Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Where to start?!

We hear a great deal about sexism against women. But there are real injustices against men, too, and we hear far less about them. This blog will attempt to redress the balance a little.

Over time, I plan to link to press articles, and other sources that illustrate how sexism can be targeted at men. But to begin with I’d like to illustrate a few of the areas where men are at a disadvantage to set a backdrop for the future content of this blog.


The average UK male will underperform the average UK female in every academic subject. This is despite the fact that there is little evidence of any difference in intelligence between the genders.

Feminists argue that a few years ago, girls underperformed and no-one cared. In fact that’s the opposite of the truth. I remember when I was taking GCSEs that girls were underperforming boys in several subjects and it was a constant topic of discussion. In fact, GCSE’s themselves were partly designed to redress the balance by focusing far more on course-work, where girls outperformed, and under-emphasising exams, where boys tend to do better.

I have yet to hear any proposals to redress the balance today. Quite the contrary: In fact the government’s chairman of the education select committee, Barry Sheerman, frankly states “there is no doubt in my mind that girls are brighter than boys.”

When Larry Summers dared to suggest that the greater number of men in science research posts at Harvard might have something to do with aptitude, he was hounded out of the post. But in the UK, the chairman of the government’s education select committee can make a blatantly sexist, not to mention factually baseless statement like this, without the slightest fear of any opposition at all. What hope do boys have in achieving their full academic potential if senior government figures hold such sexist views, and no-one questions them?

Feminists argue that this doesn’t matter anyway because their superior education results do not translate into higher earnings for women. As if education’s only purpose is a higher salary. And as if women’s lower average earnings had nothing to do with personal choices (a subject I’m sure I’ll come to later).


While they’re getting their inferior education, four times as many boys as girls will kill themselves. I wrote to my MP once to ask if anyone in government was looking at how this situation could be improved. The answer was no. I wonder if this issue would be ignored if four times as many girls killed themselves as boys.

Men’s higher suicide rate persists throughout life. In every country, more men than women kill themselves - in the UK by a factor of 3 to 1. And yet it’s an article of faith, utterly beyond question among feminists, that women’s lives are immeasurably tougher than men’s.

Life and life expectancy

That higher suicide rate contributes to men’s shorter average life expectancy; currently 5 years shorter than women’s in the UK. Women complain about the 12.8% gender pay gap (although they tend to say it’s 25% and to claim that it’s ‘for the same work’). The question is, would they be happy to swap it for our 5-year life expectancy gap?

A typical feminist response to this is – “it’s your fault”. Men are accused of being physically weaker, or of not going to the doctor, or of having unhealthy lifestyles. Well, the latter is partly true. But a large part of it is down to inferior healthcare and lower healthcare spending for men. According to the Men’s Health Forum, eight times as much is spent on women’s health as men’s. Yes, women have some specific health demands which probably justify somewhat higher overall spending. But eight times? That is clearly going to contribute to the life-expectancy gap.

Cancer is a clear case in point. Prostate cancer kills nearly as many men as breast cancer kills women. Yet there are dozens of charities devoted to breast cancer and only three devoted to prostate cancer. NHS funding for breast cancer is enormously bigger, as discussed here in the Times.

It’s clear, too, that as a society, we don’t really care about men’s lives as much. I once wrote to Cancer Research and asked why they don’t do as much fund-raising for men’s cancers as women’s. They replied that they raise far less money when they campaign for men. They also claimed that all the money raised for breast cancer is shared out between all the cancers they research. Yet the article in the link above shows that in fact Cancer Research spends four times as much on breast cancer research. A disease that kills 30% more people gets 300% more funding. Purely because those people are women.

The attitude to men’s lives is reflected in the attitude to men’s deaths in all situations. How often do you encounter the phrase ‘innocent women and children’ in the context of some disaster or atrocity? Google that and compare it to “innocent men and children”. ( I got 757,000 for the former and 17,600 for the latter).

A few years ago a female police officer, Sharon Beshenivsky was murdered by an armed man. Many male police officers had been killed that year without attracting press attention, but this case was front page news. Allison Pearson, in the Evening Standard, actually went as far as to baldly state her belief that it is worse to kill an unarmed woman than an unarmed man. The article was in the Evening Standard so I can’t link to it. But it goes to show, the instinctive response is that men’s lives are simply less valuable.

Again, this attitude was echoed in a Question Time debate shortly after several British naval personnel were captured by the Iranian navy. A woman in the audience asked if this meant women should not serve in the front line. Every person on the panel made the point that it is women’s right to choose this career if they choose. Not one asked the woman why she felt women’s lives are more deserving of protection than men’s.

Retirement age

Given that we live significantly shorter lives, and that we spend far more of those lives, on average, at work, you might imagine that we would be entitled, at least, to retire at the same age as women. In fact, in the UK, men have to wait until they’re 65 to retire when a woman can draw her pension at 60, under precisely the same circumstances.

Since a woman will live, on average, to 85, and a man to 80, a man will receive 15 years retirement pay compared to a woman’s 25 years. And that is despite that fact that the average man will have worked far more years and hence paid far more tax towards his pension.

Family life

I’m hardly going to touch on the disgrace that is the UK family court system. It frequently deals out horrendous injustices to women as well, meaning it’s hard to see whether it’s systematically biased against men or just incapable of delivering justice in general. But it is certainly true to say that many divorce cases lately have seen hard-working husbands left financially crippled, thrown out of their home, struggling to see the children they love as a result of divorces they never wanted.

Feminists endlessly complain that in fact women end up worse off after divorce. That is not the point. Of course if you marry a rich man and only get to walk off with half his money, you're less wealthy than when you were married. But you're a hell of a lot better off than if you'd never married him at all. Heather Mills is immeasurably poorer than when she was married to Paul McCartney. But does anyone really think she was the loser financially in that marriage?

I’ll just link to one story which to me sums up the attitude of the UK family courts to men. In this instance, a man who gave up his career to look after his children was thrown out in the cold when his wife divorced him, in a way that a woman would simply never be. He was left with no career (and no alimony to compensate) he lost his home, and lost his children. The judge in question, Lord Justice Thorpe, outright stated that he would not have treated a woman that way under the same circumstances owing to "fundamental differences between men and women". Thorpe is now head of the UK family court.

I’ll only add the comment by Deborah Orr in the Independent on this contemptible excuse for justice, which is so typical of the way men are treated in the family courts.

All that is just the most obvious of the sexist injustices that men face. We’re not talking about the indignity of being treated as a sex object. We’re not talking about the fact that spending less time at work, or choosing a lower paid career, results in (shock, horror) less pay over a lifetime. We’re talking about inferior education, higher suicide rates, worse health, shorter lives, and the ongoing belief in our society that your life is simply less worthy of protection if you’re a man. I’m sure I’ll touch on some more trivial sexism as well. But first I wanted to set the context: Sexism that sees your life as less valuable, simply because you’re male.

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