Do we need male advocacy groups? Shaunti Feldhahn, a right-leaning columnist, writes the commentary this week, and Andrea Sarvady, a left-leaning columnist, responds.
When Steve Saltarelli started a student group called Men in Power at the University of Chicago, he intended it to “spread awareness and promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today.” But from the explosive reactions to its formation, you would have thought he was suggesting women return to greeting their master at the door with slippers in hand.
The Chicago Tribune’s feature story on the group was quickly blogged across the Internet, with many echoes of the female student who said, “It’s like starting ‘White Men in Business’ – there’s not really any purpose.” Or, more derisively, the blogger who told men, “You’ve ruled the world for far too long, now you cry fowl! Booo, hooey!”
If you’re going to be snippy, at least get your spelling correct.
These reactions show how desperately men’s groups are needed. The University of Chicago has nine similar women’s groups, and the fuss over starting just one for men exposes the anti-male resentment still festering today. Society’s focus on women’s needs has somehow made it unacceptable to focus on men. But this is not a zero-sum game, and we must fully encourage both.
Many of the angry women blogging this story on The Huffington Post should stop and consider that they have sons – and those boys are being launched into a world that no longer understands their unique wiring or needs, nor intends to do much about it. And boys are suffering. Today, 57 percent of college students are women. Women earn 150 master’s degrees for every 100 earned by men. Grade schools are almost entirely taught by women and designed for girls, with no clue that boys feel suppressed and confused – and often mentally check out.
This is occurring despite the fact that what boys (and men) most need is to feel adequate in their abilities. So much so that 74 percent of men would actually give up feeling loved if they could just feel adequate and respected, according to a nationally representative survey for my book “For Women Only.”
Upon learning that truth, I was sobered that I didn’t already know something so fundamental about men – something every woman wanting a good relationship should know. If we don’t bring awareness and encouragement to men’s issues, we not only hurt our husbands and sons, but also ultimately ourselves.
Who’s against groups of men supporting one another? Following his bypass surgery, my father initially met with a group of men around his age to encourage one another during their recovery. The guys got so much out of those meetings that they’ve kept the group going for years now. Organizations like Big Brothers and other male mentoring programs remain active and are desperately needed, now more than ever.
I don’t think the eye-rolling across the nation aimed at the University of Chicago’s Men in Power group was an attack on the simple premise of men getting together to “promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today.” It was aimed at both the name of Steve Saltarelli’s group, and the original shout-out to his brethren: “Anyone interested in both studying and learning from men in powerful positions, as well as issues involved with reverse sexism?”
Saltarelli may just be a reasonable guy just trying to start a dialogue. One can imagine moments on campus these days when just being a man makes you defensive.
But trust me, fellows, it gets a whole lot better once you get that diploma. Young men entering the workforce earn 20 percent more than their female counterparts just one year after college. And if Saltarelli’s stated interest in law school remains? He’ll discover what the American Bar Foundation calls a “stunning disparity” in men’s and women’s abilities to make partner. Its 12-year study showed, for example, that in large firms only 6 percent of women make partner, as opposed to 22 percent of men.
Finally, finding “men in powerful positions to study”? That should be a breeze for Men in Power members. Yet, as of January 2009, there were merely 13 female CEOs running the top 500 U.S. publicly traded companies.
Young men may very well need encouragement to care about their studies and stay in school. Yet these and many other statistics show that the professional world still has a long way to go before being male puts you at a disadvantage and in need of special coaching and networking avenues. In 2009, Men in Power isn’t just the name of a special interest group – it’s still a pretty accurate description of the workplace.
Andrea Sarvady (ASarvad@gmail.com) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling, and a married mother of three. Shaunti Feldhahn (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a conservative Christian author and speaker, and married mother of two children. Conact them at Universal Press, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo.