Profile: Author Helen Smith’s ‘Men On Strike’Posted: January 9, 2014 | |
Men Are ‘On Strike’ Throughout The U.S.: What Are The Causes?
Jerry Bowyer writes: I haven’t seen my copy of Men On Strike for several weeks. I kept careful watch on the book until I finished interviewing her, but after that it disappeared into the Bowyer-Family-Book-Sharing Vortex from which it has not yet emerged. That’s because it is an easy read about a topic which is interesting in both a social science theory way, and in a figuring out how to get by in the current world kind of way.
Men on Strike is pretty much what the title says it is, a book about how many men have decided not to participate in certain areas of life, most notably in school, family, and increasingly in work. What separates the work of Helen Smith, a psychologist who deals with men like the ones she writes about in her book, is the lack of scoldiness that you might find in the similar work of say Kay Hymowitz’ Manning Up. For Smith, the men are in large part acting rationally. They’re more John Galt than they are Peter Pan. The book could as well have been titled Andros Shrugged, if ancient Greek titles sold books.
The controversy has erupted in another quarter, namely in a series of blog and counter blog salvos between the aforementioned Hymowitz and the popular Best of the Web Today blog authored by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal.
Despite the fact that Hymowitz seems to be the only one in the debate who actually cites Smith by name, Taranto seems to be closer in spirit to the thesis of Men on Strike:
“Boys and young men are no less rational, or capable of adapting to incentives, than girls and young women are. They are, in fact, adapting very well to the incentives for female power and independence–which inevitably also serve as disincentives to male reliability and self-sacrifice.”
Before the Hymowitz/Taranto controversy erupted, I sat down with Dr. Smith across a Skype connection (one set up by her tech savvy husband, Glenn Reynolds who also writes a popular blog here) for a delightful conversation about the book and whatever else happened to come up.
For the full interview, click here.
Or you can read selected transcriptions (edited for clarity) below.
Jerry: “Our guest is someone who has a fascinating idea about the relationship between the genders in our modern world, particularly the impact that it has on men. She’s a psychologist who specializes in forensic issues and men’s issues. She’s also a blogger for PJ Media, and she’s the author of Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream – and Why It Matters. My guest is Dr. Helen Smith – psychologist, PhD – just Helen to her friends so as you’ve indicated I’m not going to call you Dr. Smith throughout this interview. First of all Helen, thanks for joining us today.”
Helen: “Thank you so much for having me on, Jerry. I really appreciate it.”
Jerry: “So, do we need to defend any longer the idea that men are on strike, or has there been enough commentary about the withdrawal of men from higher education – and to some degree from the job market and the marriage market – that that is now no longer a controversial idea? That men are in some sense not functioning in a proper, completely connected way with modern society?”
Helen: “Well, I think people always think it’s controversial when you say anything positive about men or try to stand up for them, but I think that you’re right; there’s been a lot of information out there and there have been a lot of books about men not getting married or going to college. There have been books like Hanna Rosin’sEnd of Men, or Manning Up (Kay Hymowitz), Save the Males… and the basic message of these books has been that men are acting immaturely, and the reason I wrote the book is that actually I think they’re acting rationally. The rewards for men in the fields of marriage, education, career, and fatherhood are just a lot less than they used to be, and the cost and dangers are just a lot higher. So they’re opting out, and whether people want to believe this or not, it’s happening.”
Jerry: “It’s interesting – you mention Kay Hymowitz’s book, which is in some ways similar to yours but in other ways very different. Let’s not single her out in particular, but there does tend to be a scold-y tone. Yeah, that’s really going to work with men, right? There does tend to be a scold-y tone in a lot of the “what’s wrong with men” vein, the “failure to launch”, “they’re not going to college”, “they’re not participating in the economy” – a tone that seems to (interestingly for liberals) place no obligation whatsoever or no causal effect whatsoever on larger societal factors.”
Helen: “I definitely think there is a scolding factor and I think people are so used to shaming men, and that’s very prevalent in the culture. I think that we see – I mean, there are so many messages through the commercials, through the media, that men are just no good. And so it’s just so easy to pick up and say that, “Yeah, men are worthless. They’re not good fathers.” We’ve got so many messages out there and I think that’s a really negative thing to be sending to men and particularly young boys in schools and in society. Going back to some of these books like End of Men or Manning Up, you’re right: the message is basically, “You know what, you’re doing this because you’re just an immature man.”
- Why Are Liberal Men Unhappy? (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Interview: Dr. Helen Smith, Author of Men on Strike (objectivemotifs.wordpress.com)
- The Child Is Father of the Man (city-journal.org)
- The 10 Dumbest Rightblogger Ideas of 2013, Part 1 (blogs.villagevoice.com)
- [VIDEO] Six The Movie – Helen Smith (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Media Matters Tries (but Fails) to Discredit James Taranto (womenformen.org)
- For Fathers Only (zachmcintosh.com)
- Best of the Web Today: The Moralistic Fallacy (online.wsj.com)
- [VIDEO] Six The Movie – Helen Smith (ivoter.com)
- “it’s all about neutralization of maleness” (legalinsurrection.com)