The Chilly World of Campus Males

Warren Farrell

This article was cross-posted from Minding the Campus.

Males are keenly aware that when they go to college they are entering a hostile environment. Freshman orientation alone has had a distinctively anti-male cast for years: heavy emphasis on date rape, stalking, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual harassment amount to an unmistakable message that males are patriarchal oppressors and potential sex criminals. The lesson is quickly taught: only women are vulnerable, and men are the cause of their vulnerability. At one elite university, at least, the first thing a female freshman gets from the administration is a whistle to blow in the event that a rape-minded male accosts her. The freshman male is likely to acquire a new feeling about himself: he is the designated potential perpetrator until proven innocent.

This message will be reinforced by a barrage of gender courses, the attitudes of a good many faculty, and on many campuses, what Charlotte Allen calls “the scorched-earth war against fraternities.”  The anti-fraternity movement is ostensibly about wantonness and excess (binge-drinking, hazing, date rape), but in reality it’s about erasing the best-known male refuge from the suffocating political correctness on campus and its theory of the evil male.

The only males likely to escape this pressure are gays, African-Americans, the transgendered, or the harmlessly hetero—docile guys who agree with the standard campus view that males are dangerous. The campus environment is so hostile toward men that it doesn’t allow hostility toward men to be considered a “hostile environment.” Only established grievance groups get to detect hostile environments.

Professors in engineering and the hard sciences don’t speak out much about the politics of male-female issues. What we hear emanates strongly from departments of women’s and “gender” studies and is adapted by psychology; social work; sociology; anthropology; literature; schools of education; and the seminaries. At the prestigious universities, most of these departments are now 80% to 95% female.

Female Power

As a person who has taught in departments of women’s studies, psychology, political science and sociology in many universities (and the only man ever elected three times to the Board of the National Organization for Women in New York City), I can tell you that the core male-female message is: “we live in a patriarchal world in which men created laws to benefit men at the expense of women.” If our sons arrive on campus, they will inevitably be trying to date women who are exposed to and learning this negative attitude toward them.

“Gender” courses now study only liberal women’s view of women’s powerlessness, and liberal women’s perspective on male power. They don’t look at liberal or conservative men’s view of male powerlessness, or liberal or conservative men’s view of female power. Dissent is not tolerated and no administration will dare direct these closed courses to open up. It took twenty years for Boston College to do something about a rabidly anti-male professor who refused to allow males in her class.

As a result of the inattention to male powerlessness and female power, men are as ignorant about their own powerlessness and female power as women in the 1950’s were about their own powerlessness and male power. And as a result, men today are psychologically about where women were in the 1950’s. The last half century has not been a battle of the sexes, but a war in which only one side has shown up. Men have put their heads in the sand and hoped the bullets would miss.

When I did the research for my book, The Myth of Male Power, and began to articulate these thoughts in the university, I went from being a hero to unemployable by a top university.  One way to become similarly unemployable is to challenge the  misleading statistics on male and female pay. Many a social science class imparts the theme that “men earn more for the same work.” Students then have a choice: they can either think or not think. If they think, and say something like, “if men earned a dollar for each 80 cents women earned for the same work, who would hire a man?” and the gorgeous woman he is trying to attract looks at him like he’s a Neanderthal who just doesn’t “get it,” he’ll usually stop thinking.

On the other hand, he might continue thinking—or even do some research. When I did the research for Why Men Earn More I discovered, for example, that women who had never married and never had children earn 117% of what comparable males earn. Mentioning this will increase his potential for rejection—for being accused of “creating a hostile environment.”

When assumptions such as “history is men’s studies” and “the heterosexual white male is privileged” are mentioned in any class, the male will soon learn they are not statements open to intellectual investigation. If he were to make the mistake of bringing up the possibility that, throughout history, all societies that survived did so based on their ability to train their sons to be disposable (e.g., in war, or in work)—one of the themes I discovered to be common among cultures when researching The Myth of Male Power—he will not be admired for his thoughtfulness.

We have to bring back balance to male-female relations on campus. As long ago as the early 1990s, the now-dead magazine Lingua Franca was calling attention to the “chilly” attitude toward males on our campuses. Now it’s much worse, and we don’t know if the chill is a factor in the growing male aversion to higher education and the high male drop-out rate. But we do know that there are many ominous indictors. Here’s one: For the first time in American history, our sons will have less education than their fathers. When the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) studied the education attainment of sons compared to their dads in 31 countries, the U.S. ranked 31st.

Our colleges and universities can be justly proud of reaching out to women and improving their life prospects. Now they should do the same for men, and the first step will be to do something about the chilly anti-male culture they have allowed to spread on our campuses.

This article was cross-posted from Minding the Campus.


Dr. Warren Farrell has been chosen by the Financial Times as one of the world’s top 100 thought leaders. His books are published in over 50 countries, and in 15 languages. They include two award-winning international best-sellers, Why Men Are The Way They Are plus The Myth of Male Power. Dr. Farrell is currently the Chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys to Men, and is co-authoring Boys to Men with John Gray.

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