Second Class Like Me[n]:

… To What Extent is the Predicament Ours, 55 Years Later?
Essay Review of John Howard Griffin, 1960. Black Like Me. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
cited in the pocket sized Signet edition, New York, “New American Library”, 1961.
(review (c) 2015, Davd

On the back cover of the pocket edition, in red, in the biggest type on the page, appear the very words with which i summarized my—and men’s—predicament when reviewing Nathanson and Young’s Legalizing Misandry, in my first Everyman posting of this year: SECOND CLASS CITIZEN. John Howard Griffin, a “white” novelist, darkened his skin in five days [pp 11-17—numbers in [] refer to page numbers in Black Like Me] and then went about the Old South as a Negro: He was able to see, hear, and report the experience of both races, as the same man; and his Negro experience was of second class citizenship—or worse [47].

Reading his account, i can’t say whether men’s situation in 2015 is better or worse, legally and bureaucratically, than “the Negro John Griffin’s” situation was 55 years ago, shortly before President Obama was born1. He chose to become “Negro”2 in the US South, including the most notoriously “segregationist” parts of the South, for his experience. From unhappy experiences in the 1980s, i decided not to return to the “Canadian Lakehead” whose Feminism (by the testimony of Prairie and European Feminists, shortly before i left) was more man-hating than in most places. So my experience of misandry—since leaving “the Lakehead”, anyway—is less extreme relative to North American misandry overall, than his relative experience of racism in Black Like Me.

What this review will compare are patterns of legal and bureaucratic discrimination, more than how strongly individual attitudes manifest themselves today or any time recently.

It is significant, something to keep in mind during these comparisons, that the sexes are more different than the races.

Anatomically and physiologically, a healthy middle-aged Native Canadian—or Kenyan, Hungarian, or Burmese—man is more like both David Cameron and David Suzuki than he is like his own sister. (One “obvious” result of this is that separation of clothing sales and public toilets by race is generally considered problematic; while the separation of clothing sales and public toilets by sex is generally considered normal3. Having to find different toilet rooms than women use, is not evidence of misandry. If women’s toilets are larger, more widely available, and-or of much better quality, that might be such evidence.)

Greater difference need not “mean” that there is more conflict between the sexes than the races; and a mere century, even a mere half century ago, the sexes were thought of as naturally complementary. For another obvious example, two women of different race, or two men of different race, cannot conceive a baby by having sexual relations. A total separation of the races would not entail the end of the species within a century. A total separation of the sexes, would. So the need for co-operation between the sexes, as well as the biological difference, is the greater.

When John Howard Griffin changed races, the conflict between races in the Southern United States was definitely greater than between the sexes. It is less obvious that it was greater than the conflict between the sexes in North America today… and more to the point of “second class citizen,” it is not clear that the legal and bureaucratic disadvantage imposed on Negroes then, was greater than the legal and bureaucratic disadvantage imposed on men today. The cultural disadvantage was greater where Griffin’s experience took place; whether it was all over the United States then, or in Canada, we cannot say.

The legal and public-treatment differences between full and second-class citizens do show some similarities when based on racial and on sex differences. “What’re you looking at me like that for?” [p 25] is not so different from a group of Feminist schoolgirls in Fredericton who, late in 2014, attacked school “dress codes” on the logically untenable grounds that restricting sexual displays by schoolgirls fostered a “rape culture.” They were not the only Feminists to insist that women should be free to display their sexuality and men, duty-bound to ignore the displays… which may have been demanding the impossible (Vincent, 2006: 35).

More similarities? “Affirmative Action” has produced a female majority among university students, and if now this artificiality leads women to feel superior and men to question our competence, those feelings are not evidence that men are actually inferior; rather, they show that victims of bias often blame themselves unfairly. Negro school children once felt inferior on similar grounds (Clark and Clark, 1947)

Still more similarities? Well, the male suicide rate is higher than the female, and the difference has been growing while laws and bureaucratic practices have grown more misandric. Page 7 is the first page of the body text of Black Like Me. It mentions with concern, “the rise in suicide tendency among Southern Negroes.”

