The apex fallacy: An interview with Dr. Helen Smith
By Bernard Chapin
I have conducted scores of interviews since 2003, but rarely did one alter my worldview. Yet that was precisely what occurred during my exchange with Dr. Helen Smith. Her answer to my second question led to my coming up with a new term for the fallacious way by which feminists comprehend the nature of our social structure. The phrase "Apex Fallacy" sprung to mind as it elucidates fully the inaccurate fashion by which they assess the status of women in America. The error in their thinking arises from a collective refusal to acknowledge that the vast majority of male workers toil in the nether regions of our economy. These hordes of men—who make possible feminist lives of leisure—are totally invisible to the harridans who compare women, on aggregate, to the rich and famous alone. Indeed, when judging female progress, juxtaposition is only made with those males at the apex of our status hierarchy. It seems that feminists can discern none but the elite.
Who then is Dr. Helen Smith? She is a forensic psychologist and commentator living in Tennessee. Her work frequently appears at Pajamasmedia.com and Mensnewdaily.com. She is married to Glenn Reynolds whose Instapundit is one of our nation's best known and influential blogs. Together they do a weekly podcast called "The Glenn and Helen Show."
BC: Dr. Helen, first off allow me to compliment you on the excellence of your columns and the advice that you have proffered. I greatly enjoy your work. My initial question is, overall, are American women oppressed today?
Dr. Helen Smith: Thanks very much for the kind words. In answer to your question, I would say that women in America today do still have some hurdles, such as sexism towards women in politics and other areas but the sexism is often promoted by those of the liberal persuasion, and often by women, as we have seen recently with Sarah Palin (for an example, see my column entitled, "How to Cope with a Palin Hater"). I think that women are now the new nobility in our society and they expect to be catered to—especially by men. More women than men are going to college, in many larger cities, women outearn men, they win most of the child custody cases and alimony cases, despite men spending more time with their kids and they control much of the wealth in this country.
BC: In contrast, what are your impressions of the male sex?
Dr. Helen Smith: More men tend to be at the high end or low end in our society and because of this, people mistakenly believe that all men dominate in our culture because they see a few men at the top. Professor Roy F. Baumeister explained this in an invited address to the American Psychological Association:
BC: I wish I was there to hear that speech. At any rate, how pervasive is misandry in our society?
Dr. Helen Smith: I believe there is a great deal of misandry in our culture ranging from television shows that depict men as imbeciles and idiots who can't make it without their sexy organized wives, to school systems that medicate and/or punish boys for what may be normal male behavior.
BC: Has hostility towards men trickled down into hostility towards boys?
Dr. Helen Smith: Yes, it is very troubling. It is so engrained in our society to make fun of, or show boys in a negative light that no one even protests. Case in point, I was recently watching TV and saw two commercials back to back. One was advertising diaper-like underwear for five or six year old kids who wet the bed--they showed three boys having a spend the night and one of them was (gasp!) a bed-wetter. The next commercial showed a teenage boy stripping off clothing to indicate doing away with his drug habit. So in the space of five minutes, I learned that boys are nothing but bed-wetters or drug addicts. It sounds innocent enough but imagine the negativity you receive on a daily basis as a boy in our society. You go to school where you are told you may be a potential rapist or sexual harasser, then the teacher tells you to settle down or you will be sent for medication, the girl at the mall is wearing a "boys are stupid, throw rocks at them" t-shirt and then the TV is telling you that you are a bed-wetter or drug addict. It's no wonder our boys are now more interested in video games than in school, learning or later, college. At least video games are challenging and not telling them they are somehow inadequate.
BC: You hear from a great many men, what are their chief complaints? Also, what do you see as being their biggest problem?
Dr. Helen Smith: Most of the complaints and emails I get from men have to do with their personal relationships with women. They are on the fence about getting married, getting too involved with women and are very concerned about the misandry that is rampant in our culture. They are afraid they will lose their livelihoods, their kids and their relationship if their marriage does not work out and the courts and society will be against them.
Dr. Helen Smith: My colleague and friend, Richard Driscoll, has a new book out entitled, You Still Don't Understand, in which he spends two chapters discussing chivalry. He states that it has been found that women berate men their husbands almost twice as often as men berate their wives. "Chivalrous standards," he explains, "accept women who complain about being mistreated and oppressed, but it is extraordinarily foolish for a man to complain as he would reveal himself a loser and a weakling and would garner contempt or pity but no support."
BC: Does chivalry serve any purpose anymore? Can the concept and practice of chivalry co-exist with the notion of equality?
Dr. Helen Smith: Chivalry initially was about survival of the species, in some sense. Men who protected women were more likely to mate with them, or were given rewards from the tribe for doing so whereas men who were cowards or scumbags were ostracized. Chivalry, according to Driscoll, seemed to have functioned over hundreds of thousands of years to keep families together, obligating men to support their wives and children and punishing men who failed to do so.
BC: More and more psychology has become female dominated. Any opinion as to what impact this eventuality will have on the profession?
Dr. Helen Smith: Psychology is now a feminist institution that seems to side more with women and their issues and does not seem to truly understand the needs of men. This may be due to a dearth of men in the field or it may be that men do not go to therapists as often as they fear that a female psychologist will not understand where a man is coming from. This is tragic, many times, because men commit suicide at much higher rates than women and therefore, would benefit from psychotherapy for treatment of depression or other mental health issues.
BC: I bet you've received some interesting mail over the years from feminists. Any colorful stories to share? My audience would love to hear them.
Dr. Helen Smith: Gender feminists do not tend to write me. Most of the emails I get are from women who believe in real equality between the sexes and not special privileges for women. They like men and want to know how they can help or write to share stories about their significant others or sons. There are so many wonderful, strong women out there and it warms my heart to hear from them either by email or on my blog.
BC: Lastly, you authored The Scarred Heart: Understanding and Identifying Kids Who Kill. While several fine books have been published relating to the plight of boys such as Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know about the Emerging Science of Sex Differences and The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life, it seems that, as a result of Columbine, an entire movement has emerged based on pathologization of boys. Of course, in that particular scenario the actors (Klebold and Harris) were emotionally disturbed and not in any way representative of young males on the whole. Do we not do a disservice to boys by making conclusions based on the acts of a criminal subgroup?
Dr. Helen Smith: When we treat all boys like criminals, we encourage the very behavior that we are trying to avoid. Many teen boys tell me that they are treated as suspect and like a thug, so they might as well act like one. Boys today are told that they are stupid or dangerous. Generally, they are neither. School killings are rare, and do not represent normal teenage boy behavior. Perhaps if we quit acting like normal boys were pathological and started treating them with more respect and give them more responsibility, not less, we would see more respectful and responsible behavior. People are so concerned that girls get better than equal treatment and time that they have forgotten that our boys need the same.
Get weekly updates about new issues of ESR!