Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lionel Tiger - The Decline of Men, and the Need for "Male Studies",204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU15_.jpg

I'm not sure what to think about Lionel Tiger - he's one the proponents of the new "male studies" movement, because men's studies simply is not good enough (or is getting it wrong) - he sees men's studies as a sub-field of feminist studies or women's studies.

I suspect he is correct in some ways, but I also suspect he discounts or ignores the degree to which men are socialized to not have feelings, to be more aggressive, and so on. He looks for the biological angle, which is his field, but that is only one piece of the puzzle.

Tiger is the Charles Darwin Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and a biotechnology consultant for the Department of Defense. He is an evolutionary biologist - and also a psychologist, sort of - and has written several books, including Men in Groups (where we get the term "male bonding"), The Decline of Males, The Pursuit of Pleasure and The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution, and the Industrial System. He is an advocate for "male studies" departments in universities.

Here is the whole Big Think interview with Tiger:

Lionel Tiger

Professor of Anthropology, Rutgers University
May 20, 2010 Interview with Lionel Tiger

Full Interview 47:15
The Brain Creates Religion 5:15
Is Religion Good for You? 4:54
Sex is "Simply too Massive" Not to Have Rules 2:35
The World Is Becoming "More Dangerously Religious" 2:31
Are Some Religions More Evolved Than Others? 5:02
Can Animals Be Religious? 3:43
Are Psychoactive Drugs Feminizing? 6:28
Male Aggression and the Financial Crisis 7:36
How We Pick a Mate 7:19
Evolutionary Biology in the Department of Defense 2:25

Here are some of the relevant sections from the interview for those who would rather read them than watch the video:
Question: Are males in decline in our society?

Lionel Tiger: If you look at the educational system it’s doing about 30 to 40 to 50% better with females than males, so college enrollments are overwhelmingly more female than male and the question is why is that. There is some feeling that the introduction of a kind of women’s studies cast of characters has tended to make males feel somewhat out of sorts or not fully wanted and in my Decline of Males book I described males as having been born with a male original sin, that is if you’re born a guy you have to work it off. You have to express your feelings. You have to do all those things that will be **** with the current sexual fashions, which can’t be machismo-ish, can’t be too draconically male, can’t watch football as much. You have to articulate a different path. Now that’s relatively trivial. I’m not trying to make a point about it, but the fact is that in the school system we see boys don’t work well and overall and there is a political question if a taxpayer funded entity is producing a better result for one part of the population than the other. A, that is not fair and B, it constitutes a social problem.

So for example, I discovered that… and this was after I wrote the Decline of Males, that four out of five kids expelled from kindergarten are boys. Now my first question is how the hell do you get expelled from kindergarten, but the second is why this differentiation and then we see for example in the use of drugs to drug kids that 90% of the victims of Ritalin are boys and I know a case at the moment of a woman who has got a child that speaks three languages, is in a school where most of the kids speak one and the child is very bouncy and very active and very energetic and the mother was told that perhaps the child could be brought to a medical practitioner for an evaluation. That word was used. And you can be certain that they’re thinking let’s drug the kid, let’s calm him down with Ritalin or some other substance and that’s very serious because we don’t know what the long-term impact of those powerful drugs might be on a small organism. So the issue of what happens to males I think is now resurfacing in an interesting way and I think it offers us the opportunity to begin to review the matter, to begin with the basic biology, to begin the notion of humans as primates and to assume that male primates and female primates will act differently, in many cases the same, but also in many cases differently and we should understand that better and with warmth and not hostility and so the male original sin problem I think has to be avoided because the results are poor. Fifty years of women’s studies for example and I’m not singly out women’s studies. I think it’s a general issue. Fifty years of that since the first program was established in 1970 has yielded a system which is very biased it appears functionally against males and after all who wants that? When my book the Decline of Males came out the warmest response I had was from the mothers of boys who wrote and called and whatever to say, “You have no idea what goes in schools.” “My son has his hand up all the time.” “Nobody recognizes him because they’re supposed to favor girls.” Well that may be an exaggeration, but that was the response I had and I thought that was very interesting.

Question: Are psychoactive drugs feminizing?

Lionel Tiger: I’m not sure that they’re feminizing. I think they have impacts and we don’t know for sure what those impacts are. We know some impact. A kid is quieter. Maybe learns more, learns better. On the other hand, we have very good reason historically to be very suspicious of drugs that cause behavioral changes because the changes they cause are never the ones that are explicitly indicated on the package and so one wants to be very, very careful and I would if I were a medical practitioner, which I’m not and I don’t have any expertise in the matter, I would be very, very hesitant to drug a kid who is three because we have no idea what the long term implications might be on that child’s development, a boy or a girl, but since most of the victims of these drugs are boys we have to assume that essentially they are being feminized in the sense that they’re behavior is supposed to become more female like.

