Getting a bit sick of this post, actually. I should really get around to re-writing it with some newer information and statistics rather than leaving it scattered around 20 different comment sections. Either way, the take-home point for MRAs sharing this sort of thing remains the same – quit your bullshit persecution complex and get over yourself you whiny self-entitled prick.
How d’you like my attempt at a click-bait headline? Cool, eh? *wink-wink*
Anyway, here are the statistics in question. They’re a specific formulation of something I’ve seen 4-5 times in different ways. It concerns how “hard done by” men actually are – and therefore is a complete and thorough deconstruction and destruction of feminism and women’s rights.
Fucking women… Bah!
Hopefully, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out where this is going. The above is bullshit – not that the stats lie, but that their application is flawed. I’ll cover a general response first for brevity and then, for completeness, look at each one individually lest someone whines about missing a point. This is extensive, but that’s the issue with bullshit; it takes a long time to thoroughly dismantle to the point where you can begin to start correcting things. I won’t re-explain what “privilege” means, I’ll try to avoid even raising it as an issue so that anyone reading this won’t need to understand it.
Overall, none of these statistics (save one, just, see below) have anything to do with gender. Gender is not a causal factor in these cases.* That’s it, basically. If you cannot be bothered to read further (I won’t blame you for that) then that’s your take home message. Those stats above are not male issues or problems in the way that, say, breast cancer or being raped is a female problem.** No one is being targeted in these situations because they are male, and if you can’t spot that, I’ll reiterate how that works for each point below.
Secondly, most of the people who regurgitate these statistics – whom I refer to as MRAssholes, because “MRA” alone suggests that they’re both interested in rights and activism, but this isn’t the case – are simply not interested in addressing these statistics and the dependencies. This sort of thing is used exclusively as a whine – “look how bad us men have it!!” or “see, women are privileged too!” That’s all. No thought, no solutions, no progress; just whining.
These apparent “activists” have demonstrably no interest in addressing these issues, or real issues that actually arise from being male. A simple search for “Men United” (the prostate cancer awareness campaign ran by Prostate Cancer UK) amongst the usual suspects of Men’s Rights on the internet, even the UK-based ones, produces absolute nada as a result. If their interest was in helping men for problems arising because they were men, that sort of thing would be front page news. But no, they instead want to attack women, and blame women, for their own shortcomings, failures, and personal issues. More general searches for male health and well-being also produce precious few results – while I’m open to proof that the precious few are actual rules and aren’t exceptions, I’m not holding my breath (I did find one, which is linked to below, but the comments section suggests it wasn’t universally supported).
So overall; this is whining, and pointless whining at that, with no solutions for how to actually help men or solve wider social problems. The specifics are below.
*Clarification: 4 out of 5 are conflating factors rather than casual. But if you want an executive, take-home summary that summarises them all, then it’s that gender is not a factor in these statistics. Certainly in the 1 out of 5, the cases of suicide, most MRA groups are blinded to why it is a causal factor.
**Clarification 2: I saw this line criticised elsewhere (thanks for not enquiring in the comments where I would have answered this in a less annoyed tone rather than having to have it sent to me from a closed Facebook group) because it supposedly reads as me saying “men can’t get breast cancer” and “men are never raped”. Really? You think I’m that stupid? Do you think I’m not aware of the prevalence of those things? Take the common sense interpretation of this, please – there are issues that, for Reasons, affect women more often than men, and others issues, for Reasons, affect men more oftern than women. Of the former, breast cancer and sexual violence are two examples. It’s not to say that this is not a problem for men, just that these are statistically outlying problems, not core things to keep you up at night because it’s within reasonable chance that you would be affected.
The thing about combat deaths is that this is entirely due to exposure. That 97% of combat fatalities are male needs to be taken in the context that about 97% of all soldiers worldwide are male. Even in a (comparatively) progressive modern military such as the US Army, only approximately 15% of all occupations are held by women – a figure that drops way further when you look at frontline infantry, and in the US Marines it drops to a literal handful. This is something that has been fought against by women and feminists for a long time, who have been demanding the ability to enlist throughout most of the modern warfare era. The results of this campaigning have seen an exponential rise in the number of military positions that no longer exclude women by default, and female soldiers are now as prized and celebrated as their male counterparts.
