I haven’t seen my copy of Men On Strike for several weeks. I kept careful watch on the book until I finished interviewing her, but after that it disappeared into the Bowyer-Family-Book-Sharing Vortex from which it has not yet emerged. That’s because it is an easy read about a topic which is interesting in both a social science theory way, and in a figuring out how to get by in the current world kind of way.
Men on Strike is pretty much what the title says it is, a book about how many men have decided not to participate in certain areas of life, most notably in school, family, and increasingly in work. What separates the work of Helen Smith, a psychologist who deals with men like the ones she writes about in her book, is the lack of scoldiness that you might find in the similar work of say Kay Hymowitz’ Manning Up. For Smith, the men are in large part acting rationally. They’re more John Galt than they are Peter Pan. The book could as well have been titled Andros Shrugged, if ancient Greek titles sold books.
The controversy has erupted in another quarter, namely in a series of blog and counter blog salvos between the aforementioned Hymowitz and the popular Best of the Web Today blog authored by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal.
Despite the fact that Hymowitz seems to be the only one in the debate who actually cites Smith by name, Taranto seems to be closer in spirit to the thesis of Men on Strike:
“Boys and young men are no less rational, or capable of adapting to incentives, than girls and young women are. They are, in fact, adapting very well to the incentives for female power and independence–which inevitably also serve as disincentives to male reliability and self-sacrifice.”
Before the Hymowitz/Taranto controversy erupted, I sat down with Dr. Smith across a Skype connection (one set up by her tech savvy husband, Glenn Reynolds who also writes a popular blog here) for a delightful conversation about the book and whatever else happened to come up.
For the full interview, click here.
Or you can read selected transcriptions (edited for clarity) below.