Interviewing Helen Smith On: “Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters.”
Helen Smith is one of the best writers in the business about men’s rights issues and her new book, Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters, is a must-read masterpiece on the subject.
I was very pleased to get the opportunity to interview Helen about her book and what follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.
The standard liberal feminist response to a book like this is that men have every advantage over women and I know you don’t agree. Tell women why men don’t have every advantage and why they certainly don’t feel like they have every advantage.
Well, if you’ve ever read Warren Farrell’s book, The Myth of Male Power, it talks about some of the issues that men have faced over the years. Men go to war, men tend to make up more of a homeless population. We always think of men at the top, but actually that’s not really true. Men are at the top and they’re at the bottom and the thing is, a lot of times women tend to be in the middle.
But what happens is women look up and they say, “Oh, a few men are at the top.” Well, like Scott Adams wrote in the Dilbert cartoons, “Those are other men.” The average man himself is looking around and saying, “You know what? I don’t have such a good deal anymore.” And we don’t know that they ever really did.
Believe it or not, 100 years ago or more, if their wife did something, they would actually be held accountable and put in jail. So a lot of times what we think is a horrible injustice against women is actually also an injustice against men because if men didn’t keep a woman in line, the government or the establishment would put them in jail for something that a woman did.
But we always look at things in terms only through the lens of what do women need and what do women want and we don’t turn it around and say, what’s the right thing for men?
If a man came to you and he said, “Listen, I think marriage is great. There’s no downside to it.” What would you say to him? Not telling him not to do it, but maybe saying, “Have you thought about the other side of this?” What are some of the negatives for men in marriage that are making men less likely to marry?
Well, the first negatives are the legal ones. If man does get divorced, he’s much more likely to pay alimony. For example, about 97 percent of alimony is paid by men, only about 3 percent by women. Men tend to lose with their children more often. Only about 10 percent of men get custody of their children if there’s a divorce. In marriage, …if a man finds out a couple of years down the line that the child isn’t his, the state, in certain states — not most states — a man can be forced to pay for that child even though that child is not his. At the same time, if he wants a vasectomy — now this one is hard because it’s actually not on the books — but if a married man goes to a doctor and wants a vasectomy, most doctors in this country will not perform a vasectomy unless that man gets his wife to sign off.
…If he wants to leave the marriage, a woman can just point her finger and tell her lawyer that a man committed child abuse, domestic abuse — and a lot of times it’s just taken as a given. If a woman wants a restraining order against a man in a marriage, men most often are taken to jail when, you know, the woman calls the police. However, studies actually show that violence in domestic relations is almost 50% from men and 50% from women. If a woman gets angry for any reason, she can simply accuse a man and men are just assumed guilty in our society.
The other thing is psychological reasons. Men’s self-esteem suffers more than women when they don’t see their friends as often and that’s because women tend to congregate a little more. When men lose contact with those friends, their mental and, you know, their psychological health can suffer from that. Men are also generally given the worst part of the house once kids come along. The man is kind of put downstairs to the basement, whether he wants to be there or not. Now sure, a lot of men might enjoy the basement, but they shouldn’t be forced down there.
In my work over the years, I’ve actually seen men who hang around outside or they’ll say, “I don’t mind being outside in the garage,” but the minute they get a divorce they’re right back in that house and wanting the full use of it.
So, I do think that there are a lot of issues that men want to consider when they think about marriage because in our society if you make a mistake and if you’re a man, there’s a lot more at stake. If you’re a woman and you make a mistake, yes, it can be bad, but the state is with you. You probably are going to get your children; you probably are going to get some child support; it’s more than likely you’re not going to be kicked out of your house. There’s even more support for you. There are a lot of organizations to help women; there are almost none to help men.
One of the biggest issues, because it impacts people throughout their whole life is that women have surpassed men in college. There are more women graduating then men — and that’s an every year thing. This is huge because we have such a highly educated workforce. If you don’t get that college degree, it can literally put you behind for your entire life. Why do you think men are falling behind at college?
Well, there are a number of reasons and one of them is proposed by Christina Hoff Sommer, who wrote The War Against Boys. And what she says is that a lot of these colleges have become very woman-oriented and a lot of the classes that we have are more oriented towards women.
