Should society start having something like affirmative action for men?

Inspired by this thread and this article

Now that women go to college in larger numbers than men, and single childfree women make more than their male counterparts, is it time to acknowledge that something is wrong in the way we bring up and educate boys, and we need to find a new way of reaching out to and teaching boys in the classroom, to overcome this imbalance?

When the imbalance went the other way, people thought there must be something wrong, and several programs, like affirmative action, were put in place in order to encourage more women to go in to college and into careers where women were underrepresented.

Now that it is men who go to college in fewer numbers, and now that it is men who make less money, from the several articles I read about this phenomenon, it is just described matter-of-factly as the way things are now. Not much mention that this imbalance is bad or needs to be corrected.

What say you? Do we need to do something about boys’ education, upbringing, socialization, and college admissions, to bring things to a 50-50 balance?

Affirmative action? No. Addressing the different ways different people learn and progress through the education system? Yes.

Is it generally understood here that men and women IQs don’t quite line up? Men are more represented at the far ends of the IQ curve. There are more male geniuses but also more males with low IQ or developmental problems. So even if given equal opportunity you wouldn’t expect to see equal numbers at an “average” job, whatever that may be.

That’s because there was, as a matter of fact, systemic discrimination against women at every level of society. For the most part these artificial barriers to entry have been deconstructed. So it’s not surprising to me in the least that it turns out women are better than men in many areas. They’re more socially intelligent and more adept with language compared to men, which is a huge advantage in a lot of jobs and career arcs. Plus they don’t spend as much psychic energy chasing tail.

The reason it’s reported so matter of factly as opposed to some sort of social ill? You could make an analogy to desegregation in sports. The era is over. If women can beat us with the tables tilted away from them then we’re screwed in the long run when the playing field will be leveled even more. The only way to go back is to roll back reforms or create an environment that encourages them to stay at home.

Then again, maybe I’m a naive male who doesn’t see the repression inherent in the system.

I think maybe we should keep working on making it so women don’t have to give up getting married or having children to have a career. This news keeps being touted as a “victory,” but as a woman it reads like a list of things a young woman would have to miss out on if she wants a brief moment in the sun.

Let’s back up a bit. Should “affirmative action” be used for anyone or any group?

My interpretation of affirmative action is to force a preference for one person over another in order to correct a past discrimination naturally imposed by society.

So in order to remedy a past discrimination, you impose a new discrimination. Last year’s out group becomes this year’s in group. Whoever has the most votes this year receives special treatment.

I don’t see that as a good thing.

There is:

This is a bit complicated, however, because the motives of the schools involved aren’t entirely about social engineering: on a pragmatic level, these days most students prefer a roughly equal gender ratio. If a school is too heavily female, they won’t attract the very best female students. If the pendulum swung the other way (more boys applying), they’d admit more girls for the same reason.

You fundamentally misunderstand the nature of affirmative action. The idea isn’t that if we see any disproportionate outcomes we will seek to correct it by changing the incentives for inputs. The idea is that for those disproportionate outcomes that we can trace to historical discrimination, we will seek to overcome them by temporary programs to adjust outcomes until, through various cycles of social power such as role models and accumulation of wealth, there is no need for balancing. Once the effects of the historical discrimination are overcome (more or less), goes the theory, we don’t really care about how things shake out in terms of outcomes (assuming there is still enough diversity to satisfy whatever good benefits flow from diversity itself).

You may not buy that theory (and I don’t entirely buy it either), but it doesn’t follow from that theory that once women outnumber men, we should reverse the process and provide incentives for hiring more men.

Unless, of course, you can decisively prove that the imbalance was caused by excessive affirmative action. (Which is very unlikely.)

Agreed. Indeed, as affirmative action is a form of discrimination, it would follow from the basic theory that if affirmative action itself caused the imbalance, it would need to be corrected by active policy.

Not sure this is so much a matter of official policy as popular attitudes, but I’ve always felt there’s been a huge gap left by girls and women being encouraged to go into ‘male’ domains, sports, professions – for the boys and men who want to be househusbands, do rhythmic gymnastics, watch rom-coms, knit and bake, be librarians, craftspeople, secretaries, etc. Again, I think it’s more a matter of attitudes, of seeing equality as equal opportunity and encouragement regardless of gender (rather than one gender ‘rising’ to meet the other), and I think it’s more likely to play out in small scenarios before it seems like a natural, uninfluenced choice at a later date (see: the recent SDMB thread about not wanting your kid to dress up as a girl for Halloween – without a single equivalent for a little girl).

That being said, I have worked in heavily-female environments where the boss made a plea, when hiring, that we try to find a suitable male for the job, to ‘balance things out.’ I wasn’t particularly offended because I knew that, in the end, she’d be happiest with the right person for the job, regardless of gender.
And I have boy friends who are fine knitting and baking a quiche before having sex with their hot girlfriends. But they’re city boys.

I don’t think there should be an official AA policy for men, per se. That’s a program with specific goals and motivations, as mentioned earlier.

