Why Males Don't Go to College
By Glenn Sacks, Thursday, October 7, 2004, This column first appeared in She Thinks (11/13/02)
As the percentage of males on our college campuses continues to decline, many observers are finally beginning to ask questions. Much of the discussion has focused on the fact that boys at all levels K-12 have fallen seriously behind their female counterparts, and how our schools are not meeting boys' needs. This discussion of males' educational problems-particularly the problems of low-income and minority males-is long overdue, and boys' sagging educational performance is one of the main reasons for the increasing disappearance of male students from our college campuses.
However, there is another, unacknowledged reason why some males don't go to college-rampant anti-male feminism has made college campuses a place where many males feel unwanted and unwelcome. To use a feminist term, our universities have become "hostile environments" for young men.
To illustrate, let's look at one campus-the University of California at Los Angeles, 1999-2001. Sensationalized lies about men-what dissident feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and others call "Hate Statistics"-were an integral part of the campus culture. The Women's Resource Center (later renamed the Center for Women and Men), the Clothesline Project, and others publicized previously discredited claims such as: "One in four college women has been the victim of rape or attempted rape" and "domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44."
Worse, such statistics were repeated ad infinitum and ad nauseam by the campus newspaper, the Daily Bruin , and also by both professors and students. The message behind the lies was clear-men are so powerful and despicable, and women are so helpless and victimized, that men had better not dare to complain about anything.
This hostile attitude towards males is manifest in the classroom as well. I recall, for example, my Latin American folklore class, taught by a woman whom we'll call Ms. Smith. Ms. Smith is a kind, gentle, elderly lady whose bigotry nevertheless rings loud and clear. The sometimes subtle, sometimes slap-in-the-face prejudice which males endured in her class is typical of what occurs in many modern university classes.
Early in the semester Ms. Smith informed the class that all folklore was widely believed to be a code of misogyny that was developed and employed by men to suppress women. Ms. Smith did say she considered this to be a slight exaggeration, yet whenever a folktale contained a negative portrayal of a woman, it was cited as evidence of the rampant misogyny in men's dark souls. What Ms. Smith never explained was why this "misogynistic" folklore contained far more negative portrayals of men than of women.
Ms. Smith also informed us that women largely invented folklore, because it was women who had the "long, tiresome, boring jobs" and thus the motivation to invent it. Unanswered were two questions. One, why would we say that folklore was misogynistic if women had in fact, largely invented it? Two, did we really imagine that the men of that era-or at least 98% of them-did not also have "long, tiresome, boring" jobs?
Most of the males sat in the back of Ms. Smith's class, an arrangement which started to feel more and more like the back of the bus. The females in front were fully engaged, enjoying the class and its anti-male tales. Not surprisingly, many of the males were disengaged, and seemed to be there simply to put in their time.
One day, after an hour or so discussing tale after tale where Ms. Smith concluded that the men involved were always wrong or evil or cruel or stupid and the women were always right and good and kind and smart, Ms. Smith began softly describing a soothing tale of a father and his daughter setting off through the woods to go to the big city. "The father....and his daughter....rode together... as they went through the beautiful Spanish countryside," Ms. Smith said softly. I sat back and closed my eyes. "They...were on their way to the big city....the daughter had never seen the city before.....she was happy that her father was taking her..." I imagined a special, loving, father-daughter bond. "â€¦and then.....he rapes her."
Jolted, I sat up. A male in the back of the classroom pushed his heavy book off of the table and it made a loud, crashing sound. An accident? Or the only protest he could make?
I did sometimes protest in Ms. Smith's class and others, but a 6'2" male confronting a female educator about her bigotry, however politely, is quickly perceived as a sexist bully. In addition, tension and arguing make the days and semesters long and hard, and there were times when it was easier to tune out, as so many other males had done.
Part of the reason it is difficult and unpleasant to be a male college student today is that anti-male bigotry pops up by surprise all the time in the most unlikely places. For example, on my Portuguese final we were presented with some disputes and were expected to discuss possible solutions to them in Portuguese. A couple of the problems were between married couples, and in both situations there was a clear person who was right and a clear person who was wrong. The reader can guess the gender of both offenders without my assistance.
In answering one of them, about a husband who was oppressing his wife by not "doing his share" around the house, I explained that numerous studies have shown that, when all work-both housework and breadwinning-is considered, American men are doing at least as much in their households as women are. I also noted that I was unhappy with this negative portrayal of men.
To her credit, the professor graded me fairly and responded to my objection. She explained that my complaint was not valid because men's control of society versus women' s control is so vast that a man's complaints about anti-male prejudice paled in meaning. In other words, it's okay to say whatever you want about men, no matter how unfair, cruel, or inaccurate, because all the man-hate in the world could never amount to more than tugging on Superman's cape.
In the library after Ms. Smith's class on the day the student dropped the book in protest, I pondered how sad and unfair it was that he and other young men had been branded, stigmatized, and marginalized in the institution which was supposed to enlighten them and set fire to their minds.
I thought of the feminist academics (female and male) who poured their derision upon these college men, knowing that their students could not effectively fight back. I thought of the timid male professors who were so content with their own careers that they were perfectly willing to allow 18 year-old boys to be beat up on rather than jeopardize their own comfort by speaking out. And I asked myself a question which hundreds of thousands of male college students often ask themselves:
"What am I even doing here?"
This column first appeared in She Thinks (11/13/02). It is reprinted with the permission of SheThinks.org, a publication of the Independent Women' s Forum
Glenn Sacks writes about gender issues from the male perspective. He can be reached at Glenn@GlennSacks.com.