Women and men on campus: mixed messages galore

[Updated Wed 4/27/11]

Lately my head has been spinning as I try to understand whether women in colleges and high schools are helpless victims or the new dominant force.

Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds raised this topic again this morning with their take-downs of Caitlin Flanagan's shut-down-the-fraternities piece in the WSJ.

Contrast Flanagan's victim stance with Amanda Marcotte on Bloggingheads.TV.
I think anti-rape activism that has focused on shaming rapists instead of rape victims has actually been incredibly effective. The rape rate since the feminist movement took on rape as an issue has gone down eighty percent. It went down far faster than any other crime rate went down . . . Learning that "No means no" was a pretty big part of that.

It's great to see such a decline, but I was surprised at the 80% number because feminist anti-male/anti-rapist rhetoric remains so loud -- as if the rape rate were rising instead of falling.

This chart from the Bureau of Justice Statistics backs up Marcotte's 80% number:

In the Duke lacrosse case, there was a rush to judgment against the men. But now we find out that the female "victim" has been charged with murdering her boyfriend.

Rape is a terrible thing, but maybe it's time we recognized the progress that's been made in the past 35 years and stop being so quick to demonize men.

In a related vein, it wasn't so long ago that we worried that intellectually aggressive high school boys were shutting intimidated girls out of classroom discussions.

But last month a local local high school newspaper in Baltimore County ran a lead story on the front page titled: "The figures prove it: girls rule school." The article stated that girls "dominated" boys in leadership of school clubs & government, and "beat" boys handily in academics. The body of the article was filled with quotes from teachers and students explaining how and why girls are superior.

Few school adminstrators blink at this kind of thing or wonder whether the playing field is tilted against males in some ways. But in areas where high school boys often predominate or outperform girls -- science and math, for instance -- the schools tend to quickly declare a problem and start programs to recruit more girls and boost their performance.

But when will colleges -- and the high schools that feed applicants to them -- declare this trend to be serious a problem?

Proportion of 18-to-24-Year-Old Men and Women Enrolled in College, 1967-2005

Finally, these high school superwomen get to top schools and all of a sudden they are victims again. For example, lately we read about women bringing a Title IX lawsuit against Yale.

I'm encouraged that quite a few women are skeptical of this lawsuit, including Wendy Kaminer, and Cathy Young.

So, which is it? Are women victims or are we grooming them to be the new oppressors?

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