However, I do think employeers should have, within reason, the discretion to use “intangible” criteria if they see that certain imbalances are negatively affecting their clientele. For instance (and I often bring this up), male teachers are disproportionately outnumbered by female teachers. I think that this can have a negative affect on male students and may explain the “gender gap” we’re seeing today. If I were a principal, I might weigh a male candidate a little bit more heavily than I would a female candidate, all other things being basically the same.

Another example that doesn’t involve gender: graduate school admissions. I went to a very diverse institution for graduate school but when you looked at my department, most of the grad students were Chinese. They worked hard and were highly qualified, as far as I know, but they generally made for terrible TAs. Not because they were incompetent, but because their heavy accents made it extremely difficult for them to communicate to their students, professors, and non-Chinese TAs. Often American TAs would get bombarded with questions from students who weren’t in their sections, because their own TAs were so hard to understand. And because most of the grad students were Chinese, it was only natural for them to communicate together in Chinese–which only served to subvert the process of learning English.

If I were a professor and all the grad students I had to choose from to work in my lab were students who I could only have sparse communication with, I might find myself very frustrated. Although Americans (as a nationality) aren’t a historically discriminated group in this country, I might desire to find at least one or two to add to my lab, so that at the very least the Chinese students would have English-speaking role models to work with, forcing them to work on their communication skills. I would then be able to rest assured that research projects were being carried out the right way. If I’m the department chair, I might also weigh American applicants more favorably over Chinese applicants, so that I can at least be assured that some of my classes will have TAs who can communicate effectively. The professor who was in charge of the introductory level courses at my school actually went as far as banning Chinese students from speaking Chinese because the communication problem was that bad. Some of the professors also had to take that approach within their own labs.

So, in a limited number of circumstances, I favor preferential admissions/hiring of non-protected classes.

I think this implicates the second of the twin rationales for affirmative action: overcoming historical discrimination and diversity. Diversity has value in some contexts wholly apart from whether it reflects a just allocation of opportunities.

Now if we can just get girls to do real pushups and drive from the men’s tees, everything will be ok.

I’m not sure if I buy the statistics in the article.

First of all, they say “against their peer group” but what does that mean? Are they comparing female lawyers to male lawyers? Female nurses to male nurses? Or is it just salary by age group.

More women going to college implies the salary discrepency might be because more women are becomming professionals who typically earn more.

Also, the recent recession has disproportionately affected male dominated industries like finance, law and technology.

Finally, the article does not discuss is the “glass ceiling” Even if women are making a bit more in their 20s, significantly fewer women are becoming high level executives.

That’s not what affirmative action was supposed to mean. AA meant that to address underrepresentation of women and minorities a business or school needed to make proactive steps to recruit and retain them. For example, putting ads in newspapers that are aimed at the minority community, having job fairs in minority neighborhoods, and so on.

Yes, but why are more women going to college than men?

Could it be, for example, that the way subjects are taught in school favors the girls, and so some boys get behind in some subjects and thus are less likely to go to college? Not sure if this particular thing is true, but something is causing it, and it would make sense to find out and correct it.

“Supposed to mean” – I can agree with you on the intention, and can support recruiting and advertising efforts in under-represented areas. I personally believe “diversity” is desirable. But in practice it resulted in one person being given preference over another solely because of things like race; exactly what it was intended to rectify.

Somehow, if person A is denied a job because he is black in 1950, I fail to see the moral justification for denying person B a job because he is white in 1970.

You can’t correct past wrongs by creating new ones. They don’t cancel each other out. They double the injustice.

Could one reason for the lower percentage of men going to college be because at the lower socio-economic spectrum men are required to become breadwinners as soon as possible and so have no time to dilly-dally for 4 years in college with no income, while women from the same background don’t face such pressures and thus feel more free to apply to college?

The best thing we could do for boys is to encourage more males to go into teaching. I remember the few male teachers that I had at primary school as being the best teachers that I had: they regularly did science experiments with us, made balsa wood models, geography, even our PE sessions were more interesting, came into school on Saturday mornings to run football and running sessions every week (something the male students loved them for) etc. etc. Male teachers IME are much more in tune with what the majority of boys are actually interested in than female teachers. For instance, read this article where a female teacher admits to telling boys to stop running around in the playground (and then wonders why they can’t concentrate during class—the mind boggles).


I’m wondering if it could be in part due to the rebelliousness/wrecklessness/ individualistic streak/whatever-you-want-to-call-it that tends to run deep in boys, more so than girls. Maybe girls succumb more to the pressure to do well in school and go to college more than males do. Maybe two parents will look at their son and think he must have some kind of plan when he announces he isn’t going to college. But those same parents worry more when their daughter says the same thing, since girls are seen as helpless, flighty creatures who don’t know what they want. So they’ll put their foot down more on the girl than they do on her brother.

I also wonder how much the wars we’ve been engaged in over the past decade have affected things. During the Vietnam era, males would “escape” to college to avoid the draft. But there is no conscription now, and the two wars we’ve been fighting, while not beloved, are nowhere near as “scary” as Vietnam was. Maybe boys who aren’t exactly thrilled about going to college right away have used the military as an escape hatch, which has skewed the gender distribution in college admissions.

More likely a lot of boys are out being dumbasses while the girls are home studying.
I think video might shed some light on the issue.