The New 'Gender Gap'

As men fall behind, militant feminists cling to victimology.

I've just finished perusing two reports – more accurately, one legitimate report and one “report” that deserves scare quotes. The legitimate report is an MIT study of “the emerging gender gap in labor markets and education” – the fact that while American women, for some time now, have been going to college in increasingly high numbers and doing better and better professionally, while American men have been headed downhill. The report's authors, economists David Autor and Melanie Wasserman, note that “females born in 1975 were roughly 17% more likely than their male counterparts to attend college and nearly 23% more likely to complete a four-year degree.”

Why? The authors' analysis zeroes in on the rise in single motherhood over the last generation or two. Their statistics show that while the sons of single mothers face a significantly increased risk of “high school dropout, criminality, and violence,” and thus “diminished chances of obtaining stable employment,” the impact of single motherhood on daughters isn't all that severe. Autor and Wasserman suggest that a “vicious cycle” may be in the offing, with a lower rate of father-headed households today giving rise to a generation of underachieving men tomorrow, and consequently to even fewer father-headed households – resulting in an ever-widening disparity between the educational and professional attainments of American men and women. The authors make it clear, moreover, that the phenomena they describe aren't distinctive to the U.S. but can be observed in many parts of the Western world.

How odd – to put it mildly –  to turn from Autor's and Wasserman's sober, and sobering, study to another recent report, or, as I say, “report,” entitled How to Counteract Anti-Feminism and Right-Wing Extremism: Input and Recommendations from Experts in the Nordic Countries. Funded in part by the Norwegian taxpayer (what isn't?), it was compiled by a team of government bureaucrats, academics (in fields like sociology and Women's Studies), and employees of non-profits devoted to “anti-racism” and the like. Among these “experts”:

• an Icelandic woman who's studying “certain masculinity ideas that exist in Iceland, and the accompanying xenophobic and especially antifeminist discourse”;

• a Swedish woman who's written The Hate, a book about “anti-feminism”;

• a Finnish guy whose current research project “analyzes the construction of radical-right masculinities in Europe from a feminist perspective”;

• a Swedish guy who's studying “the convergence between xenophobia (especially the anti-Muslim community) and anti-feminism”;

• a Polish-German woman who considers fathers'-rights groups “anti-feminist”;

• a Norwegian guy who's studying the “mechanisms that underlie men's negative attitudes toward feminism and sexual equality”;

• and, last but not least, someone whom I wrote about here recently – Shoaib Sultan of the Norwegian Centre against Racism, who, while serving as Secretary-General of the Islamic Council of Norway, refused to comment on Iran's execution of gays or on Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s praise for the Holocaust.

Sultan's inclusion in this group helps bring into focus exactly what its “report” is – and isn't – really about. In the Nordic countries, there's one clear and present danger to women's equality, women's freedom, and women's lives that far outstrips all others – and every sensate being knows what that danger is. But the authors of this document aren't interested in the systematic oppression of women in Islamic homes and communities. They're not interested in forced marriages, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and the compulsive wearing of the hijab. They're not interested in the steadily growing number of physical assaults on non-Muslim women by Muslim men who consider them fair targets because they don't wear veils.

No, this report isn't about actual dangers to actual women. It's about ideology. Quite simply, it's yet another effort to bring Nordic social policy even more fully into line with radical-left academic orthodoxy. And let's not forget: while men, according to that ideology, are responsible for just about everything bad in the world, race trumps gender in today's academy – meaning that while it's permissible to despise white men as much as you want, you've got to take care not to commit the racist offense of trying, as the saying goes, to “save the brown woman from the brown man.” Similarly, while it's perfectly fine to slam Christianity, Islam is off-limits – indeed, one of the key elements of leftism today is a sense of solidarity with Islam, which has taken Communism's place as the Great Anti-Capitalist Hope.

In accordance with this orthodoxy, then, the Nordic “report” describes “anti-feminist ideology”  as an affliction of “the white heterosexual man.” Not only can't non-white or non-heterosexual men be “anti-feminist” – on the contrary, they, like women, are victims of anti-feminism, which the “report” defines as an ideology that “views women, homo- and bisexual men, and people with another ethnic and cultural background as minorities, which they must prevent from taking part in or taking over what they regard as the heterosexual white man's privileges.” (Later, the “report” puts it this way: “Anti-feminism, racism, Islamophobia, and opposition to immigration overlap and have common features.”)

I've written more than once about the cynical way in which the Scandinavian left has used the atrocities committed by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22, 2011, to try to discredit critics of Islam. Apparently that was just the beginning; now they're using Breivik to tar “anti-feminists” as well. The “report” mentions him repeatedly, reminding us over and over that he, too, is that malignant thing – a white heterosexual man. Breivik is referenced in the “report's” very first words: “In the wake of the terrorist actions on July 22, there has been increased awareness of the opposition to the open, inclusive, and multicultural Nordic society. There has been a special focus on comments in social media, comment sections, and online discussion forums. In addition to opposition to immigration and especially to Islam, hostile attitudes toward women, feminism, and sexual equality have been expressed. We can call these attitudes anti-feminism.”

Notice all the very different things that are being conflated here. Multiculturalism is conflated with inclusiveness; opposition to feminism, as defined by the academic left, is conflated with opposition to women and to sexual equality. Most perverse of all, a hostility to women is conflated with a distaste for current Nordic immigration policies and/or Islamic ideology – even though many of us who oppose those policies and that ideology do so, in no small part, precisely out of concern for the well-being of women.

Having defined “anti-feminism,” the “report” goes on to define feminism as

the view that there exists a structural inequality between the sexes, that this inequality often favors men, and that it is necessary to take measures to even out the inequality. Anti-feminists express opposition to feminism, and justify this opposition by claiming either that there aren't structural inequalities between women and men, that the structural differences have now been evened out, or that the structural differences mainly favor women.

Reading this, you'd never know that in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western world – as meticulously demonstrated by the MIT report – the “structural inequalities” are now working very much in favor of females and against males. The standard-bearers of feminism can't even acknowledge their own victory – for then they'd be obliged to stop pretending to be oppressed. Indeed, the Nordic “report” states flatly that people who are actually trying to save boys and men from the dire consequences of today's “structural inequalities” are the enemy: “Anti-feminist individuals and groups include...groups that fight for men's rights.”

The “report” offers a number of recommendations, including the following:

• that “anti-feminist harassment and hateful statements be criminalized” by all Nordic governments;

• that Nordic governments provide moral support to advocates for feminism in the media and convey the message to opponents of feminism that their “threats and harassment are unacceptable”;

• that in each of the Nordic countries “a government agency or voluntary organization” be tasked with the job of monitoring anti-feminism and publish its findings annually;

• and that the Nordic media take care not to “legitimize” the critics of feminism “or to equate them with feminist and equality-oriented voices.”

The “report's” perpetrators claim to fear that if anti-feminists are permitted to publicly express their views, they'll scare feminists into holding their tongues. “It constitutes a democratic problem,” they argue, “when harassment causes people to withdraw from public debates” – never mind that what they're calling for here is nothing less than full-scale official harassment (up to and including incarceration) of “anti-feminists.”

For years, in the Nordic countries, the left has routinely insisted that the West reply to the challenge of Islam not with action but with dialogue. It's long since become a mantra: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. But the main objective of this “report,” as with so many other mischievous documents that have come down the pike since the Breivik atrocities, is to shut down real dialogue – to silence opponents of leftist ideology (in this case, academic feminism) or, if they won't be silenced, to haul them into court and throw them in prison. The report takes the same post-Breivik line against “anti-feminists” that the Scandinavian left has taken against critics of Islam for going on two years now: that even if an individual who articulates certain views hasn't committed acts of violence, his words may lead others to do something violent, and it's therefore necessary to shut him up.

What chance do this “report's” recommendations have of being adopted? Well, keep in mind that this isn't some obscure, marginal academic product. The “seminar” out of which it grew was sponsored in part by the Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion; several of the authors work for official government agencies; and the “report” itself was funded by the Nordic Council (which, in turn, is funded by all of the Nordic governments). This is, then, pretty much as close as you can come to an official government document. Far from making the case that feminism is embattled and vulnerable, it's proof positive that feminist ideology has the Nordic political establishment by the cojones (as we say in Norway) – and that those who dare to take it on are, like the critics of Islam, marked for censorship.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.