Is it still a man’s world? Dr. Helen Smith thinks not. In her new book, Men on Strike, she documents the disappearance of the masculine half of our human species from higher education, marriage and the workplace.
Dr. Helen was kind enough to sit down with EveryJoe to discuss her book, and the plight of men in 21st century America.
EveryJoe: Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Helen. For readers who aren’t familiar with Men on Strike, could you briefly summarize what the book is about?
Dr. Helen: The basic message of the book is that the rewards for men in the fields of marriage, education, career and fatherhood are a lot less than they used to be, and the costs and dangers are higher. So, they’re opting out.
EJ: As a woman, what motivated you to write a book focused on men’s rights?
Dr. Helen: I have worked in my private practice for over 20 years with men and feel that I have a lot of first-hand knowledge of the issues men are dealing with in modern society. For example, I have seen male patients beaten by wives and there is almost no help for them out there. I have written on men’s issues on my blog since 2005 and my readers have helped me to understand the legal, cultural and psychological issues that men are dealing with. Gender issues are dominated by women’s voices though and my main purpose for the book is to get men to speak up as they are the voices that matter. And why not be a woman writing about men’s rights? Didn’t a lot of men help in the early days of feminism?
EJ: Do you consider yourself a feminist at this point in your life?
Dr. Helen: I was a feminist earlier in my life when I stupidly thought that feminism meant equality between the sexes.
EJ: Where did you and feminism part ways?
Dr. Helen: As I worked with more men, and with the schools and court systems, I realized the discrimination against men and how little was being done about it. The feminists of today want special privileges while men continue to have responsibilities. This is wrong and is no better than discrimination against women.
EJ: Gloria Steinem popularized the phrase “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” That has become a feminist slogan. As a proponent of men’s rights, would you respond that bicycles don’t need fish, either? Or is the whole mantra just wrong, and men and women do need each other?
Dr. Helen: I think our society would be the most successful if men and women valued each other and both were treated with fairness and justice. And the research shows that a number of women still view marriage as the most important thing in their lives but fewer men feel this way. I think men and women do need each other; Steinem was wrong but it would be just as wrong to say that men don’t need women in their lives. However, if women bring men pain or legal problems, there may be little choice but to avoid interactions with them in some situations.
EJ: Right. In the book, you spend a lot of time touching on the legal problems men may face. These are issues which are very detrimental to men’s rights. These include paternity rights, paternity obligations, divorce settlements and a few other areas. Are there any countries or cultures that you know that are getting it right when it comes to these issues?
Dr. Helen: I don’t know about countries, but I think there are some states that are starting to get it right. For example, Georgia passed a law that said men who find out they are not the father of a child do not have to pay child support with proper proof.
EJ: That’s a step in the right direction. Is that enough?
Dr. Helen: I would go a step further. I think that men should have reproductive choice equal to a a woman’s choice to get an abortion. That might mean that a man could not be forced to be a father against his will or have to work for 18 years to pay child support. I think morally, a man should pay but I don’t believe the state should force him too. In addition, I don’t think that men should be jailed for child support arrears. The National Organization of Parents (formerly Fathers and Families) found that men in Massachusetts were eight times more likely to be jailed than women who owed child support. We jail men because of their gender. Our society is more lenient in these areas with women.
EJ: Men have let that happen, I think. We’ve always seen ourselves as stoic providers. Camille Paglia once said (paraphrasing) “men built civilization in order to impress women.” Nowadays, many women don’t seem impressed — neither with the civilization that men built (racist, patriarchic, competitive, aggressive), nor with men who try to build civilization at all. I suppose the feminist position would be that women will build their own, better civilization. And so men’s response is to shrug and play Xbox games. How much of the male malaise is due to unfair treatment (on rights) and how much is due to a loss of existential purpose?
Dr. Helen: I think it is a combination of both, that is fewer men are trying too hard because it is so difficult to impress and at the same time, if they do get involved with the wrong woman, legally there can be repercussions. For example, an ex-girl friend who is angry can pretty much stalk a guy, charge him with assault or commit paternity fraud and a guy has few rights. As one of the experts in my book said, “men’s rights go only as far as how honest she chooses to be.”
EJ: Wow, that’s scary. So would you recommend marriage to a man today? Or should they be learning pick-up artistry?
Dr. Helen: I would say that getting married is high stakes for a man. If a man wants to marry, my tips might be to find a woman that he trusts, take at least two to four years to know get to know her, find someone who makes as much money as you or more, and watch for warning signs that a woman might not be looking out for your best interests.
As for pick-up artistry, it has its place, especially for shy guys who don’t know how to approach women. I actually recommended “The Game” to a young man and he found it very helpful. I don’t like the idea of guys using game but in our society with how things are going, I can understand it’s value. I love to read the pick-up artist blogs and find them fascinating from a psychological stand-point. I think Roissy, Roosh, Vox Day, and other bloggers who talk about these topics get what guys are going through in the dating world and serve a useful function. I wish, though, that people did not have to play these games because a good, caring relationship is a wonderful thing!
EJ: When it comes to relationships — or society in general — do you feel traditional gender norms have any place in, or are they part of the problem?
Dr. Helen: I believe that we should not view men as “defective girls” which is what our society is trying to do. We are trying so hard to go away from traditional gender norms that we are demonizing masculinity. That will not end well.
EJ: More than one man I know has been demonized, but it’s hard to extrapolate from personal anecdotes. At the national level, who do you think is experiencing the worst sexism today in America — men or women?
Dr. Helen: I believe men are experiencing more sexism at this point in time. Men have fewer due process rights in college and can be charged with sexual assault with little due process in the campus tribunals. They have few reproductive rights, few rights in divorce or child custody and in the workplace, can be charged with sexual harassment in ways that women don’t experience.
EJ: Can a society that demonizes its men survive?
Dr. Helen: I don’t believe so, at least, not in the long run.