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November 22, 2004



You've written about this cultural gap amongst African-American men and women before, and I wonder if some of the dynamics at work there are becoming a bit more general.

There's a pretty straightforward economic/rational model to consider, though.

Premise 1: Hurdles for the educational success of women vis-a-vis men are eroding.

Premise 2: Traditionally "male work" that doesn't require a college education is higher-paying and more career-oriented than traditionally "female work" that doesn't require a college degree.

With these two premises, as we move toward equality of opportunity in the educational arena, we should expect more women than men in college for entirely economically rational reasons. Not saying I think that's the only answer, but I think it's a big part of it.

My experience out of high school supports this anecdotally: In my small town, pretty much all my peers who were on the upper side of middle class and up were encouraged to go to college, regardless of gender. In the lower middle class, that remained true of pretty much all (non-pregnant, at least) women. On the other hand, some of the men were encouraged to consider the military, and others were encouraged to try for employment at the local paper mill, the towns biggest employer which offered a good union wage (and a better chance of getting in with a father who worked there). To my knowledge, a very small number of women were encouraged to consider the military, and pretty much none were encouraged to apply at the mill (which I'm told is a pretty misogynist work enironment few fathers would want their daughters subjected to).


But why is this gender gap happening even among upper-middle class whites, I wonder?


Any day now I expect the conservative pundits to go bonkers over this new kind of affirmative action. I have no doubt that we can even expect the President to come out against it soon.


I'm not surprised that women outperform men when it comes to college admissions. Law school was that way, too. As a member of the last (officially) affirmative action class at Boalt, I heard all the horror stories about what Prop 209 would do to "women and minorities." Even then, I strongly suspected that this was a lie, designed to assemble a majority by convincing half the world's affirmative action victims that they are really its beneficiaries. The next year's class bore this out in spades, bringing us only one black male (and he was admitted with my class), but a slight increase in the female-male ratio. A 60/40 split differential me as a bit high, but 55/45 would not have surprised me in the least.

As to whether or not private institutions should be allowed to discriminate in order to maintain the "right" balance between men and women, I'll leave it up to the institutions to decide what they want their student bodies to look like, what will attract more applicants in the future (how many women really want to go to a school that is 60% female?), and other considerations. If state institutions start turning away smarter women to make room for dumber men, then I'll be on their case in a heartbeat. As long as it is only private parties involved, I consider it to be NOMFB. Sorry, you'll have to find a better issue before I can be persuaded to encroach on the left's near-monopoly on going bonkers.

La Lubu

Hmmm. I have to second DJW's post; that young males are encouraged along several different routes, while young females are almost universally steered towards college. We have a very hard time getting young women to apply for the apprenticeship, even though apprentices only have to pay for books and tools...the education is free, they "earn while they learn", and upon topping out can look forward (where I live) to earning upwards of $60,000 per year....with no college debt to pay off!

Only two young women have ever gone through the apprenticeship in my local. Me, and another woman who entered about a year after I topped out. Every other woman who entered the apprenticeship was in her thirties, almost all with children, and leaving a lower-paid field that they felt had no future for them. They were women who didn't really give a damn about the stereotypes, and didn't fear any possible "bad behavior" from sexist pigs (which thankfully, are in the minority), because they'd already had some real-life experience under their belts. The young men who enter the apprenticeship don't have this (possible) baggage.

I also wonder how much of this relates to changing of certain fields....like when my mom became a nurse, she went to nurses' school. Now, you go to college, to a nursing program. Women are going to college in larger numbers, but outside of medicine and law they still enter "feminine" fields...there aren't many women entering nontraditional fields...those who do, tend to do it through apprenticeships, the military, or programs like police or fire training.

I think a lot of the young women are geared towards being superachievers because they have to be. On-the-job discrimination may be better than in my mother's and grandmother's era, but it still exists. Having an impeccable record is more necessary for a woman, particularly if she's breaking barriers. On-the-job, it's more okay for the man to be "average".

Joe G.

To answer your question Hugo regarding middle-class whie males: perhaps your anecdotal statement about the young man at your church suggests something. Do middle-class, white males have more access to the new technology (internet, gaming, etc.), and does this undermine those skills traditionally needed or desired in order to succeed in academia?

Just a toss-off idea.


This trend toward admitting a higher percentage of women than men is certainly not brand new; I know it was true at Northwestern at least as far back as eight years ago, when I applied (and man, has it really been that long?).

I think a case could certainly be made that with so much effort to get women and minorities on an even playing field, it's possible that young men are falling by the wayside in some cases. It's hard to advocate for young men, especially for young white men, without having an unfortunate label applied to the advocate.

