An Antidote to Awful Scholarship about Men

Stony Brook University has received a substantial grant from the MacArthur Foundation to promote – under the direction of sociologist Michael Kimmel – an earnest effort to study “masculinities.” Not men or males, mind you, but masculinities, as if there were an array of mysterious subspecies of human males waiting to be studied. This suggests another deliberate effort to obfuscate the natural categories of male and female and assimilate the contemplation of male behavior and being into the feminist environment of gender studies, an extension of women’s studies.

Women’s Studies insist that all sex differences result from the magazines and sitcoms people consume and certainly not the biological categories male and female which reflect ubiquitous realities of nature. The new Stony Brook center threatens to offer further spurious confirmation of one of the most oddly pernicious features of our intellectual world – that sex is a role and we are all reading for the part. And it is hardly encouraging if not also stupefying that among the patrons of the Center are such scientific midgets as Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler. However these earnest ladies will doubtless be fine feel-good leaners-in and enhance the hum of certainty that maleness must be turned into something resembling femaleness.

The most demoralizing feature of the Kimmelesque strategy is that it is predicated on a meandering corpus of poor scholarship- not especially or only Kimmel’s but the overall group of social constructions of which he has been a representative leader. Verily, we are dealing with the social contraction of reality here.

Want to discover what is actually happening with men and women now and did happen throughout history? Latch onto a copy of The Privileged Sex by Martin van Crevald, an astonishingly learned polymath and author of 21 books on subjects ranging from military strategy to nuclear proliferation.

He wrote Privileged in German a decade ago and was surprised that little had to be changed for this new English version. The constant theme he examines in venues from Ancient Rome to medieval Austria to Betty Friedania is that groups of men everywhere and always supply society, protection, and resources to groups of women. With prodigious scholarship, he shows that the law and social norms have privileged women over men, at all places and all times.  Briskly and efficiently he describes the “false consciousness” (delighted to use the famous phrase) which permits the President of a large sophisticated community (ours) to continue to parrot among countless others the deceiving and moronic stat that women earn 77 cents on the male dollar. Men work longer, more dangerously, don’t take 4-8 years off to childbear. Women like and accept and may prefer part-time work far more than men. They do not enroll for courses leading to higher-paying jobs such as naval architecture and petroleum engineering but choose to work in lower-paying ones such as social work and primary teaching. Now in big towns if they are childless they earn more than men in the same jobs and we are also told that in 40% of US families women are the principal money earners. All the emergent data underline the decreasing economic efficacy of males in modern labor forces. The overwhelming majority of victims of Ritalin in grade school are boys – evidently one of 5 male students – presumably drugged in order to tamp them down so they will behave more like females in school. (Meanwhile in France, Ritalin is only rarely prescribed and is regarded as a dangerous drug – almost no one is allowed to have it.)

The Privileged Sex is the cumulative antidote to The Second Sex which for all its splendid learning and pioneering sense of disappointed wonder about the human condition remains a political document. Any serious thinker on these matters will have to consult Van Crevald for an honestly clear insight into the matter of sex and why and how it matters. Enough please with “ities”.


  • Lionel Tiger

    Lionel Tiger is Darwin Professor of Anthropology Emeritus at Rutgers and the author of many books, including "The Decline of Males."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *