The Sexist

In Which I Debate Lionel Tiger on “Male Studies”

Apparently, my extensive punning work on the topic of Male Studies has qualified me to comment internationally on the nascent academic discipline. Yesterday, I appeared on Canadian CBC radio program "Q with Jian Ghomeshi" in order to provide the yin to Male Studies founder Lionel Tiger's yang on the phenomenon of the "male as male," and how we can prevent feminists from thwarting this exciting development in maleness. Bonus: Near the end of the segment, Tiger accuses me of possessing "petty vigor"! You can listen to the debate here, and join the conversation on the CBC blog.

Photo via d_vdm, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0

  • Lolly

    My, weren't you just "ridiculous" in your reasoning. I don't know how you kept your cool. Well done.

  • Jess

    There are limits to how seriously I can take someone who says rape seminars are designed to protect LAWYERS.

  • Fiona

    Hi Amanda, I heard your interview on CBC yesterday. I was about to turn the radio off when Q came on, because Jian Ghomeshi is such an awful radio host, but kept I listening when I heard that you were going to be on talking to Lionel Tiger, which was exciting because I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now. (It rocks!) Anyways, wait to try and be constructive in the interview, it must have been difficult considering how hostile, reactionary and (unsurprisingly) patronizing Tiger was. And props too for not cracking up over his name. Ghomeshi was almost as bad - he mentioned that he's taken women's studies classes in university, yet he gives the only spot on his show that's devoted to discussing issues of gender oppression to Lionel Tiger and male studies, and allows Tiger to do 75% of the talking.

  • kza

    I can't really get in the conversation on that blog. The comnents hurt my head.

  • Saurs

    Is Tigah claiming that women's and gender's studies, simply by being offered as undergraduate majors, are compelling men to drop out of university? He's confusing, and a bully. Hilarious that he whinges about women's compulsion to be intimidating, considering how aggressive and sarcastic he is just when speaking to a woman.

  • Saurs

    Also, I like how he denigrates academic feminism for being wishy-washy, anti-scientific, and relying too heavily on jargon while his entire defense of male studies is that it's "tonal" or offers a difference "in tone."

  • Adi

    One rarely hears a debate between feminists and MRAs. Every one I've heard has left the feminists looking very bigoted and irrational. This one was no different. And the comments are like the cherry on top: Making fun of names? COME ON!

  • chris

    Every time I hear Spike McManlyName talk it makes me dizzy.

  • chris

    ARGH SO DIZZY. Dude, congrats on keeping a cool head when he was talking so condescendingly. Jesus christ.

  • Nora

    Christ, what an asshole.

  • kza

    Adi? More Adick! Sweet name loser!

  • Bird

    I am a sexual assault educator and heard the piece on the radio yesterday in the car on my way to a presentation. I spent the entire drive alternately shouting angry rebuttals at my radio and cheering on Amanda for her awesome comments and amazing calm. Unfortunately I missed the "petty vigor" comment because I had to go talk to a bunch of teens about sexual violence, including talking about how men are also victims. Interesting considering his comments about rape prevention programs only ever painting men as predators. Perhaps he should actually look at who is out there providing the bulk of support services for male survivors (hint: it's not the MRAs).

  • ruiqiu

    (First, I only recently discovered this blog and find it generally awesome!)
    I wish you had more of an opportunity to speak during this interview, Amanda. First, his biggest personal problem is his patronizing attitude- I am not impressed with his petty outbursts and dismissive tone. Academically, he is just wrong in trying to create a field of study entirely about reducing men to their biology. Yes, some of his examples about the hardships men face are valid: it is not acceptable for boys and men to be left behind in school, and no, men should never feel like guilty for being male. But his hypothesis, that we should study men in their innate natural maleness, does not address those problems at all. They problems better addressed by gender studies because those programs look at the social aspects of gender.

    Also, did he really suggest that we shouldn't tell young men that rape is wrong because it might make men feel bad? On college campuses, far too many men commit sexual assault and/or rape (and by the way, 1 rapist is 1 rapist too many!). The "Don't Rape" lecture is not about making innocent men feel bad about their sexuality or about being male. Rape is not an acceptable or normal part of male sexuality. The "Don't Rape" talk takes young men and tells them to not commit a crime- that's not oppressing men. Lionel is an idiot.