On p. 75, Griffin reports (from the night he sat up reading a manuscript of The Magnolia Jungle by P. D. East) that State legislatures passed laws forbidding churches to hold racially integrated services, with fines for churches that did so; and applied tax money to support “white Citizens Councils”, whose avowed purposes included white supremacy. Nathanson and Young (2006: 293-99, 363, Appendix 12) indicate that tax funding is being applied to favor women and girls, including in schooling where they are already advantaged.

There are similarities enough to merit attention… but the sexes are more different than the races. Griffin reported that he became Negro; Vincent (2006) that she was disguised as a man.

John Howard Griffin began his project with some trepidation, but also a conviction, shared by the publisher and editor of Sepia, that it was worthwhile.4 His wife “unhesitatingly agreed that if I felt I must do this thing, then I must. She offered, as her part of the project, her willingness to lead, with our three children, the unsatisfactory family life of a household deprived of husband and father.” [p. 9] In 1960, that sacrifice was accepted as a sacrifice and the life of a fatherless family, unsatisfactory. In 2015??

He did not keep the project secret from the police, but met with FBI agents, one of whom said “As soon as they see you, you’ll be a Negro and that’s all they’ll ever want to know about you.” [10] Skin color was what mattered, the agent concluded—and that turned out to be the case: The sexes are more different than the races—but the very visible difference between dark brown and pale tan skin had immense social consequences in the Southern USA. When his skin became darker than the “White” range normally included, John Howard Griffin was a Negro—and was treated as such, and felt himself to be Negro.5

Darkening his skin proved medically feasible, though a bit risky—during the first several days he had regular blood tests to make sure his body tolerated the drug, one used to treat a disease named vitiligo. It was supported with sun-lamp rays… his body did tolerate it… and it worked. Griffin looked in the mirror and did not recognize himself. [11-15]

He had fortunately made some plans for the transition; and in particular, chose a Negro shoe shiner, Sterling Williams, a crippled veteran of World War I who talked intelligently with him before the color change, as his first personal link to the Negro community. When Griffin returned to the shoe stand as Negro, and explained what he had done, Williams laughed and took “delight at what I had done and delight that I should confide it to him.” [27]

Before he met Williams as a fellow Negro, though, he had spent a night and a morning among the New Orleans Negroes, as one of their race from out of town, staying at a hotel and eating “in segregation”. He was accepted on the basis of his skin color, and treated with kindness—except by one White woman he accidentally treated as an equal, fellow human being.

Though troubled at first by the poverty of New Orleans Negro life, Griffin fit in easily; he was welcomed on the bases of goodwill and skin color: “My first afternoon as a Negro was one of dragging hours and a certain contentment.” [32] He soon learned that the Dryades Street YMCA coffee shop was a meeting place for the city’s Negro leaders, and was readily accepted there based on his ability to share in an intelligent conversation—and his skin color.

One problem he and the local Negro leaders agreed about, should be familiar to men and men’s advocates: “Until we as a race can learn to rise together, we’ll never get anywhere. … have to be almost a mulatto, and have your hair conked and all slicked out and look like a Valentino. Then the Negroes will look up to you. … Isn’t that a pitiful hero-type?”

“And the white man knows that,” Mr. Davis said.

“Yes,” the cafe owner continued. “He utilizes this knowledge to flatter some of us, to tell us we’re above our people, not like most Negroes. …” [35]

Perhaps the reader can visualize some kinds of men who might be similarly flattered by Feminists. Those who blame “deadbeat Dads” who in fact are unemployed and discarded by ex-wives? Those who treat domestic violence as a men’s problem when good research (e.g. Grandin, Lupri, and Brinkerhoff, 1998, Lupri, 2004, Esmay et al, 2014, Corry, 2002) shows women attack men at least as often as the other way around?

