Tuesday, September 27, 2005

What about the men? (2)

Amidst all these discussions of Future Desperate Housewives of the Ivy League, there's another story that's finally getting some notice: while some women are mommy-tracking themselves while still in college, many men aren't in college, period.

USA Today reports:

Currently, 135 women receive bachelor's degrees for every 100 men. That gender imbalance will widen in the coming years, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Education.

Glenn Reynolds discusses the issue here. (See also an interesting thread at Ann Althouse.)

This is not really a new story: Women were already graduating from college in higher numbers than men in 1992, when the American Association of Unviersity Women (AAUW) raised a false alarm about girls being "shortchanged" by gender bias. But in recent years the imbalance has been getting worse. For more on this ongoing debate and the data, see my 2001 article in Reason, Where the Boys Are. See also University of Alaska psychologist Judith Kleinfeld's excellent paper, The Myth That Schools Shortchange Girls: Social Science in the Service of Deception.

Why is this hapenning? And is it a problem? One common explanation is that men are off doing lucrative things that don't require a college diploma -- launching Internet start-ups, for instance, or getting jobs in the blue-collar trades. (But how many of these men really do well? Plumbers and welders may make good money, but a lot of men in the trades face chronic job insecurity and low income. As USA Today points out, "The unemployment rate for young men ages 20-24 is 10.1%, twice the national rate".) There are also more men in the armed services. Clearly a college diploma is not the only path to a good life. But there is a lot of evidence that many of the "missing men" are in trouble. By the way, if you look at the statistics, it's clear that the college gender gap is most pronounced among African-Americans (for some years now, black females in college have outnumbered black men about 2:1) and low-income people.

In addition to gender differences in enrollment, men seem to fare worse once they do get to college. According to federal statistics, of the men who entered college in 1996, only 28% graduated in 4 years or less, compared to 38% of the women; the six-year graduation rate was over 58% for women but only 52% for the men.

That brings us back to the "why." Some observers, such as Kleinfeld, say that a big part of the problem is that young men today tend to be less motivated and less focused than their female peers. (Father absence may be one factor in this.) Others see gender bias in the education system. Says Reynolds:

There seems little doubt that universities have become less male-friendly in recent decades, to the point of being downright unfriendly in many cases. The kind of statements that are routinely made about males and masculinity in classrooms and hallways would get professors fired if they were made about blacks, gays, or many other groups. Sexual-harassment policies start with the presumption that men are guilty, and inherently depraved. And colleges now come at the tail-end of an educational system that is (compared to previous decades) anti-male from kindergarten on, meaning many males probably just want to get out as soon as they can.

Some of the people I interviewed for my Reason article expressed the same view. Bret Burkholder, a counselor at Pierce College in Puyallup, Washington, who also works with younger boys as a baseball coach, told me, "If you listen to 10- or 11-year-old boys, you will hear that school is not a very happy place for them. It's a place where they're consistently made to feel stupid, where girls can walk around in T-shirts that say 'Girls rule, boys drool,' but if a boy makes a negative comment about girls he'll have the book thrown at him."

There is some evidence to back this up. Here are some data from a 1990 survey of high school students conducted for the AAUW, and spun as evidence of girls' precariously low self-esteem. When asked, "Who do teachers think are smarter, boys or girls?", 69% of boys and 81% of girls said "girls." 81% of boys and 89% of girls thought teachers complimented girls more often, while about 90% of both boys and girls said that teachers punished boys more often. On the question, "Who do teachers like to be around?," 73% of boys and 80% of girls said, "Girls." (See Kleinfeld's study, Table 16, for these data.) On the other hand, it is also worth nothing that when the children are asked about their own experiences, boys are only slightly less likely than girls to say that teachers listen to them, that they often get called on and encouraged, and that discipline and grading at their school are fair. I think it's quite an exaggeration to claim, as some do, that males have become "the second sex" in the educational system as a whole. I find male victimism to be as off-putting as the female variety.

One more point to ponder: While conservatives commonly point to political correctness and "feminization" as factors that discourage male involvement in the educational system, few pay attention to the effects of the traditionally masculine jock culture that holds learning in contempt as a "girlie" thing.

