Universities’ Love-Hate Relationship with Men
Warren Farrell, Ph.D.*
As our sons and daughters return to campuses, we pay for them to learn about life, and know that for better and worse they will also learn about love. We may fear, though, that the love part is more likely to be by ecstasy and heartbreak than by curriculum—since we can’t recall women’s studies focusing on the promotion of love.
Has that changed? Since women today are exceeding men at every academic and most emotional levels, has the anti-male anger of women’s studies’ early years been replaced by a concern for our sons’ “failure to launch”? Are men’s studies curricula helping us understand what has created that failure to launch? Are gender studies teaching both sexes compassion for the other?
Answers: no. Good causes often create bureaucracies that become more a part of the problem than the solution. As the only male three-time board member of the National Organization for Women in New York City– in the early ‘70s–I’ve seen the world change from college-women–as-minority-group to college-women-as-majority-group (57%) even as the universities themselves are still giving scholarships to women as minority groups, and painting males as the “patriarchal oppressor.” Two snapshots in time will give us some reference points:
Back Story, 1972: In the picture below, I am leading a protest in support of the Women’s Strike for Equality. One banner barks, “Men’s Liberation: Men are Not Success Objects.” (I’m the object under “Objects”– I can’t recall anyone accusing us of being success objects!)
Back Story, 2012: I am invited to speak at the University of Toronto by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ). CAFÉ is among North America’s first attempts to transform the discussion of gender on campus from a monologue into a dialogue. I am speaking on the Boy Crisis.
Or am I?
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) feminists combine with other feminist groups to rip down hundreds of posters advertising the event—most within hours of posting. The SWP has labeled CAFÉ an MRA—a men’s rights activist. They label all MRA events as hate speech, creating the rationalization for not a protest, but a blockade of the entrances to my presentation.
Approximately 100 protestorsform this human blockade, preventing many students and community members from attending my talk, subjecting those who pursued to endure vicious insults, and, by forcing an hour delay, exhausting the patience of still others.
The protesters alleged police violence. Fortuitously, Steve Brule was filming a documentary. He documented the police restraint and protestor violence—protestors shoving and swearing at police (“you f…ing scum,” etc.). Brule’s video went viral (a third of a million views). It needs to be seen to emotionally absorb what has emerged on our campuses.
Often protestors have a point—if they are protesting hate speech, while one can argue freedom of speech, we can nevertheless see the hatred in the speech, and empathize with the sentiment of the protest. It’s fair, therefore, to see whether there is in fact any hatred—or even insensitivity—in the speech. Here’s the boy crisis speech the feminists blockaded–in its entirety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6w1S8yrFz4
The Atmosphere of Misandry Your Son Faces
That was November, 2012. What’s happened in the ensuing months is a veritable documentary of the atmosphere your son faces as he enters a college campus in North America, Australia, and most of Europe.
In the first week or two, he is required to attend a program on date rape, but nothing on date communication; by October, he encounters Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but never hears of a “prostate cancer awareness month.” If your son becomes involved in student governance, he has access to significant student funds for women’s centers and speakers on women’s issues, but no student money for men’s centers or speakers on men’s issues.
If your son is heterosexual, he may soon express an interest in a woman who is taking a women’s studies course or degree, and see her assiduously researching papers on how the patriarchy consists of men who made laws to benefit men at the expense of women; but for him, there is no men’s studies courses, programs or degrees. He may learn she is on a scholarship to encourage women in engineering, math or the other STEM professions; if he’s observant, he’ll note that despite few men majoring in the social sciences, he hasn’t run across even a single man with a scholarship designed to encourage men to enter social work, psychology or the other social sciences.
Your son will soon meet many women who will be working on papers and theses on women’s special interests (e.g., women’s suffrage), but virtually none on men’s special interests (the boy crisis; fathering; custody rights). If your son is a good guy, he’ll review their papers on women’s problems (e.g., domestic violence against women), but probably never see a paper on men’s problems (e.g., suicide; life expectancy; disposability; “mancessions”; domestic violence against men; false accusations; being psychologically adrift).
