Has something finally changed in the sexual politics of academia? For more than a generation the verities of feminist theory and female interests have dominated administration policy, including who gets accepted to college and who graduates.
Anyone who has taken part in academic life for the last thirty years is well aware of the organizational power of women’s studies departments. That power has yielded a tacit veto on initiatives they feel are neither philosophically nor practically in sync with their views. Efforts to study the behavior of men have tended to be smoothly integrated into “men’s studies” which can be harshly but fairly described as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the established women’s industry. For a common example, a review of the current course offerings of the University of Toronto reveals some 40 courses explicitly focused on women and their activities. There are two concerned with men specializing in homosexual and transgendered men.
This is clearly a reason for the growing disenchantment and ineffectiveness of male students which has led to a disproportionate ratio of female to male graduates is at least 40% male to 60% female. From their first day of school, males are less successful than females. Even in nursery school, four of five students expelled are boys (how does anyone get expelled from nursery school?) and the overwhelming number of victims of Ritalin are boys.
This largely reflects the ability of women to succeed in the system and the plight of men to flounder. However it becomes necessary to question the system itself, if only because it is largely publicly supported and such a discordant result of taxpayer money is in itself volatile. The system has often very mushily configured sex-gender,-males- females, as post-modern derivatives of cultural norms rather than focusing on the nature of sex itself. In this formulation, there is no essential sexual reality, only its description, evaluation, and codification as if life were a series of competing magazine articles.
Are Men Morally Defective Women?
This sort of folderol recently prompted the American Anthropological Association to question the use of the term “science” in its description of its work. Surely everyone knows everything is relative, science is just a style, a chimpanzee is just a congeries of attitudes to chimpanzees, post-modern argumentativeness renders discrete realities into conceptual hash. There also rests here an approach to males which demeans and discourages them such as the rape seminars which are common as first day programs in countless colleges such as my own Rutgers. The implied critique of men even lurks in women’s bathrooms. On the doors of female lavs at Colby College and many other places is a set of comments on how to respond to rape and what to do. At some freshman orientations, the new female students are given a whistle to blow in case of male attack. Hello there—and watch out for our men. Here and elsewhere males are treated as morally defective females – victims of what I called “male original sin.”
Recently an initiative has formed to defeat the confusions of women’s and men’s studies by focusing firmly and candidly on male studies. This should be a curriculum owned by none of the existing players in the field but rather an amalgam of disciplines beginning with fundamental biology and primatology and embracing an array of materials without prejudgment.
An upcoming conference at the New York Academy of Medicine in April will feature a broad array of scholars troubled by the failure of the academic system to produce an equitable number of successful male products. Secondly, it is important to challenge the broad reluctance of the existing women’s and men’s studies groups to examine their estrangement from biology and what emerges from it such as an understanding of the very different and eventful reproductive strategies of all males and females.
This may be interpreted simply as criticism of fellow scholars and scientists. Some of that is of course implied. But the principal impulse here is to firmly confront a serious misalliance between the academy’s personnel and their clientele. This is reminiscent of the failure of companies such as General Motors to ally their product with their market. The academy is inexorably losing male market share. The extant pattern is obsolete and unnecessary. Change, if it comes, is likely to derive first from practitioners with a revised model than the imprecision of the current narrative. The male studies initiative of course is nascent, tentative, with few resources. But the response to even its introduction to the academy has been promising, fun, and reassuring.