Yet, it is primarily male soldiers, generals and social commentators who oppose this. And if it’s not male soldiers (I can disagree with, but actually respect their view on this), it’s male sofa-warriors with an internet connection and an addiction to increasingly identical First-Person Shooters.
Go on Internet Tough Guy, tear yourself away from shouting racist abuse on multi-player Call of Duty long enough tell them they’re not allowed to serve in combat because they’re physically weak. Go on. See what happens. I dare you.
The statistic on combat deaths is further misleading because it excludes civilian deaths. Effectively by definition this affects either both sexes/genders equally, or disproportionately to women as the men were off fighting (yes, that’s conjecture, so?). Civilian deaths in war, on average, are responsible for approximately 50% of all casualties across the board. Historically this has been through war-induced famine, and with significant increases in some modern warfare fields where civilian casualties can dominate – the second world war, for instance, is estimated to be as high as 70% civilian casualties. That’s a lot of women killed due to combat.
But as stated in the summary, this is not a male issue. This is a social issue; and the way to improve it is to oppose war, not to oppose feminism. Anti-war protests and campaigns are ten-a-penny, yet no significant contribution to them has been made by prominent “Men’s Rights” activists or movements – and when they are, they’re framed in this rather dishonest way as the fault of women for not dying enough. As Man Boobz has reported recently, some self-styled MRAs are literally saying that women should die in droves to combat the discrepancy. If that attitude strikes you as a reasonable response to a disparity in the gender of soldiers killed, you have some serious issues you need to address.
That the majority of homicide victims are male needs to be put in the much wider context of a more nuanced breakdown of the demographics – but first, the easy and cheap shot; the majority of homicide perpetrators are also male. What should that tell us? Well, frankly, nothing much more than the demographics of the victims tell us, but you don’t see that factoid being cherry-picked as an example of female privilege.
The statistic has come as a surprise to some people I’ve spoken to on this – who either thought that the split was closer to 50:50, or that life really does work like a police procedural where the victim is always a pretty girl found in a dumpster by the hard-nosed cop and her witty and implausibly quirky sidekick (Castle, I’m looking at you…). But no, the majority of murders (in US statistics, which are nicely summarised here, while the equivalent UK data is discussed here – since we’re all about the first-world-problems here) are gang-related or drugs related. That gang membership and drug-dealing is a predominantly male profession makes being male more of a confounding variable than a causal factor in this case. Presumably as more women begin working in gangs, female victims and perpetrators of homicide will increase accordingly.
Rejected Plot Idea No. 1: Castle and Beckett discover the body of gang member killed for dealing drugs on the wrong territory. It goes unsolved for the rest of the episode.
Now, there are some cases where gender could be a causal factor in homicide rather than merely a confounding variable. For this, we need to look at whether the victim is the victim primarily for being a certain way – for instance, hate crimes are perpetuated with the victim’s identity being a part contributor to the motive. And quite fittingly, the US crime statistics do summarise exactly this in the form of “intimate” or “domestic” violence – i.e., between partners, lovers or family members – or in sex related crimes including rape. In this, sex/gender is not just a confounding variable, but is in fact the exact reason a perpetrator and victim will be in the same place at the same time. And in this (the US statistics), we see a very different picture to the overall, gang-violence dominated, trend; the majority of victims are female and the perpetrators are male. 70% of victims in “intimate” violence are female, and just shy of 50% are victims in intra-family homicide, 80% in sex related crimes and again just shy of 50% in arson and poisoning.
In short, where gender is a causal factor, the majority of victims are female; where gender is not a factor at all (e.g., arson), the rate of victims is ~50:50; and the skew in the overall 75% male figure comes from gang and drug rates of 90+% male victims (and, as a matter of course, 90+% male perpetrators) where sex/gender is just a confounding variable caused by gang membership. So while overall your prior odds of being murdered are in the region of 75% if you’re male, if you’re outside one of the major high-risk groups such as a gang member or drug user, your risks increase significantly more if you are female.
