This book, written by Helen Smith, who happens to be Glenn Reynolds’ (AKA Instapundit) wife, was probably the first work that both came out of the ‘manosphere’ and received some reviews from major publications like the Wall Street Journal. What’s unusual about it is that most of the sources are men, speaking honestly about their beliefs about the changes in the marriage system since the sexual revolution.
The book appears to have sold rather well, but it doesn’t appear like it received much of any attention or push-back from the left, despite its broad criticisms of the spread of feminist influence within the university, the marginalization of men from some areas of public life, and the weak hand which the family court system gives to men.
What you won’t find in this book is anything like a rousing defense of patriarchy or Pauline gender relations. You will find a lot of excerpts of blog comments from places that do advocate that, like at Dalrock’s. Incensed men’s rights activists take up a large portion of the book, so many of the issues focused on are relatively tangential, like men being forced to pay child support for children that aren’t genetically theirs.
On p. 65, Dr. Smith talks about the flight of men from the university:
Imagine that women were taking flight from the nation’s universities and colleges; we would have a national uproar. When men flee, it’s worth a mention every once in a while and there is a bit of hand-wringing over what effect their apathy will have on women. Who will they date? Who will they marry? Will the men be good enough for them? What about hypergamy? Women need to marry up, so the men better man up, get educated and make plenty of money to make women feel more secure. But it seems that many men are no longer going along with the plan. Some have given up on college as it has become a “finishing school for women,” and others never had the chance to consider it as they became disconnected from school a long time ago.
The book also draws from Christina Hoff Summer’s earlier book about academic attacks on masculine values.
There’s an entire section in the book about the ‘decline of male space,’ owing to the banning of all-male clubs, and the doctrine that women must be included in all male social activities.The only way that men can separate themselves from women for a time is to either be isolated, or choose hobbies which are repellent to women.
Where the book is weakest is where it argues for “real equality” and a “rebellion against female privilege” fought by an “Army of Davids.” Feminine privilege is part of Western civilization, and one of its better aspects. Except feminine privilege is not ‘privilege to pretend to be a man,’ but an exchange of virtue in return for protection and respect.
Leftists who love equality prefer feminism, because women are the weaker sex in need of boosting, whereas rightists will tend to favor the more traditional system of unequal rights, roles, and responsibilities. As a political program it isn’t a workable one, although it fits into a story that appeals to the modern muddle.
Some of the advice is comically bad:
What about all of the angry women in the world, like the vicious types who think of men as enemies that are belittling and abusive? Call them on it. Women hate being called out in front of others; if a woman is rude to you or belittling in public, call her an emotional abuser in front of others or in a blog comment.
The reason why it’s bad advice is because to believe in the theology which holds up ’emotional abuse’ as an offense to be sanctioned is to also believe in feminism, and a whole raft of leftist political points besides. Also, feminists are not wrong to see men who oppose feminism as enemies who belittle them.
Yes, we are enemies. No, we don’t want to get along. Yes, we hate feminists. Yes, we belittle their way of thinking, with ample justification.
Let’s not get overly nasty with the author, who is not going to be capable of departing too far from her training as an academic psychologist. It’s better than average at diagnosing the problem, but not terribly good at suggesting a workable solution.
Are men “on strike?”
The title is perhaps self-serving and self-flattering. It’s not so much that men are on strike or that women don’t need men. It’s perhaps more that the complex social structures which prepared men and women for lifelong marriage and the duties that come with it have been destroyed.
There is no marriage preparation anymore. There is something like anti-marriage preparation, which prepares men and women both for an entirely self-centered style of thought and life. People are instead prepared for serial romances and anonymous-ruttings which have high failure rates, cause pervasive misery, and secure employment for urban psychotherapists who earn their keep by gluing together the broken people so that they can go and break themselves some more on the romantic meat market.
We have also lost the sense of manners, aesthetics, and faith common to the people of the past. People who have bad manners have trouble getting along with others, especially their spouses. People who are messy, ugly, lazy, profligate, immodest, promiscuous, and childish in their tastes do not make for good spouses nor good parents. The habits, beliefs, institutions, and moral systems which fostered family life have largely been destroyed, and since they have been destroyed, it will not be easy to recreate them.
Part of what destroyed them was the popularity of the Freudian system of thought, and seeing as the author is a professor of the intellectual framework that descends from Freud, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s little mention of the supplanting of more traditional ways of life with the psychological way of thinking in this book.
The failure of marriage also relates to the disruption of American community life, and the reorganization around individuals and the nuclear family. When there is marriage trouble, the friends will advise each spouse separately in many cases to dissolve the marriage, even if children are involved.
There are countless professionals who earn commissions only when they successfully break up a marriage. These legal and psychiatric authorities are family-butchers who specialize in cleaving one flesh into two, promising lives of happiness and self-fulfillment to each aggrieved individual which will come after the cutting.
Given how effective this system is at carving up families, and how much suffering it generates, it’s no surprise that fear is what many people feel when they contemplate modern marriage. In the case of children of divorce who are now adults, that fear is not something that can be assuaged by sharp rhetoric which, to their ears, sounds like a command to put their hand in a garbage disposal, to flick the switch, and to then watch as the blades mangle the extremity.
“By their fruits ye shall know them,” and modern people do not produce good fruit. The failure to produce good fruit can be portrayed as a brave stand against injustice, it can be produced as an inevitable consequence of technological progress, or it can be portrayed as a shirking of duty, but none of those things solve the problem of improving and increasing fruit production.
Besides, if technological progress was really so effective at generating happy children, fewer ambitious Palo Alto high school students would fling themselves in front of the CalTrain with such annoying monotony.
When you want to grow apples, you go to a man who runs an excellent orchard and ask him to teach you how to do it. Humans are not apples, but they are creatures of the earth nonetheless, so to get an answer about how to grow more and better humans, we should go to the people who are already quite good at it, rather than devoting all resources to recriminations-campaigns and image-building-campaigns which redefine moral failings as proud stands against injustice.