  • JR

    He's asked about the significance of campus sexual violence and again it's fucking "tonal." Unbearable.

  • Shinobi

    Did he really just use the phrase "Self righteous vapidity" to describe women's studies? Because I think he did. Way to ignore social constructions of gender in your argument Prof. Imnot A. Girl.

  • Em

    "The women have completed intimidated the men who don't understand what's going on, and they leave."

    This part actually made me LAUGH. Does anyone else find that a bit... patronizing? Are there really that many men who leave classes because the big words women know scare them? Jeez. Hell, maybe it was the anti-rape seminars that scared them away.

  • Lizrd

    Ugh, Lionell Tiger was fucking intolerable. Amanda, you rock. The end.

  • Jesus Son


    I was entirely disappointed by your performance. You clearly didn't bother doing the research on the guy you were debating or take time to research men's studies to attack his arguments with positive examples. Instead you ignored his statements and then tried to set up strawmen to be knocked down followed by reciting talking points repeatedly.

    The guy came off looking much better than you did (sans the rape seminar comments, which were not well articulated or argued). The guy's point seemed to be: As great as feminism has been for society it has had some unintentionally deleterious effects (which is a perfectly valid argument to make).

    And anybody who's taken a feminist studies class should know that there are certain excesses within these fields, which include taking social determinism to illogical extremes (one famous feminist author (forgetting her name at the moment) we read in a class of mine argued that all women were truly lesbians and were socially programmed to find men attractive by the patriarchy).

    Anyway, I expected better from you.

  • basketcasey

    Ugh I don't know if I can even get to the part when Amanda starts talking.

    "It's literally impossible to do anything on a college campus that a women's studies program might object to."

    Nice to know that the presence of women's studies programs have eliminated rape and sexual assault on college campuses! Oh wait...

  • Jesus Son


    Once again, you're purposely taking his words out of context. Do you really think he meant that sexual assault is impossible due to women studies' opposition to it? Or is it more likely he's referring to political correctness in academia, such as the case of the backlash against Larry Summers' comments (regarding women in science) that led to his resignation?

    I'm thinking the latter. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with taking issue with Summers' comments (if you think he's wrong), but let's not misrepresent our political opponents just so we can make a cheap, snarky comment on a blog.

    What does that even accomplish?

  • Shannon

    Amanda, I have been following your blog for some time and appreciate your writing. As a feminist and a person who appreciates a well-thought-out discussion, I was disappointed by your appearance on Q. While Jian may have seemed accepting of Tiger's points, he is well-known for calmly putting up with rude and/or pompous guests (Billy Bob Thornton) and long-winded, quickly-worded arguments that don't explain much and focus on belittling those who disagree (Camille Paglia). Even then, he sounded like he was lost trying to keep the discussion on a two-way street. It was clear that Lionel wanted to dominate the discussion, and had clearly been prepared to do so. Your points were clear and concise, but in comparison to his calmly stated arguments, you sounded intimidated by Lionel. The constant "um"s and "uh"s, for example, made your arguments sound weaker, and while I understand your voice will sound the way it does regardless, you might want to pay attention to the rising and falling inflections. Your voice tended to move towards an upward inflection at the end of a sentence or point, which also sounds weaker. Had someone not been paying attention to the words but only to the tonalities, Tiger clearly "won" the discussion with his level (albeit patronizing) tone of voice and lack of "filler phrases". While I cannot agree with anyone whose program's chief focus is "male behaviours of male people", I can concede that your appearance in the discussion was poorly structured enough that he did overpower you. (P.S. Maybe you should have read his least for the purposes of forming a better counter-argument. Although many of his arguments are more intelligently-worded backlash statements, it is still imperative to "know thy enemy".)

  • Saurs

    Shannon, Tiger didn't sound calm or rational. He used a lot of jargon, and kept repeating talking points over and over and over again. He raised his voice a number of times, scoffed, employed scare-quotes, personally insulted Hess and, in general, acted defensive and angry. While positioning himself as the ultimate authority on "male studies." whether that is or isn't the case, he also falsely treated Hess as though she were personally responsible for feminism and acted as though feminism is a homogenous intellectual and political movement. That he claimed Hess didn't read his book doesn't make that so, or particularly relevant, anyway. A five-minute radio segment is not the correct environment for a book review; apart from that, the subject of the discussion was "male studies," not Lionel Tiger's ego, and not his book on birth control, or whatever he claimed his book was actually about. Your critique of Amanda's voice and its ostensible weaknesses sounds like you're attacking her because she's a woman and happens to sound like one. It also, clearly, doesn't reflect the opinions on this thread of Hess's appearance in general. That you seemed unduly impressed by an aggressive asshole on the radio is, well, your own problem.

  • Yazzo

    Hey Amanda,I think Shannon's comments about your inflections and tone of voice(gawd, this 'tonal' thing again)are unfair and beside the point, but I did wish you were better prepared and more aggressive in the interview. Mr. Tiger deserved to have his absurd statements refuted point-by-point.

  • Ben

    Your best strategy might have been to let him talk the whole time. The more he said, the more I laughed, the more his imbecility became clear. This is called the "Give 'em enough rope" strategy.

    As for what Amanda said, I though she made an honest effort to have a charitable, interesting dialog with this guy. I think that's the best thing to attempt, no matter who you're talking with, even if we think it's not possible. In this age of the blogospheric takedown and the cable news "cut-off-his-mike" shouting match, we could use a little more of this approach.

  • Saurs

    I don't mean to pick on you, Shannon, but your comments about Hess's voice really rub me the wrong way, and I want to express why.

    At least part of the reason is that when men are forced to acknowledge women as authorities in a particular field and engage them in a discussion in which they are both on equal intellectual footing, nine times out of ten, the best argument a weak or intimidated man can muster is that a woman either is not framing her argument correctly according to the man's own opinion, which he probably believes is a universal standard and not subjective, or that a woman is "presenting" herself "poorly." Perhaps she's too feminine. Not feminine enough. Too loud. Too angry. Too passive. Wearing the wrong clothes. Making hand gestures. Using regionalisms or idiomatic language. Possessing a pronounced accent. (Hellllooooo Sarah Palin!) Whatever the objection, it is clear the woman needs to be schooled in rhetoric and forensics before her interlocutor can even consider discussing the actual matter at hand with her.

    See, this is a derailing device. A distraction. Woman says A, but says it in the wrong way. A is now irrelevant because of its packaging. I don't have to deal with A, confront A, try to make a reasonable and informed argument against A. The woman is the problem.

    Had Hess matched Tiger in anger and vehemence, she would have been accused by her anti-feminist nay-sayers of being hysterical and emotional. Had she sounded overtly intellectual, or used a series of multi-syllabic words, or employed jargon, she would have been criticized for being an academic, which is a great sin in this country. Had she sounded too casual, she would be accused of being frivolous. Had she been too funny, she would have been making light of Sacred Male Victimhood. Had she naturally a rough, gruff timber one too often associates with men, she would have been revealing herself to be a Hairy Feminazi committing the atrocious sin of wanting to be A Man.

    As it was, she sounded natural and engaging, didn't take herself too seriously (always a great female sin), and conceded to Tiger that more discussion was necessary.

    I notice, Shannon, that you failed to mention how many times Tiger stuttered. Quite interesting.

  • Saurs

    My point, of course, is that many women anticipate these kinds of superficial prejudices every time they open their mouths or express themselves on paper. They're highly attuned to cultural attitudes about women inherently being hysterical, irrational, incapable of arriving at logical conclusions. Adult women, in general, learn to be more self-conscious and guarded about their appearance -- and its endless capacity for presenting pitfalls as described above -- than about the content of their own ideas. And even then, they have to be doubly vigorous when testing their own theories, for such theories can always be cast aside if presented in the wrong way. As, outside of some parts of academia, anyway, women are so seldom listened to or taken seriously as authorities on anything considered within the purview of the populace in general, this isn't surprising.

    What is surprising is the notion that Hess might not have come prepared for her own radio appearance. That she might not have practiced the modulations of her voice. (Not that she necessarily did so, but that she might not have, now or in the past.) That she might not have deliberately and consciously tried to keep her voice steady, tried to avoid sounding too meek or too aggressive. I know I do, almost every time I speak aloud in public. Not because I'm a narcissist or naturally insecure, but because I know my opinions can be dismissed out of hand if I act out of turn, inadvertently act bitchy, insulting, or too silly, or too anything.

