Book Review: Men On Strike by Dr. Helen Smith
Men On Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream and Why It Matters. Helen Smith, PhD. New York, Encounter Books, 2013.
With the interest that this book has gotten since its release both in the mainstream media and in other locations (Free Northerner, da GBFM, Wintery Knight, Dalrock, Vox Day, among many others), I found it to be interesting to obtain the book.
However, there was a two week delay in getting the book from Amazon, which has delayed this review along with the death in my family. These have conspired to make this review fashionably late.
For those that are familiar with manosphere circles, Dr. Helen Smith is a forensic psychologist who has been published in numerous places. Most notable for the discussion of this book is that she has spent “many years talking to hundreds of men” (p xiv) in her position as a psychiatrist for two decades, and that she has blogged since 2005 on a number of issues, including men’s issues.
Dr. Smith states (p xiv) that her concern in listening to men and their plight has driven her in what she does. That focus on awareness comes out in the content of her book where many of her observations come to light. She describes how men are dealt with in society with respect to marriage, reproductive choice, higher education, and parenthood. She then describes her vision of why recognizing and dealing with these inequities matter, and then describes her observations on how men have dealt with these things along with her beliefs on how these things can be changed.
The reader of the book will notice readily that a focus is placed on observation. Men On Strike is full of anecdote and personal stories of men from her blog and from other sources (as illustrated in the notes section) which she reports to the reader. This emphasis is perhaps best for the feelings-dominated society that we live in today, especially for readers who are uninitiated into the topic. This is perhaps ideal, as the book seems to be intended for such an audience, though perhaps to the author’s experience, it misses two of the venues where men are under fire (the workplace and religious organizations).
In my opinion, Men On Strike suffers from this undue emphasis on observation over theory. While the book is quite effective in sounding a warning in the same way as Suzanne Venker, Dr. Smith seems to exhibit very little understanding of the reasons behind what she is observing, to the point that there are few passages of any good insight. To wit, the most insightful parts of the book are the ones where she comments on Warren Farrell’s Myth of Male Power, and collaborates with Christina Hoff Summers via interview (The War Against Boys)in the chapter on higher education.
This lack of theory contributes to two things present within the book. It is a very light easy read which will go quickly as Dr. Smith presents all of the stories she has gathered. Then with the theory component not present, it is hard to see any degree of organization in her writing. When she presents her stories and anecdotes, the point she is trying to make by telling the stories is either lost or missing in many cases. Then, some of the terms she uses like Uncle Tim (“male sellouts”? p76 Meaning what exactly?) are ill-defined and are filled as the book progresses.
Men On Strike can be very beneficial to those who are new to the concepts behind men’s rights and men’s issues. The text, while having its deficits of organization and theory, can contribute to the awareness of what happens in the lives of men today. However, since it will only function as a cursory introduction, it will not be very constructive to those who are familiar with these issues in any way. For those people, seeking out one of the other books mentioned in this review, The Manipulated Man, or The Polygamous Sex will be more beneficial. To the author’s credit, she lists a number of resources at the end of the book.
Rating: If you’re new to the manosphere 8 out of 10. If you’re not, 5 out of 10.
Image Source: National Review Online: The Siege of Men
Other references to Helen Smith on this blog: