I am sure many of you will have seen the press about a man suing LSE as he believes their Masters course in Gender Studies discriminates against men because the taught materials do not focus enough on men’s issues. Unsurprisingly, I think this case is completely silly.
There are a number of issues that make this case thoroughly ridiculous. The notion that a man is complaining about a woman-heavy focus in a gender studies course has been covered well elsewhere, and I do not have much to add to this issue. Another very noteworthy point is that it is hard to see how this is actually “discrimination”. LSE point out that as men and women had equal access to both the course and the key readings, no direct gender discrimination took place. This point is expanded here.
Many have already covered the important points, so I would like to add something from my own perspective. Basically, I wonder, what the fuck did Tom Martin expect from a Masters degree? From everything he has said on the matter, it would appear that what he wants is for a course to spoon-feed him information, for every lecture and seminar to provide a constant drip of knowledge with absolutely no independent study. The source of his complaint appears to be that the reading list did not consist of articles and theory that he wanted to read.
Well, Tom Martin, here’s some big news: that’s not how Masters degrees work. They’re hard work, because you’re supposed to read around the issues. The taught components of Masters degrees–lectures, seminars, reading lists–are a suggestion: a possible starting point. Everything else is entirely up to the student. In my Masters, I ended up conducting my research project and dissertation on a topic we had not been taught at all, nor had it been in any of the reading lists. But am I suing UCL for discrimination against the Implicit Association Test? Of course not. That would just be silly.
A solution to Martin’s problem is simple, and what is generally expected of a Master’s question. If Martin believes that there is some sort of systemic bias against men, or that the gender studies literature is lacking in its discussion of men’s issues, he should write his dissertation about it. Essentially, that’s what academia is all about: one reads, one identifies gaps in the literature, one researches, one plugs the gap. The dissertation Martin didn’t write could have been really interesting. It could have been worthwhile. It could have been brilliant.
Having checked out Tom Martin’s Twitter feed, @sexismbusters, an interesting picture emerges. Martin does not seem to be engaging in debate: rather, if someone tweets at him with a point with which he disagrees, he will generally respond with the cerebral argument of “if you hate equality, go to Yemen”, or requests to donate to his legal fund. There is no actual discussion of points–valid points, which should be addressed. Likewise, Martin wrote an article in the Guardian’s CIF, which he claims to show that there is systemic male bias, particularly in LSE’s Gender Studies course.
Unfortunately, the piece has all the intellectual rigor of a toasted tea cake. Martin falls prey to accidentally turning his whole argument fallacious by declaring texts “never” discuss misandry–which can be neatly popped by just one academic article about misandry (of which, of course, there are loads). Martin also makes repeated unreferenced assertions about things “the research” allegedly shows. When a reference finally appears, it is to a video on Youtube uploaded by a user called TheHappyMisogynist. The video appears to be based on a single academic paper, which Martin himself was clearly unable to critically appraise: he claims the paper shows that women are more likely to be violent against men in an intimate partner situation. What is actually shows is that this is the case in a certain type of violence among a certain population group, assessed by self report, is more commonly initiated by women.
With an ability to construct an argument like that, Martin probably should be suing LSE. Their teaching of academic skills appears to be deeply flawed if a few “if you like it so much, why don’t you go and live there” tweets and a very shonky, short article are all one of their former students is capable of doing.
It is hardly surprising, then, that rather than take the intellectual route and write a simply blinding, groundbreaking dissertation on gender dynamics in gender studies courses, Tom Martin has decided to hide behind the skirts of litigation. I don’t think there’s much else he can do.