ATHENA’S DEPARTMENT: ARTS & LETTERS
INTERVIEW: Dr. Helen Smith, Author of Men on Strike
[Archived from Objective Motifs, August/September 2013]
Dr. Helen Smith is author of Men on Strike, Why Men are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream–and Why it Matters (published by Encounter Books, June 2013.) This book takes a hard look at the social and political devaluation of men in our society, with the view towards exposing hypocrisy and injustice, especially in our educational and legal institutions, finding solutions so that men can fight back, and finally, explaining why this is such an important topic. This last part is perhaps the most unusual aspect of the book, as it is a declaration of the life affecting consequences of this problem.
Dr. Helen Smith is a PhD in psychology with a practice in forensic psychology. Her first book, The Scarred Heart, is about juvenile murderers, and her website is named: http://www.violentkids.com. She also writes a blog for PJMedia on men’s rights and men’s issues [http://pjmedia.com/drhelen/]. [Editor's Note; Dr Helen also happens to be my cousin, which makes her book all the more exciting for me to write about. AF.]
Objective Motifs: How did you come to be interested in this general topic?
Dr. Helen Smith: I have worked for over 20 years as a psychologist, and one of my patients in NYC at that time was a man whose angry wife was beating him. I could find no resources for him, and all I could do was tell him to get out of the relationship. I realized early on that men had little or no support in many areas of the legal arena, especially when it comes to domestic violence.
OM: How did you arrive at the idea of writing this specific book?
Dr. HS: I have a men’s rights blog that I started in 2005 at http://www.drhelen.blogspot.com where I did a post once asking if men should get married. I stupidly thought marriage might be good for men, but many readers set me straight about the pitfalls of marriage if male and why it was a bad deal from a legal and political standpoint.
OM: From the time you started to think about the book to the time you finished it, were there noticeable changes in the social/political situation as you studied it?
Dr. HS: I think that over the past 40 to 50 years, we have looked at what we can do as a society to help women succeed, but in doing so, we have overlooked what men need to succeed and even have helped them to fail in many ways.
OM: Were there any changes to your own thoughts on the topic or discoveries that you had not expected?
Dr. HS: I was surprised that how little blowback I got from both sides of the political aisle. Many people seemed to accept that men do not have as many reproductive rights or rights in marriage as women.
OM: Who do you think would benefit most from reading your book? Who would you recommend people give this book to? Should certain men be first on the list?
Dr. HS: I wrote this book for men, and I think they would benefit the most. The reason I say that is that many men feel that something is wrong, they can’t put their finger on it or sometimes see the global picture of what is happening. Many men give the book to their son who may be in his early twenties or even teens. I think these young men should be first on the list because it might help them understand at an early age what type of problems to avoid or try to resolve as a result of educating themselves about men’s issues.
Here is an example of what a reader who gave the book to his son had to say: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A2TFIZENEBWPLD/ref=cm_pdp_rev_title_1?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview#R1LR17FIXFA92X
[Editor's Note: More reactions from readers can be found in the review section in the Amazon page for the book.]
OM: What would be the ideal changes that could come about regarding men’s lives (social and political) over the next 5-10 years?
Dr. HS: The ideal changes would be to change many of the laws and the culture in the country that tells us that men are expendable, not worthy of support and have few, if any reproductive rights. No man should be placed in jail for not being able to pay child support any more than someone should go to debtor’s prison. Men should not be forced to pay for children who are not their own as many states force men to do. We should have more male teachers to give young men access to male role models and change laws in colleges that say that young men do not have due process rights.
OM: How long do you think it would take to reverse the injustice described in your book?
Dr. HS: It depends. Right now at the federal level, we do not have anyone who cares about the plight of men and boys. We have a White House Council for Women and Girls but nothing for men. If enough people raised the issues, maybe things would change.
OM: What are some of the common reasons why people may misunderstand or disagree with the book?
Dr. HS: Many people feel that women had few rights years ago, and that revenge against men and young school boys is “just deserts”. However, we are harming a generation of boys and men who were never even around 50 years ago, and it wasn’t like men had it so great then either. Men in the old days were held responsible for their wives’ behavior. If the wife had debt or did something illegal, the man had to pay or go to jail, so it wasn’t a bed of roses for the average man.
OM: In the chapter “My Body, My Choice”, you indicate that there is something hypocritical with the way women are treating the questions of childbearing, especially in relation to men’s rights. What exactly is hypocritical and what do you think the ideal approach men and women should have towards child birth/abortion/family planning issues?
Dr. HS: Women and the law believe only women control reproduction. Women can make the decision to have a child, not have a child, give up a child for adoption, often without the father’s permission. If a girl has sex with a man, he is a rapist. If a woman has sex with a boy–even a 14-year-old and has a child by him, he is forced at that age to pay child support. That should never happen. No young boy who has sex with a woman should be forced to pay child support. That is hypocritical as a girl would never be forced to have a child by the man who had sex with her nor would she be expected by the law to support that child. Of course, both men and women should be responsible for birth control, but with abortion rights, a woman holds the decision of whether or not to be a mother. A man has no ability to decide. He is forced at gunpoint by the state to pay child support for 18 years or be jailed. That is unfair and unjust.
OM: Which do you think is a more fundamental problem: the harmful social interactions between men and women that you described in your book (e.g., where men are discouraged from their hobbies, where they are relegated to the attics in their own homes, where they are expected to do the dishes perfectly, etc) and the legislation against men that you also described (social vs. legal). Does one foster or make the other easier to exist/grow?
Dr. HS: I think our culture makes it easy to denigrate and treat men poorly and in turn , no one balks when the law decides that men need to be picked up anytime a woman or the state decides it is necessary. The PC culture tells us that men are perpetrators, women victims. This may not be true, for example in domestic violence cases, women commit almost half of the incidents but rarely are prosecuted whereas men are. Since no women are prosecuted, it seems like they are always the victim and give license to more draconian laws.
OM: In your chapter giving advice on what men can do to protect themselves, one suggestion you give is that they take their time getting to know their significant other before marrying or moving in together. There is a whole sub field of psychology that tries to help people find out if a given relationship is good for them or not, and it is for both men and women. Yet time and again, people get “stuck” with a “partner” who seems to sabotage their happiness. Why is this, why do you think? Are people jumping in too soon to commitments? Are they ignoring warning signs? Are they just not curious enough about their own partners to find out more about them until too late? Is there a natural limit on how much time someone can realistically take to get to know someone? Or are they just not able to focus on the important things, get swept away instead by minor issues, until it is too late, and something big actually does happen?
Dr. HS: Yes, people ignore warning signs and think someone will change. Other times, people change over time and the relationship no longer meets the needs of the partners like it once did and they want to get out. I do think people idealize romantic love due to the media and the constant messages, mainly aimed at women that the perfect guy is out there. Pair this with the sense entitlement that women are told they are owed, and a man often cannot measure up. Also as more and more women become educated, they want a man who is more educated and makes more money and has more status (hypergamy); therefore, the pool of men becomes smaller, and women think there are “No good men” because the man they want is in high demand. They may overlook a perfectly fine guy but think he is not up to her standards. There are many men out there who have opted out because they feel they cannot measure up, and the women let them know often that they do not.
Copyright © Dr. Helen Smith, Objective Motifs, 2013