Cumulatively, this creates an atmosphere of prejudice against men, recently known as misandry. Devoid of this misandry, none of the following events could have developed following the feminist blockade…
The Official Canadian Castration of Men’s Issues
The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is the largest student organization in Canada, and the national coordinating body that oversees most of the Canadian student unions. There is no U.S. equivalent. In 2013, the CFS passed a resolution that prohibited either men’s issues or men’s rights groups or clubs on their affiliated Canadian campuses.
The real-life consequences? First, this Fall, your son or daughter is unlikely to even discover the option of these clubs—and therefore their ideas–because they will not be able to recruit students by setting up a recruiting table on campus. (Such clubs exist in only one major U.S. university—Montana State at Bozeman.) Second, if he or she does find one, it is likely to be ineffective because it cannot receive student activities fees to help fund its activities; and third, their club would receive no support in the promotion of its activities (e.g., creating posters). The cumulative effect? Your son would experience the group’s lack of legitimacy. Especially in your son or daughter’s first year, lack of legitimacy can be a potent force.
Suppose, though, you have a daughter who is a maverick and she wishes to start a club that incorporates a compassion for men. Sarah Santhosh and a womanfriend, Anjana Rao, appear to fit that bill: they applied to start a student group–the Ryerson Association for Equality–at Ryerson University, a large career-oriented university in Toronto. In their application, they mentioned their group would reflect sensitivity to men’s–as well as women’s–issues.
Response? The Ryerson Student Union’s Board of Directors immediately convened and passed a pre-emptive resolution that any group examining gender that was inclusive of “the concept of misandry” would be considered “negating the need to centre women’s voices in the struggle for gender equity”…and therefore prohibited from the campus.
Translation? Yes, women’s voices must be heard above all —except for those women’s voices concerned about sexism against men; those women’s voices must be silenced. The point wasn’t missed on Sarah Santhosh: “The ironic thing is my voice is being silenced.”
Was this Ryerson Student Union Board’s resolution the idea of some student—perhaps a radical feminist? No. The primary advocate was Marwa Hamad, a faculty member. Her position at Ryerson? The Vice-President of Equity. Did the Board, at least, allow for a debate? There was no debate, no discussion, and no dispute. The resolution passed unanimously. All this took place with no input from Sarah and Anjana, the applicants. It pre-empted Sarah and Anjana’s scheduled meeting with the Student Groups Committee.
This made me ponder. In that 1972 “success object” picture, we were a bunch of hippies marching in the street in the hopes of a gender equality that would benefit both sexes—what I called a “gender transition movement” that would free us from the rigid “success object”-type roles of the past, allowing more flexible roles for our futures.
From “day one” the leading universities’ women’s studies’ departments had skipped right past that—and into Marxist feminism with its paradigm of males-as-oppressor/females-as-oppressed. Over the past thirty years that model expanded from the politically correct gender framework at the leading universities, whose professors are typically more radical, into more vocationally oriented universities such as Ryerson, who in the past were barely affected by Marxist-type feminism.
Most recently, though, what Ryerson represents is the expansion of radical feminism from professor-approved to institution-approved. Thus a Ryerson radical feminist as a Vice President of the University—representing, ironically, Equity. And, like syrup in the institutional pancake, once the syrup had soaked in, it could not be removed without the institution being bent out of shape. In this case, by silencing women in the name of giving voice to women. All of this is taxpayer supported.
The Response of the University of Toronto
In the Spring of 2013, the Canadian Association for Equality invited a women’s studies professor who favored a more male-positive approach to women’s studies. The feminist groups interrupted her presentation by setting off a fire alarm. Take a listen…
The University of Toronto Student Union responded to the cumulative stimuli with a “Townhall on Sexism.” So far, so good?
