17 July 2013
Review: Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters
Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters by Helen Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I expected better.
There's a knee-jerk reaction in internet circles to dismiss any concern of the state of men in any form as basic "men's rights" complaints that tend to go too far or address really minor points in a broader scheme. While there are a lot of extremists on all sides of the gender divide, that many will dismiss this book outright because it's about how men are perceived in society and how that perception is impacting men's participation in society in general is wrong. Unfortunately, for anyone with more than a passing curiosity on the issue, this book brings nothing new to the table while presenting an argument sure to turn off exactly the people who might need to hear it.
The good things this book does is bring a lot of the legitimate complaints to the forefront - for example, that there is an adverse and irrational fear of men around children, that universities and colleges have swung rather wildly in the direction of some of the more extreme feminist points of view in reaction to how higher education treated women before the feminist movement, the inequity in family court proceedings, and so on. As a case study of the current situation, it works.
The biggest problem is the ideological bent. The author, Helen Smith, puts her libertarian leanings on display very early. On one hand, it's good to see a person profess their leanings up front. On the other, that she leans so much on Objectivist language, including references to Ayn Rand and "going Galt," it's almost sure to turn off a lot of people who should be aware of the situations she writes about from the start. There was no need to frame the arguments in that way, as it is sure to leave out many people on both sides with an interest. A close second is the "handbook" of sorts at the end of how men can avoid being trapped in bad situations, which just comes off really poorly and reinforces stereotypes rather than offering positive options. It left me less sympathetic than I was going into that final chapter.
There's definitely a book that needs to be out there regarding men's issues and how they relate to the current world, especially involving education and family/divorce issues. This book is getting a lot of press, and while attention to the issue is a good thing, this book probably shouldn't be the one to do it.
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