Prejudice Against Men

 

A modern prejudice that causes harm, is pervasive, and goes unnoticed is bias against men.  This is a fascinating topic for me because it runs counter to our intrinsic beliefs; yet the evidence for it is obvious and all around us.

For example, men accounted for 92% of occupational fatalities in 2006 (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2006).  This is because the most dangerous occupations – operating machines like airplanes and farm equipment – are shunned by women.  These occupations are highly paid which explains in part why men make money then women.  

 Although we are all against violence against women, men are far more likely to be victims of violence.  For example, male murder victims account for almost 80% of all murder victims (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2006a). 

Even when men and women seemingly share equal burdens of danger, the males actually carry the heavier burden of death.  Although female police officers make up 11% of the total number of police officers in the United States, they for account for only 6% of those feloniously killed in 2006 (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2006b, Federal Bureau of Investigation 2006c).  Only 2% of US casualties in Iraq are women (Iraq Coalition Casualty Count 2008).

This disparity even exists when risks are minimal to both genders.  For example, male infant deaths outnumber that of females by 16% (Center for Disease Control 2006). 

Men and woman might be paid the same amount and be held to the same job descriptions, but it will be the men who confront violence, do the heavy lifting, and are called to the dirty jobs.   One would think this would be fertile ground for lawsuits and political movements, but just the opposite is true.  People – men as well as woman – seem to accept this as an acceptable division of labor. 

For example, I once worked for a private business school that prided itself on gender equality.  Nevertheless, I once found myself summoned to front of the school by a secretary where the female Director of Admissions was in a shouting match with an angry student, while the other two male teachers stood close by.  Both these teachers were good at their job and kind and gentle people, however one was about my size and had the physique of a bowling ball, and the other was a fifty-year-old five pack a day smoker who spent most of his time catching his breath.   There were much better candidates for confronting possible violent students, (and Directors of Admissions), among the female staff, yet the males were summoned. 

Following the incident, my colleagues and I discussed the situation, and I suggested that some of the women would have been a better choice to provide security.  My suggestion was quickly ridiculed until I said in exasperation, “What would you have done if things got violent, Bill?  Diverted the kids’ attention with a heart attack so Terry could sit on him?”  The conversation got serious and low; ending with the statement “that’s just the way it is.”

What I find interesting about this is the ease with which we accept the disparity.  If any of these statistics described a minority there would surly be outrage and a demand for reform. 

The best explanation I can think of comes from evolutionary psychology.  Men are bigger, stronger, and more aggressive and therefore the best choice for risky endeavors.   If our genes influence our behaviors so they can replicate themselves into the next generation, this makes good sense. 

On the other hand, maybe things are more complex than they appear.  Imagine the social effects of gender parity in body bags from Iraq, or in fatal assaults on police officers.  If men no longer held the role of protector of women, and women no longer could count on men to protect them would our collective gender identity be shaken?  Imagine how my male colleagues and me would have felt if the Director of Admissions would have called women to her aid.  Would we have felt slighted, less masculine?   Probably.  I suspect the women would have felt less feminine as well.  Is that an uncomfortable step in gender equality, analogous to whites feeling less white when segregation of lunch counters ended?  On the other hand, is it an irresolvable conflict between who we wish we were, and who we naturally are? 

One way to address the issue is though stereotype negation (Baron, Byrne & Branscombe 2007 p246).  A public campaign that uses images of sexism along with a message of “no” would be a good place to start.  Pairing images like a man in a car examining a map spread over the steering wheel with the text or voiceover of “Men do not ask for directions because they are confidant and self reliant.” 

Another way might be to manipulate social norms by identifying women who hold non-sexist views and publicizing their views and attitudes (Baron et.al. p 248-9).  These “spokespeople for men” would be women that various female demographic groups could identify with.  Christina Hoff Summers and Camille Paglia might represent one end of a continuum while Goldie Hawn and Gretchen Wilson the other.  All they would need to do is remind their social cohorts that men are worthy of respect and dignity through short Public Service Announcements, following the trail of Candice Lightner and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. 

 

References

 

Baron, R., Byrne, D., Branscombe, N., (2007) Social Psychology, 11th Ed. Boston:  Pearson. 

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2006) Fatal work injuries, CFOI Charts,  2006 Employment and fatalities, by gender of worker, 200654. Available at: http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0005.pdf 

Center for Disease Control. (2006). Table 1. Deaths, age-adjusted death rates, and life expectancy at birth, by race and sex; maternal and infant deaths and mortality rates, by race: United States, 2002 and 2003. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/finaldeaths03_tables.pdf

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2006a). Uniform crime report, Expanded homicide data Table 1, murder victims by race and sex, 2006.  Available at: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/expanded_information/data/shrtable_01.html

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2006b). Uniform crime report, Table 74, Full time law enforcement officers, 2006.  Available at: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_74.html

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2006c). Uniform crime report, Officers feloniously killed.http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/killed/2006/feloniouslykilled.html 

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. (2008). iCasulties.org.  Available at: http://icasualties.org/oif/female.aspx

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