5 things I don’t like about the EEOC’s “pay survey” proposal


Government burden

Robin_E_SheaBy Robin E. Shea | Lexology | February 5, 2016

You have no doubt heard that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proposes to require employers with 100 or more employees to start submitting compensation data with their annual EEO-1 reports.

The proposal was announced by President Obama in a White House ceremony last week celebrating the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Here’s the scoop.

The proposal could certainly have been worse. The EEOC would require the reporting to occur at the same time that employers already do their EEO-1 reporting (efficient!), proposes the use of W-2 earnings data (efficient and easy!), proposes that the survey will replace rather than supplement the proposed pay survey rule issued by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs that would have applied to federal contractors(only one rule to worry about instead of two!), and proposes to delay the effective date until Fiscal Year 2017 (never do today what you can put off until tomorrow!).

All that having been said, I’m against it. Here’s why.

No. 1: It’s based on dubious science. The concept behind this requirement is the “gender pay gap.” Currently, women make about 79 cents for each dollar that men earn. The gap is even larger for minority women compared with white men. This would be terrible, except that even the government’s own economists admit that they can’t show the gap is due to discrimination. The “pay gap” compares the average pay of all women in the workforce with the average pay of all men in the workforce. It does not control for type of position held, geography, career ambition, family responsibilities, education, type of employer, length of employment, gaps in employment, era in which one entered the workforce, or anything else. Are women paid less because of discrimination? Maybe. I can’t say no. But I can’t say yes, either. At least, not in this day and age. I suspect that these other factors account for the vast majority of the modern gender pay gap, so why blame it on employment discrimination and impose a significant new burden on employers?

No. 2: It’s going to be a pain in the neck. The proposal will require employers to report the number of employees in 12 “pay bands” in each of the 10 EEO-1 categories. Twelve times 10 is 120. A hundred and twenty “bands.” This is going to be a lot of busy work for somebody. (Why do I say “busy work”? Read on.)


No. 3: It’s unlikely to provide the EEOC with genuinely meaningful information about pay discrimination because it doesn’t control for anything other than “pay band” and EEO-1 category. In other words, it is a blunt instrument.

No. 4: AND/OR it will result in lots of baseless charges against employers who have numbers that look bad but really aren’t. Again, this is because the proposed survey is a blunt instrument.

No. 5: Does the EEOC even have the legal authority to impose this requirement? The agency says it has the authority under Section 709(c) of Title VII, which is the authority it uses to require EEO-1 reports in the first place. But is there a difference between the OFCCP’s requiring compensation information from federal contractors (hey, if you don’t like it, don’t do business with the government!) and the EEOC’s requiring it of every employer that has 100 or more employees? If there isn’t a difference, there should be.


Many HR professionals are trying to figure out if the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission’s newly proposed revisions to its EEO-1 form are really justified or if they will simply turn out to be one gigantic administrative burden.Human Resource Executive, February 8, 2016


Male Matters says:

Well done, Ms. Shea. The EEOC’s requirement will join the growing list of all the other failed measures implemented over the last half century:

-The 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act
-Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
-The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act
-Affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – tinyurl.com/74cooen)
-The 1991 amendments to Title VII
-The 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act
-The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act
-The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
-The Americans with Disability Act (Title I)
-Workplace diversity
-The countless state and local laws and regulations
-The thousands of company mentors for women
-The horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
-TV’s and movies’ last three decades of casting women as thoroughly integrated into the world of work (even in the macho world of spying, James Bond’s boss is a woman)
-The National Labor Relations Act
-The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

See the Male Matters commentary “Salary Secrecy — Discrimination Against Women?




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There’s No ‘Gender Pay Gap’, But Here Are 11 Reasons Why There Should Be

Breitbart gender wage gap pic


by MILO YIANNOPOULOS | Breitbart.com 1 Jun 2015 

The “gender pay gap” is one of the most persistent myths put about by feminists and social justice warriors. It has been comprehensively debunked: in the UK and US, women in their 30s are actually paid more than men for the same work.

But it’s still repeated endlessly by journalists, activists and even presidents. Even though it’s not true, should it be? Is there an argument that we ought to pay women less?

Some people think there is a case for purposefully remunerating women less generously. They say it’s like any financial incentive: designed to nudge people into happier and more productive lifestyles. With the rise of the comically absurd #GiveWomenYourMoney hashtag on Twitter, I thought the idea deserved closer inspection.

Supporters of what I am sure will come to be called #PayWomenLess correctly point to social incentives built into the tax systems of most western countries designed to encourage, or discourage, certain life choices – such as tax breaks for married couples. They say: “If it’s being done already anyway, why can’t we make the case for our vision of the good life?”

A variety of statistics and scientific observations, some of them quite compelling, are used to make the case that incentivising women to stay home by introducing a gender pay gap is better for everyone in the long run. Here are a few arguments I’ve come across for reversing pay equality.

1. Women like it

Why do women get a kick out of bagging a man who earns a lot more than they do? Because it frees them up to focus on the home, on children and on other hobbies. Women usually strive for a more balanced life than men, which is why they work fewer hours, take longer holidays and earn less for their companies, so being given the freedom to raise a family is a chance most women would jump at.

2. Men pay more throughout relationships

From that first date to who pays the most off the mortgage to the shared American Express, men pay more throughout their relationships. Shouldn’t pay packets recognise the fact?

3. Actually, men pay more for everything 

The so-called “Pole Tax” is something all men have to live with. Men pay more, not only for insurance. In the US, men pay nearly 60 per cent more into Medicare and other state medical benefits programmes despite women using services more.

Women’s insurance premiums used to be higher to reflect their higher usage of resources, but that was outlawed by Obamacare, so whether using public or private healthcare, men now subsidise women significantly when it comes to health.

Men pay far more into retirement and pension plans but die earlier than women, so they subsidise the fairer sex there, too. (On average American women live 4.8 years longer than men.)

When you factor in higher educational costs and all the other financial penalties for having a penis, it can be over 10 per cent more expensive to be a man.

4. Men need to save for ‘divorce rape’ 

It’s a silly name, but a real problem: when marriage breaks down, it’s men who get taken to the cleaners. Their wealth, reputations and access to their children are all on the line. Women can walk away with a fortune, having in many cases done very little to contribute to savings or equity in the family home. Child support payments can be crippling.

5. It’s insurance against unfair criminal sentences

Here’s a male privilege men could learn to do without: controlling for all relevant variables, men receive 63 per cent longer sentences for the same crimes as women. Women are twice as likely to avoid incarceration when convicted. If we are sending men to prison more frequently and for longer periods of time, its only right they have an economic edge to pay for lawyers… and other prison necessities, like soap on a rope.

97.1 per cent of death penalty executions take male lives even though women commit 10 per cent of murders. Actually they might be responsible for more, but women often use methods like poison that can be difficult or impossible to trace after the fact and leave less evidence at the scene.

6. Women refuse to do the nasty jobs

Out of college, on of the the top-paying fields is petroleum engineer. But women stubbornly refuse to apply for highly paid but grubby jobs. Why all this focus on the software industry and “women in tech”? Don’t we need more female coal miners, lumberjacks, truck drivers (not you, Rosie O’Donnell!), slaughterhouse operatives and steeplejacks? 

I learned programmable logic controller development in a slaughtering and packing facilities too,” says one critic. “Women want IT jobs, start there!”

7. Men stick with their jobs and earn more for their companies 

Men are more likely to stick with their careers and be a long-term benefit to their companies. Men on average make more money for the companies they work for, they take shorter holidays and they work much longer hours.

8. Men are constantly discovering new and imaginative ways to die at work  

Mentally disabled and physically challenged men can be put on the front line, but women aren’t, so even though the Armed Forces is 15 per cent female, 97 per cent of combat deaths and casualties since the Gulf War have been male. And men make up pretty much all the workplace deaths back home, too: at least 92 per cent of workplace deaths are male.

9. … and at home 

79 per cent of suicides are men. No one knows why and no one seems particularly keen to find out, but male suicide is four times higher than female. It is a national scandal in many western countries. 83 men kill themselves every day in the United States; that’s 30,000 a year. Why not use the money saved on lower female wages to subsidise research into this silent killer?

10. Men need the help, frankly 

More women go to college. By a significant margin. Should men be subsidising all these state-funded gender studies courses? Most people would say no. 57.7 per cent of college places now go to women, but even that doesn’t tell the whole story, because for some reason men are now dropping out of school, at unprecedented rates. For 4-year college degrees, 1.35 women graduate for every male. Men make up only 44 per cent of college applicants.

Women are now routinely hired over men with the same qualifications, just for having boobs.

11. Paying women less would incentivise them to stay home, protecting the nuclear family and reducing single motherhood

Growing economies understand the importance of the nuclear family. There’s no clamour for gay marriage in China or India, where governments recognise that families are the cohesive glue that binds society together. Having a mum and dad at home is better for children: all the studies agree. The breakdown of the nuclear family, especially in ethnic minority communities, has been a disaster for community cohesion and has driven crime rates through the roof.

Now look, ladies. I’m not saying if you work like a man, take risks like a man, and negotiate like a man that you’re not due a man’s wage. What I’m saying is: it’s fairly clear by the numbers that most women don’t, and they make that choice willingly and consciously.

The #GiveYourMoneyToWomen crowd want a wage that is inconsistent with the level of actual labour that they contribute to the workforce (sorry girls, but tweeting isn’t “work”) and the value they generate in the economy.

There’s no reason men and women should be paid the same, when they don’t work the same. Food for thought.


A Male Matters USA comment:

Re: No. 11: “Paying women less would incentivise them to stay home, protecting the nuclear family and reducing single motherhood

It would also, since the less women earn the more men must, in many cases require men to work harder and longer, thus contributing to other problems mentioned here.


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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 34,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 13 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Here’s the speech students at Williams College were too outraged and offended to hear

Good evening. I’d like to begin by talking about what it means to be truly educated. An education rests upon an exchange of ideas. It requires a free mind, one that is not swayed by groupthink.Groupthink, or being told what to think rather than how to think, undermines the purpose of an education. Another term for groupthink is “political correctness.”

You’ve no doubt heard this label used in the media lately with regard to the 2016 presidential election, but I believe it’s a concept that’s misunderstood. A lot of people think being “P.C.” means to be kind or tactful, or to simply avoid saying things that might offend someone. It can mean that. But more often than not, it means something else entirely.

In “The New Thought Police,” Tammy Bruce defines political correctness, or groupthink, as the notion that “only certain things can be said, or considered, or thought—and that some group out there has the authority to decide, for everyone, what is appropriate.”

That is the America we live in today, and it’s a blight on our culture.

My goal for you all, my purpose in being here tonight, is to inspire you to think for yourselves. Do not be swayed by groupthink no matter what your friends, your family or the culture believe. Do not be afraid to ask yourself questions that may make you uncomfortable. And do not be afraid of the answers.

With that in mind, let’s get to the main topic I’ve come here this evening to discuss: feminism.

In 2008, Rebecca Walker, daughter of Alice Walker, who wrote “The Color Purple,” said this about feminism:

“Yes, feminism has undoubtedly given women opportunities. It’s helped open the doors for us at schools, universities and in the workplace. But what about the problems it’s caused for my contemporaries? Far from taking responsibility for this, the leaders of the movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them—as I have learned to my cost. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.”

Ms. Walker is right: feminism is an experiment—a monumental experiment—that needs to be assessed on its results, not on its intentions or on its leaders’ proclamations. In this particular case, Walker was referring to the women of her generation who ended up childless, or almost childless, because they listened to feminists who told them motherhood wasn’t important, or shouldn’t be important, to an educated woman.

Fertility struggles are indeed one of feminism’s great casualties.

There are more.

As you know, feminism is a large umbrella for an enormous range of topics — from its signature issue, abortion, to sex and relationships, women in the workplace, marriage, divorce, domestic violence, women in the military and work-family balance.

There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t have a stake in at least one of these issues.

But they are not “women’s issues,” as the media often claim. They are everyone’s issues.

Men have opinions on these matters as well, as they should, yet their voices are rarely heard.

Same goes for women who don’t consider themselves feminists — which, for the record, is most women.

We hear from feminists the most for good reason.

A. Feminists pride themselves on being the arbiter of all things female.

B. They have the microphone. Indeed, the feminist elite run the show.

The feminist elite is comprised of left-leaning professors, journalists, writers, psychologists, actresses and lawyers whose beliefs have seeped into the culture to such a degree that anyone who takes a non-feminist view of any topic is branded either sexist or a misogynist.

This group uses their clout to bully people into silence, and the result is a lack of reasonable dialogue.

Since people don’t wish to be attacked for simply questioning an idea, they say nothing — giving feminists free reign of the conversation.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot over the years about liberal media bias, but feminist bias is an offshoot of that — and it’s far more toxic.

As former CBS News journalist Bernard Goldberg wrote in his book “Bias,” “I know a few top male producers who would rather walk barefoot on cut glass while drinking Drano than have to face the Missus back home after giving the green light to a story on the excesses of feminism.”

There are even doctors, scientists and researchers in this country who can’t publish their findings if what they’ve discovered undermines a feminist worldview. That’s the insidious nature of feminist bias.

The assumption is that to be a woman is to be a feminist. Because after all, a feminist is someone who believes in equal rights, and who wouldn’t believe in that? You’d have to be a nut to not to believe in that.

But Americans do believe in equal rights, so a feminist label is unnecessary — because that is not what feminism is about.

The reason there’s so much back and forth about what feminism means is because Americans have caught on to the fact that the movement is not what it claims to be.

So what is feminism? What do feminists believe? Namely, that American women are oppressed by a patriarchy hell-bent on keeping women down, and that men and marriage are expendable.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consider these newspaper and magazine headlines:

“Who Needs Marriage?” (Time, Nov. 18, 2010)

“The End of Men ”(The Atlantic, July/Aug 2010)

“For Women, Is Home Really So Sweet?” (The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 18, 2012)

“Is It Time to Retire the Word ‘Wife’”? (The Huffington Post, Feb. 15, 2012)

“Do You Hate Your Husband?” (Yahoo, Dec. 5, 2010)

And here’s a headline from The Wall Street Journal just three weeks ago: “Two Careers, Still Unequal” — which claims yet again that working mothers suffer more than working fathers. That is patently false.

Both mothers and fathers work equally hard, just in different locales.

