Welcome To “Girlington”: Helen Smith On How College Is Becoming A Hostile Working Environment For Men
Recently I sat down with psychologist Dr. Smith across a Skype connection (one set up by her tech-savvy husband, Glenn Reynolds, who also writes apopular blog) for a delightful conversation about her new book Men On Strike. The first half of the interview certainly generated a strong reaction (just look at the comments section), but I think the second half found below is even more provocative.
Or you can read below selected transcripts (edited for clarity) of the latter part of the interview.
Jerry: “There’s a sort of universal theme in twentieth century thought – really it starts in nineteenth century thought – of an idea of a revolution by the victim group against the victimizer group, against the powerbase. Archetypally the powerbase is white, male, Christian, phallocentric, logocentric, capitalist, imperial, et cetera; there’s this list of ways in which a certain group of people are said to have victimized the entire world. And then all these different groups have their liberation moment, but the liberation moment doesn’t seem to want to stop at a moment of liberation. It seems to want to go on to an inversion; a kind of comeuppance; a, “Now it’s your turn.””
Helen: “Right. I thought feminism was supposed to be about equality. I was somewhat of a feminist, or I was very much a feminist when I was younger, because I had this idea – naively – that it was about equality, that we wanted to see men and women as equals. Instead, women today want special privileges and no responsibilities or very little, and they want men to have the responsibilities but none of the privilege. As you point out, there’s the problem.”
Jerry: “You mentioned a number of institutions in which men feel uncomfortable – no, it’s actually not a matter of feeling uncomfortable, it’s a matter of actually being disadvantaged. There’s one you haven’t mentioned yet which is something that overlaps with an interest of mine and of your husband’s, Glenn Reynolds: the idea of a college bubble, the idea of a higher education system in which the value of the product has been become completely dissociated from the price of it. Talk to me a little bit about – what do you call it, Girltown or Girlingtown? – the universities as sort of a world hostile to men.”
Helen: “Right. I call it Girlington [in the book] and that’s sort of like Burlington. There’s so many women at the University of Vermont they call the place Girlington as opposed to Burlington. What’s interesting is that it’s something like 60% women going to college and 40% men, and I think you’re right. I don’t think that it’s just the higher education bubble – I know that my husband Glenn Reynolds is interested in that and actually has a new book called The New School coming out about that very topic – but I think that actually what’s happening is that not only is the [college] commodity much less desirable to men but I think that the environment itself is actively hostile towards men. So I think you’ve got two things going on there: you’ve got a commodity college which isn’t to men as important as it used to be, and there are other things that men are finding to do; and at the same time I think that the discrimination against men in these diversity-field, women-dominated schools is also acting as a kind of barrier to men. A lot of men don’t want to put up with it and a lot of people think, “Of course that’s not really happening,” but people have no idea what men face in our colleges today. For example, they can go into a college today and be charged with any type of sexual harassment or sexual abuse and there doesn’t have to be really proof shown that they’ve done something. There are a lot of cases across the country – and I know Greg Lukianoff wrote an interesting book about some of these things — where men actually can be charged with a very low preponderance for crimes as hideous as rape. And there’s campus tribunals at some of these colleges that just say, “You know what, we think you did it and you’re out of school.””
Jerry: “The presumption of innocence doesn’t function in these campus tribunals.”
Helen: “No, it really doesn’t. There was a really fascinating article written in The Wall Street Journal by Judith Grossman talking about that very issue where her son was actually accused, and she was a lawyer and was able to help him, but there are many men who just don’t have this type of access — don’t have a lawyer as a mother and don’t have any way to get any help.”
Jerry: “And even if you get through the tribunal there’s still the tribunal of community opinion. Think about the lacrosse players who were accused of raping Crystal Magnum. Was that the stage name of the stripper who accused them of rape but later recanted?”
Helen: “I mean, can you imagine how these men must feel? It’s just in our society, we don’t care how men feel. We only care about how women feel.”
Jerry: “So that’s part of the idea that the traditional victim group is given all benefit of the doubt and the assigned victimizer group is given no benefit of the doubt.”
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.