The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Why Men Are "Going Galt": A Review of Men On Strike

by Masha Rifkin

The perennial refrain is getting louder all the time: “Where have all the good men gone?”

Media outlets brim with stories of “men in decline.” While women surge into the ranks of the college educated, the employed, and the breadwinners, men are dwindling in all these categories. Theories for this trend abound. The Left claims women have benefited from the transition from a manufacturing to a service economy, while men have failed to adapt. The Right blames the follow-on effects of radical feminism and the sexual revolution. But in her new book Men on Strike Helen Smith offers a much simpler answer: men are simply making rational choices to opt out of institutions and social expectations that no longer serve their best interests.

Smith, a PhD psychologist specializing in men’s issues, argues that society has grown so hostile toward men, both culturally and legally, that men are “going Galt.” They’re boycotting a society that not only fails to reward but also punishes them, simply for the unfortunate fact that they possess a Y chromosome.

Smith begins with the question of marriage and relationships. She argues that incentives for marriage have changed over the past few decades, and that now men face high risks if they choose to marry. Should a marriage fall apart, divorce courts tend to favor women (who, incidentally, initiate the majority of divorces). Current policies surrounding divorce and child custody are suited to times past, when women mostly stayed at home to raise children and depended on men financially. While social realities have changed, the laws have yet to catch up. Some states still mandate permanent alimony, which can indebt a man to a woman to whom he was married for only a short time, even if there are no children and she can fully support herself.

Men face even worse straits when children enter into the picture, Smith writes. When it comes to paternity and reproductive rights, men and women are on very uneven playing fields. Courts almost exclusively favor the mother in custody decisions and force men to pay child support, she writes, regardless of “whether [the mother] used false information or made false statements to the man concerning birth control,” often even in cases where the man is not the biological father. Thousands of men are paying for children who aren’t theirs, a condition Smith calls “de facto slavery.”

If men are increasingly wary of marriage, it would follow that they’re less concerned with making themselves marriageable. Perhaps it’s not unrelated, then, that men are also opting out of college education in droves. Smith notes that women will make up 60 percent of college grads in the near future. Some of this has to do with education losing its appeal for men. Boys and girls learn differently, Smith says, and the style that most engages men—activity and competition—has been phased out in favor of a model geared more toward discussion and cooperation, which tends to better suit women. Federal Title IX legislation also inhibits colleges from attracting male students by opening new men’s sports programs, and the law doesn’t account for the fact that male students might be inherently more interested in sports than their female counterparts.

But perhaps more important are the ways the tone on college campuses is changing. Men are now increasingly depicted as villains, intrinsically given to aggression and assault. Colleges, she writes, “have now become privileged finishing schools for girls. Except rather than learning manners, they teach women that men are the enemy and are treated as such on campus.” Smith outlines newly defined campus policies and sexual harassment laws (encouraged by the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights) that essentially pave the way for false “convictions” in kangaroo courts. Campus tribunals now require one of the lowest standards of evidence, the “preponderance of evidence” standard, to secure a conviction. In other words, a tribunal needs to show that the alleged perpetrator “more likely than not” committed the crime, by 50.1 percent. And legally accepted procedures of discovery and evidence also no longer apply. Even hearsay can be considered legitimate evidence in these modern-day star chambers.

No wonder, then, that many men are making the rational choice, whether consciously or not, to avoid or exit this hostile, sexist environment (and one with mediocre educational appeal to boot).

Perhaps Smith’s most intriguing evidence of hostility toward men is what she refers to as the decline of “male space.” Men are no longer among their own in the workforce, and male clubs, which used to be prevalent, were largely strangled in 1987 when the Supreme Court ruled that states and cities can ban sex discrimination by business-oriented private clubs. Women-only groups would never feel the same judicial censure. And now, Smith writes, in law and in certain social spheres men are discouraged or denied if they seek to form all-male groups. Men have no place to gather together, to bond, and to celebrate their gender as women do. This has led to their increased isolation, which Smith sees as a form of abuse. She writes: “When a partner isolates their [sic] spouse from friends, associates, and public places it’s called domestic abuse. When it’s done to an entire gender, it’s called feminism.”

Smith asserts that this book is not an academic study. Rather it is a treatise, a call to action. She draws from hundreds of conversations with patients and men on the street, and thousands more emails and conversations on her blog, to take a reading of the male pulse and the fledgling “men’s rights” movement. Men on Strike doesn’t offer Smith’s personally mined statistics, but it does invite the reader into the often carefully guarded world of what men are really thinking. And it also provides an overview of the societal, legal, and cultural obstacles that have led them to the choices that we as a society increasingly bemoan.

This is a must-read for men struggling to navigate through today’s world, and for women eager to discover why “good men” are hard to find.

Buy Men on Strike online here

Read Via Meadia‘s interview with Dr. Helen Smith here.

Published on June 19, 2013 5:38 pm
  • bpuharic

    I’m a straight, white, 58 year old male engineer and this is crap.

    This is SO much whimpering and blaming others for the failure of males to understand the basic Jacksonian origins of our own problem

    Two basic questions: who doesn’t have the money…and who does?

    The fact is the middle class has been under attack for decades as a result of the Lewis Powell memo and Reagan’s supply side mythology. WRM says some men are ‘going Galt’. Res ipsa loquitur. Ayn Rand was the greatest spinner of fairy tales since the bros Grimm, and it’s so much easier to blame women, the ‘law’, ‘welfare queens’, etc. rather than question the real growth of wealth among the 1% over the last 30 years and what this means about America as a meritocracy.

    Men have become too lazy, thinking that the failure to assert our economic identity with others in the middle class is not a problem while women, ‘welfare queens’, entitlements, etc are the sources of our economic disenfranchisement.

    WRM’s book “Special Providence” points out how our foreign policy has its roots in domestic concepts of ourselves. The Jacksonian view has crippled men and men us value myth over reality. THAT is why men are having problems, NOT women or entitlements. When we look at the TRIPLING of income among the 1% over the last 30 years, we see where the money has gone. Why we don’t question it is a question in itself

    • filbert

      Fortunately, I am spared the necessity of reading this comment, as it is a duplicate of one by the same commenter on the immediately previous post.

      • bpuharic

        Empty and devoid of content.

        • filbert

          Exactly my point.

    • jsolbakken

      CS Lewis was smarter than Ayn Rand, and Ayn Rand was smarter than you. Who are YOU smarter than? A 5th grader?

      • bpuharic

        The fact CS Lewis is considered a great author by Christians says alot about that sorry religion, as well as its pathetic founder.

    • Douglas6

      What Lewis Powell memo? He authored a number of well-known opinions for the Supreme Court, but I am not aware of any “memo” that he wrote that achieved any sort of public prominence. Do you have something specific in mind or are you just making this up?

      • bpuharic

        All you have to do is google ‘Lewis Powell memo’ and it’ll come up. It was a paranoid attack on the middle class, asserting that only by keeping us in control could the wealthy guarantee the integrity of the free market. It provided the theoretical architecture for busting unions, cutting capital gains taxes to the minimum, etc.

  • neshobanakni

    bpuharic:

    In your effort to twist everything into a redistributive economic narrative, a la the “Occupy Movement,” you’ve completely missed the gist of the post. It’s as if you didn’t bother to read it.

    • bpuharic

      Let me know when you have some facts to discuss. Until then, you’ve got nothing but talk radio bullet points.

  • jeburke

    What about sex? Forget the demise of male clubs and the rise of Title IX. Maybe fewer men wish to marry or even give it much thought because in our society in recent decades for the first time anywhere most men can get plenty of sex with multiple partners and no ring. Marriage is no longer necessary to have socially sanctioned sex. So why marry?

    Some might say, to have children, and certainly, many men do want to have children but the fact that 40% of American babies are now born to single women seems to indicate that a growing number of men are content to leave the child rearing to the womenfolk they impregnate. Perhaps the irony is that women used to be confined to the job of raising kids while men bestrode the world of work. Having been liberated from that, women are going out to work but still raising the kids anyway.

    • ManWithPlan

      Some men get more sex. Other men actually get less sex than comparable men used to. The sexual market is wildly unbalanced in favor of women and the most desirable men, because nearly every woman can at least obtain a fling with a desirable man, whereas average and below-average men are left with few options.

  • Anthony

    “Men are simply making rational choices to opt out of institutions and social expectations that no longer serve their best interests.”

    The human male is unusual among mammals in that he feeds, protects, and cares for his offspring and their mothers (generally). That socialization has predominated American culture until approximately last 50 years. Now, men/boys generally speaking are societally unsure of their footing – a downside (for men/boys) of both economic transition and democratic cultural inclusion (institutionally). I guess we can call it an aspect of the American Democratic Dilemma as we struggle with the civilizing process.

    By the way what demographics (in America we’re covering many hues) are covered by Author?

  • Peter

    We can partly thank Judith Butler and pals for this. And McGill U just gave her an honorary doctorate.

  • Christopher Patti

    I feel the need to mention that Freemasonry stands in staunch opposition to this trend. We make good men better and provide an environment where we can enjoy the company of our fellows and do some good in the world to boot.

    I would also say that whether Freemasonry or some other such organization, this is exactly the kind of positive socialization that men are missing in modern society.

    • ManWithPlan

      What about the lodges moving to open up to female members?

      • Christopher Patti

        The only place where that has happened is France, and that’s the least of their transgressions. The rest of the Masonic world has rather shunned them for all kinds of good reasons I won’t go into.

        This just doesn’t happen here in the US, and in the UK the UGLE has recognized lodges that are exclusively comprised of women.

        Honestly, I think this is a really great solution and while some of my brothers would view this as a heretical viewpoint, I’d love to see this happen in the US as well.

  • Palinurus

    While I appreciated the laughs, this series of posts is a profound disappointment. Whatever credibility you built up with your how-tough-it-is-for-the-lads theme, you lost it with this exercise in intellectual hucksterism. There is nothing serious about this new addition to the genre of bathroom books; she’s looking to sell books by encouraging men to see themselves as one more group of aggrieved victims in need of the therapeutic ministering and nanny-state protection. In other words, to feel good about feeling bad by blaming others.

    Where to begin …
    –the dead give-away in the use of Dr. by a non-medical doctor (the intellectual equivalent of floppy clown shoes and a big red nose);
    –the “Doctor’s” disavowal of any empirical basis for her screed — based on talks with men on the street — did she just say that! — her patients, her blog — I’m sure that’s a real representative sample, at least of those suffering post-traumatic stress from the war of the sexes;
    –the Doctor’s disavowal of any intellectual basis for her screed — the self-styled defender of men cannot define masculinity as anything other than what anyone thinks it is, meaning it’s just a construct that can be defined willy-nilly to suit one’s purposes, such as hers or the left’s or anyone else’s, and that she really has no idea what she’s been talking about;
    –the patently ridiculous statements – no “men’s spaces,” for real? Ever been in a high school football locker room, a frat house, a trip to Vegas, a boys golf outing? No competition in schools … where did she go to school? Just about everything she says about men’s experience strikes me as wrong or hyperbole;
    –the whole, noxious package — the usual right-wing polemicist’s parade of horribles, couched in left-wing, therapeutic victim-speak, and spoken with inflections of cringing outrage and simpering solicitude.

    While I don’t begrudge the good Doctor’s desire to make a ton of money selling books, I have to think that the last thing men need, especially if they’re facing adversity, is encouragement to play the victim and blame others for their failings.

    • PoliTech

      It’s almost as if you posted your nonsense in order to actually prove the good Dr, Smith’s points. Starting your rant with the Ad hominem was the best part. How dare Helen Smith have an opinion? Especially one that differs from yours?

      • jsolbakken

        The nonsense was only meant to make women feel better about themselves.

    • MoReport

      Where to begin …
      How about ‘Frau Doktor Professor’
      for a title indicating her degree of
      education, both in the classroom and
      in practice, regarding the male mind ?
      Which, I suspect, far exceeds yours,
      based on your long, long list of your
      opinions of her opinions, and your
      refusal to admit the facts in the matter,
      the changes in society and in the Law,
      which are about to define a (male)
      college student’s asking a (female)
      college student for a date as sexual
      harassment. How much further can
      the trend continue ? Perhaps a law
      forcing men to marry ?

    • jsolbakken

      So, you’re saying that a man should not consult with an attorney before he enters into this sort of contract? Good advice…NOT!!!!

    • Douglas6

      I believe it is customary in the United States to refer to clinical psychologists as “Dr.” even though their degree is a Ph.D. and not an M.D.

      • Palinurus

        The problem is that the use of the title is in this context dubious, if not a little misleading. It lends an air of professional objectivity and scientific rigor to a work that has neither of those qualities. This association of her professional work with punditry also raises questions going the other way; does her partisan punditry bleed into her professional work? To be sure, I have no reason to believe that’s the case; but I bet her book has disclaimers to dispel the appearance for just this reason. Her holding herself out as a doctor for a work of partisan punditry is a misleading labeling problem, a little like those self-proclaimed “health foods” that are nothing more than the same old processed fare with vitamins spayed on top.

        While I appreciate the comments, I’m still waiting for response to the substantive issues I’ve raised ..

        –Without any objective or broad perspective, relying just on one person’s anecdotal experience, how can you know there’s really a “war” going on, and not just some isolated skirmishes, let alone the scope and nature of the battle?

