04: Relationships cont’d

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Gray also highlights the issue of how expertise is constructed in the conspiracy, which we briefly touched upon in Chapter 2. The cover of Gray’s book proudly carries the name “John Gray, Ph.D,” which gives the impression that he must be coming from some position of research-based evidence, right? One would think (or hope) this to be the case. But if reports are to be believed such as Sarah Hampson’s 2008 article in The Globe and Mail, Gray’s doctoral qualification stems from a correspondence course from an unaccredited institution. Does that influence your perception of the position of expertise from which Gray is allegedly writing?

You may well be a sophisticated reader who wouldn’t be taken in by such things, but plenty of people are not. I remember very clearly being in my early teens, when I lived in a simpler world. When I saw people in the media passing comment on something I would assume they were an expert, simply because they had been selected to comment in the media. If I saw someone was a “Dr,” that person was not just an expert, but a “scientific” expert. Plenty of people think like this. It takes quite a bit of exposure to the world to realize that people get media coverage for all manner of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with their expertise. It also takes some time to learn that unless they are referring to an area in which they have undertaken genuine—ideally peer-reviewed—research, most people who call themselves “Dr” are in no better position to comment than anyone else. You might even want to challenge my appeal to authority in this regard: I include the credential in the transparent hope of capturing a few unsuspecting readers and, to be honest, because I’m proud of my modest achievement. But I don’t expect you to give me the benefit of the doubt simply because I have a Ph.D. (even one from a “real” university!). Also, remember how in the introductory chapter I referred to the political scientist Michael Barkun and his model of conspiracy thinking? One of the characteristics he identifies of conspiracy thinking is that it “enthusiastically mimics mainstream scholarship.” Have a think about that the next time you see a book where the author is appended with a Ph.D. or talks about their “research” (DeAngelo, for example, refers to his “research” six times in Double Your Dating, demonstrating a key issue of the conspiracy not only in terms of mimicking mainstream scholarship but also that repetition reinforces a guided perception of reality).

But consider too: assuming that, like me, you might once have assumed these people were “experts” but now know better, we see that there are always new horizons of awareness to reach. So if you think the argument of The Masculinity Conspiracy is questionable remember that, like me, you have been wrong before, but moved on. Whatever your opinion, if you think you have something completely understood, there is a high probability you are wrong. Consequently, in this book I am not suggesting that exposing the conspiracy is the end of the line, simply that it brings some critical focus to the issue of masculinity that is otherwise lacking: that focus can then be further tightened until it eventually approximates the truth, or acknowledges that there are multiple truths operating at any one time rather than the prescriptive mono-truth of the conspiracy.



Written by Joseph Gelfer

December 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm

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