    Male eccentricities, particularly the more anti-social varieties, are generally perceived to be symptoms of great intelligence -- the more a self-proclaimed intellectual (Christopher Hitchens, anyone?) acts like a prig in public, for example, the more he is celebrated as a national treasure (of sorts) and, most importantly, as someone who is true to himself, to his own ideas such that he cannot possibly censure or censor himself. When men speak out of turn or act impolitely, we interpret their behavior as intellectually and morally honest; they cannot and are unwilling to stay quiet in the pursuit of great "Truths." When women speak out of turn, we close our ears and wag our tongues and clutch our pearls: doesn't that woman know any better? She's never going to convince anyone acting like that!

  • Jesus Son

    @ Shannon

    You do have a point, but I think Amanda's failings had less to do with her inflection and more to do with her lack of preparation. She just kept repeating nebulous statements about feminism and gender studies without simply giving reasons why male studies is unnecessary in lieu of specific examples of work done by men's studies researchers.


    When did Shannon make any statements that Amanda's lack of masculine tone was to her detriment? She said Amanda could have cut out the ums and uhs and not ended on a high note (things that both men and women struggle with). And now your associating a call for assertiveness with masculinity? It's a debate. You need to be assertive!

    So stop being a dick and reading things into people's comments so you can go off on an unrelated rant about issues no one mentioned. Amanda's responsibility isn't to try not to come off looking bad to the anti-feminists, it's to shape a good argument and refute the points of her opponent. That's why they brought her on after all.

    Also, I didn't think Tiger was particularly angry until Amanda out and out misrepresented his argument regarding the pill, painting him as some sort of . He interrupted her so he could correct her. If she had done the least bit of research (for instance taking 15 min to read the stuff on his website like I just did) she would have known this. Clearly, Tiger had read up on Amanda's posts, couldn't she have done the same for his work? Tiger also didn't claim he was the authority on male studies and he didn't use a lot of jargon. He actually spoke more clearly than a lot of radical and third-wave feminists I've read (try out Judith Butler and get back to me). I do agree, however, that he went overboard with the "petty vigor" comment.


    You don't think he had any points to make? At all? I'm not saying everything he said was gold, but even Amanda conceded that there were things that they both agreed on. The whole rape seminar thing was idiotic and beside the point (if true to a certain degree regarding universities covering their own ass). The world isn't simple: feminism = good, anything that criticizes feminism = bad. Take his and any other person's arguments point by point and figure out which ones are valid and which ones are stupid.

  • Saurs

    Jesus Son, I don't think three paragraphs on the subject of gender inequality constitutes a "tangent," particularly in a forum in which many commenters are feminists. If my comments fall under the tl;dr label, then don't read 'em. I'll choose how many characters I devote to any subject I choose.

    Adding an interrogative intonation at the end of declarative sentences (called pejoratively the Valley Girl Lift by at least one observer) is generally perceived to be a class and/or gender marker, and sometimes has negative associations. Sometimes it is defended on the grounds that speakers who use it are signaling that they are open to new ideas, and it sometimes it derided on similar grounds (that the speaker is hesitant to make unequivocal statements for fear of being challenged). To imply that such markers don't reflect social roles or power differentials is, in my opinion, a bit naive.

    At any rate, I don't necessarily think Hess was actually doing as Shannon suggests, but I do think it's interesting that you think it's a valid criticism, along with criticizing Hess's pitch and use of "hedges." In my neck o' the woods, interrogatives that aren't interrogative are a part of normal speech.

  • Felidaeus

    To the commenters, want to know how why he sounded patronizing?

    Because he was.

    She obviously had not prepared, and never knew what she was talking about. In academia, that gets you "patronized". Especially if you pretend to be an expert in their field. I would fully expect a scientist on biological manipulation of chromosomes to be equally condescending of me if I went on a talk show and mouthed off on the subject without knowing anything about it.

