this is happening. Oh, I've never had that happen, or this is ridiculous, or they want to sort of say, well, I don't believe in this. And I'm -- it's kind of like there's an old saying that, you know, you may not believe in war, but war believes in you.
You may -- you know, you may think that nothing will happen to you, but if that woman at your job points a finger at you and says you did something to her or you said something to her inappropriate, and you know, you don't have a leg to stand on. You may be hauled before the HR department with little support, and you may find out that your rights aren't -- you know, that being a man isn't going to help you in any way, and that in fact, you may be a target.