LOPEZ: How did we get to this point where dads are considered doofuses at best on sitcoms? What does it say about how we value fatherhood?
SMITH: In the 1970s, it seemed as if TV started to portray men as idiots, perverts, and buffoons. Jim Macnamara, a professor in Sydney, Australia, found that the media portray men in a negative light 69 percent of the time. It’s no wonder we no longer value dads. Add in the incentives that welfare benefits such as WIC and food stamps provide to single women, and dads are now becoming obsolete. The government has taken over as husband for many women.
LOPEZ: How much of a problem is paternity fraud? How to tackle?
SMITH: There are studies that show paternity fraud is quite prevalent; some say that it is over 3 percent. Paternity-fraud laws need to change in every state. No man should have to pay, involuntarily, for a child that is not his or risk being put in jail.
LOPEZ: Has college really become finishing school for women? And if so, what’s your advice to men already there for the semester?
SMITH: Women make up 57 percent of college students now. Men are opting out of education, as they feel college has little to offer them; some bailed out long ago when they became disconnected to school due to its being geared toward how girls learn and not boys. My advice to young men is to find other guys to get support from. Start a group if possible, even an informal one so you can talk with one another.
LOPEZ: How has the Obama administration curbed due-process rights of men on campus?
SMITH: The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter in 2011 telling colleges that take federal funds that they should use a lower preponderance-of-evidence standard in sexual-assault cases. Basically it is “50 percent plus one,” meaning that a campus tribunal can decide a young man is guilty with less certainty than is needed in a criminal trial. Read the case of Judith Grossman’s son in the Wall Street Journal to find out more about how young men are believed to be guilty without a fair trial or real evidence.
LOPEZ: “Unfortunately, women’s groups are all atwitter about women being portrayed in the media as having to be beautiful or interested in beauty, but it is much worse to be shown as a suspicious pervert who should be lynched or locked up by society.” Is it really that bad?
SMITH: Yes, when we see men as the enemy, they are afraid to volunteer with children, to help others, or to sit by a kid on an airplane. We are isolating half the population — it is harmful to a free society.
LOPEZ: What’s so wrong with the “man cave” concept?
SMITH: Men are often relegated to the dirtiest part of the house — the garage, the attic, or the basement. The wife and kids occupy the main living space. Men may say they like it down there, but I have noticed, the minute the wife or kids are gone, they often go back upstairs. We have a decline of male space in our society these days and our houses reflect that. Brett McKay has more on this topic in his article “The Decline of Male Space.”
LOPEZ: How and why is it that “many women” are “afraid of men”? How do you understand this as a psychologist?
SMITH: Women are told from a young age not to talk with men, that men are perverts or pedophiles. As they get older, they are told at college that most if not all men are rapists. The media concur with the negativity, and it’s no surprise that women are frightened of men.
LOPEZ: You’ve said that “men need other men to talk to”? Is there really a war on Elks clubs?
SMITH: Yes, the all-male clubs are frequently harassed or sued. Even the Boy Scouts are seen as evil now by the media, as a bunch of homophobes that no one should want to belong to. Women can have whatever space they desire. Curves and other facilities are often female-only, but if guys want their own space, forget it. Same at schools where there are clubs for women and minorities but few for men.
LOPEZ: How do we help lost and withdrawn young men?
SMITH: We start by getting rid of the negative messages about men and boys. At schools, we offer books and activities that are boy-friendly. Christina Hoff Sommers in her new edition of The War on Boys has good suggestions, such as putting vocational training back in the schools. Michael Gurian, the author of The Wonder of Boys, also looks at how boys learn and how to engage them.
LOPEZ: What would be your opening pitch to a woman who buys “war on women” rhetoric?
SMITH: Good luck, honey, you’re going to need it.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.