August 4, 2005

Where Iden Sinai goes far too far...

A curious opinion piece appeared in today’s D subtly titled “Where Feminism Went Too Far.” From what I can tell, the author Iden Sinai’s beef is that men are the principal objects of humiliating humor in entertainment today and that boys are not doing as well as girls in certain areas of the educational experience—boys are disciplined more often, held back more often, and drop out more often.

Sinai quotes a variety of statistics to show the ‘egregiously insidious effects of feminism’:

11 percent of males from 16 to 24 did not finish high school, as opposed to 8 percent of females for the same age group. More simply put, men make up 59 percent of high school dropouts, which is significantly disproportionate… For every girl who commits suicide, four boys do. For every girl suspended from school, three boys are. Girls are also twice as likely to indicate that they want to pursue a career as early as eighth grade.

What he does not do is attempt to show any causal relationship between the feminist project of creating equal opportunity for men and women, boys and girls and the data he uses. In fact, except in one instance, he doesn’t even show conclusively that the data is even linked to the time period in which feminism has been a social force.

As far as we know, boys were disciplined far more often than girls before feminism, they were held back more often, boys committed suicide more often than girls, and girls decided at an earlier age what they wanted to do with their lives. (Though it must be said that early decision was an artifact of lack of career choice, to say that lack has been filled entirely is highly naïve.)

In addition, Sinai’s other statistic, which is very poorly expressed (actually the writing of the entire piece is rather murky and unclear) is that “the gap [in boy-girl reading scores] actually increases from the first year of the data in 1971 to the present across all three age groups as well.” What Sinai does not clarify is precisely how that gap has widened—has it widened because female scores have held steady but male scores have dropped? Or because male scores have dropped and female scores have risen? Or because male scores have stayed relatively steady while female scores have risen, suggesting a success in creating a better environment for girls? Neither does Sinai tell us how big the gap was and how big it is. A gap is simply not a smoking gun for brutalizing discrimination—there may be a great many more factors at play and almost certainly are.

As for the entertainment industry’s 'prejudice' against men, the archetypal stupid, fat, white man (what Sinai decries) was Jackie Gleason from the Honeymooners, a show that launched in 1955. Today’s Homer Simpson is not exactly a character that broke new ground for comedic ingenuity. And I think you have to be pretty ill-read to believe that men have not been ridiculed for being fat, dumb, and stupid as long as humor has existed.

Even if Mr. Sinai has actual data that proves a chronological coincidence of an increase in the above statistics with the period since women’s lib, all he has shown is some small correlation of the data, definitely not a causal effect. He relies on cheap prejudices still extant in the male population, prejudices which have no grounding—in the data as presented or in real life.

If he's going to make this argument, he needs to have some actual facts, not just a few isolated and decontextualized statistics. I personally believe he's not going to find them because they're not there, though apparently masquerading misogyny still is.


  1. Anonymous12:14 PM

    Further, in this poorly written and shoddy article that reeks of an overbearing sense of entitlement and a complete lack of concern for even the essence of truth, Sinai completely misses the point (of many things but particularly of feminism). This is evidenced by his comment that: "For the past 30 years, education numbers have told a sobering story for the half of America that has no self-glorifying "ism."

    Feminism might be a less than perfect name for an ideology of equality and gender-blind opportunity, but the fact that it has the root 'fem' in it does not exclude men from joining its ranks. Feminism is not about promoting women to heights far beyond the reaches of men; rather it is an attmept to promote some kind of unity of the sexes that results in less biased, merit based institutions. For men as well as for women. To call feminism self-glorifying is to ignore the hundreds of years women were denied opportunities by men, simply by virtue of their female-ness. To call it self glorifying is to make clear the feeling that women do not deserve to have a strong voice. And to call it self glorifying is to, very clearly, "belittle feminism".

    one of my biggest pet peeves is when people publish thinly veiled, poorly researched bigotry in the D

  2. It also should be noted re: his suicide argument that studies have confirmed that the ratio of adolescent women who attempt suicide to adolescent men who attempt suicide is approximately 3:1.