A study in the Journal of Economic Literature reports that while women perform roughly 17 more hours of work inside the home, men perform roughly 22 more hours outside the home. When comparing the total amount of work men and women each do inside and outside the home, women average 56 hours and men average 61 hours.

That I even have to give you those statistics makes me sad, but that is what feminism has come to. It has made marriage, or just relationships in general, a virtual battleground. Love has become a game of oneupmanship. Except no one wins.

All of this has been done in the name of empowerment, yet feminism is rooted in victimhood. Indeed, feminism is riddled with inconsistencies. Either you’re empowered, or you’re a victim. Which is it?

Same goes for sex differences. Feminists believe gender is a social construct, that parents and society make children the way they are. But feminists also support gay and LBGT rights for people who they insist are born that way. So which is it? Is gender biological, or isn’t it?

But the worst part of feminism, the part that really irks those who are able to think for themselves, is that feminists claim there’s one way to be a woman. If you’re not pro-Choice, if you’re not a Democrat, and if your goal is to make family the focal point of your life, you’re anti-woman.

I know, I know—you’re going to say I don’t understand feminism. “Feminism is about choice!” you’ll shout. It is not about choice, any more than it’s about equal rights. Those are red herrings.

It’s true women today have more opportunities than they did in the past, and thus more choice. But there are reasons for that that are unrelated to feminism (though feminism certainly helped pushed things along). Birth control, laborsaving devices and technology — for which we mostly havemen to thank — gave women what they needed all along: time.

Time is what allowed women to turn their attention away from the home in record numbers. We should be thanking men for liberating women.

It is also true there was a time when women who did not want to live conventional lives felt marginalized. But it is equally true that women today who do want to live conventional lives feel just as marginalized, which proves feminism was not about accepting women who didn’t fit the mold. It was about re-making the mold. It was about changing the natural order of things so the natural order no longer feels natural.

Feminists’ obsession with gender equality is simply that: an obsession. And it has changed the character of this nation.

Hanna Rosin, author of “The End of Men,” describes the new ethos this way: “Thanks to the sexual revolution, [women] can have relationships — and maybe some drama — through their twenties and early thirties and not get tied down with a husband and babies. If the price is a little more heartache, so be it. These days women have a lot more important things on their horizon.”

You will never be happy or successful in love if you adopt an attitude like that — unless, that is, you plan to never marry. If that’s the case, fine. But statistically speaking, the vast majority of you will become wives and mothers (and husbands and fathers) someday.

And if we know this to be true, which we do, why not talk about it? Why don’t we talk about how to incorporate what will, for most of you, become your future?

The choices you make in your personal life will have far more impact on your happiness and well being than the choices you make in your professional life.

You can become president if you wish, but even that accomplishment will pale in comparison to the state of your personal relationships.

That’s one of the reasons I’m not a feminist. Rather than push women to become CEOs to prove some faux notion of equality— which is not to say there’s anything wrong with becoming a CEO; you’ll just have to accept the trade-offs — I’d rather help you plan a life that makes space for marriage and family, since that’s what most of you will choose to do.

I could spend these two hours telling you how great you are, or telling you to reach for the stars and to shatter glass ceilings, but why beat a dead horse? You’ve been told that same thing since the day you were born.

We wonder why women have fertility problems or why working mothers can’t find balance in their lives. Perhaps if someone had to said to them, “You know, a woman’s life has seasons — a time for this and a time for that. I know it doesn’t seem like it now, but there will come a time when being a wife and mother will become your primary focus, so make sure you consider that when mapping out your life.” Or: “You know, motherhood may seem a long way off; but don’t wait too long. Your body has an agenda of its own.”

I tell you these things because despite being relatively successful in the professional sphere, nothing in my life has been more fulfilling than being a mom. If you choose this route, it will add to your life — not detract from it.

That is not something a feminist will tell you. Women who put family first are a real problem for feminists because they undermine the feminist goal, which is to change society.

What feminists want is to make men and women interchangeable.

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg famously said at a 2011 graduation speech: “I believe the world would be a better place if men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter is another example. Slaughter is the self-described feminist, and former Princeton professor who wrote an article that went viral in 2012 called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” In it, Slaughter concedes, ironically, that the “feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet.”

When I first read those words, I was dancing a gig that a high-profile woman had the courage to admit that feminism is flawed — particularly when it comes to work-family balance, which is what her article was about. But rather than end with that observation, she went marching back to her feminist principles and blamed society for why she couldn’t be successful in both arenas. That’s what feminists do when they can’t make their lives work: blame the system.

They also blame men. Today Slaughter is arguing for “a whole new domestic order.” In a recent interview about her new book “Unfinished Business,” she repeated a version of Sandberg’s claim: that gender equality “is about men owning the care side of [women’s] lives just as much as the competition side.”

And that, of course, is where the rubber meets the road.

I am not a feminist because I don’t believe feminists have an accurate understanding of human nature.

I believe men and women are equal in value but different in nature. Each want and need different things, and each is often better suited to certain tasks due to their respective biology.

Accepting this fact does not mean women can’t be doctors or engineers or men can’t be full-time dads, nor does it mean all men and all women have identical nurturing and competitive drives. It just means more men than women may like sports and more women than men may want to stay home with the kids. And that’s okay.

But it’s not okay with feminists, who insist not on equal opportunity but on equal outcomes. They also insist there aren’t more women in government or more female CEOs due to rampant discrimination. Or, as Sheryl Sandberg suggessts, because girls are called “bossy” and that scars them for life.

But there’s a logical explanation for why there aren’t more female leaders: that is not what most women choose to do.

Just several weeks ago, in a Fortune magazine article about why there are so few women at the top, senior editor Nina Easton writes, “A missing piece of this conversation is how many highly educated, top-talent women drop out, curtail their work, or (like me) choose a ‘mommy-tracker’ route in their careers—not because of discrimination or hostile work environments but because of the time they want to devote to their kids…By definition, this limits the pool of female talent at the very top.”

The wage gap is also easily explained. It is nothing more than the mathematical quotient of the difference between the average annual income of all working women compared to the average annual income of all working men.

It ignores the education and training each makes, as well as the difficulty and the danger of the job.

It ignores the number of hours and overtime people accept, or whether or not they have to travel for the job.

It ignores the amount of vacation and personal leave time each uses.

What’s more, using this same comparison, research shows women earn more than men throughout their twenties.

The Press Association found that from 2006 to 2013 women between the ages of 22 and 29 earned roughly $1,700 more than their male counterparts. However, the wage differential between the sexes flips once people move into their 30s.

Which brings us back to motherhood.

Here is the truth no one wants to say: the birth of a child — maybe not your first, but definitely your second or third — will throw every plan you had prior to having children out the window. Whatever you thought your life was going to be turns out to be something else. Children change everything, and you have to adapt.

But that is not what feminists believe, so you never hear this message.

Feminists have been complaining for decades about the negative impact of motherhood on women’s lives.

My own mother, who received an MBA from Radcliffe College in 1952, used to tell me her female professor talked of children as being an “intrusion” in women’s lives.

It’s not like women haven’t tried to adopt feminist beliefs. They have. Women believed it when they were told that to be considered a man’s equal, they should reject their feminine nature and adopt male traits. Men, for example, are notorious for wanting to delay commitment, so women pretend they feel the same way when most don’t.