Again, no mention of how to actually solve this problem coming from MRAssholes. It’s just a whine. No campaigning to decrease the murder rate, or campaigns to keep young men away from gangs. Nothing. They seem to be treating it as if Germaine Greer spent 90% of The Female Eunuch declaringthat young boys should join gangs and deal drugs, rather than far weirder things like drinking menstrual blood.
Industrial Deaths and Accidents
This is pretty much ditto to the military combat deaths; it’s a question of exposure. High risk occupations, manual labour and industrial for instance, are primarily male dominated. The occupations are often seen as masculine, anti-feminine, and as a result women are actively discouraged from performing them. Challenging these ideas of specified gender roles is something that modern feminism looks to fight against – that being female shouldn’t stop you being a bricklayer if that’s what you feel you should do, and as a corollary, that being a secretary should be a fine enough occupation if you’re male.
Far from it being an MRA position, it’s actually a very third-wave feminist position to say there should be more female accident victims because better representation of women in the high-risk workplace is a stated goal.
Well, it would be, except that unlike the position above that suggests we should kill women to “even out” the disparity in combat victims since the first world war, an actual liberal position would be to reduce the number of accidents in total. Because, naturally, the average liberal feminist doesn’t go around actively celebrating someone’s death as a sop to equality. A gender breakdown is effectively a meaningless statistic that tells us nothing about the nature of accidents, however, a more useful breakdown does show a meaningful decrease in workplace accidents.
The Orwellian Nightmare; Big Guv’mnt regulation leads to fewer people killing themselves on building sites.
The way to reduce accidents overall is not to blame women for not being in the right (or wrong) occupations, but to take personal safety seriously, not to glorify unnecessary risk, and effectively punish those that risk the lives of workers and those around them in the name of corner-cutting and profit. Yet, from bitter experience I know that MRAsshole attitudes have a very significant overlap with libertarian anti-regulation politics – and a further overlap with the kind of weird douchey behaviour that is obsessed with being Alpha-As-Fuck, which means Real Men don’t wear helmets on building sites or something like that. Either you accept regulation and oversight combined with liberal attitudes to gender roles, or you accept higher casualty rates selectively for the dominant demographic; you cannot have both.
Now this is serious fucking business. But it’s also complicated fucking business. Rates of suicide are tied into a myriad of factors. On the face of it, there’s depression and mental health – that much is obvious. There is a massive stigma surrounding mental health; and indeed more so if you’re male, where talking about problems and opening up about them is considered “unmanly” (talking to someone about your feelings is soooo beta, you horrible mangina, you…).
So in this particular issue, the prevalence of male victims is more than the confounding factor that it is in the above examples.
But with the MRAsshole crowd, which is inextricably linked to hyper-misogyny and pick-up-artistry, such a stigma is actively reinforced. A search for “mental health” on A Voice For Men quite literally produces fuck all in terms of help or guidance. A little bit of kowtowing to generic “men’s health”, but two posts in two years rounds down to zero in my humble opinion when it comes to such a serious issue. The stigma that you face as a man for having mental health issues is massive; and yet it’s really an intersectional feminism position to fight against it because that’s about dismantling the attitude that says it’s not okay to talk and be open if you’re male. As someone in possession of both a penis and a Y chromosome (because this is, of course, so damn important for some people…), this is something that actually affects me – but improving access to mental health care in general, as well as specifically fighting against the stigma of being a man with a problem, is the way to fight against this.
Today on Spherical Bullshit, we ask “why do all mental health stock photos look exactly the same?”