The bottom line? This is an issue that needs to be looked into. For years, academic organizations (not just feminist ones but mainstream ones such as the Association of American Colleges) have been trumpeting reports about an alleged "chilly climate" for women on campus. Maybe it's time to pay a little attention to the guys? Glenn Reynolds suggests congressional hearings. I have my doubts about the efficacy of such ventures, but if no one else gets moving, it could be, at least, a start.


Richard Bennett said...

Did you type this correctly: When asked, "Who do teachers think are smarter, boys or girls?", 69% of boys and 81% of girls said "boys."

It doesn't seem consistent with the story.

Anonymous said...


Look at popular culture---the men are pathetic, androgynous non-achievers (Seinfeld), boobs (Al Bundy), or villains (take your pick--the Lifetime Channel offers dozens).

For a guy to get kicked in the crotch by a woman (standard fare now, even in the Bud Light commercial) is humorous. Hmmmmmmmmmmm---let's see a guy give a woman a kick in the breasts. Now THAT's FUNNY!!!!!!!! (not)

Women have outdone African-Americans in the "I've been wronged and YOU OWE ME" category----cf. Larry Summers------of victimhood at its most pathetic.

I'm a 57 year-old professional man, with one son in college, one son and a daughter graduated. They can all see through the b.s., but they all resent it, even my daughter.

Most guys are too proud, and too capable, to wear the Victim badge, and Men's Centers don't seem like the answer.

Cathy Young said...

Oops, Richard! Thanks for pointing out the typo.

Anonymous said...

Dear Kathy,

Thank you for this article. (And I also thank the authors of the sources you use.)

I'm a white male American and was born in '67, so I'm an old gen-xer. I went to college for 1 year and then dropped out. I didn't drop out because of any gender discrimination, but it was for other reasons that I think are gender related.

To begin with, I hated school. The reason I hated school is because (a) I was bullied at school, and (b) I was bullied at home.

Someone mentioned the oppressiveness of the jock culture, and its true, and then throw in with that the drugs and rock-n-roll cultre (the druggies also picked on me, too), and school can be downright hellish for an intelligent boy who might do good at studies. Every time I walked through the hallways to the next class I feared getting beat up and humiliated. (It happened every so often, so my paranoia was justified.) And then there is getting beat up going and coming from home. (That also happened on more than a few occaisions.)

Now, at this point this is my side of the story. I acknowledge that it takes two to tango, and that I perhaps deserved it on a few occaisions. Yet it was also true that the bullying was persistent. Sometimes 3 or more people ganged up on me. I often did not have the opportunity for a fair fight. If provocation is a justification for bullying, then why does bullying continue in the absence of continued provocation? It's all uncivilized, really, and that should be a clue as to where the problem lies.

Reflecting on this at this point in my life, I think it is because boys require considerable discipline both at home and at school. But because of the type of economy we have, from an industrial to a post industrial economy, parents have little contact with their children and (at least as I remember shool) have some expectation that the school will civilize them.

Not so. At school there is reading, writing, and 'rithmetic and some elective classes and gym class, but where do you teach children, especially boys, civilized behavior? Outside of having to deal with disruptive behavior, usually by students who are persistent troublemakers, I think teachers are more or less out of the picture.

Boys need to be with other boys, but they also need to be with men and doing virtuous things: helping men help others as in charity, church work, and other things outside of the classroom.

Of course, those who are truly bullies represent a minority of the students, which shows that all it takes is small number of bad students to disrupt the entire system. Yet it is also true that the system cannot be disrupted without complicity or neglect. This goes back to the adults--parents and teachers--who are ultimately in control.

This would suggest significant correlation between the level of involvement of parents and teachers in the non-classroom activities of students (especially of boys) and the level of bullying in schools.

So I used to hate school, and so I made sure I got only the grades I need to pass AND avoid getting beat up at home. Being middle class meant anything less than a B in school was criminal behavior.

As to being bullied at home (by my father, of course), to give you a picture of what it was like, my father was in the military. It was just like in the movie The Great Santini. Later on it was somewhat of a relief to know that plenty of other kids from military familes suffered similarly. I however think there are aspects of the military culture that we remember fondly and count as beneficial in our grown-up lives. This is also true of me. I also think it fair to mention that my school troubles started when my family moved off the base.

Still, aside from having a military dad and adjusting for the military culture he was part of, even he went out of bounds on many occaisions. I can recall once when I was on a little-league baseball team, and we happened to lose the game. After my dad picked me up (in a car), as soon as I buckled myself in he smashed me in the face several times with his fist. (I'm not exaggerating.) I didn't know what I did (perhaps the team I was on pesistently losing also had something to do with it), but he was purple with rage and yelled in the car at me, "When you shake hands, you give a good, firm handshake. . ." Whap! (We just lined up and touched gloves as we walked by each other.)

On the way home at stoplights, he would look both ways to see if anyone was looking and then he would bash me some more. (I think at this point he's gone well beyond being the Great Santini.) At home, he kicked (with his foot) me out of the car and told me that he had his own softball game to play and would deal with me later when he got home.

I went to bed early, but understandably couldn't sleep. True to his word, when he got home, the first place he went was my room. He grabbed me, threw me out of bed, threw me down two flights of stairs, and then forced me to do calisthenics for about 45 minutes. If I stopped or slowed down, he would hit me with a broomstick. I was ten years old at the time.

I realize that this was a particularly egregious encounter with my father, but there were many, many other incidents which were very, very unpleasant.

One day, for example, my father gave me a black eye over, shall we say, something trivial. I went to school with the black eye, and the students at school who usually bullied me, as expected, started laughing at me. As each one asked me who gave me the black eye, and I told them it was my father, they stopped laughing. I was startled by their reaction, as I guess I had come to accept bullying, whether at school or at home, as a way of life.

At this point in my life, I conjecture that my father, who on account of being in the military had high expectations of me, but was so frustrated with a son who never seemed to come close to any of his expectations. I think he was one of those parents who expected the school to civilize me. That of course never happened. And although my mother was always around, she was still a woman and couldn't really stand in as a male role model. It is as if it were my destiny to endure all this.

(I should mention that desipte all this, I have developed a close and amicable relationship with father. He also regrets his behavior in those days.)

(Also, please pardon me for this long-winded comment, but I think it is necessary backround for a series of points I will make about the lack of my own initiative in education.)

After my own mother and father divorced, which at first for me was a godsend because I took advantage of the split to go live with my mother, the bullying at home and at school eventually caught up to me.

Ironically, by the time I was 16 I was in a private boarding school where there was virtually no bullying. Nevertheless, it is the first 12 to 13 years that are most important in the development of a person. During that time, I learnt one thing and I learnt it very well: I learned to hate men.

I had every reason to hate men, or human males. They were bullies, and they hated me. At 16 a boy has practically turned into a man, and this is where the lessons I learned as a boy played out in a most devilish way: I hated men, and now I was man I hated myself.

Over the next three years I was hospitalized for psychiatric disorders twice, once on account of me threatening to kill myself, another after actually trying to kill myself.

Contrasted to this, another lesson I learned as a boy, and was reinforced as teenager, was to love women. Not in the sense of as sex objects but as beacons of compassion. My own mother used to try as far as possible to protect me from my father. Sometimes she would get hurt in trying to defend me. As a teenager, in some of my own most awkward and depressed moments, it was women, teachers and students, who consoled me.

For this I admired women so much that I tried to have as many girls and women as friends as I could. I decided at some point to make a career in music, as this was a field where I could have the company of women and work closely with them. (And I liked music and excelled at it, too.) Women were beautiful, well-mannered, gracious, caring, and never seemed to get bullied. If I could choose who I wanted to be, whatever I chose it would certainly be a woman. And with all these characteristics why wouldn't I want to be one? I would sometimes daydream about what life would be like if I were female.

I came to see my own self, my own gender, as inferior because, well being male was obviously inferior. One time my father held me in front of the bathroom mirror and told me to "be a man." But what was a man except a crude bully? I'd much rather be a woman if I could. But since I couldn't I settled for thinking myself an inferior being.

Eventually, school proved to be pointless, because as a man what was my worth? Why invest in something you don't like? I was a man, and I didn't like men, so why bother "being a man"? An additional unforseen problem was that women seem to prefer keeping company with manly men, not unmanly men. Consequently, my friendships with women at some point tended to be distant and less satisfying. With few and superficial friendships as well as little sense of self-worth, school seemed pointless, so I dropped out.

Lessons I draw from my early years:

To push on in life and accomplish something, one has to have a sense of self-worth, a sense of purpose that justifies the struggle to invest in one's own self. My sense of worth had been greatly compromised, and the compromise was a gender issue.

I think the compromised sense of self-worth was a result of feminism, but not in the sense that people generally pin the blame on it. I see feminism as a reaction, a result of the absence of the male from civilized discourse and particularly in being absent from the school and the family.

Women are the other wonderful side of humanity, and boys need them too, but women cannot replace men as role models. To become virtuous men, boys need men to discipline them, guide them, and above all set an example for them. Men need to be much more involved with boys than society and the economy currently permit. An interesting fact of history seems to support this idea:

"As many historians have argued, the ideology of domesticity arose in response to the dramatic economic dislocations caused by the market revolution. Beginning in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, women were expected to raise children at home while men battled for financial security in the marketplace. In contrast to the colonial period, when childrearing pamphlets had been addressed to men because they were expected to be more rational and responsible, Victorian Americans exalted motherhood. Mothers, not fathers, were now supposed to take primary responsibility for raising virtuous children." (Religion, Feminism and the Family. Contributors: Anne Carr - editor, Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen - editor. Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press. Place of Publication: Louisville, KY. Publication Year: 1996. Page Number: 172.)

Where I think feminism, in theory and in practice, adds to the marginalization of men is in formalizing it, locking it into place at an ideological and conceptual level.

Feminism is very much a reaction to significant male brutality and agression, but it does so in a way that further implicates men in brutish behavior. Feminism, in its varied forms, says, "Look, men really are inferior and are themselves social problems." From this follows social policies which remove men from roles where they are most needed and demeans their status and social worth. (Court bias against fathers is but one example.)

Policies informed by feminism are certainly implemented with good intentions (I think feminists are trying to do good to the world, including males). Yet feminist solutions to social problems tend to be like the efforts of a man who tries to escape his troubles by drinking liquor, which then further compounds his problems. Fathers are distanced from their children because they are seen as troublesome, but without fathers boys have an increased tendency to become troublesome adults. As with a casual drinker who eventually becomes an alcoholic, this increased tendency for fatherless boys to become troublesome adults at first seems managable but gradually goes out of control.

That's all I want to say for now. Sorry, Cathy, for using up so much space.

(In case any of you are curious, I am married and work as a software developer.)

Trudy W Schuett said...

I couldn’t help but comment in response to Anonymous.

I do not believe feminists have any good in mind. Their claimed “goals” of equality were met decades ago, and now the movement has degenerated into little more than an anti-male hate initiative.

Feminists in such fields as archaeology and anthropology are re-writing history to reflect their hateful ideology, and as such are driving both men and the truth out of the way the past is perceived. Invented “matriarchal” societies are showing up as actual history in such things as popular TV channels like Discovery, and many university-funded published works by feminist “scholars.”

Public policy relating to domestic violence issues is skewed to reflect feminist principles, which ultimately causes more harm than good to even their favored group of female victims. This group, by the way, is becoming ever smaller. Among the unserved are women who have jobs, (ironically) lesbian women, women with male children over the age of 12, and women who abuse their spouses or families. Handicapped women often have problems accessing services, and I’ve recently been informed that senior (as in elderly) women are now being rejected as well.

So to get back to the issue at hand – yes, I feel that colleges have become a hostile environment for men, and their ability to access the same education as women has diminished due to feminist influence.

If I had male children of school age, I could not in any conscience, subject them to the public school system. 12 years ago, we removed our son from public school, because even then, boys were discriminated against and harassed by teachers and administration alike.