Women are literally made to bond. Their bodies are steeped in oxytocin and estrogen, two chemicals that together produce an environment ripe for attachment.

Thank God for women! Without them we’d all be sleeping with each until we’re old and gray.

Men have oxytocin, too, but a much smaller amount. They’re more favored with testosterone — which controls lust, not attachment.

That’s why women, not men, wait by the phone the next day after a one-night stand. That’s why the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” wasn’t titled “She’s Just Not That Into You.”

For most women, sex is never just sex. There’s almost always more to it than that.

As an example, this past May The New York Times published the winning essay of this year’s Modern Love College Essay contest. The author, Jordana Narin, writes about “Jeremy,” a guy she knew from their online relationship and with whom she eventually had sex. Here’s a portion of that essay:

“I’m told my generation will be remembered for our callous commitments and rudimentary romances. We hook up. We sext. We swipe right. All the while, we avoid labels and try to bury our emotions…To this day, if I ever let a guy’s name slip out to my father, his response is always, ‘Are you two going steady?’”

“People don’t go steady nowadays,” I explain. “No one says that anymore. And almost no one does it. Women today have more power. We don’t crave attachment to just one man. We keep our options open. We’re in control.”

“But are we?” she adds. “I’ve brooded over the same person for the last four years. Can I honestly call myself empowered if I’m unable to share my feelings with him? Could my options be more closed? Could I be less in control?”

For years feminists have been teaching women to ignore biology, as though it’s an irritant rather than a guide. This past July the dissident feminist Camille Paglia spoke with Salon magazine about this very thing. Here is a portion of what she said in that interview:

“Feminists lack sympathy and compassion for men…The heterosexual professional woman, emerging with her shiny Ivy League degree, wants to communicate with her husband exactly the way she communicates with her friends–as in “Sex and the City’…But that’s not a style straight men can do! Gay men can do it, sure–but not straight men! Guess what–women are different than men! When will feminism wake up to this basic reality?”

When, indeed.

A copy of this speech was originally published by Fox News and was reprinted here with permission by Venker. Visit her website to learn more about her work, and follow her on Twitter.


Posted in Gender Politics, Gender Wage Gap, Male "Power" and "Privilege", Media Sexism, Why Men Earn More | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Assault on Common Sense: The phony campus rape crisis

By Heather MacDonald • WeeklyStandard • NOV 2, 2015

BSIn August 2012, two rapes by unknown assailants were reported at Harvard University, sending the school into crisis. Police cruisers idled around the campus; uniformed and plainclothes officers came out in force. Students were advised not to walk alone. A member of the undergraduate council called for the closing of Harvard Yard. “I thought Cambridge wasn’t a dangerous area,” a freshman told the student newspaper. “It was Harvard—it was supposed to be safe, academic.” (In fact, Harvard still was safe. The campus authorities ultimately deemed at least one of the rape allegations baseless, judging by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. Since Harvard never disclosed the outcome of either of its investigations, its findings regarding the other supposed incident remain secret.)

In September 2015, Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust announced that Harvard students experience sexual assault with “alarming frequency.” Faust was responding to the results of a sexual assault survey conducted at Harvard and 26 other colleges earlier in the year. According to the survey, spearheaded by the Association of American Universities (AAU), 16 percent of Harvard female seniors had experienced nonconsensual sexual penetration during their time at the college and nearly 40 percent had experienced nonconsensual sexual contact. The “severity of the problem” required “an even more intent focus on the problem of sexual assault,” Faust said. Harvard professor and former provost Steve Hyman decried the “terribly damaging” problem that “profoundly violates the values and undermines the educational goals of this University.”

And yet, apart from Drew Gilpin Faust’s recital of Harvard’s burgeoning rape bureaucracy—50 Title IX coordinators, a new Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution filled to the brim with “trained investigators,” a doubling of staff at the Office for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response—nothing else happened. No beefed up escort services, no added police presence. Life went on as usual, including the usual drunken parties and hook-ups.

The rhetoric from the other participating schools was similarly alarmist. According to Yale president Peter Salovey, the “profoundly troubling” behavior documented in the AAU survey “threatens individual students, our learning environment, and our sense of community.” But Yale, too, confined itself to denunciations of the “threatening” behavior.

Why the disparity between administrative talk and action? Harvard, after all, is not the only college capable of forcefully responding to alleged rape. In the fall of 2014, the University of Virginia doubled down on security after a student was abducted and presumed raped (the girl was later found to have been killed). If Drew Gilpin Faust and her fellow presidents really believe that they are presiding over a crime scene of what would be unprecedented proportions, they should at the least radically revamp their admissions procedures to prevent sex fiends from joining the student body, if not provide round-the-clock protection to female students.

Nothing of the sort ever happens, however. And that is because there is no such crime wave on college campuses—according to the alleged victims themselves. The vast majority of survey respondents whom the AAU researchers classified as sexual assault victims never reported their alleged assaults to their colleges’ various confidential rape hotlines, sexual assault resource centers, or Title IX offices, much less to campus or city police. And the overwhelming reason why the alleged victims did not report is that they did not think that what happened to them was that serious. At Harvard, over 69 percent of female respondents who checked the box for penetration by use of force did not report the incident to any authority. Most of those non-reporters—65 percent—did not think their experience was serious enough to report. This outcome is inconceivable in the case of real rape. No woman who has actually been raped would think that the rape was not serious enough to report. The White House Council on Women and Girls, echoing campus rape dogma, maintains that colleges are churning out legions of traumatized rape “survivors,” who go on to experience a lifetime of physical and emotional disability. Apparently these victims are so shellshocked that they don’t even realize how disabled they are.

The rate of nonreporting climbs as the sexual assault categories ginned up by the AAU grow ever more distant from the common understanding of rape. Over 78 percent of Harvard female respondents who checked the box for penetration due to “incapacitation” did not report. Three-quarters of them said that what happened to them was not serious enough to report. Over 92 percent of Harvard female respondents who said they were the victim of sexual touching by force did not report; over 81 percent said that what happened to them was not serious enough to report. Over 93 percent of respondents who had been sexually touched due to incapacitation did not report. Over 80 percent of them did not think it serious enough to report.

The picture is identical at every other college in the survey. At Yale, nearly 73 percent of female victims of alleged penetration by force and over 94 percent of female victims of alleged nonconsensual touching by incapacitation did not report to an agency or organization, because they did not think that what happened to them was serious enough.

These are females who since matriculation have been the targets of an escalating “rape culture” propaganda campaign. Yet that campaign has not changed the fundamental disagreement between rape survey respondents and their pollsters. The mother of all campus rape surveys, conducted by feminist researcher Mary Koss and written up in Ms. magazine in 1985, found that 73 percent of respondents whom the study characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped when asked the question directly. (Not surprisingly, campus rape researchers stopped asking that question. Campus rape researchers also quickly shelved an equally deflating question from the Koss survey: whether the victim had sex with her alleged rapist again. Forty-two percent of Koss’s alleged rape victims said that they had, another inconceivable outcome in the case of actual rape.) Seventy-two percent of female respondents in a 2014 MIT survey who said that they had experienced unwanted sexual behavior said that their experience was not serious enough to report.

