September 19 2012
Portrait of a Modern Feminist: Helen Smith
One of the oft-cited “facts” at the Democratic Conventions was that being a woman was “a pre-existing condition” before Obamacare. Hooey, according to Dr. Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist known as “Dr. Helen” on Pajamas Media.
Far from being discriminated against, women already consume about 75 percent of health care in the United States, Smith says. Men, on the other hand, are frequently encouraged not to go to the doctor for routine tests, including the life-saving PSA test to detect cancer.
“I absolutely think there’s a war on men. I laugh and cringe every time I see something on the ‘war on women,’” says Smith. Smith, who is also an authority on violent children, is half of a blogging couple—she is married to Glenn Harlan Reynolds, the University of Tennessee law professor known as Instapundit. They live in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she continues to see patients once a week, though she has shifted her focus to writing.
Smith has a book coming out from Encounter Books entitled Male Strike: Society’s War on Men. The thesis of the book is that the deck is so stacked against men that they are “going Galt,” as Smith puts it. The term comes from Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged in which society’s productive members went on strike—led by John Galt—because they were being exploited.
“In the case of men, the government and the politicians work in cahoots with women to extract money from men,” Smith says.” And then men aren’t entitled to a lot of the benefits, such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children Program) or a lot of welfare.”
The male strike can take the form of not marrying, not going to college or working at low-paying jobs and taking up hobbies to avoid paying into a system that uses state and federal programs to transfer men’s taxes to women. And taxpayer money doesn’t just go to what we regard as traditional welfare programs. Smith cites the Violence Against Women Act, which funnels taxpayer dollars to organizations staffed by activist women.
“One reason women promote the war on women is that many of these women have degrees in such things as women’s studies and hold academic jobs, and they are the ones yelling because they know that if their benefits were cut out, who the hell needs them? They are not necessary but there is a lot of funding for these things. It’s all about money.”
“I’m a feminist in that I believe in equality,” says Smith. “But that doesn’t mean the superiority of women. What has happened is that [a legitimate movement for equality] has morphed into a whole political system based on women having special privileges, and the more privileges they have the more entitled they feel.”
Women activists have sought and obtained laws that make it easier to convict men of sexual abuse on what formerly would have been deemed insufficient evidence. The Violence Against Women Act seriously eroded traditional legal standards regarding evidence. A letter from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office—known as the “Dear Colleagues” letter—further diluted the evidence standards when accusations are lodged against young men on campus.
“A man’s rights go only as far as a woman’s honesty,” Smith says. “If a woman says a man is domestically abusive, hardly any evidence is needed. Women can just point the finger at you, and men don’t have rights in terms of getting kids.” In the past, men had more say in marriages. This was not right, Smith says. But today men have far fewer rights than women in a marriage, and that isn’t fair either.
“Men are discriminated against in ways that women can’t understand and yet we say there is a war on women,” scoffs Smith. Title IX, for example, a law passed forty years ago, to expand opportunities for female athletes, ended up curtailing the opportunities for men to participate in sports. This has made men feel “less welcome” on college campuses, Smith says.
While Smith is a fan of Kay Hymowitz, the Manhattan Institute scholar who wrote the classic Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, she does have a quibble. “What Kay Hymowitz calls the perpetual adolescence of men is just men understanding that the cards are dealt against them,” she says—or, in other words, men going Galt.
“One thing I talk about [in the book] is that I used to think as a woman it’s hard to be a men’s rights activist,” she says. “I want men and women who care about them to have the courage to stand up in a world that says that there is only male privilege. I would like people to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes and see the world from the male point of view and see that maybe things aren’t so great.”
Smith’s advocacy for men is a second career of sorts. She originally became well-known as anexpert on violent children. Her book The Scarred Heart is about suchkids. She has done a documentary film entitled Six on the six young people who in 1997 murdered a family. It shows how failures in the mental health and legal systems failed to stop the killings.
Whenever there is a rampage shooting—such as the ones in Tucson or Aurora—an immediate response is to look for “a simplistic answer” such as blaming guns or violent music and movies. But the real problem is more complicated: “Most of them are mentally ill, and one of the big problems is mental health in our society is not thebest. We don’t focus on getting the people the treatment they need. There are roughly about a thousand murders a year by the mentally ill,” she says.
Smith, who specializes in treating violent children, says that intervention can prevent murders, if the child’s problems are diagnosed in time. She says that the goal is not to turn these damaged children into saints or even admirable citizens but simply to help them not commit bigger crimes such as murder. Interestingly, a lack of self-esteem isn’t their problem.
“What [experts] have found is that high self-esteem isn’t necessarily linked to highly adaptive behavior,” Smith says. “In fact it can be just the opposite. One of the things found with killers is that many of them have very high self esteem—a high self-esteem that is fragile. One thing I’ve found with rampage killers is that they can’t stand having people judge them. The fact that somebody is judging them and finding them inadequate sends them into a rage. And they’ll take the rage out on anybody.”
“Often what you see with rampage shooters is that [the shooting] is a climactic conclusion…. They have a feeling like I should be special. It gives them this discrepancy: I am down here and yet I am supposed to be up here, and somebody is going to pay for that.”
Another problem leading up to a dramatic event is that children haven’t faced consequences for smaller actions. This leaves them confused. “We are a society that doesn’t have consequences anymore.” Smith says. “Even in the political system there are no consequences. If you don’t pay your mortgage, hey, you can probably get off the hook in some way. Our political system is based on that. We’re a society in which anything goes in a certain sense, and at the same time nothing does.”