Men Don’t Have it Easy Either
By Marty Nemko
I so appreciate the women’s movement. For example, it likely helped my daughter become Assistant U.S. Attorney and my wife become Napa County Superintendent of Schools.
But as this article will document, except for the tiny percentage at men at the top (e.g., CEOs) the gender pendulum has swung so far that many of today’s boys and men are suffering devastating consequences.
True or false
1. The majority of medical research and outreach has been done on men.
False.Despite the death gap between men and women having grown from one year in 1920 to 5.2 years now, with four widows for every widower(!,) a U.S. General Accounting Office study found that most gender-specific health care research has been done on women. When I searched PubMed, which indexes 3,000 medical journals over the past 60 years, there have been 43 articles on “women’s health” for every one on “men’s health.” Where women have been excluded from studies, it usually was because of one or more of the following: studies were done on prisoners (which are mainly men), men were more willing to volunteer for risky treatments,, or because researchers did not want women of childbearing age to be subjected to experimental drugs meant for adults that could damage a fetus.
Also, the overwhelming majority of gender-specific health outreach has been to women. Although sudden heart attack kills more men and kills them younger, most of the heart-disease public relations campaigns have been aimed at women. And although almost as many men die of prostate cancer, we see a sea of pink ribbons for breast cancer in our supermarkets and advertising campaigns but rarely the ribbon of prostate cancer. (Do you even know what color that is?) There are seven federal agencies for women’s health, none for men.
2. The vast majority of severe domestic violence is initiated by men.
False.The media mainly reports the misleading police reports, which grossly underestimate the amount of female-initiated domestic violence because men are far less likely to report abuse. One reason: men are embarrassed to say their wife abused them. In contrast, women are considered heroes for reporting their abusing men. In broader population surveys, including a recent definitive one from Harvard, the evidence is unambiguous that women initiate roughly 1/3 of severe domestic violence. A California State University metaanaylsis of 200 studies with an aggregate sample size exceeding 200,000 “demonstrates that women are as or more physically aggressive than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners.” Yet much female-initiated abuse is ignored by the police and shelters overwhelmingly serve only women.
3. Girls do far better than boys in school.
True.Male school achievement used to exceed female. Today, however, by high school graduation, girls are reading 1.5 grade levels higher than boys, a far greater gap than the tiny edge boys have in math. Boys are eight times as likely to be put on a chemical leash such as Ritalin, nine times as likely to be disciplined, twice as likely to drop out. The situation is grim for minority boys but not good for white boys. The American Council on Education reports that the fastest growing gender gap of any group since 1995 has been in white working-class students, with males particularly hard hit. At the end of high school, 23% of the white sons but only 7% of the daughters of college educated parents scored “below basic.” This means that one in four sons of college-educated parents cannot read a newspaper with understanding.
And in an era in which a college degree is often the minimum requirement for a decent job, 59 percent of the 2009 bachelor’s degree holders were women, a gender gap that is increasing. And in graduate school, despite the fact that a far higher percentage of men work full-time after they get their degrees, fully half of students in medical school, law school, and MBA programs are women., as are almost 80 percent of veterinary school students. Yet inexplicably, there are far more scholarships set aside for women than for men.
Fifty years ago, when the achievement gap favored boys, massive pro-girl programs were implemented: replace boy-friendly competition with girl-friendly “cooperative learning,” self-esteem programs, science programs, math programs, more female role models in curriculum, special science recruitment programs, and pressure for teachers to call on girls more, boys less. Today, the response to boys’ falling far behind girls is too often for boys to be told to sit still for ever more seatwork, as recess and other physical activities, which used to allow boys to drain energy, are cut. Otherwise, it’s a trip to the principal, a suspension, and/or placement in special education and/or that Ritalin leash.
4. According to the Dept. of Defense, 99% of U.S. soldier deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been men.
True:You might ask, “How could that be? The media and government constantly say, ‘Our men and women fighting in Iraq.’ Media interviews with soldiers are roughly 50/50.” Fact is, only men are allowed to serve in direct combat and only men must register for the draft.
5. Men comprise 80 percent of completed suicides.
True,yet there are many programs aimed to prevent women from committing suicide, almost none for men.
6. Women earn less for the same work than men.
False:For the same work, women earn, on average, the same. According to the book, Why Men Earn More, based on a decade of analysis of government and other statistics, reasons for the “women earn 80 cents on the dollar” figure include that men more often choose careers that are more dangerous (e.g., police and firefighter), uncomfortable (from sewer repairer to crop duster), isolating and difficult (e.g., engineer and programmer) and work longer hours. The average man who says he works full-time works more than six hours a week longer than the average woman who says she works full-time. In addition, men are more likely to work evenings and weekends. For a promotion, more men are willing to move to places that fewer people desire. An offshore oil rig in Montgomery, Alabama, anyone?
Even comparing salaries in the same career tends to be biased against men. For example the Bureau of Labor Statistics lumps together all medical doctors but men are more likely to pursue higher-stress specializations with unpredictable hours such as surgeon whereas women are more likely to be a lower-stress pediatrician, and thus women physician salaries are lower.
Despite all this, today, unmarried women who have never had a child earn 113% of what men earn. That suggests that for the same nature, quantity, and quality of work, women likely earn more than men, and only when a woman makes the choice to have children and thus, on average, is less focused on her work life, does that woman’s overpayment dissipate.
Here is further evidence that when women do earn less, it’s not because bosses undervalue them: Working women who have no boss (they own their own business), earn only 49% of what the average male business owner earns. Why? A Rochester Institute of Technology study found that money was the primary motivator for only 29 percent of women versus 76 percent of men. Women put a premium on shorter work weeks, proximity to home, fulfillment, autonomy, and safety.
Too, women are more likely to prioritize work-life balance and to work fewer hours. Many such women claim that’s necessary because their husbands are unwilling to do 50 percent of the childcare and housework. But even Arlie Hochschild, the feminist researcher who has studied “the second shift” for decades, found that in families in which the woman earns more than the man, men do more than 50% of the housework.
The good news for women is that when they make the same career choices as men, they can earn at least as much.
7. While women’s employment rates remain steady, one in five men ages 25-54 are now unemployed, the highest percentage since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting data in 1948.
True.Between December. 2007 and June, 2009, 78 percent of jobs lost in the United States were held by men. The current recession has been dubbed a hecession.
How did you do on the quiz? “If you didn’t do well, why? After all, you’re a Mensan. You usually do well on tests. You probably did poorly because society’s mind molders–the colleges and the media–employ many hard-line feminists and men afraid of being called sexist. So, for example, rather than dig beneath the misleading statistics trumpeted by women’s advocacy groups such as the infamous “women earn 80 cents on the dollar,” they report those statistics unquestioningly. And movies, TV, and commercials disproportionately portray men as boors, sleazebags, and/or morons. For example, the box-office-record-breaking movie Avatar disproportionately displays the women as strong and ethical, the guys as troglodytes. The major exception is a jarhead who is shown the path to wisdom by a woman. In the leading kids’ movie, Princess and the Frog, it’s the same: Tiana’s (the heroine) dad is killed off immediately so she can be raised by a wise woman. Consulted to by her and Granny Bayou, Tiana beats all the bad guys who are, yes, all guys.
If a Martian read the above information, he’d reasonably infer that to be treated this poorly, men must be the inferior sex. And some hard-line feminists indeed believe that, making such assertions as, “Testosterone-poisoned men create all the wars.” Of course, men have also done remarkable good: invented everything from the printing press to Google, the birth control pill to Herceptin, the most effective drug against breast cancer. More average men sweat in foundries to create our steel. They build our buildings, fix our toilets, and make our cars, planes, computers, even the seat you’re sitting in as you read this. The list is endless. Where are the women in such unpleasant jobs? For example, flush your toilet. Do you think more men or more women process the waste? Feel the heat in winter, the air-conditioning in summer, the roof over your head. Who invests, builds, and maintains them to keep you warm and secure? Yet rather than praise men for doing these tasks, we begrudge them any extra dollars (often trivial after taxes) they may earn and cover our front pages for decades with such grossly misleading statistics as “women earn 80 cents on the dollar.”
Imagine you were the mother of a boy. Knowing all the above, how would you feel?
A Blueprint for Fairness
I believe the following solutions would go a long way to ensuring equal opportunity and fair treatment for both men and women:
Make schools boy-friendly. One-size-education does not fit all. On average, boys are more active, more competitive, and more interested in a book about cars than one about girls processing feelings. Ninety-two percent of U.S elementary school teachers are women, the highest percentage on record. So special efforts must be made to ensure that the education needs of both boys and girls are met.
Make colleges fair to men. The male/female ratio in college now approaches 40/60. With a college degree so essential, that ratio consigns the next generation of men to second-class citizenship. Efforts to recruit and retain underachieving men should be undertaken. And to set aside scholarships for women when far more women are obtaining degrees is as wrong as it would be to set aside scholarships for whites when blacks are underrepresented in college. When male prospective or enrolled college students see endless programs and curriculum for women and none for men, who struggle more in school, men understandably feel unwelcome.
Encourage men to consider the full range of life choices that women do. Society conditions men to feel they must be the primary breadwinner. That often precludes them from pursuing the less remunerative but more appealing careers that many women feel free to pursue: teacher, artist, librarian, writer, etc. Warren Farrell, author of The Myth of Male Power, explains:
We perceive men who earn more money as having privilege but we are blind to dads who sacrifice their own dreams because earning more, even if the job is disdainful (e.g., traveling widget salesman) better helps their children live their dreams. When we view men’s higher earnings only as discrimination against women, our anger blinds us to his mid-life crisis when he realizes he will never be the writer or artist he once hoped to be. And more important, it blinds us to how his love for his wife and children made him make the enormous sacrifice of giving up his dreams. In turn, our blindness deepens his crisis of meaning and often, his depression or anger.
Men, you have the right to be more than a beast of burden, the right to have open-non-manipulative discussions with your spouse about such issues. Each couple should decide for themselves, without gender-based expectations, the appropriate division of income-earning and domestic responsibilities.
Similarly, men and women should be equally encouraged to be “brave” or not to be: to serve in combat, to take dangerous jobs. Today 92% of workplace deaths and 99% of battlefield deaths occur to men. It is unfair that men assume such a disproportionate percentage of that risk.
Fund gender-specific health care research and outreach in proportion to the need. Just as programs for women and minorities were created to redress inequities, it’s only fair to do the same for men, especially when men suffer the ultimate deficit, they die much younger and live their last decade in worse health. It’s no more valid to let men die because they’re reluctant to go to the doctor than it is to let minorities die because they too are less likely to go to the doctor.
The media, schools, and colleges, must treat men fairly. Any boy growing up today is bombarded with endless media messages that he’s inferior. Just as it was wrong when women were so often portrayed as hyperemotional housewives, two wrongs don’t make a right. Role modeling matters, so we have an obligation to portray both sexes fairly. That requires standing up to hard-line feminists in power who will assert (unfairly as this article has documented) that “it’s still a man’s world” and that reeducation is required.
Men should have the right to organize. There are many powerful women’s advocacy organizations. For example, NOW, AAUW, and Catalyst have enormous influence on the media and, in turn, on us and on public and corporate policy. Countless women’s professional associations exist so “sisters can help sisters.” As the above statistics confirm, men now need support too. They should not be embarrassed from, let alone precluded from organizing.
Men need job retraining. The hecession occurred in part because male-centric careers such as manufacturing and construction have been heavily hit while female-centric fields such as teaching, social work, and government office jobs have remained stable. Men need support in replacing their rusty hammers with new skills. Too, full-time and part-time parenting also deserve to be fully valued in the male work repertoire.
Men deserve more respect from women. For two generations now, the message is that women get a raw deal from men. Statements like “women need men like fish need bicycles” and “Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them” are less funny than they are dispiriting to men and boys, just as sexist jokes against women are inappropriate. Please set aside hard-line feminist activists’ overheated rhetoric and think dispassionately about the men you know. For every butt-scratching, beer guzzling, sleazebag guy, aren’t there more hardworking, honest, good men? Just because a man chooses to be task-oriented and to give advice rather than to process feelings doesn’t make him inferior…even if he does scratch his butt occasionally. Give men the respect their deserve.
Mentor a Mensan Male. Time was when bright boys and men were catered to. Today, however, the public schools, in part because of No Child Left Behind, focus overwhelmingly on low achievers. And, as outlined above, schools have too often become very girl-friendly at boys’ expense. In and out of school, many programs exist to mentor girls and women, far fewer for boys and men. Especially given that high-IQ people are the most likely to solve societal ills, an excellent use of your volunteer time would be to mentor a Mensan male–boy or adult. Find your protege by asking friends, colleagues, or the counselor at a local school. Mentorship can be quite informal: regular or irregular meetings, in-person, by phone, or Skype. You might want to start your relationship just by chatting (if it’s a boy, with the parent there to introduce you,) perhaps while doing a recreation(s) that both you and your protégé might enjoy. As the relationship develops, you can ask more probing questions and, as appropriate, offer wise counsel. I can think of no volunteerism that could do more good and be more fun.
25 years ago, when I began as a college and career counselor, both sexes were equally confident about their futures. Today, most of the girls and women I see are optimistic while far more males are dispirited or angry. We cannot afford to sacrifice half the next generation, not only for their sake but for all of us–We are their mothers, daughters, coworkers, and fellow citizens.
A Mensan for 37 years, the San Francisco Bay Guardian named Marty Nemko “The Bay Area’s Best Career Coach.” He is Contributing Editor for career issues at U.S. News & World Report. 600+ of his published articles are free on martynemko.com.