The Wars Against Men
What wars against men? The wars against women are well known.
Posted February 14, 2011
What wars against men? The wars against women are well known. Marilyn French wrote "The War Against Women" back in 1992. Susan Faludi won a Pulitzer for "Backlash. The "Undeclared War against Women" in the same year. And in Canada the Commission on the Status of Women published a report entitled "The War Against Women" after a lone gunman killed 14 women at an educational institute in Montreal. It is understood that this war, or these wars, are waged by men against women. But there is little understanding of the wars against men, mostly by men, but also by women, usually in different ways.
The word "war" can be taken literally, men are killed in wars; or metaphorically, even as hyperbole, since clearly there are no wars against men or women, declared or undeclared.
The militarism of the "wars against women" authors, including their ideas of "gynocide" and "femicide" escalated with C.H. Sommers' "The War Against Boys" (2000), a searing indictment (why are all indictments searing? Can't we have pan-fried or lightly boiled indictments?) of "misguided feminism" and how the education system is failing boys. Then it escalated again with, inevitably, "The War against Men" by Richard Hise (2004), and "Save the Males" by Richard Doyle (2006) and again with Kathleen Parker (2008). All this is capsizing victim feminism by showing the other side of the coin (sorry for the mixed metaphor, but I couldn't write "showing the ship's bottom.") On the other hand, we can complement victim feminism with victim masculinism, but victimitis is not a great self-concept for anyone.
To be clear: I am NOT against feminism. It is mostly good, useful and fair; but I am against misandry, female AND male; and many of the comments about my blog seem to me to miss my point, and to be either misandric or misogynistic, which is unfortunate. The gender wars are quite fierce but the pendulum is swinging, I sometimes think, to a more harmonious, humanistic mutual understanding and peace.
In that hope, and not to diminish the victimization of women, it is time to note (hold onto your hats) that men too are victimized, and that there are wars against both women and men. Indeed they are often the same wars, usually differing somewhat in quantity or quality, in degree or in kind. This is not a zero sum game in which pointing out that there are wars against men negates the idea that there are wars against women too. I hate to be the one to tell you, but we are all victims, or potentially so, of one or more of these adversities. It goes with the territory. (But we are heroes too, one hopes, or maybe villains, one hopes not). So: what are the wars against men? Let me count the ways.
• Military: Wars are fought mostly by young men against young men. About 44 million military personnel were killed in the wars of the last century. One example: over 58,000 American military were killed in the Vietnam war, but only eight women. In Iraq, under 100 of the almost 6,000 American troops killed have been women. Of course, civilian women are often killed or raped: rape was an instrument of war in Rwanda and Bosnia, and the Rape of Nanking and the "comfort women" are still notorious, and civilian casualties in Iraq far outnumber military.
• Suicide: About one million people commit suicide every year, according to the WHO, and these deaths outnumber those from war and homicide combined. In every country in the world, male suicides outnumber female, except possibly China, though the data is not complete, sometimes by up to 10 to one. In the U.S. in 2007, 27,269 men committed suicide compared to 7,329 women. Men constituted 79% of the victims: a 4:1 ratio. Ratios are similar in Canada and the U.K. This war against men and women is waged against us by ourselves. It is like a civil war within us all.
• Homicide: Another 14,538 men were killed by homicide in the U.S in 2007 compared to 3,823 women. Men were 79% of the victims, again a 4:1 ratio, and most of the villains too. Women committed about 10% of all homicides in both the U.S. and Canada, and between 15% and 25% of the spousal homicides. This war against men is waged principally but not exclusively by other men.
• Accidents: Another 79,827 men were killed in accidents, compared to 43,879 women in 2007. The numbers are staggering and we should be more worried about accidents than suicide, and suicide than homicide; but we seem to be afraid of the wrong enemies. Men were 65% of the victims: a 2:1 ratio. Over half these deaths were in land transport or motor vehicle accidents, now usually called crashes because they are so often preventable and due to human error i.e. not "accidents" at all.
• Work: 91% of those killed on the job in 2007 were men. Men constitute roughly 50% of the labour force but 91% of the dead. Here men are victims of a wide range of forces from dangerous jobs to capitalist indifference to poor legislation to weak enforcement to trivial penalties (e.g. The Sago mine disaster) to sheer damned stupidity and tiredness. In construction I was almost killed three times: once by my tiredness and the failure of safety measures (no barriers to an elevator shaft), once by my almost stupidity (saved by my ganger) and once by the stupidity of other workers.
• Risk: One factor in this horrific list of so many deaths in so many ways is the usual hot topic of biology and culture, nature and nurture, testosterone and estrogen and socialization. Men tend to love risk, competition, physical challenge and self-testing. Men have 15 times the testosterone levels of women, and women have 10 times the estrogen levels of men, on average, though both levels vary widely. Add socialization, which tends to reinforce these differences, and we can probably account for many of the deaths due to such delights as: mountain climbing, back-country skiing, flying, racing cars, boats, planes, anything and everyone, BASE jumping, zorbing, boxing, contact sports, and danger generally. Yes, women do these things too, sometimes, of course, and men are sometimes prudent and avoid high-risk action, but the deaths by drowning, skiing, lightning strikes etc. are mostly to men. Our norms may be more lethal than our germs; but for some, that's living, - and dying.
• Culture: Value systems differ: Republican/Democrat, military/civilian, old/young, wealthy/poor, black/white, even east/west and Bible belt/atheist, but probably also, with some considerable overlap given these intersectionalities, male/female. Precisely how our values differ or overlap is hard to specify, but they are indicated by behaviour: the RMS Titanic, when some of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world gave up their lives on the principle of "Women and Children First." And 9/11 when 403 NYPD and FDNY gave up their lives saving total strangers. And the bravery awards: the Carnegie Awards for the U.S. and Canada, the Stanhope and the Royal Humane Society Awards in the UK, go almost entirely to men (about 80%+); and the Nobel Peace Prizes have gone mostly to men, though increasingly to women; so have the disciplinary awards. These are huge contributions to human welfare and civilization, at the huge expense of men, in terms of lives lived and lost, hard work, peace initiatives, bravery, altruism and self-sacrifice. This is men as heroes; but it costs men in terms of their lives. This is male culture as altruistic and at the same time high risk. Yes, women too may be and are heroic, often in different ways, but this post is about the wars against men; and male culture has brought huge benefits, but at high costs to men - born of women - lest we forget.
These are some of the adversities endured and suffered, sometimes willingly, by men to different degrees than by women. These are some of the complicated wars against men - by other men, by their work, by capitalism, by the individuals themselves (suicide, however impelled), and by their loves and cultures and hobbies. (I hope to clarify some of the systemic wars in the future). Some of my friends blame men for the wars against men, and blame the victim: "It's their own fault!" and in classic double standards, they also tend to blame men for the wars against women. It is time to re-think these things.