Mainstream media outlets are finally starting to pay attention to men’s issues. In particular, the recent scandals and human rights abuses at the University of Toronto (see here and here) have provided a shocking controversy that is difficult to ignore. Two days after Dr. Miles Groth spoke at U of T on why we need men’s centers in higher education, I received this email from a reporter for USA Today College:
My name is Monica Vendituoli and I am a reporter with USA Today College.
I am writing an article about whether there is a need for men’s centers at colleges in the United States after recent discussion on the subject in Canada surfaced. I am trying to get opinions from men’s rights activists, as well as feminists, women’s studies, and gender studies activists/academics and women’s centers. May you please answer the following questions for my article?
- Do you feel men’s centers are needed in United States colleges?
- Do you feel women’s studies programs cover issues of masculinity? Do you feel more men’s studies programs are needed in the United States?
- What issue do you think is the most troubling for American men on college campuses and why?
- Any other comments?
- Do you know of any students I can speak with who wouldn’t mind speaking to me about this topic?
- Do you know of recent studies on male identity in college?
Any help is greatly appreciated. My deadline is Monday at 5 p.m. I can also be reached at ***-***-****.
I also received this tweet:
Note that I was offered this opportunity after only one month of this website being officially active. That’s a pretty early milestone. I had been interviewed before by a newspaper (by The East Texan, A&M-Commerce’s campus paper, about due process on campus), but never before by a national publication.
I am happy to report that Monica conducted herself as professional journalist. While providing a disinterested framework, she sought out dissenting opinions and alternative points of view. True intellectual diversity is like a banquet, where a variety of perspectives are laid at the table and allowed to shine in their own light. After a long history of misrepresentation by the mainstream media, it is nice to see the voices of men’s advocates presented alongside others’.
Here is the link to the article, which appeared in USA Today College today (October 2):
Given that there were so many people interviewed, we were all quoted briefly. I was also happy to see that Dr. Dennis Gouws, an English professor of Springfield College who supervises a men’s group there and has been supportive of my efforts, was interviewed as well. As Monica reports:
“I often ask students to write about their experience of overt and covert gender discrimination against males in academic environments, and they routinely describe instances of public humiliation and systemic indifference,” writes Dennis Gouws, an English professor at Springfield College, in an e-mail.
Monica cites the topics I addressed in our interview near the end of the article, saying:
Distress over fulfilling gender norms can lead to depression and anxiety for college men, according to data analyzed by the American Association of Suicidology. Men between the ages of 20 and 24 were four times more likely than women to commit suicide.
Yet there is debate whether men’s centers are the right way to address suicide and other issues facing college men.
“Men’s centers are so important, because they invite men to come together and break down the barriers of isolation,'” writes Jonathan Taylor, founder of A Voice for Male Students, in an e-mail.
The topic of those three paragraphs (suicides) come mainly from our interview. She also cited the source I provided for her. Of course, there was far more that I said. Here is my full email response:
Thank you for contacting me via Facebook and Twitter. Please forgive me if I ramble a bit. You should definitely have enough material to pick from in my responses, however.
You mentioned asking for some of my personal info. While I also mentioned it in a Facebook response, I’ll repeat it here for convenience of reference. I graduated with a B.A. in English at Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2008, and subsequently taught entry-level freshman and remedial composition and argumentation and tutored at-risk students at that institution for three semesters. My phone number is ***-***-****. Also, my email address is *****@*****.com.
My responses to your questions are below:
Question: Do you feel men’s centers are needed in United States colleges?
Yes, I definitely think men’s centers are needed in U.S. colleges. We need spaces that promote men integrating within their community and fostering a re-conceptualization of male identity, particularly from a perspective of understanding and compassion toward men and boys as a group. This is especially relevant given that the most troubling issue for American men on college campuses (as I’ll explain later in this message) is isolation.
Question: Do you feel women’s studies programs cover issues of masculinity? Do you feel more men’s studies programs are needed in the United States?
Women’s Studies programs do cover some issues of masculinity. The chief problem with them, however, is that they do not do so from a perspective that is truly inclusive of the totality of the experiences of both sexes, nor do they advocate that most critical element of men’s advocacy: compassion for men and boys as a group.
The Feminist paradigm advocates the worldview that women as a political class are oppressed by men as a political class (“patriarchy”), and that any disadvantage men face is incidental to what they call patriarchy, whereas those women face are central to it. This foregone political conclusion – some would say dogma – of Women’s Studies programs tends to sweep disconfirmatory evidence aside, and often has the effect of marginalizing men’s and boys’ experiences. This characterization is true of most – if not all – dominant schools of Feminism in academia today.
Like the staff at avoiceformen.com, I call myself a Men’s Human Rights Activists (MHRA). Many call us MRAs as well. As an MHRA, I do not believe that society is, generally speaking, a patriarchy. I have described why at length here:
To briefly summarize, while I acknowledge that men are overrepresented at the top of society (have the best jobs, the most prestigious and influential political positions, and so forth), I also acknowledge that they are also the majority sex at the bottom of society (the homeless, the incarcerated, those who commit suicide, those who have the most brutal, filthy, and deadly jobs, and so forth). And just as the base of a pyramid is much wider at the bottom, there are far more men at the bottom of society than the top. This is also why I, for a while, blogged under the pseudonym “The Common Man” (TCM).