But then on the other hand, I think that if you take a look at gender breakdown within specific program areas at those female-heavy schools, you'll find that in fields like engineering, sciences, & math, the men often still outnumber the women. I'm pretty sure that was the case at NU when I was a student, although I can't speak for other schools.

Just some (fairly disorganized, I admit) thoughts provoked by your post today.

Jeff JP

Perhaps the problem is over-feminized schools.

As a pro-feminist man, I was trained to support the women around me.

Why don't you just admit that you're a lapdog of the gender feminists and be done with it? It doesn't appear that you care about your fellow men and boys. You simplistically dismiss us as "privileged." I'm sadened that you seem to loathe your own sex.

Jeff JP

Jeff JP

I asked him what was going on, and he shrugged, saying "I don't know. I just have no motivation." He was charmingly self-deprecating, and a little embarrassed -- but he also admitted that he was spending his time on the Internet and watching TV rather than studying. He's a brilliant boy -- and he is fully aware that he is hurting his chances of getting into a "good" college. But something inside of him just isn't willing to do the work.

Perhaps the problem is with the schools.

Jeff JP

Jeff JP

As a gender studies teacher, I've spent years encouraging women to push themselves, to escape the confines of culture, tradition, and even biology itself. Up until recently, I just assumed the "boys would take care of themselves."

I wonder how many others have taken the same attitude and ignored boys and young men in schools, while giving special privileges to girls? Hmmm.

Jeff JP


Another thought (though it is admittedly somewhat circular) is that in many parts of the country, it's becoming more socially acceptable for women and girls to be high achievers. This is not true for guys. I see this anecdotally in my younger siblings and from reports from students that I've had. For boys, it's not considered masculine or manly to be interested in things other than sports and girls: the "wussy nerd" stereotype (frail guy with thick glasses who is hopeless with the girls) is specific to males, and could deter guys from trying to do well at school. There is no equivalently damaging stereotype for smart girls: IOW, a girl's femininity isn't hurt as much by getting good grades as a guy's masculinity is hurt by getting good grades.

It feels weird to suggest this, since it wasn't so long ago that the story was different (and I have only personal anecdotal evidence). But the situation may be changing. Of course, even if true it doesn't answer the question of why it could be changing.


Hugo, if you don't want to be a lapdog, you better start working on it now. Instead of being nice and supportive to women you have in your life, trip them when you pass them in the hall. It's that or you will get called names like "lapdog" and we sure wouldn't want that.

Jeff JP

Amanda the (unpleasantness deleted) has nothing better to do than to twist what other people say and try to attribute it to them. How pathetic.

Jeff JP

Jeff JP

Of course, I was also wary of working with young men, largely because I was far more afraid of what other males thought of me than what younger women thought of me.

Why do you refer to "males" and "women"? Why not "males" and "females" or "men and "women"?

It's a common error of man-hating gender feminists to refer to "women" (notice the emphasis on humanity as the important characteristic) and "males" (notice the emphasis on sex as the important characteristic).

You don't like men and boys much, do you?

Jeff JP

La Lubu

Another thought Hugo: As far as the numbers for admissions go, are you talking only about young people? Because the higher numbers of women in college could relate to older women returning to school; older women (for this case, meaning anyone over thirty) are more likely to return to school to change careers than men are. This could be skewing the statistics somewhat.

Like I pointed out in my apprenticeship example, there's a lot of women who find out the hard way what they don't want to do, and then have to redirect!


I am assuming that we are talking about white middle-class boys not disproportionately affected by drug culture and having at least a few educated men in their neighborhoods.

Intellectual pursuits have long been viewed by a large proportion (blue collar and lower-middle classes) of the US population as unmanly and often downright effeminate / "faggy". Boys who opted for an education rather than follow their fathers into the factories or mines or farm were letting their fathers down. The upper and professional classes did not have those attitudes, but also swam in a different cultural sea before the advent of television. Children of the owner/professional classes saw that their own fathers had education and were considered leaders and manly by the same owner/professional class.

Now, we have television flattening the class cultures into a nearly unrecognisable pseudoclass in which no-one labors with their hands, but also in which no-one has to work hard to acquire an education. Wealth all happens by magic. There are lots of doctor and lawyer shows, but somehow I think that youth might not pick up the message that they need to work to get to that level. And there is the rap star myth and the basketball player myth saying that you can be a wealthy manly man, a playa, without education, and the Bill Gates myth, saying that you can be wealthy, if not studly, without going to college.