Education was even more an area of white advantage, than it is of female advantage today: “Our people aren’t educated because they either can’t afford it or else they know education won’t earn them the jobs it would a white man.”6 … So a lot of them, without even understanding the cause, just give up.” [42] “They put us low, and then blame us for being down there and say that since we are low, we can’t deserve our rights.” … “Equal job opportunities,” Mr Gayle said. “That’s the answer to much of the tragedy of our young people.” [43] Who then would have forecast that equal job opportunities today, would be an improvement in the condition of men? (Nathanson and Young, 2006: ch 5)

“.. every informed man with whom I had spoken, in the intimate freedom of the colored bond, had acknowledged a double problem for the Negro. First, the discrimination against him. Second, and almost more grievous, his discrimination against himself, his contempt for the blackness that he associates with his suffering; his willingness to sabotage his fellow Negroes because they are part of the blackness he has found so painful.” [44; cf. Nathanson and Young, 2012, Clark and Clark, 1947]

We should remember that this is a middle-aged man born and reared “white”, new to Negro second-class standing, who writes. Young “Negroes” as diverse as Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, and Carl Rowan were “in the wings”, ready to translate Negro back into English and wear it proudly. But we should also remember that Clark and Clark (1947), a dozen years earlier, had documented the same devaluation of their race, of which Griffin writes, in studies of Negro schoolgirls. Five years after Brown v. Board of Education, the effects of that “landmark decision” were only beginning to be felt.

While Griffin was still in New Orleans the mood among Negroes turned to “bitterness and despair” when a Mississippi Grand Jury failed to indict any of the lynchers who murdered Mack Parker, even refusing to examine a FBI supplied dossier identifying them[49]. Louisiana Weekly wrote, “.. it has shamed the United States in the eyes of the world …” [49]

“No one outside the Negro community,” Griffin wrote, “could imagine the profound effect this action had in killing the Negro’s hope and breaking his morale.”[50]

Griffin next took a bus to Mississippi, the state where the lynching had happened. To pay his bus fare, he had to cash some traveler’s checks, and it was Saturday afternoon. He was refused in several New Orleans stores where he had spent money during the week—and finally, was able to cash them at a Catholic Book Store. [50-52].

At the bus station, the woman ticket seller and a white man sitting in the waiting room introduced him to the hate stare, “a kind of insanity, something so obscene the very obscenity of it (rather than its threat) terrifies you. … I felt like saying ‘What in God’s name are you doing to yourself?’” [53]

Arriving in Mississippi, he was warned to “watch yourself pretty close till you catch on. … you don’t even want to even look at a white woman. In fact, you look down at the ground or the other way. … If you pass by a picture show, and they’ve got women on the posters outside, don’t look at them either. … And you dress pretty well, if you walk past an alley, walk out in the middle of the street. Plenty of people here, white and colored, would knock you in the head if they thought you had money on you. If white boys holler at you, just keep walking. Don’t let them stop you and start asking you questions.” [60]

Hitchhiking toward Alabama, Griffin learned that the beaches, publicly funded, were closed to him. His one “white” daytime ride was from a young Northern man; but at night “Suddenly, I began getting rides. Men would pass you in daylight but pick you up at night. … All but two picked me up the way they would pick up a pornographic photograph or book—but this was verbal pornography. With a Negro, they figured they need give no semblance of self-respect or respectability. … All showed morbid curiosity about the sexual life of the Negro … into the depths of depravity.” [84-85]

But not all the white men who gave him a lift, were pornographically motivated. One in particular “enjoyed company, nothing more. … I could only conclude that his [guileless friendly] attitude came from an overwhelming love for his child [that] spilled over to all humanity .. [a huge] blessing .. to someone like me after having been exhausted .. by others this rainy Alabama night.” [92-93]

In Mobile, a mission preacher put Griffin up for the night, and again, the predicament of the Southern Negro dominated their talk. The next day Griffin went looking for work, and as in New Orleans “an important part of my day was spent looking for the basic things that all whites take for granted: A place to eat, or somewhere to find a drink of water, a rest room, somewhere to wash my hands.” [97]

One foreman told him plainly, “No use trying down here. We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs…. We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state. … with all this noise about equality, we just don’t want you people around. The only way we can keep you out of our schools and cafés is to make life so hard for you that you’ll get the hell out before equality comes.” [98]

“This attitude cropped up often,” Griffin continued, “.. walking the same streets as a Negro, I found no trace of the Mobile I formerly knew … the gracious Southerner, the wise Southerner, the kind Southerner was nowhere visible. … I concluded that, as in everything else, the atmosphere of a place is entirely different for Negro and white. The Negro sees and reacts differently not because he is Negro, but because he is suppressed. Fear dims even the sunlight.” [98-99]

In Montgomery, Alabama, he found more hope, and credited it to the work of Martin Luther King, senior and especially junior… and their associates. Yet when “On Sunday I made the experiment of dressing well and walking past some of the white churches just as services were over, in each instance as the women came through the church doors and saw me, the ‘spiritual bouquets’ changed to hostility. The transformation was grotesque” [117]

Next Griffin risked changing his skin color enough to alternate between “being white” and “being Negro.”