Thus, from my perspective, if a system of male power disadvantages far more men than it empowers, it begs the question as to whether it was – generally speaking – a system of male power to begin with. While Feminists ask “don’t men hold most of the top jobs and political positions?” as a means to prove the existence of patriarchy, in my perspective this question is too narrow to be determinative. The real question is “do men control the majority of forces that impact human behavior?” And given that human biology and certain innate sex differences drive a substantial portion of our human psychology (which in turn influences our culture), and given that our institutions are oftentimes the mere formalization of that culture, the answer is no.
The limitations of the Feminist perspective have direct and negative implications for how Women’s Studies programs address men’s issues and masculinity. In addition to sweeping disconfirmatory evidence aside and marginalizing men’s experiences, Women’s Studies programs require men to acknowledge their conscious or unconscious complicity in “the patriarchy” (a flawed worldview, as discussed earlier) and point to that – or in other words, themselves – as the chief cause of their pain. They do not generally acknowledge how the expectations of both sexes have shaped the culture we live in, or how members of either sex can be guilty of sexism, misandry, and misogyny.
Lastly, many current Men’s Studies programs adhere to the narrow political orthodoxy of Feminism, which is why they are simply “more of the same.” For that reason I do not believe that more such programs are needed to broaden our understanding of gender, although I support intellectual diversity for its own sake.
Instead, I think we need to broaden the tent and include more diverse worldviews. Generally speaking, I believe that the worldview advocated by MHRAs is a more inclusive and nuanced worldview, and as such would enrich the discussion on gender as well as provide a valid counterbalance which would over the long term be more beneficial to advancing the cause of equity and social justice than if it were absent from the mainstream discussion.
Question: What issue do you think is the most troubling for American men on college campuses and why?
Isolation – psychological, social, and political. This is also why men’s centers are so important, because they invite men to come together and break down the barriers of isolation. That isolation manifests itself in several ways, which I will describe below.
Men and boys are 80% of suicides, a phenomenon which spikes between the ages of 15-24 (high school/college-age males), and is often the end result of their inability to identify their own vulnerabilities and reach out to others for help. Sources here:
In addition, many young college men are coming fresh from an environment in lower education that, over the past several decades, has increasingly relied heavy-handedly on suspension, expulsion, and law enforcement in place of intervention and counseling in discipline matters, part of what some call the “school to prison pipeline.” This has increased both the physical and psychological distance male students have with the school community, as well as limited their means of re-integration. This affects male students in particular, given that they are twice as likely to be suspended and three times as likely to be expelled. Source (page 70):
Male students are also much less likely to participate in student government, academic and student clubs, music, and performing arts. Source:
Lastly, college men do not have anywhere near the institutional outreach that female students have (mentoring, scholarships, grants, and so forth). They do not have any strongly established political presence in academia that reaches out to them with the goal of fostering understanding and compassion toward them. What they have instead is an alienating political ideology called Feminism which is primarily invested in judging them.
Any other comments?
Yes. As someone who has done a lot of research on men’s and boys’ educational issues, I divide them into three main areas: educational attainment & wellbeing, institutional bias, and rights and protections. If you would like to see a summary of those issues, please refer to the “Summary of Issues” page on my website A Voice for Male Students, linked here:
Also, thank you for covering the issues.
Question: Do you know of any students I can speak with who wouldn’t mind speaking to me about this topic?
I would say [redacted] at [redacted], a MHRA seeking to set up a men’s issues group there. Here is some contact info if you need it: [redacted].
Do you know of recent studies on male identity in college?
Although it is not as “holistic” as it sounds, you may consider the article “A Holistic Approach to Addressing Men’s Issues in Higher Education through Chickering’s Student Development Theory,” published ~2008 in the Journal of Student Affairs, Vol. XVII. Here is the link:
I believe that is everything you have asked for. Please contact me if there is anything else you would like to know. Given that I would be at work tomorrow (the day of your deadline) and will have limited access to the internet, I am most easily reached by phone at ***-***-****. Thank you.
Founder, A Voice for Male Students
Addendum: there are also, of course, some critiques that could be made to the article. Monica parrots, for example, the statistic that 1 in 5 college women are victims of sexual assault, a figure that Feminists have cooked up and often use to rationalize the profiling of male students and the suspension of any kind of substantive due process in administrative hearings when they are accused.
This statistic is, of course, untrue. Simply review the campus crime reports of a wide variety of colleges and universities, and you will find that the number of reported assaults – even when considering underreporting – are orders of magnitude below the 1 in 5 figure.
She also cast her interview net a little wide on the Feminist side, but not so much that it was anywhere near a shutout. While some MHRAs in the comments section of the article (not on this site) took exception to the (slight) slant, the reality is that this article is more balanced than what you will find on other mainstream publications like Huffington Post College (which I review at least every other day) any day of the week.
If anyone doubts it, feel free to take a look at this screenshot of HuffPo College, where almost every article has a female face, there’s no pro-men’s advocacy presence anywhere, 95% of anything to do with gender is all women, women, women, and some of it really has nothing to do with education issues at all but rather women’s interests – such as fashion.
I’d like to thank Monica for interviewing me, and for helping me shed light on the under-addressed problem of male isolation and male suicide on campus.