First red flag: not a single representative of any group with a male-positive perspective was invited to speak. To the contrary, the only invited speaker, Danielle Sandhu, immediately supported an audience member who said, “we know there are infiltrators…”
Sandhu then challenged any members of an MRA to identify themselves, saying, “they should just leave, I could point fingers….” Sandhu had sway, not only as the only invited speaker, but as the former president of the University of Toronto Student Union, the event sponsor.
The University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society (UTMIA) had, in fact, sent two representatives, with the understanding that as an open, public, Townhall on Sexism sponsored by the Student Union and paid for by student fees, that they had not only a right to attend, but an obligation.
Sandu’s support of the “infiltrators” comment, and her challenge for them to leave or be pointed out, apparently incited audience members, who shouted, “point them out” and “make them uncomfortable.”
When the two representatives did not leave, a Vice President of the student union, Guled Arale, described by the UTMIA reps as tall and large, approached the reps, and, the reps report, intimidated them by moving into their personal space and repeatedly asking them to leave. When one rep said he was just trying to listen, he was told this wasn’t a dialogue; it was to plan strategies to stop the MRAs, and their presence made the organizers uncomfortable. One rep left immediately. The other rep was informed he really had no option but to leave, and after protesting this was an open student event, he nevertheless abided.
What was this “strategizing” about? A representative of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) suggested a “militant approach.” Although OPIRG is funded by mandatory student activities fees, the woman suggested “making this campus inhospitable to these people.” How? By finding out “where they live.”
Is the U of T administration in some way disciplining the protestors—for example, by at least charging them for the increased burden of the protests on campus security? To the contrary. The Office of Vice Provost Students just decided to charge the UTMIA—not the protestors–a mandatory pre-emptive security fee of $964 should their events be protested again.
The U of T is not just blaming the victim by fining the victim. It is giving the perpetrator the incentive to continue the protests to defeat the UTMIA by bankruptcy since the UTMIA receives no student activity fees. The administration’s approach is akin to the administration fining the women’s center for an increase in rapes on campus.
What’s the Status of Gender “Equity” on U.S. Campuses?
To update myself on the status of gender “equity” on U.S. campuses, I reached out to activists on both the men’s issues side of the aisle, and to Michael Kimmel, the dominant force on the men’s issues-as-defined-by-feminists side of the aisle.
It’s a rich man-poor man gap. Only the feminist-defined men’s issues are receiving funding of any significance from their university or a foundation. Both Stony Brook University and other foundations will be adding additional funding to a $300,000 start-up grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to establish the first Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. The center will be headed by Michael Kimmel, a male feminist and a Distinguished Professor of Sociology.
Michael Kimmel’s perspective is indicated by the title of his forthcoming book, Angry White Men. As a sociologist, Michael would, were the context different, doubtless be the first to spot the extraordinary wealth of the feminist machine vs. the virtual homelessness of men who wish to define and redefine themselves without the control of the Marxist feminist prism.
Although Michael himself has some empathy for fathers’ issues, the Center’s advisory board is thus far almost 100% the country’s leading feminists—feminists such Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Eve Ensler. Perhaps the fame and ubiquity on college campuses of Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues, symbolizes the gender monologue on campus. As Guled of the U of T’s Townhall on Sexism made crystal clear to the young man requesting a dialogue, “It’s not a dialogue.” It is, precisely, a vagina monologue.
How are men’s issues as defined by feminists different from men’s issues as defined by other men (e.g., suicide, and the other issues mentioned above)? Feminist-defined men’s issues require acknowledging patriarchy and the power bias it gives men; it encourages men to forfeit their power. Once men are seen as having the power, domestic violence is seen as the expression of male power, leaving women off the hook when they initiate (hence the Violence Against Women Act, but no Violence Against Men Act). Through this feminist prism, it expands the definitions of date rape and heterosexual rape but ignores prison rape; it emphasizes women’s greater contributions to housework and child care, but treats men’s greater contributions to income as male privilege rather than male contribution.
