By Helen Smith, PhD
So, here’s some convenient symmetry. A dozen years ago, I entered Oklahoma State University’s Graduate School of Education. Why I did this, I have no recollection beyond being unhappy with my professional life as a reporter, and – on short notice – the school didn’t require the GRE. I wasn’t afraid of the GRE, but this was a last-minute decision, so in June I applied and by August I was attending classes.
To emphasize this point: unlike every other Graduate program at Oklahoma State University, that of Education did not require an entrance exam. See also: Rigorous.
A couple points, before I plow on: I’ve always been, politically, extremely Conservative. Until 2001, when I entered the school, I also assumed people were generally “good” – my politics might differ from a professor’s, for example, but at the end of the day, there was an assumed goodness. It was naïve, yes, but up to that point – the fall of 2001 – as Conservative and well-informed as I thought myself, I was still a hopeless Beta male.
That term – Beta male – is a tricky one, and I tell you up-front this isn’t an easy admission. I’d always had an easy time with women, but I had a difficulty sustaining relationships. Said Beta thoughts and behaviors ruined relationships with women I could have grown to love, and far worse, said attributes ruined relationships with two women I fell in love with.
I heap the blame for this on myself.
Most Girlfriends of Christmas Past have told me bluntly that I’m emotionally icy, a hard-read and “too stuck in my ways.” On the occasions I’ve met someone I actually click with and have had relationships with, the verdict has inevitably been – be it from the girl or me – that “we’re just too different.” I’ve been in love twice – the first told me that at the end of the day, “we weren’t a good fit” while the second found me on Facebook back in the day and told me “I heard you were dead.” Ahhh … love.
That fall of 2001, pre-9/11, I bought a copy of Christina Hoff Sommers’ creepily prophetic book, The War Against Boys, and it was my Red Pill Moment. I read it, then I read it again, and along with Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics and Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, consider it one of the three formative texts of how I think today. I know I should cite Locke or Mill or Burke et al, but I’m honest like that – those are the three books that changed me at varying periods in my life. No, seriously: changed me.
I’m already careening off the rails – apologies.
Sommers, one of the very few women of academe who see the villianization and vilificationof American men as a bad thing, proceeded to write a book in the category that most would consider Social Sciences, and in said book laid out how the systemic discrimination against boys in America’s education apparatus is not only underway, it’s ridiculously effective. More than a decade after she published The War Against Boys, her work stands as the kind of work of intelligence any smart person dreads: the well-researched warning shot that was entirely ignored, only to see its predictions proved spot-on. I would add that if you have a son, you’re insane for not reading this extremely accessible book.
More than a decade after the publication of The War Against Boys, we now have an America where college campuses are overwhelmingly represented by women and the facilitation of their interests, prisons are overwhelmingly represented by men, and the notion of masculinity is to be synonymous with feral, if it’s considered at all. At this point you can’t even call it a war – like Carver said in The Wire, “wars end.” Although womyn have gotten everything they could’ve dreamed of, they continue to battle against men in the worst way possible: by ensuring boys are have fewer and fewer male role models in school and in sport.
So, we’ve come full circle with Men on Strike. Sommers fired the first shot (arguably), and now Dr. Helen Smith is here to assess the damage, so many years later. Up-front, I admit this was the book I’ve, er, most-been-looking-forward-to in 2013, and she doesn’t disappoint. Dr. Helen, as readers of her blog know her, is the wife of Glen “Instapundit” Reynolds, himself a law prof at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Helen is a psychologist with an interest in men’s issues, and her blog is centered on said issues. Like Sommers, she is the odd female academic who is actually interested not only in what men think, but how we behave. More importantly, Dr. Helen’s interest, unlike many, many other women who’ve written about the plight of men, isn’t how the failures of men affect women, but instead how these failures are affecting … men. (This is a novel approach if you’ve read many of the books by womyn about men – most really are interested in a backdoor style of subterranean misandry disguised as concern trolling).
Her book is what I call a “must-read” – it references the work of Sommers and extrapolates from there – invaluable advice regarding paternity and divorce law strategies, accidental fatherhood, college campus sexual politics – it’s all covered. Dr. Helen doesn’t so much close the circle that Sommers opened so long ago, she expands it. In its own way as read by a man, the book is every bit as chilling as anything Stephen King penned. If I need add a review nugget, “Dr. Smith has put together a book about men and our pathos, and then took the time to discuss these pathos with men. Kudos.”
I think it’s obligatory in such reviews to get my Oprah on, so to speak. Dr. Helen writes at length about “going Galt” regarding men who – lack of a better word – disappear. A romantic at heart, I’d always dreamed of having a family. A product of an American nuclear family, it was natural that, as a teenager, I assumed that by the time I was thirty or so, I’d have a wife and children. Instead, by the time I was thirty, I’d – to use Dr. Smith’s re-use of Ayn Rand’s term – “gone Galt.” I didn’t drop out of society, I simply decided that I’d never marry, and I’d never bring children into this world. I wish this wasn’t The Way, but as a man who treasures self-preservation, independence and freedom, the idea of a wife and children under our current Draconian family law structure is unthinkable for a person like me.
Irony abounds. My folks have been married for almost fifty years, and most of my guy friends who are married seem quite happy in the cradle of wife and kids and home and hearth. I have one friend whose first date with his wife occurred at my college apartment on Halloween in 1996 – they’ve been together, never apart, ever since. Conversely, my closest guy friend just went through an insanely expensive divorce (no children involved, thank goodness) and is already engaged to Number 3. Some dudes just need a woman in their life, I guess.
Like many men who have the aforementioned Red Pill Moment, once I had it there was no turning back. Within a few years of reading Sommers’ groundbreaking work, I was introduced to Chateau Heartiste nee Roissy, what I assume is the most-trafficked online men’s site run by an indiidual. “Where pretty lies perish” is the tagline, and the WordPress site is written and ranted by a DC player who is about my age. It gets the bulk of its attention for its keen insight regarding Game, but it is – as much as anything – a chronicle of the decline of American and Western Culture and the insidious role feminism has played in said decline. He posts daily, often multiple times, and each post garners hundreds of comments – the only place I’m aware of that provokes more comments-per-post is the feminist site Jezebel. It is unsurprising, I’d add, that Men on Strike references Heartiste multiple times.
Men on Strike plumbs many themes that are commonplace at Heartiste’s and other men’s online forum: the nefarious role that White Knights and Uncle Tims play in enabling the entitled American woman, the self-ostracization of American beta males and – as important as any of this – the shrinking of men’s space. I was surprised Dr. Helen didn’t touch on 4Chan, one of last places on Earth where uncensored, anonymous posting is still encouraged, and it is place largely of, by and for men.
What I would add to Dr. Helen’s work is this: if you are the parent of a boy or boys, you need to get that child out of the public schools, and you need to do it immediately. If you can’t afford a private school or can’t get a scholarship to such a place, you need to rethink your fiscal priorities. If it really is impossible, then you should homeschool the child.
Obviously, these aren’t practical solutions for everyone, but American parents continuing to send their boys into government facilities that are openly hostile to them is, to me at least, the definition of madness.
Public schools are by far the biggest culprit in what’s happened to men, because for a generation said schools have been quite efficient and outlawing boyish behavior. Schools desire docile, still, quiet, compliant children, something antithetical to most boys. As bad as it is now, wait until Common Core is stealthily rammed down your district’s throat and, therefore, your child’s mind. Banning recess, tag, dodgeball, competition et al was bad enough, but it’s nothing compared to what the “3 esses” crowd have in store for your children (that would be “self-esteem, sexuality, and socialism,” the three pillars of today’s public schools).
Dr. Helen closes Men on Strike with her own recommendations, all of them practical examples of how men and women can fight back against the growing fear of and hostility aimed at boys and men in our culture. As men, whether one chooses to go Galt or fight back is up to the individual, but as Selena Kyle eerily noted, a storm is coming.