Magnanimous millennial males

I don’t recommend this link, so it’s deliberately broken. It’s included for completeness, and if you want to check it, copy the link and paste it into your browser, removing the ‘xxx’ at the beginning.
Millennial Men Prioritise Altruism and Good Health over Physical Strength
“They care more about openness and empathy than independence and competitiveness”

I clicked on that link because it smacked to me as abuse of the scientific method, and I wondered how such conclusions were reached by Men’s Health Research at the University of British Columbia’s Nursing School.

I could give you a dozen other links citing this study, but here’s just one:
The researchers surveyed 630 young men ages 15-29 in Western Canada and found that the most strongly endorsed masculine value is selflessness.

Really? For what definition of selflessness? How did they arrive at that conclusion? Do millennials actually behave that way?  Were these males asked if they felt they’d be social lepers if they didn’t espouse selflessness?

I tracked down the abstract. It doesn’t provide much help beyond describing the research methodology: Mixed Methods Research Designs.

Given that the study was done by a Canadian University, in Progressive BC, and necessarily required a slew of judgments to integrate the mixed method data, I anticipated there would be more focus on the evils of toxic masculinity than men’s actual health. Getting rid of your own toxicity can only be healthy, right?  Openness and empathy would be signs of that, right?

A skimming of the website contradicted my expectation. Mostly, they seem to be concerned about suicide, “gaming addiction,” PTSD among Canadian veterans, and prostate health. Overtly, at least, they seem seriously interested in helping men.

Why am I suspicious?  Well, poorly written internet references to this study are plentiful, and it is a long term contention of feminists that the maleness ‘problem’ needs to be ‘solved.’ Is the solution is coming to fruition in millennial males?  In extensive quoting below, I’ll try to show you why my suspicions persist. At least as to the click bait headlines.

The worst I can say about UBC’s Men’s Health Research is that they are silent on the effect of long-running reflexive attacks on men for being men. Though I think that’s saying quite a bit if you’re worried about male suicide rates (75% of Canadian suicides).

When analyzing male suicide, one might wonder about that; if one didn’t already accept the cause to be masculinity itself.  It does fit with the study contention that mens’ idea of what it means to be male is changing among millennials, for several reasons.  From one perspective it’s progress: Masculinity as inherently toxic is not a new Feminist meme.

Of course, millennial males say empathy and openness are more important than independence and competitiveness. That’s what they’ve been taught using participation trophies and ritalin: Competitiveness and risk taking are bad. So is acting too much (we’ll define that, thank you) like a boy. We’ll drug you if you do.  These ideas were promoted contemporaneously with millennials’ experience of the public education system.

When you conduct a multi-decadal War Against Boys, (RTWT) you might not be surprised if male suicide increases. Eighteen years ago, Christina Hoff Summers described a causus belli: The scientifically suspect theorizing of Carol Gilligan, Harvard University’s first professor of gender studies:

“Journalists routinely cite her [Gilligan’s] research on the distinctive moral psychology of women. She was Ms. magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1984, and Time put her on its short list of most-influential Americans in 1996. In 1997 she received the $250,000 Heinz Award for “transform[ing] the paradigm for what it means to be human.””…

Gilligan found that women tend to be more caring, less competitive, and less abstract than men; they speak “in a different voice.” Women approach moral questions by applying an “ethic of care.” In contrast, men approach moral issues by applying rules and abstract principles; theirs is an “ethic of justice.”..

[Gilligan’s thesis] is based on three studies Gilligan conducted: the “college student study,” the “abortion decision study,” and the “rights and responsibilities study.” Here is how Gilligan described the last.

This study involved a sample of males and females matched for age, intelligence, education, occupation, and social class at nine points across the life cycle: ages 6-9, 11, 15, 19, 22, 25-27, 35, 45, and 60. From a total sample of 144 (8 males and 8 females at each age), including a more intensively interviewed subsample of 36 (2 males and 2 females at each age), data were collected on conceptions of self and morality, experiences of moral conflicts and choice, and judgments of hypothetical moral dilemmas.

This description is all we ever learn about the mechanics of the study, which seems to have no proper name; it was never published, never peer-reviewed. It was, in any case, very small in scope and in number of subjects. And the data are tantalizingly inaccessible. In September of 1998 my research assistant, Elizabeth Bowen, called Gilligan’s office and asked where she could find copies of the three studies that were the basis for In a Different Voice. Gilligan’s assistant, Tatiana Bertsch, told her that they were unavailable, and not in the public domain; because of the sensitivity of the data (especially the abortion study), the information had been kept confidential…

He sent an e-mail message directly to Gilligan, but Bertsch sent back the reply.

None of the In a Different Voice studies have been published. We are in the process of donating the college student study to the Murray Research Center at Radcliffe, but that will not be completed for another year, probably. At this point Professor Gilligan has no immediate plans of donating the abortion or the rights and responsibilities studies. Sorry that none of what you are interested in is available.

Brendan Maher is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and a former chairman of the psychology department. I told him about the inaccessibility of Gilligan’s data and the explanation that their sensitive nature precluded public dissemination. He laughed and said, “It would be extraordinary to say [that one’s data] are too sensitive for others to see.” He pointed out that there are standard methods for handling confidential materials in research. Names are left out but raw scores are reported, “so others can see if they can replicate your study.” A researcher must also disclose how subjects were chosen, how interviews were recorded, and the method by which meaning was derived from the data…

In 1995 she [Gilligan] and her colleagues at the Harvard University School of Education inaugurated “The Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology, Boys’ Development and the Culture of Manhood.” Within a year Gilligan was announcing the existence of a crisis among boys that was as bad as or worse than the one afflicting girls. “Girls’ psychological development in patriarchy involves a process of eclipse that is even more total for boys,”she wrote in a 1996 article titled “The Centrality of Relationship in Human Development.