        –Without defining masculinity, how can you know men are under attack, what damage is being done, or what measures are need to defend and promote masculinity?

        –Maybe I’m too old school, but in the schools of masculinity I attended — sports, competitive schools, the corporate world — I was consistently taught that if masculinity meant anything, it meant not complaining, not seeing yourself as a victim, and not blaming others for your own problems. The last thing men need is Oprah for men.

        My larger point is that, alas, this blog used to have something called Literary Saturday. There, the good doctor proprietor WRM sought to cultivate the liberal imagination, doing the lord’s work in the line of Lionel Trilling, by highlighting the irremediable ironies, complexities, and tragedies of life. I’m thinking of, for example, a wonderful post on Benito Cerrido that teased out a certain blindness to evil and the tragic in the liberal mind, and the irony of how that blindness enabled an American to survive what others could not. On masculinity, I would have hoped for a post on the Odyssey or Henry IV part I, or even some more rigorous and objective social thinker, on how masculinity has a problematic spiritedness and craftiness; how these characteristics needed to be tempered but not tamped out through rearing and education; and how the liberal mind tended to toss the baby out with the bathwater to its considerable detriment in going to far with its efforts at curbing the wildness of young men.

        Instead, we get two posts on a partisan potboiler that, with its simple-minded moralism and self-indulgent self-rightousness, fortifies the worst tendencies of the liberal mind — close-mindedness, formulaic thinking, narrow horizons. In other words, the triumph of liberal indignation over the liberal imagination.

      • ritritrit

        PhD is a doctorate, as is D Phil and D Div. They are rightly addressed as Dr. and it is their real title.

        Medical “doctors” are only called doctor because of tradition. They are not really doctors. It is a courtesy title. Like schoolteachers being addressed as “Sir” even though they are not knights.

        • Kirk Lazarus

          Quite. An MD requires no original and significant contribution to the arts, sciences, or scholarship, which are the traditional requirements of a doctorate. It is essentially a technical certificate.

    • ritritrit

      You’re a fool. PhDs and doctors of divinity are real doctors. Medical doctors only have it as a coutesy title. Look it up. Clown.

      • Palinurus

        Thank you for your thoughtful and enlightening comment.

        Your thoughtfulness is surpassed only by your pedantry; and both are excelled by your impeccable spelling.

        I was referring, not to any arcane social register rules of titles, but to a common experience: many non-medical doctors who insist on being called doctor are often pretentious, pedantic bores. Apparently that, and anything smacking of humor, is lost on you. I think I can see why.

        Good day, doctor!

  • C T

    My husband’s workplace has a woman for its president and appears to be run 50% or more by women. He came home yesterday reporting that his workplace is holding an off-site women’s leadership retreat. They don’t hold such retreats for men. Why exactly is such a retreat for the women needed? The women have equality there already.
    How is it a good thing that my intelligent and hard-working, but humble and not endowed by nature with strong socialization skills, partner doesn’t get the benefit of any leadership retreats? His organization is writing him off as a potential leader just because of his Y chromosome. That’s more than a war on men; that’s an attack on our partnership (I can’t be the family wage earner due to multiple small children and a nursing baby) that makes me want to look for job openings for him at places that would appreciate him more.

  • seattleoutcast

    I can tell you that this is completely on target. I am 48, do not date and will never get married. Nor do I desire to work in a corporation or any large institution. I have a fantastic social live with my male friends, enjoy many hobbies and keep myself intellectually challenged. I am not in any way cowed by the anti-male movement. I’ve just ‘gone Galt’.

    This all gained momentum when the boomers took over the universities approx 1990. I saw the transition since I was there from the late eighties through the early nineties. It was a nasty time. Pop culture was also ramping-up their anti-male stance. I remember an episode of Murphy Brown where she sued a men’s club to be admitted. I told people, especially democrats, that a new culture was emerging. Nobody believed me, especially those older than me. In fact, most of those people still believe that women are at a disadvantage in a man’s world.

    Anyone remember the man from Keene, NH who burned himself because of the anti-male social services?

    I also know several gay men who prefer men simply because they can’t stand being with women anymore.

    Finally, Gen-X men are particularly angry at being suffocated in a world of anti-male feminism. You will see more of a correction as the boomers leave office.

    • Edna Mode

      No it will only get worse with Gen-X

  • Jim__L

    For men, the step between a call to action and a call to arms is a very short one.

    It is in everyone’s best interests for this problem to be addressed before it becomes acute.