But there’s also access to the means of suicide. I don’t really want to de-rail this into gun control, but, it’s a pretty solid statistic that the majority of firearms deaths in the United States are by suicide, not homicide. Where access to firearms is limited, those deaths don’t occur. The theory is pretty simple; suicidal thoughts are transitory; and the ease with which someone can actually kill themselves correlates with an increased suicide rate. A temporary deterrent doesn’t lead someone to seek an option elsewhere, but delays them committing the act long enough for the suicidal thoughts to pass – this is something backed up by evidence from suicide barriers on bridges. The correlation between gun-ownership and perceived manliness is pretty much undeniable – as this particular advert for Bushmaster evidently shows. Combine all this together and you have a significant recipe for increased suicide rates. You have an easy and rapid access to an object that will kill you effectively, that you own because you’ve been encouraged to be “manly”, and thoughts that you refuse to share because you’ve been encouraged to be “manly”. That’s the theory, and evidence from suicide rates and methods demonstrate it fairly robustly.
In this case I did – shock of horrors – find something on this subject on A Voice for Men that might be constructive – but unfortunately a good-size chunk of the comments underline exactly the problem outlined in this entire post; they don’t care about speaking out on male issues or mental health issues, they just want to blame women for them.
Child custody is a another complex issue that has a lot of confounding variables attached to it. It’s really not as simple as you expecting a 50:50 split in outcomes. In fact, given other evidence we should expect anything but an equal custody split.
Now, some history. Back in the day, wrangling over child custody was a non-issue. It was never contested; it was the case that the father literally owned the children, and the mother had no rights to her own children at all. That was just The Way. In the case of a divorce, the children defaulted to the father. Check out any period drama for a good demonstration of how this works, it’s a plot point in most of them.
Elizabeth Foster, later Elizabeth Cavendisth, Duchess of Devonshire, had three children by John Thomas Foster. After they separated, he maintained sole custody and control of the children, and didn’t allow them to see their mother for 14 years. Elizabeth had no legal rights over them. And yes, I’m bringing up this particular example purely because I’ve seen The Duchess and Hayley Atwell in period dress makes me want to take up smoking.
While this fact about male-dominated pre-20th century society is well-known, it’s not often applied. It makes for very striking and vital context for discussing child custody settlements today. We’re talking about women going from absolutely zero rights in this field, to something of a slight advantage in a courtroom. I feel oppressed already…
So, along comes modern law-making that decided that “sanity” was better than “de facto” when it came to figuring out child custody. And so the law switched over, slowly over the course of the early/mid-20th century, from the father having automatic and uncontested custody, to courts making a decision based on the “most suitable parent”. In a way, MRAssholes are right on this; it’s largely thanks to feminism that this has been brought about. The earliest waves of feminism, dating back to the suffragettes and even earlier, focused on legal rights and representation for women; and this included child custody amongst other basic rights that we now take for granted – though emphatically do not mean that social equality has been reached (see, like, all of the above). So far, so history.
But… consider the homicide statistics quoted above and related non-fatal statistics on domestic violence. In the cases of intimate violence and domestic violence, the perpetrators are largely male and the victims female – although by no means a rule, this heavily stacks the statistical weighting of what we expect to see. What the courts conclude as “the most suitable parent” will be heavily biased towards the mother. If a large number of couples split due to violence, and the majority of violence is committed by men, a disparity here should be a no-brainer and highly expected. There’s a lot more that could be discussed on this, but I’ll leave it here for now.
I’m not going to discuss specific cases where there’s demonstrable vindictiveness that leads to unfair custody results – ex-couples dragging themselves through divorce courts are vindictive and bitter, film at 11 – but this is largely a problem for those specific cases, and isn’t proven to be a systematic problem by an overall statistical discrepancy between men and women and their respective victories in child custody battles. That alone doesn’t say anything about specific motives of why the disparity is the case. Of course, this could be a serious issue that self-styled MRAs could have a good point about and a positive contribution to make. Unfortunately they seem incapable of staying on focus long enough. Even the usually on-topic Fathers4Justice went completely off the rails with their most recent attack ads on mothers.
This was long, but hopefully thorough enough. So, in final conclusion, we’ve seen the statistics. We’ve seen more detailed breakdowns of the statistics. We’ve seen the context of them. We’ve seen reasons why the world is like that. We’ve seen ways we could fix it. We’ve seen reasons that most male “rights” enthusiasts largely miss the lessons we can conclude from these statistics
I deliberately haven’t tried demonstrating why treating these aren’t “female privilege” as some might put it; hopefully, I won’t have to.