In a lot of the schools, I think boys actually lose out earlier. We don’t teach boys to like school, to want to be in school. …and the other thing is that they make worse grades. There was a study at the London School of Economics and they found that boys actually get worse grades if they’re taught by females and since only 15 percent of elementary school teachers are men, most of the teachers boys have during the day are women. Those women tend to describe boys’ behavior as much worse than they would the girls. They also tend to give those boys lower marks. I’m talking in generalities, but a lot of times boys don’t emphasize the same types of things. For example, they’re not as rule-oriented where they do everything they’re told to do. They’re less likely to sit still. They’re more likely to learn a little bit differently and the schools are more oriented towards the way that girls learn and boys are sort of told to sit down, keep quiet, and read Toni Morrison. There are really just very few boys who are that interested in that type of situation, and these high schools are not geared towards boys. There are boys who fall through the cracks, don’t further their education and like you say, it’s a shame because those boys do tend to make less. They tend to end up in jail. They tend to just do worse in life in general and we in our society, we say that those boys aren’t important. I do want to point out that in addition to white boys, you’d think people of the liberal persuasion would at least care about the minority boys, but apparently that’s not even enough to get you any help.
There was a funny phrase you used in the book, dripping with contempt each time you used it — it’s called an Uncle Tim. Tell people what an Uncle Tim is.
Well, an Uncle Tim is just a male sell-out. …They either are guys who just want to get laid and they just go along with whatever women want to say because they figure, “Oh, if this woman thinks I’m a feminist type, she’ll want to have sex with me” — then there’s the other type that benefit because they’re either political or because their job makes it easier to go along with the whole feminist bent. In politics, especially in Democratic politics, it’s just much easier. Remember women make up a majority of Democratic voters. So you have to sort of placate them and so I think that we see a lot of Uncle Tim’s in Democratic politics.
But I don’t think that’s to negate the other side of it, which are the conservatives. I’m talking about white knights. If you actually read the men’s rights blogs, and I’m sure you do, they talk a lot about white knights and a white knight is just simply the more chivalrous type. They approve of things like the Violence Against Women Act because they like to see men as the big bad wolf that women need protecting from. I think they see women more as needing protection and not as being strong and independent.
One of the things I have long believed is that women already had their basic revolution in behavior in the 60s when they’ve got out into the job market and so they’ve had this big change in their behavior. I don’t see that same change in men. To me, men basically seem to look at things the same way they did and think about things the same way they did 50 years ago. So I think there’s a big change coming in society. And so I’m just reading a little passage from your book,
“Men are opting out, bailing out, and going on strike in response to the attack on their gender. A society can’t spend more than 40 years tearing down almost half the population and expect them to respond with, “give me another,” forever.”
So what is the response? Where do you see this going with men? What do you see men doing in response to this? What’s the men’s revolution?
According to Warren Farrell, he talks about the revolution as two parts. There’s an economic one, where men really feel that they’re being held down and at the same time, there’s a psychological one in that men really feel that they’ve lost respect, there isn’t a whole lot there for them and they feel sort of downtrodden. I think as you see that more, I think those are the two issues that are really going to propel men forward to speak up for their own needs.
Because in the past, men have never really spoken up for their own needs. They’ve always worried about the community and what women and children need, but I think that men are starting to put some of their needs first and it’s not a selfish thing. I think I’m looking at it more in terms of political and legal aspects because I don’t see how anyone in the United States of America can say it’s OK to treat one gender worse.
There was a “Dear Colleague” letter that was sent out in 2011 by the Obama Administration telling those colleges that take federal funds that it wants them to lower the standards of evidence to one that says if there is a school that thinks, or if a man is accused of a sexual assault, all it needs to believe is that it is 50+1 percent true. Even a criminal has more rights than a young man on our college campuses today and I don’t see how people can think in the United States of America that it’s OK to have young men’s due process rights destroyed this way or that it’s OK for 50,000 men on any given day to be in jail for child support arrears. I thought we got rid of debtor’s prisons, but apparently it’s alive and well in the feminist state of America.
I’m not against feminism. I think feminism has done some wonderful things for women, but at the same time what feminism has become is special privileges for women and more responsibilities for men. It’s just… it’s unfair. I think people who believe that we can hold one gender down while elevating the other one are going to collapse our society at some point.