To my knowledge, no person who has taken a non-feminist perspective on these issues has received significant university or foundation funding, or reached Michael’s level of Distinguished Professor in any social science department at any university in the U.S. or world. Neither my contacts nor my emails from readers around the world were able to identify a single men’s studies course—and certainly no program or degree—that was not under feminist control.
There are seven scholarly journals in the field of feminist masculinity studies, and one—a recent one—in the field of men’s studies that is not feminist controlled. That one is New Male Studies. Its editor is Miles Groth, a Wagner College professor who built his reputation on the existential philosophy of Martin Heidegger. The connection between Heidegger and gender studies?: both felt the original truths being sought got lost in the seeking.
Is a Transition from “Men-as-the-Problem” to “Men’s Problems” Possible?
If feminism’s focus is on “men-as-the-problem” is there a way to make the transition to men’s problems?
There’s are two potential paths: one financial; the other, legal.
Financial first. Lakeland Community College in Ohio, and Pierce College in Washington State, found that men’s problems could get attention if couched as an issue of retention. James Shelley at Lakeland explained that the new Ohio funding formula is based on success rates, including graduation and retention. And since men are more likely to drop out, the issues putting male students at risk might be more widely considered if it meant more money from the state.
Similarly, after Pierce College’s Bret Burkholder elicited data from colleges throughout Washington State, and discovered male students about four times as likely to be dismissed as women at all of Washington state’s colleges, he got no traction when he presented it as a male problem. It too had to be presented as a retention problem.
Burkholder and Shelley face a problem similar to that faced by people trying to find a cure for AIDS. Only when it was reframed as a disease that could be also contracted by heterosexuals and women was empathy catalyzed and funding materialized.
Learning from this, Burkholder has framed his work less as about men per se, and more, for example, as about veterans, which clears through the patriotism filter; or work with single dads, since the beneficiaries are children.
This approach, while gaining traction, is still slow. As Shelley puts it, “the premise is still, ‘Men are the problem” rather than “Men have problems.” And this from the man who directs one of only three university men’s centers. (The others are at the U of Oregon, and the Houston area Lone Star College-Kingwood, just approved in 2013). And as far as men’s rights organizations with college approval, the only one I’m able to identify is the new affiliate of the National Coalition of Free Men at Montana State University in Bozeman.
The Legal Path
When I completed a tennis match with the man who was at the time the president of Northwestern University, he expressed a fascination with my introduction to him of the foreign land of men’s issues. Our subsequent dialogue went like this:
Warren: You could make Northwestern the first university in the world to pioneer a program defining men’s issues.
President: Ha. I’d be annihilated by the feminists before I got to first base.
Warren: Is there any way you could create such a program without being annihilated?
President: (Pause) Hmmm, well, actually yes. If the University were sued as being in violation of Title IX by not balancing women’s studies with men’s studies… then I’d be able to support something in the name of saving the university. I’d be more a hero than a villain.
Empowering women, whether in the workplace, sports, or internally, is a virtue. But demonizing men and undervaluing the family undermines that virtue. Male-female relationships are not about oppressor and oppressed. Men and women have worked together and died together in the family boat that navigated the waters of survival. When either sex unilaterally wins, both sexes lose. The family boat sinks.
We don’t need a women’s movement demonizing men, nor a men’s movement demonizing women. We need a gender transition movement to transition from the rigid roles of the past to more flexible roles for our future.
*Dr. Warren Farrell has appeared on more than 1,000 TV and radio shows and been chosen by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. His books are published in over 50 countries, and in 17 languages. They include Father and Child Reunion and the best-sellers Why Men Are The Way They Are plus The Myth of Male Power. Dr. Farrell has two daughters, lives with his wife in Mill Valley, California, and virtually at www.warrenfarrell.com.