Sunday, February 16, 2014

What do Miles Groth, Erin Pizzey, Warren Farrell and Karen Straughan have in common ?

They were all recently featured on the StudioBrule YouTube channel. These luminaries on the state of the contemporary male have loads of insight to offer anyone interested in the misandry in modern culture.

Building on my discussion with Dr. Janice Fiamengo, Dr. Miles Groth, professor of psychology at Wagner College NY, considered the need for a Male Studies program independent of the present Gender Studies departments. The proposed new Male Studies programs, such as the one at the University of South Australia, have sparked criticism within academia from feminists like Michael Kimmel, professor of Sociology at Sunnybrook College NY, who maintains that proponents of Male Studies have an ulterior anti-feminist, misogynistic motive. 

Professor Kimmel claims that
creating a Male Studies studies program is equivalent to creating a White Studies program, and that all men enjoy "Male Privilege" as a consequence of their gender. Whereas professor Groth believes that universities have become unwelcoming to male students and that this contributes to the decline in male participation in higher education. Dr. Groth defends the need for a Male Studies program on the basis that the present Gender Studies programs view men as a privileged class of oppressors and this bias prevents them from addressing men's issues with scholarly rigor.

I invited several feminists, including Jennifer Nedelsky (University of Toronto), Michael Kimmel, and Michael Flood from the University of Wollongong in Australia,  to this, and other, discussions. They all declined to participate. Other feminists I invited did not respond. 

Since I started investigating men's issues a little over a year ago, I have repeatedly been told that feminists refuse to constructively engage their critics. I reached out to feminist academics anyway, and found that this is indeed true. I have yet to receive agreement from even one feminist or Women's Studies professor to participate in any discussion with a critic, or even to offer an opinion on the Warren Farrell protest from November 2012. The following is typical of the responses that I have received: "I do have some reluctance to contribute to your program, given the speakers you’ve featured thus far. And I’m not convinced that the medium is a crucial one for these debates.

Whether crucial or not, YouTube's accessibility makes it dangerous to anyone hoping to control the message on any given topic. More importantly, feminist academics refuse to engage their critics on any medium, but choose the rather cowardly approach of sending their naive and newly fired-up students to protest Warren Farrell, Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young, and to confront Janice Fiamengo, instead of addressing Dr. Fiamengo's well-researched critique themselves. We are left to conclude that feminists cannot counter their critics.

The speakers that I have interviewed are all respected contributors to this discussion everywhere but at Women's and Gender Studies departments. The problem is that these thinkers are critical of modern feminism, and feminists prefer to remain cloistered among like-minded thinkers who do not question feminist tenets, very much like a tightly controlled religious order. 

Feminists do not question basic premises like "The Patriarchy,"  which is defined as a set of rules designed by men to benefit men at the expense of women, and "Male Privilege," the idea that all men enjoy unearned advantages in society simply because they are male. These ideas are sacred to feminists, who do not tolerate any doubt to their veracity. And this is understandable since the entire structure of feminist thought is dependent upon these ideas. Undermine the idea of Patriarchy and all of feminist thought falls apart. Naturally, that scares the pants off feminists. So, "Patriarchy" is as sacred to feminism as "Jesus, the son of god" is to Christianity. 

When confronted, feminists resort to statements like "it's just true," and studiously ignore that most men throughout history have held little, or no, power, even over their own lives, never mind the lives of others, as pointed out by Dr. Farrell, Dr. Groth, and others. Even today, very few men yield any real power in the world. 

But it is the ordinary, powerless men who must pay the price for feminist goals and aspirations, while the wealthy and powerful continue to benefit from the sacrifices of these "ordinary men." From where I sit, this looks a lot more like the power and privilege of wealth, than "male privilege" and "patriarchy." Money opens doors and makes people listen and take action, much more than does gender. When men have a measure of power today, it is usually because they are good at making money, which in turn is because they are good at making things that other people want to buy. Men also tend to give a lot of that money to women, often with no strings attached, a fact that seems inexplicable within the feminist paradigm. And, ironically, it was mostly money from rich men that built the feminist movement, another wholly unacknowledged truth. Why the rich and powerful promote feminism is a topic for another day.

I took the time to read some of the work from feminists that I have invited into conversation, and I have found little, to no, profound diversity of opinion among them. Sure, there is the occasional mild correction and refinement on various points, but mostly they are firmly in line with feminist orthodoxy. I scanned Dr. Floods article "Men as Students and Teachers of Feminist Scholarship," and there's barely concealed contempt for men spread throughout this article. Please read and decide for yourself, but I certainly would not feel welcomed in a Women and Gender Studies class if the examples presented are even remotely accurate. Dr. Flood quotes a 1983 article in "Women’s Studies International Forum" by R.D. Klein on the men in Women Studies:
"There is the expert, who treats feminist theory as just another body of knowledge which can be wielded with his masculine expert authority. There is the ignoramus, who tells women that he has no idea what Women’s Studies and feminism are, and would the women please tell him. And there is the poor dear, who say it is awful and a terrible burden to be a member of the dominant group, and who looks toward women to save him ... Men claim attention and take up space, while women are invited to defer to masculine expert authority, deal with men’s problems, rescue and ego-massage them, and to heap praise on the signs of understanding from men that they would take for granted from women."
These comments are extraordinary in that they present males solely in negative ways and Dr. Flood admits that these patterns persist today. In fact he seems to suggest that the young men today are still "experts," ignoramuses," and "poor dears." If a professor dared to characterize female students in this manner he'd be chased to the unemployment line by a blood-thirsty mob of feminists, and the university president would be apologizing profusely for weeks. Furthermore Dr. Flood uncritically considers men's resistance to feminist teachings to be a problem with the men. He does not consider the possibility that men's resistance might be justified. Again, this reflects his uncritical acceptance of feminist theory as truth, and therefor resistance is a sign of inadequacy.

While Dr. Flood believes that both men and women would benefit by studying feminist theory, Dr. Fiamengo makes a good case that Women's Studies is not a legitimate field of academic scholarship in the first place. From what I have learned this past year, I'm inclined to agree with Dr. Fiamengo. Feminists have not even begun to address her critique, possibly because they can't.

In one lengthy email exchange with Dr. Kimmel, I asked "Isn't it convenient to state summarily that all men are privileged due to their gender?" to which Dr. Kimmel responded: "It's not 'convenient' to observe male privilege. It's just true. How can you doubt it." 

I expected a lot more from a professor of sociology, especially since this claim of "male privilege" is being used to justify all manner of female-only special benefits and programs at universities and in society. Are these the signs of privilege: men do all of the dangerous and unpleasant jobs; most homeless are male; the high male suicide rate; men lose 90% family court custody battles; men are disappearing from campuses; men are prosecuted and sentenced more severely than women for the same crime. I am dumbfounded that an academic can be so dismissive of such obvious evidence against his theory. Do we have lower standards of evidence in sociology? Perhaps in sociology "it's just true" counts as evidence, and "how can you doubt it?" counts as an argument. If so, we need to eliminate sociology from university.

Talking to Warren Farrell and Erin Pizzey always yields interesting insights, and this conversation was no exception. Our conversation ranged from the legalization of husband-killing advocated by Elizabeth Sheehy, to the Elizabeth Fry Societies attempts to criminalize men while legalizing prostitution for women only

On February 6, I attended and streamed a talk by Karen straughan, aka Girl Writes What, at Ryerson University. The Ryerson Student Union earned a minor footnote in history last year by outlawing any campus group that failed to center women's voices in the discussion on equality. It was therefore fitting that this men's rights advocate spoke against the recent suggestion by Hanna Rosin that men were obsolete at Ryerson. Karen's lecture is worth hearing and I will soon be posting a shorter "summary" version of it.

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