“I was the same man, whether black or white. Yet when I was white, I received the brotherly-love smiles and the privileges from whites and the hate stares or obsequiousness from the Negroes. And when I was a Negro, the whites judged me fit for the junk heap, while the Negroes treated me with great warmth.” [121-2]

Griffin’s assessment of the contrast was charitable: “…these [white] people were simply unaware of the situation with the Negroes who passed them on the street—there was not even the communication of intelligent awareness between them.” [120]

One place where Griffin’s experience was not of mutual suspicion and some hostility between the races, was a Trappist monastery near Conyers, Georgia. “The kind of man who would come to the Trappists,” the guest-master told him “comes here to be in an atmosphere of dedication to God. Such a man would hardly keep one eye on God and the other on the color of his neighbor’s skin.” [130]

In Atlanta, Griffin met different aspects of social change than in Montgomery, and was finally encouraged that the Negro predicament was soluble. He was heartened by the unity of the Negro community, by fair-minded newspapers (especially the Atlanta Constitution) and writers, and by a city administration sympathetic to fairness and equal opportunity. He met Negro financial leaders who had established banks and an insurance company, and as one of them, T. M. Alexander, said, “There is no big Me and little you. We must pool all our resources, material and mental, to gain the respect that will enable all of us to walk the streets with the dignity of American citizens.”

On December 14, about six weeks after first becoming Negro, “I resumed for the final time my white identity. I felt strangely sad to leave the world of the Negro after having shared it so long—almost as if I were fleeing my share of his pain and heartache.” [140, cf.156]. There was a lasting sense of brotherhood, of fellowship, in and from his experience, that Vincent (2006) never experienced in a much longer time disguised as a man: The sexes are more different than the races.

It was early the next year, 1960, as the winter turned to spring, that the story of Griffin’s weeks as a Negro—the FBI man had proven right—became public. He was interviewed on television by Paul Coates, Dave Garroway, Harry Golden, Radio-Television Française, and Mike Wallace. He was also threatened and hanged in effigy; but never actually attacked.

By June 19, as that spring was ending: “There were six thousand letters to date and only nine of them abusive. Many favorable letters came from Deep South states, from the whites. This confirmed my contention that the average Southern white is more properly disposed than he dares allow his neighbor to see, that he is more afraid of his fellow white racist than he is of the Negro.” [153] Yet though the great majority of those from whom he heard were favorable, the few so frightened Griffin’s parents that they sold their farm and moved to Mexico—a Métis nation7, interestingly. “We too were going,” he wrote, “because we had decided that it was too great an injustice to our children to remain.” [155]

As they cleaned his parents’ house for the new owners, John Howard Griffin’s helper, a Negro youth, showed an exaggerated notion of how many whites were racist—almost certainly because the racists were more audible and visible to him. “The Negro does not understand the white man any more than the white understands the Negro. I was dismayed to see the extent to which this [Negro] youth exaggerated—how could he do otherwise?—the feelings of the whites toward Negroes. He thought they all hated him.” [156] The extremists showed up more visibly and sounded off more loudly—it seems to be much the same with the sexes today, does it not?

55 years ago, as he wrote and published Black Like Me, Griffin realized, “I could have been a Jew in Germany, a Mexican in a number of states, or a member of any ‘inferior’ group. Only the details would have differed. The story would be the same.” [p. 5, “Preface”]. Perhaps he didn’t envision that his own male sex could become an “inferior” group. Substitute the sexes for the races, and we can read,

Though we lived side by side … communication between the two [sexes] had simply ceased to exist. Neither really knew what went on with those of the other [sex]. The [man] will not tell the [woman] the truth. He long ago learned that if he speaks a truth unpleasing to the [woman, she] will make life miserable for him.” [7-8]

Perhaps relations between the sexes have not got that bad8; but that substituted quotation does seem more true than false, for too many men; and over the 55 years since Black Like Me was published, it has been getting worse rather than better. Many men are afraid to tell women unwelcome truths—as many boys have been for all my seventy-plus years. Doubt that? Consider the sentence “How Dare You Talk Back to Your Mother?” (Teachers are usually more subtle than that sentence; but how many boys dare talk back to them?)

As for women telling men the truth, consider “Mommy’s Little Secret” (Abraham, 2002). Men are routinely told lies about whether they sired their wives’ children, “in the child’s interest,” “in the interests of maintaining family peace,” or because legally in Canada, “The developing [unborn] baby is considered part of the mother and the results of [paternity] tests therefore belong to her.” The unborn baby is all hers, none his: If the laws are consistent, doesn’t that mean he is not liable for child support? (In fact, is he liable? William Marotta was., and for bad reasons which Barbara Kay has summarized.)

Griffin probably was told more of the truth—about how little he could have and use as “Negro” of the public facilities that had been open to him as “white”, for instance—and as for civil rights, how much of “civil rights” has a man who is required to pay support for three children who are not his (Morgan Wise, in the State of Texas [Abraham, 2002])? It seems fair enough as of what we know now, to use “Second Class Citizen” for Griffin’s experience in 1959-60 and for ours today.

On the other hand, who then was calling Negroes “privileged”? I never heard the likes of that in 1955-65; but i do hear and read claims that men are privileged when in fact, legally and bureaucratically, we are systematically disadvantaged in Canada and the US.

American Negroes had been in their predicament for centuries as slaves and not quite one century as all free citizens, when Griffin walked the Old South with dark skin. Things were improving, but slowly—more slowly than their accomplishments to date merited. Men today, are newly into a similar predicament; a century and a half century ago, there was a rough balance between men’s and women’s privileges, one that reflected women’s reproductive role and motivation and men’s advantages at skilled large muscle work. A few years ago, it seemed men’s predicament was steadily worsening; now, perhaps, the worst has arrived and there is occasion for hope things will next improve… but at age 72, i don’t expect to live long enough to have equal legal rights9 and equally good official treatment, compared with a woman of my age.

On pp. 48-50, Stirling Williams reads angrily the Louisiana Weekly‘s comments that the failure of a Mississippi Grand Jury to indict lynchers “has shamed the United States in the eyes of the world …” [49] Misandry is very plausibly an important root cause of widespread contempt for the West today, especially among Muslims. It is even plausible that some of the Western young men who have joined the most violent Muslim sects10, may be motivated significantly by shame at being second class citizens in their home countries.

Misandry needn’t be universal to be powerfully damaging. It is worthwhile remembering that most of the letters John Howard Griffin received after going public, were favorable—but his parents, and his own household, were driven from Texas to Mexico, because “we had decided that it was too great an injustice to our children to remain”[155]. A hostile minority and an indifferent majority of their fellow “whites” had driven them out of the United States of America. Likewise, in “gender relations” today, a hostile minority and an indifferent11 majority of women, have silenced millions of men; and driven many men who would welcome a marriage such as John Howard Griffin had then, to avoid marriage as it is now. They have made “whether to expat” a valid question in men’s rights discourse12.

Those morbid white Southerners who projected sexual excess onto Negroes in general and Griffin the hitchhiker in particular, were a “self selected sample,” and we cannot guess from his experience what fraction of Southern white men they represent; it is bad enough that they felt at liberty to harass Negro men that way, at all. Bad enough also, that some fraction of women this decade, feel at liberty to praise Lorena Bobbitt and Valerie Solanas. Bad enough that some Fredericton schoolgirls claimed the privilege to flaunt their sexuality and claimed to impose on the boys, the entire burden of ignoring that display until invited otherwise. (CBC Radio News, November 18 and December 8, 2014.) Total liberation of any population, in an interdependent milieu, necessarily entails the abuse of others with which it shares the space.

