Friday, October 7, 2011

2 Feminist Critiques: Systemic Attention Paid to "Men vs. Women" Research, Statistics, and Sexist Conclusions

Here are some "conclusions from [USA] national data ... supported by research at ... the College of St. Benedict, and at Saint John's University":
  • Women underestimate their abilities and express lower levels of self-confidence than their abilities suggest. Men overestimate their abilities and express higher levels of confidence than their abilities warrant. This difference arrives with them as first-year students and leaves with them as seniors.
  • Men in college spend significantly more time in leisure activities (especially, for example, video-game play and athletic pursuits) than do women. College women are hyper-scheduled participants in co-curricular activities.
  • Women have higher GPA's than do men—when they enter and leave college—even when the sexes show equivalent aptitude on standardized tests. 
Here are some conclusions from William J. Bennett, new author of The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood and former U.S. Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan and former Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush:
  • For the first time in history, women are better educated, more ambitious and arguably more successful than men.
  • The Founding Fathers believed, and the evidence still shows, that industriousness, marriage and religion are a very important basis for male empowerment and achievement.
  • If you don’t believe the numbers, just ask young women about men today. You will find them talking about prolonged adolescence and men who refuse to grow up.
Bennett warrants his claims here with these numbers:
  • In 1970, men earned 60% of all college degrees. In 1980, the figure fell to 50%, by 2006 it was 43%. Women now surpass men in college degrees by almost three to two.
  • In 1950, 5% of men at the prime working age were unemployed. As of last year, 20% were not working, the highest ever recorded.
  • Men are also less religious than ever before. According to Gallup polling, 39% of men reported attending church regularly in 2010, compared to 47% of women.
Now how should we attend to these statistics? Is higher education making no impact on the divide between women and men, as the data suggest? Or is education actually giving women advantage over men in every way, as Bennett argues?

MaryAnn Baenninger, President of the College of St. Benedict, speaks out to critique the former. (She is well aware of the American Council on Education report that "The percentage of [US college] presidents who were women more than doubled, from 10 percent in 1986 to 23 percent of the total in 2006, but women's progress has slowed in recent years" so that in 2011 "about 25 percent of college presidents are women.") She says, "Clearly, our conclusions about gender must be nuanced, and we would be wise to suspend assumptions about whether women or men are doing better or worse." See her wonderful wisdom here.

And Theophrastus, a blogger and "a professor at a US university with strong interests in applied issues in linguistics," speaks out to critique Bennett. Theophrastus says, "Bill Bennett’s article claims to be about the emasculation of American men and the need to 'empower' them. But clearly, his ultimate motivation has to do more with the domestication of American women." See the brilliant critique here at BLT.


Shawna Atteberry said...

Someone also needs to tell Bennett that men refusing to grow up is nothing new. My father has never grown up, and it is in large part due, to my domesticated mother who believed the 1950s brainwashing that her job was to suck it up and keep the family together regardless of what my father did. I can think of a quite a few men on both sides of my family in 3 different generations that have never grown up.

The only difference now is that most women don't put up with it and leave and find men who are adults. Or like me: wait to marry later, insisting that we are going to marry an adult man to begin with.

J. K. Gayle said...


Thank you for telling the story of your own family. It sounds all too familiar, even though Bennett seems so suddenly surprised by the inequalities and the sexism. How many generations back have experienced exactly what the kind of father and mother that you have grown up with? Three? More!

Thanks also for sharing so personally how you have changed things for yourself! To be honest, much of my own life, similarly has been one of change; I remember as a young child making promises that my marriage and my family would be, would have to be, different.

Kristen said...

This is a very thought-provoking post. I'm planning a post on this topic on my own blog shortly, inspired by yours!

Kristen said...

Ok, my post is up here:

It raises the possible issue of male malaise as something to be taken seriously even as we repudiate Christian patriarchy as the solution.

J. K. Gayle said...


Thanks for your post! And I appreciate the discussion following it very much. I'm quite sure that the patriarchy isn't owned by Christians (even by the patriarchal ones), but to use the Bible or culture figures such as Bennett does sure makes for some interesting cultural divides in America.