    At least *she* recognizes that she wasn't qualified. He knew it too, and obviously felt insulted. It's like asking the pope to show up on oprah to have a discussion on religion, and him finding out that his opposite number is a random atheist opinion blogger. What's sad is that some of the commenters on here seem to think she handled it masterfully. Seriously?? She was all across the board. She came across as an opinion blogger, and him as a researcher. It was a terrible interview.

  • typhonblue

    If I had been in Lionel Tiger's place, I would have asked why, in rape seminars, men are painted as predators and women as prey? When there is an increasing body of evidence that women rape men... possibly as much as the reverse?

    2.1% of the college age men surveyed experienced forced vaginal sex in their intimate relationships in the past year, compared to 1.6% of women who experienced the same. From Predictors of Sexual Coercion Against Women and Men: A Multilevel, Multinational Study of University Students.

    Evidence that women are equally sexually predatory and another equality data-point for feminists. Somehow I doubt it'll be getting much ink among feminists however... Women are equal to men, except when it comes to doing bad things.

    I hope male studies picks this issue up too.

  • Dude

    Listened to it. You obviously lost and came off sounding like an ignorant, snarky lightweight.

  • Eo

    Passive aggression and repeating dogma isnt debating.

    In an interesting twist Robert Connell, the premier authority in the world on masculinities and men's studies has just had a sex change. I support her in her decision but I dont think that she is in a position to be leading academic research in the experience of being male.

  • typhonblue


    "Perhaps he should actually look at who is out there providing the bulk of support services for male survivors (hint: it’s not the MRAs)."

    I hear one way feminists like to provide support for male rape victims is by portraying them as anomalous.

    For example, planting red flags for female rape victims and white flags for male and making sure there's a sea of red flags and a few scatterings of white. That's exactly what victims want to hear/see, that their pain is marginal compared to some other group's. Way to go isolating and re-victimizing rape.

    In a word? Disgusting.

  • typhonblue

    Third to last sentence should read "Way to go isolating and re-victimizing rape survivors'.

  • Sarah

    Nice job, Amanda. I only half wanted to listen to the piece, even though I listen to Q every day, because I really didn't want to hear what Prof. Tiger had to say. Not because he's directly hateful, because that's easy to identify and reject, but because he has those slick "we're being persecuted" arguments that work so well among Christian Conservatives, and that kind of anti-reality thinking drives me up the wall. BUT, given that he was going to talk on the public airwaves, I think you handled the rebuttal very well. You weren't condescending or hostile, and you calmly laid out how he is reinventing the wheel.

    @Shannon: I think you need to question your own understanding of the male voice. Clearly, you feel that the male voice is more authoritative, and that tone and depth of voice is what lends credibility to the speaker's argument. Most of us have learned to pay more attention to the points being made than to the speaker's voice. Do you think Stephen Hawking's arguments would suffer if his speech device were programmed to sound like, say, a young woman? From your comment I assume that your answer is yes, which indicates a prejudice on your part.

  • typhonblue

    "Not because he’s directly hateful, because that’s easy to identify and reject, but because he has those slick “we’re being persecuted” arguments that work so well among Christian Conservatives, and that kind of anti-reality thinking drives me up the "

    I'm sure you came to your conclusion that men have no problems by actually looking at the lives of men with an open mind and not simply assuming that they have no problems because your ideology tells you so.

    It makes about as much sense to look at the top 1% of men and say they represent all men as it does to look at the bottom 10% and say they represent all men.

    Likely both are part of the bigger picture, namely that men can win big but they more often loose bigger and have absolutely no choice about running the race in the first place. (A lot of men would prefer to put their roles as fathers first but they don't get the option.)

    I think men have the right to ask themselves 'is this race worth it?' Particularly when so many men don't even want to run it. That's what male studies is doing as far as I can tell.

    But, of course, feminism, like many other movements and philosophies in the history of humanity, is 100% correct. 100%. And anyone who says different is absolute and unequivocal evil.

    Funny how so many groups in history have claimed to be 100% right and are completely intolerant to criticism--just like feminism--and yet... given a few generations for humanity to reflect and move on, they're inevitably proven to be mostly wrong.

    I look forward to that day, but I doubt I'll live to see it. Ah well.

  • Jedi

    Lionel Tiger is pretty vapid. But I have to say this for him: His name is so cool!