Thursday, September 27, 2007

Have I Mentioned How *Bad* Men Have It?

Every time I read a post like this, about how awful men have it, I can't help but feel frustrated, and a little sad. The original author (and, one assumes, the person reposting it) is pointing out some pretty serious problems, but he's pointing in the wrong direction and placing the blame at the feet of feminists. If he'd take a minute to think about what feminists are actually looking for, he'd see that our goals could be compatible.

Instead, he wants to blame women for men's problems.

Sure, some of what he's saying is true: Women live longer than men and tend to win custody battles. Of course, he completely fails to mention why either of those things might be. Women live longer than men in no small part because men murder other men at higher rates, die in wars in greater numbers than women because the men in charge of the military won't let women serve in combat units, and have higher infant mortality rates than women, as I recall. How many of those things are the fault of women? Of feminists?

While some of what he's saying is true, some of it is... well... suspect: According to a Census Bureau release, only 26.5% of women hold a Bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28.9% of men.

And some of it is just flat-out dishonest. Consider his claim that female-headed households earn 41% more than a male-headed one. In other words: a household headed by a woman has a net worth 141% of that of a household headed by a man. As that link shows, when you take into account the age of the people involved (and ignore that he was examining data that is now two decades old), it turns out that women in each age bracket earn less than the men in the same age bracket. That there were more single women in the upper age range artificially inflated their average worth, because older people tend to earn more than younger people.

When we examine this table, which is a comparitive breakdown of the median net worths of male-headed and female-headed households for 2004, we find that the median net worth of a male-headed household was greater- in some cases significantly greater- than the median net worth of a female-headed household. In my own state, the male-headed household earned 230% what the female-headed household did.

Scheaffer makes the classic error of thinking that our living in a patriarchical society means that all men must have it better than all women. His argument is basically "Well, look, there are lots of men who have it pretty shitty, and there are some women who end up in positions that put them ahead of some men, so how can we claim that women are an oppressed group. The fact that there are sections of our society where men come out worse than women must mean that women are a privileged group!"

The problem is that some of the problems he's citing are a direct result of a patriarchical society. You can't point to the mortality rate of soldiers during a war as a sign that women have it better when it's sexist attitudes that are keeping women out of harms way. You can try to spin that as women getting a privilege, but that's not something that women or feminists have been fighting for- that's a direct consequence of a patriarchical system that says that women aren't fit for combat. When you live in a society that refuses to let women take on risky professions, you shouldn't be surprised when women don't die in accidents or in combat in the numbers that men do.

See, it's not the fault of feminism, it's a direct result of sexism.

This is one of those times where it's fair to point out that, as shocking as it may be, patriarchy hurts men too. Patriarchical systems create a society where men are encouraged to "prove" themselves through the use of violence. Patriarchical systems encourage male on male violence and sanction men who report female on male violence. That's not feminism's fault- that's sexism's fault. That women tend to gain custody more often than men? Same issue. That's not a result of feminism taking men's rights away- that's a result of a society that sees women as caregivers and men as money makers. Our social outlook doesn't do much to make room for men who want to be the caregiver of their child.

Most of the problems that Scheaffer is listing- the higher suicide rate, the greater mortality rates, the issues with prisons, and violence, and war... those are important things to talk about. Is it a problem that 7 million more women than men vote? Absolutely. It's not a problem because women vote more- it's a problem because neither men nor women vote in the numbers they should. It's a problem because less than 60% of either group are voting. Is it a problem that our society doesn't think that men can be the target of domestic violence? Absolutely! Domestic violence of all types is a problem, and we ought to be taking it more seriously across the board.

Framing this as though it's the fault of feminists is completely dishonest though- these problems aren't new, and they're not the result of women trying to end or correct the oppression they face- these problems are older than that, and pointing the finger at women and feminists isn't going to solve them. Of course, one can't help but walk away from Scheaffer's article thinking that he's not that interested in finding solutions to those problems.

It's much easier to blame women.


donna darko said...

this is why women heart you. but no cookies for you, i know.

roses said...

female-headed households have a net worth that averages 41% higher than those of male-headed ones (and this in spite of the fact that the average woman works far fewer hours per year than the average man)

This is also disingenous as all hell. Assuming it's true that the average woman works less hours than the average men, it's because in most households the man is the primary earner and the woman works less hours than him because she's taking care of the kids and doing the housework. But I'm sure the women in female headed households work at least as many hours as the average man, if not more. What an asshole.