Do some of them benefit from the drugs?

Lionel Tiger: Sure, I’ve been told by parents that their children under these drugs are much better off in school. However, I was talking with a French doctor who teaches at the University of Paris Medical School and he said that… now this was four, five years ago, that in all of France there are 4,600 people, kids taking Ritalin. That is probably as many as there are in a high school in a local suburb. They regard this drug as a highly suspicious drug, very, very powerful and it’s on the restricted list along with cocaine, heroin and all of that, so nobody can get it. In this country school nurses just hand it out and so I think we have sold ourselves a very shabby bill of goods which may cost us a lot of human competence in years to come.

Question: Did male aggression contribute to the financial crisis?

Lionel Tiger: That is undoubtedly true. The question though is also, why weren’t there more women involved in those systems and will women ever be involved in the same way. The evidence we have is that women seem to not want to compete at that level with that kind of violence over a lifetime. There was just a study done of women in Silicon Valley and about a third of the women leave very quickly from the competition, another third have babies and they never go back and the ones who persist are relatively more modest in their activities than the males are and I think we have to acknowledge the fact that males tend to be somewhat more bellicose and aggressive whether it is good for them to generate these collateralized debt obligation instruments that have caused us such tremendous grief. I’m not sure that is gender specific, but the idea of making all that money and being of high status and having the money to give for your kids and so on, all of those things are associated with the male career by and large, so a lot of those people who made those huge salaries had two or three kids in private school and they had a whole array of expenses, which were really high and in general I think it’s the case that females don’t go for that kind of money because they don’t want to.

There is a lot of talk about a glass ceiling and so on, but for example Harvard Business School did a study some years ago and I’m afraid I can’t remember the details, but it turns out that a large, large percentage of the graduates don’t do business at all. They go into the labor force for awhile and then they leave. They either quite because they don’t like fighting for the corner suite or they have kids and they have a priority and they serve that priority. So we’re not going to repeal biology and so long as you have a tournament area called Wall Street or whatever else you want to call it where a whole lot of really eager males can get together and fight over sources then you have to really regulate I think and this is what President Obama is concerned about. In fact, he is New York City as we speak to talk to people about that issue and speaking primo dialogically I think he has got an interesting challenge, but also a good point.

Question: Is masculinity still necessary?

Lionel Tiger: Overwhelmingly when we look at say sexual want ads in newspapers, it’s decreasing now because of the internet, but when these things first came out women… men would always ask for women who were affectionate, warm, etc., fertile, good looking. Women invariably asked for men who were reliable and to quote, unquote, professional. By professional they meant somebody who is going to provide a general and a genuine and a predictable stream of income for me and for our children and women look for that all the time. Women are always trying to find guys who are slightly older and slightly richer than they are and that is not being mean. It makes a lot of sense because women do have babies. Most women still do and when they have babies they have needs. There is a lot of discussion about the so called 77 cents on the dollar that women earn and President Obama has repeated this nonsense himself. It’s true women earn 77 cents on the dollar, but the reason is that they’re out of the labor force for five to eight years and if you assume a 3% increase per annum for 8 years there is your difference and so the reason is that women make choices that men don’t make, don’t have to make and the consequence is that males will be in the tournament in Wall Street. However, it’s now changed because of the credential problem that I mentioned that is that guys are not graduating from desirable schools to the extent they used to and so now in big cities such as New York, Toronto, Chicago, L.A., etc. women between 20 and 35 earn more money than men in that age group. Now there is a good reason for that. Again not only are women better at the school system which favors them it seems, but any woman who is at college now or who is coming to maturity in the modern world knows that not only has she to study to support herself, but she is studying for two because she may well have a child and she may well have no provider to take care of that child and her, so she better get a good job, good credential so she’ll be in shape to do this.

40% of babies born in the United States and in Europe are born to women who are not legally married. Now some of the mare living with guys and connections may be made and they may be durable, but the fact is that the idea of so many women having babies on their own, risking that they may have to do this by themselves is I think very revealing and it suggests a great deal about what they think of the guys. They just don’t trust them.

Question: Why are you supporting the idea of "male studies" as an academic discipline?

Lionel Tiger:
There has been in the whole women’s studies world a notion that sex roles are the result of which magazines you read and which sitcom you watch and that it’s all confection. It’s not indigenous out of the organism and so that and the idea of patriarch is if there were a bunch of guys sitting around and doing their very best to keep women down. Again, possibly true and certainly true in a whole series of events, but the fact is that I think that it hasn’t worked, that that approach, the call it women’s studies approach, men’s studies approach, which is basically a branch plant of the women’s studies programs that hasn’t worked to yield for us a society of equal men and women equally enjoying, equally profiting from their educational experience and so it seemed to a number of us it was actually time to start again. When you have a situation in which two-thirds of the graduates of an institution are female and it’s supposed to be for everybody you’re entitled to ask, why is this trip necessary? How did it get this way? And so we were rather innocently saying just let’s review the matter. We’re not content with the result. It hasn’t worked.

How much of human behavior do we actually have choice over?

Lionel Tiger: We have endless choice, but we also are hardwired in certain ways to make certain choices, so for example, as we learned from language through Noam Chomsky’s work kids are programmed to learn language. A two year-old kid can learn Chinese. I could never learn Chinese and I’m a reasonably smart applicable character who could apply myself to it. I couldn’t do it. It is not in my wiring any longer. As Chomsky showed there is a program for learning language which is associated with being a kid. There are programs for a whole series of things in us. The kid may learn Chinese. The kid may learn Arabic, but he is going to learn something and so the issue is what is in the system and what is easy for us to learn and it appears that some of things that we find easy to learn are tricky like my group is better than your group or I want to have access to as many females or males as I can independent of what the consequences are of that or a series of other things, but basically this is a massive question and the history of recent biological science shows that we have really not well handled the problem. For example, most universities and colleges in North America, England, the rest of Europe are divided in two, two science faculties if you will. There is the natural sciences and then there are the social sciences with the heavy implication that social behavior is not natural. It’s inescapable that that would be the conclusion, but in fact, social behavior is natural and we have very, very little synthetic analysis of behavior from both the evolutionary and the contemporary point of view in many ways and that has become, I’m afraid, highly politicized and consequently generates a lot more heat than light.

Question: How much conscious choice do we have in who we pick as a mate?

Lionel Tiger: Well first of all, location, location, location is very important as we know. Secondly, people will have… Well there is something called in sociology assortative mating. It happens to be a cruel fact of high school that the quarterback gets the girl who is regarded as the prettiest. It’s regarded as a cruel fact of nature that Katherine Zeta Jones ends up with Mike Douglas. People make choices depending on what they think they can get if you will, out of the reproductive system and so a lot of people fail. They don’t have any partner and there is a huge issue for example in the African-American community in America where so many of the males are imprisoned. If you have 20 females and 20 males and one, just one male is in prison then the 19 other females have to really chop and change to make a proper connection and it puts pressure on everybody and so in that particular community we see the cost and so one remembers Terry McMillan’s book Waiting to Exhale. So here we have an indication of the fact that yes, we have a lot of free choice, but it is usually within a kind of marketplace of humans if you will, to be crass about it, and that continues to exist and so you have women who will decide never to date some guy who doesn’t have X or Y characteristics, who doesn’t have a professional, quotes, job. You have a lot of … For example, there was a study done of medical students a Syracuse by a man named John Thompson and he said that there were…

Yeah, there was a study done of medical students, male and female in a university in New York and the males were quite ruthless in how they evaluated the females. They said for example about one of them, “Why is she studying to be a doctor?” She is good looking.” “She should just marry one.” And they had very, very rigorous statements that they made about they would only go out with two of the ten women who were in their class because of physical attraction of whatever their metric, but it was real. It was harsh and that goes on all the time. It’s the story of high school and it’s real and it’s painful and it happens and the consequences are that individuals have to sort of figure out how to present themselves. If you look at female reading habits any magazine “612 Ways to Make Yourself Look Better for 5 Cents” on the cover or “200 Things That Will Please Him” or various ways of trying to attract a male in a very competitive environment and not just a male, a good one. That is the problem. Males have a different metric and the problem is many males realize that they can’t really hack it. They’re just not going to end up doing this very well in terms of their fantasies or their dreams or even their ambitions.

1 comment:

Beverly Hills Psycologist said...

Wow this comment in the above .....“Why is she studying to be a doctor?” She is good looking.” “She should just marry one.” .....says a whole lot about the Psychology of men, its funny and demeaning all at the same time, something we deal with everyday. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, I rest my case