That’s worth repeating, because so many people (especially female North American people, these days) claim to deserve “total freedom”: Complete liberation of any population, in an interdependent milieu, necessarily entails the abuse of others with which it shares the space. Fairness entails all parties, all subcultures, taking something less than total liberation; and making each group’s limits about equally restricting, is about as fair as things can get. We accept that principle in traffic laws, in urban “zoning”, in demanding that smoking be done away from those who might be allergic to or even annoyed by tobacco smoke, and in the old saying that “your right to wave your arms ends safely short of my nose”. We used to demand modesty in dressing for work and school—and we’d be wise to do so again—because immodesty is distracting (cf. Vincent, 2006: 35) and there can be no moral right to distract others from their proper, useful tasks short of rare, sudden, unexpected needs to protect health and safety.

If Legalizing Misandry is a difficult read, Black Like Me is an easy one. It may disturb you emotionally, but you won’t be searching through tens of pages of footnotes for a source citation.

If this book is not in your library, and “English” is widely read among your local population, then (unless it was built in the past 50 years) the library has failed you: When the book was new, funding was more abundant than it is today; and there has not been reason since to discard it. If you have a good library, in an Anglophone region, that library shouls have this book. I suggest you go check it out, soon, if you haven’t read it yet or might like to re-read it—partly to remind the librarian to keep it. If some other man, or a woman with a heart for equality, has checked it out, put your name down to check it out after it comes back.

Read it. Look at the experiences Griffin recounts. Consider how they do and don’t parallel our experiences as men in the second decade of the 21st Century. With luck, your experiences won’t be as extreme—Griffin deliberately chose the Deep South, and Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia within the South. From what i’ve seen and from what Nathanson and Young presented in Legalizing Misandry, there will be parallels, not perfect but strong enough
to be eerie.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, why do you kill the prophets who were sent to save you? asked Jesus (Matthew 23:37, Luke 13:34); we could likewise ask why so many Civil Rights activists were killed by a USA whose coins prominently bore the word Liberty. We could ask, Ottawa, Ottawa, why did you hang Louis Riél?—and we could could ask the same question of today. The Feminists could ask themselves about Earl Silverman, Tom Ball, about why they do not take the initiative to punish or change false accusers .. about the Titanic, .. and for two generations and longer, why are the extremists more heard? why are those who are well disposed toward the other race and the other sex, so silent, then and now?

There is evidence scattered through John Griffin’s book, of Whites willing but afraid to treat Negroes equally… of intimidation of a majority of half decent, half indifferent whites by the [estimated small] minority of serious racists. Plausibly, a similar distribution exists as among North American women. Just as plausibly, many of those who are half decent and half indifferent, let the misandric take the lead because they do benefit from their privilege.

So La Diabla—and i use the female version because Nathanson and Young (2006) have made a good case that “ideological Feminists”, much more than any other political ‘force’, have lobbied this situation into existence—has got laws deeming men privileged when if either sex be, it be women; men believing that women hate us, and women believing (or at least acting like they believe) that we are abusive and misogynist.

Some are and some ain’t; and in parallel to what Griffin wrote in 1960, it seems most likely that most women are not so much hostile, as unwilling to offend the “leading ideologues” who are… and not eager, either, to let go of their privileges.

Needs fixing, that does.

Some Other References:

Abraham, Carolyn 2002. “Mommy’s Little Secret.” Toronto: The Globe and Mail December 14. Print Edition, Page F1

CBCRadioNews, 2014, November 18, December 8 “Fredericton youth Feminists” expect boys to totally ignore girls’ sexual displays. (Be they able to ..?) I find the modesty arguments far more plausible….

Clark, Kenneth B., and Mamie P. Clark, 1947 “Racial identification and preference in Negro children.” In T. M. Newcomb and E. L. Hartley, eds., Readings in Social Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston.

Corry, Charles E., 2002. “Domestic Violence Against Men.” Colorado Springs, USA: Equal Justice Foundation

Esmay, Dean et alia, 2014. “The Facts about Male Discrimination” Updated June 16, accessed September 7.