The blasé response of most alleged campus rape victims should be good news to campus administrations. One might expect those administrators to proudly announce that their colleges are not the traumatizing violence zones that the public has been led to believe. To the contrary, college and university leaders either ignored or tried to distort the data on nonreporting. Harvard’s Faust did not even mention the nonreporting phenomenon in her September 21 letter to the “Harvard Community.” Yale’s President Salovey did mention it, but in a way that was as deceptive as not bringing it up at all. In a September 21 press release, he said that he was “concerned that a majority of students said they chose not to report incidents of sexual assault and harassment despite stating that they believe campus officials take such reporting seriously.” Salovey did not disclose the predominant reason they chose not to report. Instead, his “concern” suggests that something nefarious and rape-culture-y is impeding those alleged victims’ reports. The introduction to the Yale version of the AAU survey does eventually mention the main reason for nonreporting, but buries that reason in a section labeled “Barriers to reporting.” Believing that your experience is not serious enough to report does not constitute a “barrier to reporting,” unless that belief is a product of false consciousness. The Yale administrators seem to think that it is.

In short, the campus rape bureaucracy juggernaut lives by the motto: “No means yes.” The vast majority of alleged sexual assault victims are telling their campus administrators: “No, we don’t think we have been the victims of a serious crime.” Undaunted, the administrators push forcefully on, building up ever more costly infrastructure premised on the claim that “yes, there is an epidemic of campus rape.” The result, in the case of the AAU survey, is hundreds of pages of irrelevance. The AAU researchers devised a complicated typology of alleged sexual misconduct based on two categories of behaviors and four allegedly assaultive tactics. The surveyors then rang every possible combinatorial change on those and other demographic categories. Dipping randomly into the Harvard report’s 254 pages of tables, charts, and analysis, for example, one pulls up Table 4.1: “Percent of Students Experiencing Nonconsensual Penetration or Sexual Touching Involving Coercion or Absence of Affirmative Consent by Behavior, Tactic, Current Year vs. Since Entering College, Gender and Enrollment Status.” Table 4.1 extends over several pages, with 12 rows for such items as “absence of affirmative consent,” “penetration,” and “sexual touching,” and 14 columns for, inter alia, “female,” “male,” “Transgender woman, Transgender man, Genderqueer, gender non-conforming, questioning, not listed.” Many of the resulting 168 boxes are empty for lack of a sufficient number of respondents. Do not, however, confuse Table 4.1 with Table 4.2: “Number of Times Students Experienced Nonconsensual Penetration or Sexual Touching Involving Coercion or Absence of Affirmative Consent by Behavior, Tactic, Victim Characteristics, Gender and Enrollment Status,” generating 450 boxes.

Table 4.2 must also not be confused with Table 4.3: “Percent of Students Experiencing Nonconsensual Penetration or Sexual Touching Involving Absence of Affirmative Consent by Victim Characteristics, Gender and Enrollment Status,” which generates 360 boxes. Table 4.3’s “victim characteristics” include “Non-Heterosexual,” “Not Hispanic,” “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander,” “Disability: Yes,” and “Not married but living with a partner,” none of which are present in Table 4.2’s “victim characteristics.”

Even if the large majority of Harvard students had not found the behaviors minutely catalogued in the voluminous tables “not serious,” the level of detail would still be useless. What exactly does Harvard expect to do with the discovery that 6.5 percent of Not Hispanic Graduate or Professional Females said that they had experienced nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving absence of affirmative consent, compared to 7.1 percent of Hispanic Graduate or Professional Females? Would it matter if the numbers were reversed, or if they were half or twice the reported level?

Such exquisite parsing would be appropriate in a cancer drug clinical trial. But there are no clear policy implications that follow from the tens of thousands of entries generated by the AAU classificatory grids. If only college administrators devoted the same passion to discovering what their students knew about the origins of the French and American revolutions as they do to soliciting and classifying data on whose digit has penetrated or rubbed which orifice belonging to which variant of gender identity. None of the 27 colleges in the AAU survey administers a similarly detailed test of substantive knowledge to evaluate its effectiveness in teaching students the rudiments of civilization. They have no idea what graduating seniors know about the periodic table or evolutionary biology. But they have collectively coughed up over $2.34 million to discover that 14.9 percent of “Asexual, Questioning, Not Listed” TGQN students who answered the poll on their 27 campuses have been sexually penetrated (defined as “when one person puts a penis, finger, or object inside someone else’s vagina or anus” or “when someone’s mouth or tongue makes contact with someone else’s genitals”) or sexually touched (defined as, inter alia, “touching someone’s breast, chest, crotch, groin, or buttocks”) without their “active, ongoing voluntary agreement.” (The comparatively high number of TGQN students who claimed to have been sexually assaulted was actually the only interesting bit of data to come out of the AAU effort, since presumably their alleged assailants were not the heteronormative, “cis-gendered” oppressors conjured up by gender studies departments.) According to campus administrators, students should absorb such lurid discoveries as well. Yale’s deputy provost for health affairs and academic integrity encouraged “everyone [in the Yale community] to review the full [AAU] report, including the methodology and terminology and the data tables,” which she called a “rich source of new information.” A more dreary waste of overpriced college learning time is difficult to imagine.

The AAU survey suffers from other flaws as well. The low response rate of 19 percent across the 27 colleges further undermines the significance of its findings. Students who do not believe themselves to have been the victims of unwanted sexual contact are less likely to have taken the time to fill out the questionnaire. This asymmetry of response undoubtedly inflates the survey’s rate of sexual assault. Extrapolating from the survey to the national college population is even more unreliable. As Stuart Taylor pointed out, the rate at which respondents said that they reported unwanted sexual penetration to their campus authorities is almost nine times the actual rate of nationwide reporting of sexual assaults of any kind. Yet the press went ahead with such extrapolations anyway. “More than one in four college women say they are sexually assaulted by graduation,” the Wall Street Journal declared. “1 in 4 Women Experience Sexual Assault on Campus,” read the New York Times front-page headline.

The survey’s typology of improper behavior and tactics has been devised to generate as many instances of supposed sexual misconduct as possible. It defines “incapacitation” tautologically as “incidents when you were .??.??. incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol,” allowing the respondent to summarily declare herself agency-free. The survey includes among its assaultive sexual tactics “ignoring your cues to stop or slow down” and going “ahead without checking in or while you were still deciding.” Throughout human history, a majority of kisses (“kissing” is on the AAU list of possibly impermissible “sexual touching”) have been obtained “without checking in” or while the female was “still deciding.” It is the nature of the male libido to press for such favors, and of the female sensibility to feel uncertain about the pressing and its future direction. Thousands of romance novels have thrilled their female audience with such encounters. Few readers thought they had just witnessed a scene of sexual assault.

But what of the survey respondents who did think that their experience was serious enough to report to their Title IX office or to the police? Despite the tendentiousness of the AAU survey, maybe there are enough actual rape and sexual assault victims on American campuses to warrant the ever-growing assault bureaucracy. The alleged rapes that have gone public through litigation or media attention suggest otherwise. Nearly all involve seemingly voluntary drunken hook-ups that the female partner comes to regret, sometimes when she sees that her partner was emotionally untouched by their sexual involvement. After a few months consulting with her campus’s sexual assault resource center, she reclassifies her encounter as rape. The public sexual assault cases also suggest that the hook-up culture is producing a growing number of female emotional basket-cases.

A recent case at Washington and Lee University is emblematic. After a late-night party filled with the usual heavy drinking, the female accuser, Jane Doe, told her male companion: “I usually don’t have sex with someone I meet on the first night, but you are a really interesting guy.” Jane Doe began kissing John Doe, took off her clothes, and led John Doe to his bed, where she took off his clothes. They had intercourse. This was on February 8, 2014. (Jane later denied using that pick-up line on the ground that she often had sex someone she just met.) The next day, Jane Doe told a friend that she had had sex with John Doe and that she had “had a good time last night.” Over the next month, Jane and John Doe exchanged flirty texts and had intercourse again. Jane Doe attended several more parties at John Doe’s fraternity. At one of them Jane observed John kissing another female and left the party early, upset. John developed a publicly known relationship with that other female. Jane started psychological therapy after seeing John’s name on a list of applicants for a study-abroad program that she had also applied to. She told one of her therapists that she had “enjoyed the sexual intercourse” with John Doe, but was advised that her actions and positive feelings during their first sexual encounter “didn’t negate that it was sexual assault.” She told another therapist that “she had a strong physical reaction” to seeing John’s name on the study abroad list. Jane had also been working at a women’s clinic and attending lectures on sexual assault. During one of those talks, Washington and Lee’s Title IX officer informed the audience of the emerging consensus that “regret equals rape.” On October 30, after Jane Doe learned that John had been accepted to her study-abroad program, she decided to initiate her campus’s sexual assault machinery against him. After a travesty of a proceeding, in which the Title IX officer rejected John Doe’s request to consult a lawyer with the Dantesque warning “a lawyer can’t help you here,” the school expelled him on November 21.

Equally telling, alleged campus rapes have a noticeable tendency to fall apart when subjected to traditional police investigations. The federal government this year required that campuses disclose “unfounded”—that is, false or baseless—crime reports in their annual Clery Act criminal statistics. Colleges agonized over whether to identify the unfounded crimes by category, and many colleges did not. Harvard, which, to its credit, did classify the unfounded crimes by category, shows why the issue was so difficult. The only unfounded crimes Harvard reported were rapes—six of them. By contrast, none of the 492 property crimes reported to Harvard law enforcement in 2014 were found to be baseless. And those six unfounded rapes represented all of the rapes reported to the Harvard police in 2014—not one survived law enforcement investigation, even though they were presumably the strongest cases out there. The other 27 “rapes” listed by Harvard on its Clery Act form were reported instead to Harvard’s various non-law enforcement sexual assault resource centers, none of which has the authority to “unfound” a crime report. Harvard has yet to initiate a proceeding against any false accuser for violation of its honor code, presumably on the feminist theory that there are no false rape reports.

If campuses were the “hunting grounds” for rapists that the advocates claim, a movement creating single-sex schools would have sprung up years ago. Instead, the stampede of high school girls trying to get into selective co-ed colleges grows more frenzied by the year. Nevertheless, colleges could end what they insist on calling campus rape overnight if they persuaded girls to exercise modesty and prudence, and if they sent the simple message: Don’t get drunk, take off your clothes, and get into bed with a guy whom you barely know.

Were parents to start believing the claim that colleges are “unsafe spaces” for girls, you would see college presidents turn on a dime and point out the obvious: There are few places more congenial, safe, and welcoming to females than the present-day American campus. For now, however, college leaders can self-righteously placate the rape culture industry with more and more “sexual assault” sinecures, while watching the applications for admission roll in unimpeded.

Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Posted in Female Violence, Gender Politics, Gender Violence, Sexual Harassment and Economic Harassment | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Campus Sexual Assault and a Modern “Crucible”

The centennial of the great American playwright Arthur Miller, born in New York on October 17, 1915, has been noted in articles and recognizedwith commemorative events and editions of his works. For all the tributes, Miller (who died 10 years ago) seems more a relic than a living voice on today’s cultural scene; his earnest old-style liberal leftism alienates both conservatives and modern-day progressives obsessed with racial and sexual identities.

Yet one of his most famous works, “The Crucible” — a mostly fact-based dramatic account of the 17th century Salem witch trials — is startlingly relevant to today’s culture wars, in ways that Miller himself might have recognized.

Everyone knows that Miller’s 1952 play was his response to McCarthyism, with the witchcraft hysteria an allegory for the anti-Communist panic. (The latter, unlike the former, was grounded in a real danger; but, contrary to some recent claims on the right, the McCarthyite paranoia that swept up many innocent people in its wide net was quite real as well.) In 1996, when Miller wrote a screenplay adaptation for the film version of “The Crucible,” many saw a metaphor for the day-care sexual abuse panic that had swept the country a few years earlier, with men and women arrested on suspicion of lurid acts and Satanic rituals.

When I recently watched a webcast of the compelling 2014 production of the play at London’s Old Vic theater, I was struck by the parallels to another panic we are witnessing now: the one over “rape culture” and, in particular, the “campus rape epidemic.”

“Believe the victim” — the mantra of today’s feminist anti-rape movement — is a remarkably prominent theme in Miller’s play. At one point, Deputy Gov. Danforth, who presides over the trials, notes that unlike “an ordinary crime,” witchcraft is by its nature invisible: “Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims—and they do testify.” Today, advocates for “survivors” of sexual violence argue that since such crimes virtually always take place in private, especially when victim and offender know each other, it is imperative to believe those who come forward with accusations.

Of course, “believe the children” was also the mantra of the child abuse trials of the 1980s and early 1990s. But in those cases, the children themselves were a somewhat passive presence, more victims of adult manipulation than active accusers. Not so the girls of “The Crucible,” whom Miller made older than their 10- and 11-year-old historical counterparts — more young women than children. (Danforth and other adult authority figures in the play often refer to them as “children”; but today’s anti-rape advocates, too, often use language that infantilizesyoung people and young women in particular, sometimes explicitlyinsisting that college “kids” are not really adults.)

When the Salem girls’ veracity is questioned and Danforth asks their ringleader, Abigail Williams, if her visions could be false, Abby responds with self-righteous outrage: “Why, this — this — is a base question, sir. I have been hurt, Mr. Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin’ out! I have been near to murdered every day because I done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people — and this is my reward? To be mistrusted, denied, questioned…” As Danforth backs down, assuring Abigail that he doesn’t mistrust her, she warns, “Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?”

The McCarthy era has no direct parallels to this fetishizing of victimhood or this demand for absolute trust in accusations. But there are uncanny echoes here of today’s crusading “survivors” who cry “victim-blaming” when questioned and lament that mistrust re-traumatizes and silences victims of sexual assault. “If we use proof in rape cases, we fall into the patterns of rape deniers,” Emma Sulkowicz, Columbia University’s “mattress girl” and a leader in this crusade, said at Brown University last April.

In Miller’s Salem, to question reports of witchcraft was to be suspected of doubting the Bible or even serving the devil. In American universities in 2015, accusations of “rape denialism” are almost as intimidating, even to high-level officials. (“Almost” because on today’s campus, no one risks hanging — except maybe in effigy.) A modern-day Abigail would pointedly remind a modern-day Danforth of his “privilege” and warn him of the peril of perpetuating “rape culture.”

The girls of “The Crucible” are a terrifying group, as Yael Farber’s Old Vic production starkly conveys. They burn with icy conviction, whipping themselves into fits of agony supposedly inflicted by witches and spirits. (More parallels to the histrionics of the campus activists, so “triggered” by dissent that they have crippling flashbacks, flee to “therapy rooms,” and become physically ill.) They easily overwhelm one girl who tries to break away.

There is the obvious caveat that witchcraft does not exist, while rape is all too real. None of the Salem girls were actual victims of witches — though, as the play suggests, many probably came to believe they were. Many anti-rape activists are undoubtedly actual victims of sexual assault. But a “rape culture” in 21st century America is no more real than the devil in the 17th century colonies. And some of today’s most visible “survivors”—Sulkowicz, Lena Sclove, Laura Dunn, Lena Dunham—have stories that don’t hold up well under scrutiny, or use absurd definitions of rape that equate repeated advances or drunken trysts with forced sex. Some, like the Salem girls, are probably fake victims so caught up in collective zealotry that they believe in their own stories.

To see “The Crucible” as a parable for the campus anti-rape crusade raises the touchy issue of false accusations as vengeance for sexual rejection. The play’s Abby Williams is motivated largely by her past affair (entirely Miller’s invention) with her ex-employer John Proctor, vengeance toward his wife, Elizabeth, and then anger at Proctor himself for rejecting her. This has caused some feminist scholars to accuse Miller of covert misogyny.

The vindictive scorned woman is indeed a misogynist stereotype. But that doesn’t negate the fact that some women, like some men, seek revenge when rejected — and that accusations of abhorrent crimes can be a form of revenge. (The wrong of stereotyping is in generalizing to an entire group.) It could have been true in Salem; it can also be true on today’s campus, especially in a climate where women are often encouraged to reinterpret past sexual encounters as nonconsensual. In one recent case at Washington and Lee University, a student was expelled on a charge of sexual assault stemming from an encounter that his accuser admitted she initially saw as consensual and enjoyable. It was only after learning that the young man was seeing someone else — and after spending a summer working at a women’s clinic which dealt with sexual violence — that she concluded she had been too drunk to consent.

In his 1996 essay on “The Crucible” and its themes, Miller wrote that, whatever the setting, “the play evokes a lethal brew of illicit sexuality, fear of the supernatural, and political manipulation.” Replace “fear of the supernatural” with “fear of the hidden demons of patriarchal oppression,” and you have today’s American campus. Perhaps the Miller centennial, and “The Crucible’s” return to Broadway next February, will hasten the much-needed rethinking of the modern witch hunts.

Posted in Female Violence, Gender Politics, Gender Violence, Male "Power" and "Privilege" | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man, weeping

weeping man

One of our most firmly entrenched ideas of masculinity is that men don’t cry. Although he might shed a discreet tear at a funeral, and it’s acceptable for him to well up when he slams his fingers in a car door, a real man is expected to quickly regain control. Sobbing openly is strictly for girls.

This isn’t just a social expectation; it’s a scientific fact. All the research to date finds that women cry significantly more than men. A meta-study by the German Society of Ophthalmology in 2009 found that women weep, on average, five times as often, and almost twice as long per episode. The discrepancy is such a commonplace, we tend to assume it’s biologically hard-wired; that, whether you like it or not, this is one gender difference that isn’t going away.

But actually, the gender gap in crying seems to be a recent development. Historical and literary evidence suggests that, in the past, not only did men cry in public, but no one saw it as feminine or shameful. In fact, male weeping was regarded as normal in almost every part of the world for most of recorded history.

Consider Homer’s Iliad, in which the entire Greek army bursts into unanimous tears no less than three times. King Priam not only cries but tears his hair and grovels in the dirt for woe. Zeus weeps tears of blood, and even the immortal horses of Achilles cry buckets at the death of Patroklos. Of course, we can’t regard theIliad as a faithful account of historical events, but there’s no question that ancient Greeks saw it as a model for how heroic men should behave.

This exaltation of male weeping continued into the Middle Ages, where it appears in historical records, as well as fictional accounts. In chronicles of the period, we find one ambassador repeatedly bursting into tears when addressing Philip the Good, and the entire audience at a peace congress throwing themselves on the ground, sobbing and groaning as they listen to the speeches. In the 11th-century French epicThe Song of Roland, the poet describes this reaction to the death of the eponymous hero: ‘The lords of France are weeping bitter tears,/ And 20,000 faint in their grief and fall.’ We can be pretty sure this didn’t happen as described, but it’s still remarkable that 20,000 knights swooning from grief were considered noble, not ridiculous.

Furthermore, the sobbing male hero wasn’t only a Western phenomenon; he appears in Japanese epics as well. In The Tale of Heike, which is often cited as a source for the ideal behaviour of a samurai, we find men crying demonstratively at every turn. Here’s a typical response to the death of a commander-in-chief: ‘Of all who heard, friend or foe, not one but wept until his sleeves were drenched.’

Some might object that these are all public, ceremonial expressions of grief. Men might cry in this ritual manner over weighty issues of death, war and politics, but surely personal tears of love and frustration were still confined to women?

In a word, no. In medieval romances, we find innumerable instance of knights crying purely because they miss their girlfriends. In Chrétien de Troyes’ The Knight of the Cart, no less a hero than Lancelot weeps at a brief separation from Guinevere. At another point, he cries on a lady’s shoulder at the thought that he won’t get to go to a big tournament. What’s more, instead of being disgusted by this snivelling, she’s moved to help, and Lancelot gets to go to the tournament after all. The knights of King Arthur, King Mark, King Everyone are routinely reduced to tears every time they’re told a heart-wrenching story. It’s hard to think of any niche situations in which tears might exclusively still be the province of women.

Still more remarkably, there’s no mention of the men in these stories trying to restrain or hide their tears. No one pretends to have something in his eye. No one makes an excuse to leave the room. They cry in a crowded hall with their heads held high. Nor do their companions make fun of this public blubbing; it’s universally regarded as an admirable expression of feeling.

Until recently, grown men actually forced themselves to cry publicly in the hope of impressing their peers

The Bible is full of similar references to demonstrative weeping by kings, entire peoples, and God Himself (as incarnated in Jesus). It’s understandable, then, that for centuries tears were linked to piety. The Confessions of St Augustine are full of descriptions of the saint’s unrestrained weeping. St Jerome’s letter to Eustochium has eight separate references to crying; he describes himself as being in ‘floods of tears’, ‘drenched with tears’, and ends by exhorting worshippers to ‘Nightly wash your bed and water your couch with your tears’. St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, describes 175 separate crying episodes in a single 40-page section of his diary.

Weeping was such a central part of worship that it was written into the rules of monastic orders as a required accompaniment of prayer and repentance. Throughout the medieval era, disapproval of crying is confined to hypocriticaltears, which were understood to be common in both men and women. Put another way, until recently, grown men actually forced themselves to cry publicly in the hope of impressing their peers.

There’s one glaring exception to this worldwide sobfest. As the medievalist Sif Rikhardsdottir of the University of Iceland notes, Scandinavians maintained a dry-eyed composure through these sobbing centuries. In her Medieval Translations and Cultural Discourse (2012), Rikhardsdottir illustrates this point by citing two versions of a medieval epic in which a boy hero is lost in the woods. The French hero dissolves in self-pitying tears; his Icelandic counterpart stoically admires the scenery and contemplates his next move.

The description in the Icelandic text is positively buoyant: ‘There it was very lovely to sit and delightful. He jumped from his horse there and looked out at the sea and intended to sit there until he got some revelation.’ Rikhardsdottir comments: ‘Crying was not considered socially appropriate and most certainly not for men in medieval Scandinavia. The accusation of a man crying was in fact justifiably avenged with death.’ While this response might seem extreme, the sentiment behind it is all too familiar today.

Outside of Scandinavia, rampant male boo-hooing persisted well into the Early Modern period, and extended to parliamentarians as well as knights and monks. In 1628, the English politician Thomas Alured describes the reaction in the House of Commons to a letter from the king threatening the dissolution of Parliament: ‘Sir Robert Phillips spake, and mingled his words with weeping… St Edward Coke was forced to sit down when he began to speak, through the abundance of tears: yea, the Speaker… could not refrain from weeping and shedding of tears.’

So where did all the male tears go? The truth is, we don’t know for certain. There was no anti-crying movement. No treatises were written against men’s tears, and no leaders of church or state introduced measures to discourage them. Their decline occurred so slowly and quietly that no one seems to have noticed it happening. But by the 18th century, proponents of the Cult of Sensibility were exhorting men to be more sensitive, with an emphasis on free-flowing tears, which implies that males were already regarded as lachrymally challenged. By the Romantic period, masculine tears were reserved for poets. From here, it’s just a short leap to the poker-faced heroes of Ernest Hemingway, who, despite their poetic leanings, cannot express grief by any means but tippling and shooting the occasional buffalo.

The most obvious possibility is that this shift is the result of changes that took place as we moved from a feudal, agrarian society to one that was urban and industrial. In the Middle Ages, most people spent their lives among those they had known since birth. A typical village had only 50-300 inhabitants, most of them related by blood or marriage; a situation like an extended family stuck in an eternal reunion in the middle of nowhere. Medieval courts were also environments of extreme intimacy, where courtiers spent entire days in each other’s company, year after year. Kings routinely conducted business from their beds, at the foot of which their favourite servants slept at night. We can see this familiarity also in odd details of royal life, such as the nobleman in the courts of many European kings whose coveted privilege it was to assist the king in defecation.

But from the 18th through the 20th centuries, the population became increasingly urbanised; soon, people were living in the midst of thousands of strangers. Furthermore, changes in the economy required men to work together in factories and offices where emotional expression and even private conversation were discouraged as time-wasting. As Tom Lutz writes in Crying: The Natural and Cultural History of Tears(1999), factory managers deliberately trained their workers to suppress emotion with the aim of boosting productivity: ‘You don’t want emotions interfering with the smooth running of things.’

Although some women worked in factories too, they were far more likely to remain in the home. They took in sewing, laundry or lodgers; or hired themselves out as domestics and governesses in other people’s houses. When a housewife or housemaid burst into tears, she was witnessed only by the members of her household. Often she wasn’t witnessed at all. Instead of being shouted at by a foreman, she could sob into her own laundry tub in peace.

We can’t help feeling the pain of tears, and often resent their unwanted intimacy, the emotional equivalent of a groping hand

Such contexts are known to have a significant effect on how rewarding it is to cry. A study by Lauren Bylsma, Ad Vingerhoets, and Jonathan Rottenberg, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology in 2008, found that people felt better after a good cry – if they cried alone or with a single supportive person. When they were in public, or with someone who was unsupportive, crying made them feel even worse. Supportiveness was expressed in simple gestures such as ‘comfort words’ and ‘comfort arms’ – which seem easy enough, but are unlikely to be forthcoming on a factory floor.

The question remains whether our culture’s suppression of men’s tears is harmful or beneficial. On the plus side, most of us are grateful not to have to regularly deal with weeping co-workers. Other people’s crying makes us uncomfortable. It’s an unavoidable result of our capacity for empathy. We can’t help feeling the pain of tears; but for that very reason, we often resent them. It can be an unwanted intimacy, the emotional equivalent of a groping hand. Most people’s gut reaction is to do whatever it takes to make the tears stop.

Furthermore, you don’t have to be paranoid to think that the power of tears opens the door to their use as manipulation. Psychologists recognise the role of manipulative tears, and even consider them to be innate. Babies naturally cry when they’re hungry, or when they’re in pain or discomfort; this triggers care-taking responses in adults. And, in case you were wondering, a study by Miranda Van Tilburg, Marielle Unterberg and Vingerhoets, published in theBritish Journal of Developmental Psychology in 2002, has established that male and female children cry equal amounts until they reach puberty.

It’s clear that there’s a point in a child’s development when crying for food turns into crying when their parents won’t buy them something they want. These tears can be very effective; many a PlayStation has been bought for a sobbing child. And anyone with a tearful relative knows that some adults can also get their own way by turning on the waterworks. If it was acceptable to use crying as a manipulation tactic in the workplace, the weepiest employees would have an advantage over their dry-eyed competitors. As it stands, the most likely result of crying too much at work is that you will be fired by email.

So social prohibitions against crying are arguably useful. Labour productivity might be enhanced; we’re spared the dramas of strangers; and men (and women, in the workplace) are constrained in their use of emotional manipulation.

However, human beings weren’t designed to swallow their emotions, and there’s reason to believe that suppressing tears can be hazardous to your wellbeing. Research in the 1980s by Margaret Crepeau, then Professor of Nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, found a relationship between a person’s rate of stress-related illnesses and inadequate crying. Weeping is also, somewhat counter-intuitively, correlated with happiness. Vingerhoets, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has found that in countries where people cry the most, they also report the highest levels of satisfaction. Finally, crying is an important tool for understanding one’s own feelings. A 2012 study of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome – whose sufferers are incapable of producing tears – found they had significantly more difficulty identifying their emotions than a control group.

You might also suffer if you simply hide your tears from others, as men are now expected to do. As we’ve seen, crying can be social behaviour, designed to elicit care from people around you. While this might be inappropriate in the context of a performance review, it could be an essential way of alerting friends and family – and even colleagues – that you need support. Taboos against male expressiveness mean that men are far less likely than women to get help when they’re suffering from depression. This, in turn, is correlated with higher suicide rates; men are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as women. Male depression is also more likely to express itself in alcoholism and drug addiction, which have their own high death toll. Think of stoical Scandinavia, whose nations rank high for productivity – but also lead the world in rates of alcoholism and suicide.

So it might be time for men to return to the free-flowing tears of the past. Although we can’t go back to the close-knit villages of the medieval era, we can try to revive their fraternal spirit. As office culture becomes increasingly informal, might we want to supplement casual Fridays with emotional Mondays? Can we imagine a world in which both men and women weep openly when hearing disappointing figures in a sales meeting? We might shrink away from the idea of a modern-day Lancelot who, when his boss doesn’t want to send him to a big conference, sobs until he gets his own way. But this risk seems trivial, set beside a world where we suppress our feelings until we scarcely know what they are.

It’s time to open the floodgates. Time for men to give up emulating the stone-faced heroes of action movies and be more like the emotive heroes of Homer, like the weeping kings, saints and statesmen of thousands of years of human history. When misfortune strikes, let us all – men and women – join together and cry until our sleeves are drenched. As the Old Testament has it: ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.’

Posted in Male "Power" and "Privilege", Men Expressing Feelings | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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