Blaming Women for the Infantilization of Men

Myriam Miedzian

IN 1987 traditionally all-male Columbia College started to admit women. Some years later, I happened to be on campus and decided to drop in on one of my former professors—I had gotten my PhD in philosophy at Columbia University years earlier—who had become a friend. Soon into the visit, in a concerned voice, he told me that “the women have taken over Columbia.” He went on to describe how women were dominating class discussion, and how the administration and faculty were increasingly female. We went on to discuss other topics, but later that day I found myself ruminating over his concern with a “female takeover.” After all, males still made up the majority of students, administrators, and faculty at the school.

At some point it began to make sense. My friend had taught for over thirty-five years at a university dominated by men—a tiny number of women graduate students in most fields; not one female philosophy professor; an almost entirely male administration. It had been “a man’s world” in which what would now be viewed as blatant sexism was considered normal. Female graduate students—like me—were prohibited from teaching at the all-male college while working on our dissertations. Before my doctoral defense, my bemused advisers informed me that the French literature professor who would be present at my defense was a misogynist who thought that women did not belong in graduate programs. He lived up to his reputation.

In addition to his own professional experience, my friend, like the rest of us, had lived in a world in which men had held virtually all positions of political, social, and cultural power for millennia. With this as a background, no wonder he experienced the relatively sudden advent of women college students, faculty, and administrators as overwhelming, as a “takeover,” rather than a step in the direction of equality.

Manning Up:
How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys

By Kay S. Hymowitz
Basic Books, 2011, 248 pp.

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