Grandin, Elaine, Eugen Lupri, Merlin B. Brinkerhoff, 1998.”Couple Violence and Psychological Distress” Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol. 89, No. 1, (Jan-Feb) p. 43-47

Lupri, Eugen, 2004. “Institutional Resistance to Acknowledging Intimate Male Abuse”, Paper presented at the Counter-Roundtable Conference on Domestic Violence, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 7

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Nathanson, Paul and Katherine K. Young, 2012. “Misandry and Emptiness: Masculine Identity in a Toxic Cultural Environment” New Male Studies v. 1 Issue 1: 4-18

Pinker, Susan, 2008. The Sexual Paradox:
Extreme Men, Gifted Women and the Real Gender Gap
. [no city listed in flyleaf] Random House of Canada; New York: Simon and Schuster.

Rowan, Carl T., 1991. Breaking Barriers: A Memoir. Boston, Toronto, London: Little, Brown &co.

United States Supreme Court, 1954. Brown. V. Board of Education, decision.

Vincent, Norah, 2006. Self Made Man: One Woman’s Year Disguised as a Man. New York: Viking Penguin.


1. Culturally, methinks, the sexes differ too much, and are too  interdependent, to assess the question

2. Plainly, Negro is Black in Spanish and Portugese; and white was not the actual, usual color of Griffin’s skin, nor of any ordinary European’s skin. Both words are loosely used in ordinary colloquial “English”… and they were, still are, heavily loaded with unreasonable attitudes—but much less so today than then.

This review is written with US rather than Canadian spelling because of the importance of “color” in the text, and the convention of spelling such words in their original language when quoting.

3. Switching the “Men” and “Women” signs on toilets in university classroom buildings early in the term, was a common prank when i was a student. Those who had used the building before, went in the doors they habitually used; those who were new to the building went in by the signs, so embarrassment was maximum when there were comparable numbers of new and old students.

4. Why would a man deliberately take on a second class identity? The author’s name, methinks, tells us something of his motivation. John Howard was the founder, if any one person was, of the prisoner’s rights and rehabilitation movement. (I was a member of the board of the John Howard Society of Thunder Bay, when i was a professor at Lakehead University. Both the original Howard and the Griffin who wrote this book, have my profound sympathy. As has Louis Riél, who did the right thing and was hanged for it.)

5. Norah Vincent, in a contrasting revelation, writes in Self Made Man that she never did feel herself to be male—she was aware throughout her year-and-a-half that she was impersonating, or as the subtitle of her book says, “disguised as a man.”

Griffin’s experience was not of disguise but of transformation: “… there is no such thing as a disguised white man, once the color won’t rub off. The black man is wholly a Negro, regardless of what he once may have been.” [16]

6. It might be worthwhile adding, that today, unlike in 1959-1960, a generic university education hasn’t much value as a ticket to middle class jobs. Boys who go to trade school and do well are likely to earn as much as girls—or boys—who get Arts degrees; and often tradesmen earn more.

7. Mestizo is the Spanish way of writing Métis.

8. Griffin writes “the Negro is treated not even as a second-class citizen, but as a tenth class one.” [47] And in fact, the treatment he got varied from person to person, much as men today get treated with different amounts of respect and humanity by different women.

I can personally attest that i dared not tell unwelcome truth to some women i have “been close to”, to such extent that a psychiatrist advised me quite seriously not to remarry, and to prefer the company of other men.

9. Specifically, i expect that a woman could falsely accuse me of violence (perhaps also “sexual harassment,” but i may be getting rather old for that one) and be better believed than if the genders were reversed. It would be impressively rapid social change, if a man’s and a woman’s accusation, if a man’s and a woman’s word in a “he said—she said” case with no witnesses, were taken at equal value before i die.

10. including “the Islamic State” that beheads Western men who oppose it, and kidnaps and enslaves non-Muslim women.

11. Perhaps “indifferent” is too kind, to many white Southerners then and many women now. There are benefits to be had from privilege even when one does not claim it is rightful, if one has that privilege anyway. There are large numbers of women today, as there were of white Southerners then, who have better jobs than they would have under equal opportunity conditions. Employers especially and the buying public more generally, benefit from the exploitation of workers who, because of discrimination, are paid less than they would be if they were in the other race or the other sex.

12. I am not sure if can still be reached, but the date embedded in it indicates recent serious discussion of relocation from the US (and Canada) to less-Feminist countries. Correspondents who might prefer i not name them, have indeed left.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, Book Summaries, Gender Equality. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply