NOTE: This is not a new post; it is the same one I put out last Wednesday. Somehow, during the Babble site upgrade, the completed post was replaced with an earlier draft version. Fortunately, thanks to my wife and her feed reader, I was able to recover the post. Unfortunately, all comments have been lost forever.
I’m not on strike and I refuse to be fired so I guess that makes me Dagney Taggart, which is an odd way to open a review about a book that concerns men’s rights.
If you haven’t heard the story yet, I’m sure you’ve heard several like it. In this particular incident, while at school, a 13 year old boy intervened when one classmate pulled a knife on another. He tackled the aggressor, who already had his victim in a head lock, possibly saving the other boy from serious injury or worse. He showed quick thinking, resolve, courage, and demonstrated an ethical code that placed the life of another on a par with his own.
So of course, he was punished. He was called out of class, lectured, and sent home. His mother was told that “Sir John A. Macdonald junior high school does not ‘condone heroics,’ and that her son should have sought out a teacher instead.” When she asked about the life of the other student, the school vice principle told her that it was “beside the point.”
Saving a life is irrelevant; personal safety and proper respect for authority is all important.
This story happened in Canada, but the issue is global. If you’ve watched the videos of the horrific attack in Woolwich, England, you’ll see dozens of people walking by the scene of the attack, going about their business, refusing to get involved. They were waiting for the police to arrive.
Compare this to a church shooting in Knoxville, Tennessee. When a deranged man opened fire with a shotgun, several men in the congregation quickly subdued him, limiting the loss of life to two people. If these men had attended Sir John Macdonald junior high school, who knows how high the death toll would have been?
What does this have to do with a book called Men on Strike? Well it just goes to illustrate Dr. Helen Smith’s point that men are not getting married, not becoming fathers, and not going to college, not because they are lazy, spoiled, or refuse to grow up, but because of things like what happened to the young man at Sir John A. Macdonald Junior High. She says that men are reacting rationally to a constant barrage of messages that all say the same thing, that men are nothing more than defective women and they need to be fixed.
She calls it going on strike; I think we’ve been fired. Going on strike says that we have a choice to be men; I think we are seeing that choice being forcibly removed from us in favor of a politically correct version of manhood, where we no longer channel our masculinity, we remove it entirely. Back in November, I wrote a post covering a Pew Research Poll that showed men were increasingly opting out of marriage. I followed that up in February with a post on why men are avoiding fatherhood.
Obviously, I wrote from a personal perspective, as a father and a husband; Dr. Smith is a practicing clinical psychologist with a PhD from the University of Tennessee. I was very interested to read her take on these issues and see how it compared to mine.
The first thing you need to know is that Dr. Smith has produced a very plain-spoken book. The first line is “If you are a wimp, this book is not for you.” I think it is interesting that Dr. Smith starts off a book about men’s rights with such a forthright challenge. She’s not pandering to men in an attempt to cajole them into doing what she believes is necessary; she’s challenging them to do it for themselves, and couching that challenge in a way that is sure to provoke an emotional response.
Just goes to show she knows her audience.
Second, this is not a scholarly research tome. Instead, Dr. Smith writes that she wanted to capture through anecdotal evidence the real impact behind the numbers. In the introduction, before the book really begins, she relates the story of Thomas Ball, a man who burned himself to death on the steps in front of a Family Court building to protest his treatment by that court.
Have you heard his name before? On the other hand, have you heard the names Susan Smith and Andrea Yates? There’s something wrong when a mother who murders her children can get more sympathy than a man who kills himself to protest the unfair treatment he received in Family Court. Dr. Smith uses the Ball case to set the table for the rest of the book, demonstrating that men are not heard in our family courts, their needs are not addressed in our modern society, and their worth is not only not recognized, but actively denigrated.
Watch two hours of prime time television and count the number of times in the programming and commercials where men are presented in an unfavorable light. Is it any wonder that under a constant barrage of criticism, scorn, and yes, abuse, that men are stepping back, and politely declining to participate in their own figurative castration?
Finally, this book is intended to be a call to action; it’s not one to read and set aside. The final section of the book is given over to different strategies men can use to reassert themselves, not as dominant chauvinists, or as emasculated males, but as masculine members of society, respected for their strengths and their gifts, rather than criticized for them. As such, it fulfills the promise made in the Prologue; it isn’t a book for wimps.
My only quibble with the book is that things aren’t as one sided as Dr. Smith presents. For example, Dr. Smith states that mothers receive custody of the children in an overwhelmingly high percentage of divorces, but she fails to note that when men contest custody, they stand a much better than even chance of winning at least partial physical custody. As another example, Dr. Smith points out that the vast majority of successful suicides are by men(80%), but doesn’t address the fact that the majority of suicide attempts are by women(75%).
Don’t get me wrong; I agree with her that the deck is stacked against men in our culture. If you disagree, talk to the million men who are trapped paying child support for children who are not theirs, another area Dr. Smith explores in gut wrenching detail. And when the men find out they aren’t the biological fathers, even if they were deliberately duped by the child’s mother, they remain on the hook for child support until the child is 18. Even rape is not a defense against paying support. Dr. Smith documents a case where a minor boy was raped, then forced to pay child support to the woman who raped him. Another man was drugged, raped, and then forced to pay child support when his attacker delivered a baby. Can you imagine a court making the same determination for a woman?
So yes, the deck is stacked against men in many ways; I just prefer a more even handed presentation. On the other hand, since the purpose of the book is a call to action, it makes sense to build a one-sided case in order to start building momentum.
My guess is that most of the people who will actually read Men on Strike will be those who already agree with it’s core premise while those who don’t will dismiss it out of hand. And that’s just fine, because it isn’t meant to change minds; it’s meant to energize them. Dr. Smith states in the prologue that her intent was to foster “…a revolution to change the culture, and thus the political climate in this country that allows laws and actions against the male sex that would never be allowed against the female one.” It’s a manifesto, and manifestos are usually only read by true believers.
Again, pun intended.