Gilligan claimed to have discovered “a startling pattern of developmental asymmetry”: girls undergo trauma as they enter adolescence, whereas for boys the period of crisis is early childhood. Boys aged three to seven are pressured to “take into themselves the structure or moral order of a patriarchal civilization: to internalize a patriarchal voice.” This masculinizing process is traumatic and damaging. “At this age,” Gilligan told The Boston Globe in 1996, “boys show a high incidence of depression, out-of-control behavior, learning disorders, even allergies and stuttering.”

One can welcome Gilligan’s acceptance of the fact that boys, too, have problems while remaining deeply skeptical of her ideas about their source. Gilligan’s theory about boys’ development includes three hypothetical claims: 1) Boys are being deformed and made sick by a traumatic, forced separation from their mothers. 2) Seemingly healthy boys are cut off from their own feelings and damaged in their capacity to develop healthy relationships. 3) The well-being of society may depend on freeing boys from “cultures that value or valorize heroism, honor, war, and competition—the culture of warriors, the economy of capitalism.”…

She [Gilligan] does not seem to feel that her assertions need empirical confirmation. She is confident that boys need to be protected from the culture—a culture in which manhood valorizes war and the economy of capitalism, a culture that desensitizes boys and, by submerging their humanity, is the root cause of “out-of-control and out-of-touch behavior” and is the ultimate source of war and other violence committed by men…

Oblivious of all the factual evidence that paternal separation causes aberrant behavior in boys, Carol Gilligan calls for a fundamental change in child rearing that would keep boys in a more sensitive relationship with their feminine side. We need to free young men from a destructive culture of manhood that “impedes their capacity to feel their own and other people’s hurt, to know their own and other’s sadness,” she writes. Since the pathology, as she has diagnosed it, is presumably universal, the cure must be radical. We must change the very nature of childhood: we must find ways to keep boys bonded to their mothers. We must undercut the system of socialization that is so “essential to the perpetuation of patriarchal societies.”…

On a less academic plane Gilligan’s proposed reformation seems to challenge common sense. It is obvious that a boy wants his father to help him become a young man, and belonging to the culture of manhood is important to almost every boy. To impugn his desire to become “one of the boys” is to deny that a boy’s biology determines much of what he prefers and is attracted to. Unfortunately, by denying the nature of boys, education theorists can cause them much misery.

Gilligan talks of radically reforming “the fundamental structure of authority” by making changes that will free boys from the stereotypes that bind them… In practice, getting boys to be more like girls means getting them to stop segregating themselves into all-male groups. That’s the darker, coercive side of the project to “free” boys from their masculine straitjackets…

Every society confronts the problem of civilizing its young males. The traditional approach is through character education: Develop the young man’s sense of honor. Help him become a considerate, conscientious human being. Turn him into a gentleman. This approach respects boys’ masculine nature; it is time-tested, and it works. Even today, despite several decades of moral confusion, most young men understand the term “gentleman”and approve of the ideals it connotes.  [The UBC study suggests this may be changing since Sommers wrote.]

What Gilligan and her followers are proposing is quite different: civilize boys by diminishing their masculinity. “Raise boys like we raise girls” is Gloria Steinem’s advice. This approach is deeply disrespectful of boys. It is meddlesome, abusive, and quite beyond what educators in a free society are mandated to do…

A boy today, through no fault of his own, [remember, this is being written in 2000] finds himself implicated in the social crime of shortchanging girls. Yet the allegedly silenced and neglected girl sitting next to him is likely to be the superior student. She is probably more articulate, more mature, more engaged, and more well-balanced. The boy may be aware that she is more likely to go on to college. He may believe that teachers prefer to be around girls and pay more attention to them. At the same time, he is uncomfortably aware that he is considered to be a member of the favored and dominant gender.

The widening gender gap in academic achievement is real. It threatens the future of millions of American boys. Boys do not need to be rescued from their masculinity. But they are not getting the help they need. In the climate of disapproval in which boys now exist, programs designed to aid them have a very low priority. This must change… That means we can no longer allow the partisans of girls to write the rules.

For Gilligan acceptable human values are womens’ values. Millennial males have learned that. If not much else: “Adulting” classes teach millennials basic skills like sewing, cooking and changing a tire

Coming soon, a class in how to be masculine: Already designed by the Wymyns Studies Department at your local university.

The UBC study that prompted this post apparently takes no position (I didn’t pay to download the entire thing) on the relative values of the various virtues described; and, face it, they are all virtues. But Feminism, as dogmatized, devalues physical strength and male independence – and along with that, risk taking, capitalism, and the “rules and abstract principles” of the scientific method. Those tend not to be emphasized as female virtues, while openness and empathy are. It can be argued there are evolutionary biological reasons for that, but that is another post.

As Camille Paglia says:

“Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. None of their pain or achievement is registered in feminist rhetoric, which portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.”…

“If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts.”

Without traditional masculinity civilization would be poorer, as would women.