How much of a role do after-school jobs play in middle-class boys' lives? We are assuming that the money doesn't go to pay the lights bill, but goes towards clothing and CDs and other image enhancers that supposedly help attract girls.

It might just be my impression, but in the 70s a lot of well-off boys just wanted to live at home, party, work whatever low-skill job to get beer money - to take a year or two or three before going to college. Or go to a "party school" and get just good enough grades to pass, then go home and work for Dad. Their sense of entitlement was strong enough that they felt the Horatio Alger rules didn't apply to them.....and they were right, to a certain extent.

Perhaps girls still don't have that sense of entitlement that says it is "ok to goof off because you (boy) will still end up with the best jobs." Boys look around and see that the top positions in corporations and politics are still occupied mostly by men. Women look around and say to themselves, "well, occasional women have made it, but not many, so I better work my ass off in school".

I don't think that "learning styles" is a huge issue. There might be slightly fewer teachers that use the "only call on (boy) volunteers" approach, but few teachers did that in the old days. Most prodded non-volunteers to some extent, and the only change is that volunteer and non-volunteer girls are being called on more than in the past.

Finally, I don't think that motivated girls necessarily find a 55/45 F/M ratio at college a big deal. College is no longer solely for getting the Mrs. degree - wake up, xrlq.


I am trying hard not to comment on Jeff JP's Freeper-level comments. Unlike our other conservative commenter, xrlq, Jeff does not present ideas.


Intellectual pursuits have long been viewed by a large proportion (blue collar and lower-middle classes) of the US population as unmanly and often downright effeminate / "faggy".

Also, as not hard work. My ex-BIL, a working-class guy from Queens, tried to go to college when he graduated high school, but got so much crap from his father about what he did in "lazy school" that he dropped out, joined the Navy, and finally got a degree at 40.

Jeff JP

I am trying hard not to comment on Jeff JP's Freeper-level comments. Unlike our other conservative commenter, xrlq, Jeff does not present ideas.

If you're finding it hard not to comment, you must be disturbed by the ideas I've presented. That tends to contradict your unfounded accusations.

You may choose to parrot AAUW falsehoods, but I prefer to think for myself, thank you.

Jeff JP


Indeed, Jeff, I am editing your remarks. Please don't make me block you. But the use of words like "trolls" is unacceptable in this forum. You can call me what you like, but please do try and be civilized in your comments. Temper your misogyny, old boy, temper it.


La Lubu:

The admission rates cited in the article are for "traditional" students (18-22) -- but the overall percentages do include non-trad students.

I do have a number of older male students, though there are fewer of them than their female counterparts. Many are ex-servicemen.

Jeff JP

Indeed, Jeff, I am editing your remarks.

Fine. Edit away. Obviously, you're very disturbed by my views.

Please don't make me block you.

Spare me. I can tell I wouldn't be missed.

But the use of words like "trolls" is unacceptable in this forum. You can call me what you like, but please do try and be civilized in your comments.

I trust you will also replace NancyP's "Freeper-level" with " (unpleasantness deleted)," since "Freeper" is hardly a compliment.

Temper your misogyny, old boy, temper it.

The knee-jerk and mindless use of "misogyny" is a common trick of man-hating feminists. Anyone who dares to disagree with the accepted dogma must be a "misogynist."

Also, please observe the double standard you're following here. You delete my use of the word "troll," while you throw around insults like accusing me of "misogyny."

You can block me and that will silence me here. However, you can't hide from yourself, at least not forever. It must be hell to hate one's own sex so much. I feel for you. However, I can't help you if you block me from posting. So, block away. This is but one tiny fragment of the Internet. Please carry on with your self-loathing, anti-male propaganda and be not disturbed by the troubling questions posed by this lone dissenting voice.

Jeff JP


Jeff, I'd rather not block you. You've got a passionate position, and I welcome that even as I disagree with it.

Misogyny describes your views; "troll" describes another person's identity. I didn't call you a "male chauvinist pig" -- and anyone who did would find that remark deleted. There's a difference between attacking (and characterizing) someone's views and attacking someone's identity.

Um, what is a "freeper"? If it is something obscene, I will ban it. I've never seen it before...

La Lubu

"Freeper"=Free Republic. Far-right extremists.

La Lubu

Ok, Jeff....I'm feeling charitable. What the hell is an "overly-feminized" school? I've yet to hear of a school that requires its male students to say, wear dresses, makeup and stiletto heels. And I don't think there's anything inherently masculine or feminine about cracking open the books; do you care to define your terms?

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