As the percentage of males on our college campuses continues to decline, many observers are finally beginning to ask questions. Much of the discussion has focused on the fact that boys at all levels K-12 have fallen seriously behind their female counterparts, and how our schools are not meeting boys’ needs. This discussion of males’ educational problems–particularly the problems of low-income and minority males–is long overdue, and boys’ sagging educational performance is the main reason for the increasing disappearance of male students from our college campuses.
However, there is another, unacknowledged reason why some males don’t go to college–rampant anti-male feminism has made college campuses a place where many males feel unwanted and unwelcome. To use a feminist term, our universities have become "hostile environments" for young men. To illustrate, let’s look at one campus–the University of California at Los Angeles, 1999-2001.
Sensationalized lies about men–what dissident feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and others call "Hate Statistics"–were an integral part of the campus culture. The Women’s Resource Center (later renamed the Center for Women and Men), the Clothesline Project and others publicized discredited academic frauds like "one in four college women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape" and "domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44."
Worse, such statistics were repeated ad infinitum and ad nauseam by the campus newspaper, the Daily Bruin , and also by both professors and students. The message behind the lies was clear–men are so powerful and despicable, and women are so helpless and victimized, that men had better not dare to complain about anything.
This hostile attitude towards males is manifest in the classroom as well. I recall, for example, my Latin American folklore class, taught by a woman whom we’ll call Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith is a kind, gentle, elderly lady whose bigotry rings as loud and clear as that of any stereotypical racist Southern cracker. The sometimes subtle, sometimes slap in the face prejudice which males endured in her class is typical of what occurs in many modern university classes.
Early in the semester Ms. Smith informed the class that all folklore was widely believed to be a code of misogyny that was developed and employed by men to suppress women. Ms. Smith did say she considered this to be a slight exaggeration, yet whenever a folktale contained a negative portrayal of a woman, it was cited as evidence of the rampant misogyny in men’s dark souls. What Ms. Smith never explained was why this "misogynistic" folklore contained far more negative portrayals of men than of women.
Ms. Smith also informed us that folklore was largely invented by women, because it was women who had the "long, tiresome, boring jobs" and thus the motivation to invent it. Unanswered were two questions. One, why would we say that folklore was misogynistic if it had, in fact, largely been invented by women? Two, did we really imagine that the men of that era–or at least 98% of them–did not also have "long, tiresome, boring" jobs?
Ms. Smith wrung her hands over the stigma, enshrined in some Spanish folklore, against romantic or sexual activity by Spanish women whose men had gone off to fight the invading and occupying Moors. This was, she said, another example of the oppressive social controls which men placed upon women. What Ms. Smith never mentioned was the nature of the oppressive social controls which made 12 and 13 year-old Spanish boys march obediently off to war for years at a time, many of them never to return.
Most of the males sat in the back of Ms. Smith’s class, an arrangement which started to feel more and more like the back of the bus. The females in front were fully engaged, enjoying the class and its anti-male tales. Not surprisingly, many of the males were disengaged, and seemed to be there simply to put in their time.
One day, after an hour or so discussing tale after tale where Ms. Smith concluded that the men involved were always wrong or evil or cruel or stupid and the women were always right and good and kind and smart, Ms. Smith began softly describing a soothing tale of a father and his daughter setting off through the woods to go to the big city.
"The father…and his daughter…rode together… as they went through the beautiful Spanish countryside," Ms. Smith said softly.
I sat back and closed my eyes.
"They…were on their way to the big city…the daughter had never seen the city before….she was happy that her father was taking her…"
I imagined a special, loving, father-daughter bond.
"..and then….he rapes her."
Jolted, I sat up. A male in the back of the classroom pushed his heavy book off of the table and it made a loud, crashing sound.
An accident? Or the only protest he could make?
I did sometimes protest in Ms. Smith’s class and others, but a 6’2" male confronting a female educator about her bigotry, however politely, is quickly perceived as a bully. In addition, tension and arguing make the days and semesters long and hard, and there were times when it was easier to tune out, as so many other males had done. Some male students have told me that they had been retaliated against at grade time for speaking out against misandry. I never had this experience, and Ms. Smith did grade me fairly.
In Spanish language class we were reading and discussing Snow White when a properly PC-educated male student raised his hand and lamented the poor, womanly lot of Snow White, "forced" to cook and wash dishes while the dwarfs "did nothing." Naturally I raised my hand and explained that mining (the dwarfs’ trade) was a hard, dangerous job which required a lot of sacrifice. I was immediately fighting a battle against the male professor and 10 other students (the usual odds one faces when confronting misandry in our universities) but I defended those seven dwarfs the best I could.
One woman, an older student obviously infused with decades of anti-male bigotry, smiled contemptuously and explained that whatever the dwarfs did, they still didn’t do housework and were thus morally indicted. In her world, whatever men do, whatever their special sacrifices and their burdens, all that matters is who washed the dishes last night.
Part of the reason it is difficult and unpleasant to be a male college student today is that anti-male bigotry pops up by surprise all the time in the most unlikely of places. For example, on my Portuguese final we were presented with some disputes and were expected to discuss possible solutions to them in Portuguese. A couple of the problems were between married couples, and in both situations there was a clear person who was right and a clear person who was wrong. The reader can guess the gender of both offenders without my assistance.
In answering one of them, about a husband who was oppressing his wife by not "doing his share" around the house, I explained that numerous studies have shown that, when all work–both housework and breadwinning–is considered, American men are doing at least as much in their households as women are. I also noted that I was unhappy with this negative portrayal of men.
To her credit, the professor graded me fairly and responded to my objection. She explained that my complaint was not valid because men’s control of society and women were so vast that a man’s complaints about anti-male prejudice paled in meaning beside it. In other words, it’s OK to say whatever you want about men, no matter how unfair, cruel, or inaccurate, because all the man-hate in the world could never amount to more than tugging on Superman’s cape.
Even by the professor’s own PC logic, however, her argument fails because many of the males in the class were black or Latino. On the PC left’s strict race/gender hierarchy, she should have at least shown sensitivity to those minority males. After all, their maleness is something to despise but their color is somewhat redeeming.
Perhaps the professor still imagined herself to be "oppressed" even in relation to those minority males. In reality, this white, middle-class female teacher enjoyed many advantages which even white middle class males did not have, such as a longer, healthier, safer life, and more choices as to how to live it.
While at UCLA I made money on the side doing carpentry and construction work. After a while I noticed a strange phenomenon–I looked forward to the work and I did not look forward to going to school. How was it possible that I looked forward to hard, hazardous labor but had little desire to spend my days comfortably sitting in class?
One reason probably was that I enjoyed building and creating. Camille Paglia calls carpentry and construction work "male poetry." While I don’t want to idealize the work, she definitely has a point.
Perhaps more importantly, when working I could feel valued as a decent human being instead of as a lesser who was always expected to apologize for himself. Doing construction work I endured no bigotry arising quickly and unexpectedly out of what had seemed to be a pleasant conversation or lesson, and no verbal slaps to the face. It somehow seemed much more peaceful and harmonious.
While on my knees hammering thousands of nails into a scorching hot asphalt shingle roof I often reflected upon my higher education. I thought of the smug professors who teach contempt for men in the massive, red brick buildings assembled brick by brick by men who risked their lives to build them. According to men’s advocate Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power, even today "virtually no large office building or bridge is built without a man dying in its construction, whether as a lumberjack, trucker, welder, roofer or construction worker." I wondered how many had been killed or maimed in the construction of UCLA. Or did anyone even bother to keep track of such a thing?
I and a friend from UCLA who sometimes worked with me often commented on how strange it was that men–many of whom put their safety on the line to extract, refine, deliver, construct, produce, and build the infrastructure and wealth upon which this society is based–are treated with such contempt by our educators. How strange that the group which makes these sacrifices (including the three million mostly male workers who the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says are injured on the job each year) is derided as seamlessly "privileged," while those whose jobs rarely put them in harm’s way are always the "oppressed." Feminists once correctly criticized our society for not properly acknowledging the massive contributions of women in child rearing and housework. Today it is men’s contributions which are ignored.
On one job we were building a loft in a large warehouse. Because of the warehouse’s peculiar conditions we had to stand under the loft and support it without it being secure. As my friend and I struggled under the weight of the loft, he smiled and joked, "you know, if this were to come crashing down on us right now, my last wish would be that one of my beloved professors could be standing here right by my side as it happens."
In the library after Ms. Smith’s class on the day the student dropped the book in protest, I pondered how sad and unfair it was that he and other young men had been branded, stigmatized, and marginalized in the institution which was supposed to enlighten them and set fire to their minds.
I thought of the feminist academics (female and male) who poured their derision upon them, knowing that their students could not effectively fight back. I thought of the timid male professors who were so content with their own careers that they were perfectly willing to allow 18 year-old boys to be beat up on rather than jeopardize their own comfort by speaking out. And I asked myself a question which hundreds of thousands of male college students often ask themselves:
"What am I even doing here?"
- She Thinks11/13/02