Until feminist pressure to maintain their warped concept of equality is recognized, there can be no hope of getting men back to colleges.

Anonymous said...


This is the anonymous who wrote the comment you responded to. I went to your blog. Phyllis Schlafley knows you, which means you have some importance in the American social discourse. (I'm saying that's a laudable thing.)

I agree with you that there are many (if not most) feminists who hate men and harbor ill will toward them. And perhaps the societal forest fire that is politicization of personal relationships between men and women will inevitably consume the rest of society.

In spite of your valiant efforts to save the society you know and love, this society's destruction may be inevitable. No society, culture, and civilization lasts forever. For the sake of meaninful discussion I think we have to answer for ourselves whether or not as a civilization we are indeed coming into our twilight years.

That fires consume whole forests is not necessarily a bad thing, as new forests grow up in their place. As to your efforts to save the culture and civilization you love, I think it also pragmatic to think of preserving and passing on some of the cherrished jewels of this civilization to the next one if you can't save this one.

Rainsborough said...

Why your nasty remark about hearings? Sure, some (but not most or even many) may be for crap. But it depends upon the chair and who he or she calls as witnesses. They can both call attention to and illuminate important issues.

Rainsborough said...

Why the nasty remarks about hearings? They usually (depending on the witnesses called--a good crew most of the time) both call attention to and illuminate the issue.

Rainsborough said...

"it's clear that the college gender gap is most pronounced among African-Americans (for some years now, black females in college have outnumbered black men about 2:1) and low-income people."

Is this "clear"? Some solid data on 25-29 year olds says both black females and males have only a ~17% awarded-bachelors-degree rate.
Seems maybe black women are attending college at a higher rate than black men, but not graduating.

Cathy Young said...

rainsborough -- I'm generally a skeptic about congressional hearings, but I'm willing to keep an open mind.

Re the educational attainment gender gap among African-Americans, see this report:


Gender gaps in degree attainment exist among every major race/ethnic group, but are largest for African Americans. In 1999-2000, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to women for every 100 men ranged from 117 among Asians to 131 among whites to a high of 192 among African Americans.

That's pretty close to a 2-1 ratio.

Penny said...

To annonymous with the really long post:

Excellent post. Have you considered writing a book? Your observations on society paired with your compelling personal story might have some impact on the problem, and at the very least make others more aware of the situation.

I am raising a son, and, like another poster, took him out of public school partly because of the man-bashing that goes on. I have a sister who has daughters and no sons, and hearing how she, (a teacher), is teaching them negative things about men pains me greatly.

Cathy Young said...

anonymous (the one who's a software developer) -- just wanted to say, fascinating post/story. Don't worry about using up space. I'm pretty sure it's free. *G*

And I'll be sure to reply to you in detail, just haven't had the time the past few days.

Kat said...

I am a feminist, I know and read many feminists, and have never met any feminist who either purports, or seems to hate men. (I apologise if this is something of a derailment, feel free to delete me if it is...) In my opinion it is often those who cling to rigid, essentialist gender roles who seem to despise and fear men the most- the image of men as bestial, slobbering sex-crazed brutes so perpetuated in current pop culture springs to mind. I, and many other feminists, loathe sexist adverts depicting men as buffoons or overgrown children, for the harm they do to both men and women. Sexism and misogyny hurt men as well as women (a refrain so familiar in feminist circles as to have acquired the acronym PHMT - patriarchy hurts men too.)The problems male rights activists cite as the result of feminism, from earlier male deaths to higher suicide rates, I would argue are actually due to the negative effects of socially enforced 'masculinity', whereby men are forced to assume the role of breadwinner whatever their natural inclination, and repress 'weak' or 'feminine' emotions. As a feminist who has always gotten on better with men (something which seems to be fairly common amongst we gender studies types) I can tell you that my political beliefs reveal no emasculating hatred of men, nor wish to 'feminise' anybody. I think that men and women are very much the same naturally- a viewpoint that is probably equally unpopular with a lot of anti-feminists, unfortunately - therefore it would be ludicrous for me to argue that men are "inferior" or inherently worse in any way. Feminists do indeed want equality, rather than female supremacy, we simply believe that we haven't reached it yet - not in the myriad countries where women still lack even nominally equal legal rights, and not even in the few countries where the process has *begun*. *Equal* rights are - self-evidently- not a zero sum game, a greater breadth of opportunity for women does not have to mean reduced opportunities for men.

Cathy Young said...

Kat, not off-topic at all. I appreciate your viewpoint, but with all due respect I think you substantially underestimate the presence of misandrist views in modern feminism, and particularly in women's studies (even if this misandry often hides, as in the case of the late Andrea Dworkin, behind disclaimers that "oh, we're not saying men are biologically worse, it's patriarchal socialization that has made them into malicious brutes").

Daphne Patai has two excellent books on the subject: Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women's Studies and Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Politics of Feminism. Information on both can be found at http://www.daphnepatai.com/.

judith kleinfeld said...

Here's the way a young college woman sizes up the problem. She went to college, her four brothers did not. I kept the original spelling so you can see the influence of the Women's Movement in her thinking.

"Males are pushed backwards through the multi-pronged forces of culture. While positively raising expectations on females and thus rightly contributing to their educational and business progress, the cultural expectations on males have sunken deeply. When thousands of feminists over the last 40 years took Gloria Strienrus philosophy that "a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" teaching that philosophy to their sons and inculcating many of the U.S. social structures with it, males are left with little to aim for."

This is from my next study on why young men and women are making different choices, based on what the students themselves say.

Cathy Young said...

Thank you, Judith -- great to see you here!

Anonymous said...

[commenting is the anonymous software developer who writes very long posts]:

Penny, thank you for you kind words. I have considered writing a book, many books, and I think your appreciation has given me some more clue as to what might be interesting to a wide audience, namely my thoughts combined with my recollections of my personal life.

Right now I'm working through some stumbling blocks in my personal life so that I can be a little free to write something.

Although I do not have any children (imposition of nature on me and my wife), I am nevertheless married, and being married still requires tremendous amount of time and resources. On the bright side my wife and I are DINKS (double income no kids), I'm paid well as per my profession, and my wife is a CPA. (On the topic of the gender gap in education, we're a great example of less educated male and a more educated female paired together.) So we are looking to invest our excess income into something that provides us an alternative income stream and which will give us both more free time.

Writing such a book would be awkward, as I've developed a good and congenial relationship with my father. (And which consequently has more or less, unfortunately, trashed the relationship I have with my mother.) I'm content to let bygones be bygones, yet writing such a book might open old wounds. I could of course write it under a pseudonym as I am doing now.

I would also have to use a pseudonym as there would be social repurcussions (at least within my social group) if I were to write such such a book under a known identity.

You see, I am a relgious person (though not of any semitic faith; I am neither Christian, nor Jewish, nor Muslim), and a socially conservative one at that. Within my religious community I'm also somewhat of a known and respected voice. If I were to express some of my more private views and personal past so candidly as I am doing here, at least at this time, I could both lose influence among those who look up to me and simultaneously be the object of derision by those who would like to see me shot down.

Especially if we speak out on important issues, if we can, it is inevitable that we make fast friends and sworn enemies in this world. As far as possible, it is good to keep whatever friends we make and avoid creating enemies. Yet it is also true that it is easy to lose friends but enemies tend to remain more faithful as enemies.

Another reason I'm posting here is that Cathy, you, and some of the other ladies here remind me much of the lady teachers and fellow lady students who helped me through a tremendously difficult period in my own life. I think without them I wouldn't have survived. Yet as a conservative, religious voice my own affiliation has for many years now cut me off from that part of my past that has in many positive ways made me who I am today. I feel I need to reconnect with that past, to some extent, so as not to lose my moorings as a thinker and as a person.

I'm sorry this all sounds so paranoid and megalomaniacal. I'm interested to discuss many relevent issues here in a non-confrontational way and without having to worry about my cover being blown. I have much to say and present for reflection and your thoughts.

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Jaya Permana said...

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