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In Academe, Misogyny Meets Its Match: Misandrosy : Behavior: The uproar at Mills College illustrates a nasty new trend: man-hating. What parent would send a son into such an environment?

May 14, 1990|PATRICK M. ARNOLD | Father Patrick M. Arnold, SJ, assistant professor of theology at the University of San Diego, is writing a book on masculine spirituality

The images in the news were startling: distraught women students sobbing uncontrollably, their faces contorted in pain and anger. The ensuing interviews bespoke rage and revenge: student strikes called, resignations demanded, marches organized, donations cut off. What atrocity had merited such an outbreak? What injustice had the students suffered?

The trustees of all-women Mills College in Oakland had just decided to permit young males to begin their college education at this school. Next year, unless the protests succeed, a few teen-age boys will arrive at Mills and, amid 772 women, start using the library, taking notes, reading and--worst of all--asking questions in class. Which is exactly what the hysterical students and some of their ultra-feminist professors are afraid of. Why? Because, a Mills teacher tells us, research "proves" that the presence of men victimizes women students: that male students talk too much, ask too many questions and interrupt too often, thereby intimidating women and preventing their education. (This, by the way, was news to my students at co-ed University of San Diego.)

All of this uproar and rhetoric, and the pseudo-research behind it, exemplifies an emerging social force that is increasingly making itself felt on modern men, especially the young. It is the shadow side of the extreme feminist movement, an ideology of hate whose name is not yet found in the dictionary. I term it misandrosy (Greek: "hatred of men"), the mirror opposite of misogyny. Misandrosy, not yet as widespread or harmful as misogyny but not yet as well recognized, either, is beginning to show itself mainly in liberal circles in the arts, literature, religion, media and academia.

In general, this man-hating ideology holds that most males are naturally violent, dominating and patriarchal, and therefore forever on the verge of rape, child abuse and wife-battering. Talk-show hosts like Oprah Winfrey traffic in this male-bashing prejudice with lurid programs during the afternoon television hate-hour ("Male Child-Molesters and the Women Who Love Them"). Popular novels and movies portray males, especially African-Americans, as inevitably cruel and nearly worthless ("The Color Purple," "The Women of Brewster Place"). Shelves of sexist books (Riane Eisler's "The Chalice and the Blade") claim that men (and their male gods) have ruined all history since the idyllic days of the Neolithic Age when women (and their goddesses) held beneficent sway. Carl Sagan even pompously informs us that the whole planet is imminently endangered by "testosterone poisoning."

In this climate, any pride in being male is quickly squelched ("male chauvinism"). Men are supposed to submit to continual brow-beating about their "problem" of masculinity in order to expiate for their past sins and, possibly, get the cure.

Like all hate ideologies (racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia), misandrosy portrays itself as righteous and its purveyors as victims, put-upon, endangered and beleaguered. Special steps are therefore demanded to prevent the dangerous "them" from living in "our" neighborhood, taking "our" jobs, or, in the case of Mills, going to "our" schools. The rest of "us," in turn, are supposed to feel sympathetic to such victimization and therefore supportive of the protests, demonstrations and strikes.

In the case of Mills, the rhetoric seems to have worked. None of the many media stories that I saw contained the slightest criticism or questioning of the professors' "research" or the students' demands. Yet these attitudes are no less hateful than white students screaming at James Meredith in Mississippi or ignorant teachers trying to prevent Ryan White from studying in Indiana. In those two cases, public opinion rightly rejected the notion that a young black man or an AIDS sufferer pursuing his education endangered or victimized anyone. Not so at Mills.

Perhaps that is because misandrosy is more widespread and subtle than we thought. Remember: The Mills trustees voted to allow males at their school, not because young men in Oakland might desperately need more opportunities for obtaining a solid education, or even to expose female students to different companions and viewpoints. Men will come to Mills, we are told, solely to bring in more revenue. Because that is the one thing people think men are good for--making money.

That is why I would discourage parents from sending their teen-age boys into the toxic sexist environment at Mills. Send them to a mature co-ed college instead, a school where they can study, read, think and ask all the questions they want--and not feel hated for it.

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