June 26, 2002

MEN AND WOMEN AND COLLEGE: Okay, this is going to be shorter than I had planned, because I’m working on a major writing project, and I’ve got to be able to type full speed tomorrow. But here are some comments I’ve gotten in response to my earlier post about colleges being hostile environments to males, and that perhaps accounting for the newly-controversial gender imbalance in favor of women. A few correspondents simply denied that there’s any sort of P.C. or anti-male environment on campuses, a sort of flat-earthery that is readily refuted by a reference to Daphne Patai’s Heterophobia or any of a hundred examples of kangaroo-court sexual-harassment policies.

Or just read this lengthy post by Eduardo Goldstein, sharing firsthand experience of being falsely accused of sexual harassment. (“The written rules are stacked against men. If a female reports anything, the college has to believe her. Even if the person receiving the complaint (RA, etc.) knows the complaint is bullshit, they can’t say ‘you’re lying’ – they have to write it down and pass it on. Otherwise the university will have to deal with the charges of ignoring complaints, and no one wants that. ” Read the whole thing.) Who can seriously deny that this phenomenon exists? Not recent college graduate and InstaPundit reader Jennifer Fuller, who describes the kind of situation I alluded to. And we assume in civil-rights law generally that a “hostile environment” discourages people from seeking employment or education in hostile settings, so it seems a reasonable assumption here, too.

There were alternative explanations. Reader Brian Ledford was one of several who said that the increase in lucrative jobs not requiring a college degree, particularly in computer-related fields, may be a partial explanation:

Are you sure the disparity isn’t simply due to computer science type programs moving to technical schools? If your ideal job is IT related, you’re probably better off with a two year degree and two years of experience than a four year degree. The technical colleges will be more market oreinted as well, I’d imagine. And computers overwhelmingly attract men. Schools without engineering programs “suffer” the same gender inequity. As an example, UNC-Chapel Hill (my alma mater) has approximately the same gender breakdown that is being regarded as a crisis in your post. Why? No engineering school.

Reader John Kluge offered a different explanation:

I would be very curious to see what the gender breakdown is among whites and Asians in college versus blacks and Hispanics. Just a guess but I bet the ratio is pretty close to fifty fifty among whites and Asians and much more disproportionately female among blacks and Hispanics. Its an important statistic that was left out of the Washington Post article. Is the problem in colleges a problem with men in general or a problem with black and Hispanic men going to lousy schools, living in a lousy culture that doesn’t value education and consequently increasingly falling behind the rest of society? Its an important distinction and no one seems to be picking up.

Reader John Vecchione agrees, but says that men should just suck it up and be macho about it:

I agree that colleges and universities are hostile to the very idea of men and that the administrations do as much as possible to alienate them. The misinterpretation of Title IX has axed programs that kept many men only marginally interested in higher education in school. The attack on fraternities has been disastrous, as has the P.C. feminist onslaught. On the other hand, I can’t stand whining about this. Its unseemly.

Unseemly whining, John, is the key to power in today’s society. Eschew it at your peril.

Reader Andrew Colocotronis blames drugs:

I think it is a statistical fact that boys are diagnosed as ADD more than girls. My mother has mentioned numerous parent teacher conferences she attended were the teacher would unilaterally suggest to the parents that they look into Ritalin for their son. In some of the high schools where she was an administrator upwards of 30% of the students were labeled as ADD. Not surprising, the article you linked mentioned that boys are disproportionately likely to be in Special Ed programs. ADD is by its very name a disability that earns a child Special Ed status. Some parents actually want that stigma for their son or daughter because it guarantees extra school help for their child and special consideration during college admission. I do not mean to enter into the larger Ritalin debate, but to point out that an educational system that promotes labeling children as disabled probably lowers self-esteem and retards academic performance. Raising the self-esteem of girls and overcoming second class citizenship status are seen as important components in furthering female academic success. So why is the converse not also be true– lowering the self-esteem of boys and referring to many as disabled erodes male academic success.

Noah Millman sent a link to this long and thoughtful post on his own blog, from which I will take an unfairly brief excerpt:

But I wanted to touch on another assumption of Glenn’s (the blogosphere seems to be on a first-name basis with itself, so I guess I will be, too): that the insanity of contemporary sexual harrassment policy has somehow discriminated against men. The implicit notion is that the proper code of conduct in college is: let the partygoer beware. Boys will be boys, and if girls want to play with the boys they should be free to do so and shouldn’t go crying to the Administration (or their lawyers) if they wake up in the wrong bed with very little on. I strongly reject this premise.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that the folks who are angry about the biases in our current sexual code of conduct – and they are biased against men – are apologists for date rape. Indeed, they correctly assert that the radical feminist notion that all men are rapists shields the real rapists and thereby harms more women than it helps. Moreover, it gives power to precisely those women who are least responsible and provides the least protection to those women who are most likely to be truly victimized: the naive, the shy, the insecure.

Well, that’s pretty much my point — that and the thought that knowing that there are a lot of people on campus who say and think that all men are rapists and that all heterosexual sex is rape (as Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, and numerous acolytes have said) might discourage a few men from going to begin with.

Fritz Schranck sent a link to his post on the subject, too, which includes the following, along with much more:

It’s also unfortunately true that the College of Correction, or the prison system as it is commonly known, also experiences a gender gap going in the opposite direction, especially among the age cohorts commonly associated with attendance at universities.

Well, there are a lot of folks in prison, and the vast majority of them are young males, though I don’t know if it’s enough to account for the difference, and rather doubt that it is. I think that prisons and colleges tend not to draw from the same pool of individuals.

Reader Monica Roman blames Hollywood:

Today, I was running the reservoir at Central Park and thought I was being sexually harassed by a young man running behind me. He was making loud, pornographic statements about my anatomy and what he wanted to do to it. When I turned around to look at him, I realized that he was merely singing along to the song being played by his CD player! Perhaps the thug culture perpetuated by the big recording companies is discouraging males of all races from pursuing the disciplined behavior required to complete college (unless you happen to be a star athlete and are not required to attend classes in order to receive your diploma).

Well, luckily you won’t find any of that star-athlete stuff going on at the University of Tennessee, where we prize academics over athletics at all times. . . .

Carl Janiski, meanwhile, emails me a link to a blog post that takes the radical position that I’m right, but that it’s a good thing:

He’s entirely right. Colleges have become more hostile to men, but I wonder how much of that is a bad thing. Perhaps the modern trend in higher education has become an effort to root out and refine some of that male hostility and agressiveness, traits which are far less adaptive in our sophisticated, twenty-first century civilization than they were in the environment of our evolutionary adaptation. The recent shifts in graduation could simply reflect this modern emphasis.

More broadly, it does seem to be a trend for men to become more like women and vice versa. I’ve heard women refered to as the “civilizing gender” for their greater natural endowment of social skills. Much of the effort of feminism in the past thirty years has been directed towards making women more like men in the equally important areas of assertiveness and individual expression. Men and traditional maleness are now taking a hit in the name of further progress away from our animal natures.

My biggest regret is that the process has to be so hard on the individual men who will suffer the shame traditionally associated with failure at endeavors such as college. I’d be most interested in figuring out how we can “evolve ourselves” without so much trampling on the most unfit and least adapted — which, after all, is the rule of the game as written by mother nature, not by us.

Being a guy who didn’t play sports (unless you count karate and the rifle team, which you shouldn’t) and who did well in school, I should approve of this social-Darwinist approach, but I have to note that it’s an approach that’s rather at odds with the one generally taken by civil rights law. And that was my original point: a shortage in any other group generates a lot of “what’s wrong with us?” soul-searching at universities. This generated mostly a “what’s wrong with them?” reaction.

Lots of interesting stuff. That’s part of the fun of having a blog, especially one that gets a lot of email. Post one paragraph of commentary, and get all this back! I love the Internet.

UPDATE: Reader Joe Davidson writes:

I think that the problem starts in kindergarden. Every time a student (almost always a boy) is disciplined for “shooting” someone with his index finger, every time a game of dodge ball or tag is stopped because it is not “nice”, all the boys involved or witnessing this are turned off on education.

We have made boyhood a medical condition to be cured for the middle class students, and a criminal problem to be punished for the lower classes. School mischief has become criminalized.

Is it any wonder that boys are turned off?

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