Posts Tagged ‘male disposability’

The Elevated Mortality of Men

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

We all know that men live shorter lives than women, but we don’t really know why, since there’s no definitive research available that explains the shorter lifespan of men. However, there are lots of pertinent facts available that go a long way towards explaining the gender gap in life expectancy:

  • Men are usually the primary providers for the family, and the burden of providing can easily become a form of chronic stress.
  • Dangerous jobs are performed by men, and as a result, a number of men die each year.
  • Suicides are far more common among men than among women.
  • Men make up the bulk of the homeless, and this kind of lifestyle often leads to a premature death.
  • It’s more common for men to be socially isolated and not have a single close friend, which can have a negative effect on your health.
  • Men aren’t taught to seek help for psychological and psychiatric issues, which leads to increased levels of alcoholism and premature deaths.
  • Men are violently killed more often than women.
  • It’s not unusual for men to be removed from their children as well as lose touch with friends of the family after a divorce, which can lead to isolation, alcoholism, etc.
  • Due to historical factors men are only valued for their performance, which again can lead to chronic stress.

In addition to these social, phychological and structural explanations, there may of course be biological factors that explain why men have shorter life spans. However, there is emerging evidence that innate biological factors are not the main culprit here.

Hopefully, the new subject Male Studies can help shed more light on this topic in the future. Make sure you sign up for the April 7 webcast, where this new academic discipline will start to take shape.

Male chicks tossed alive into grinder

Friday, September 4th, 2009

I couldn’t keep this quote from you (a friend passed it on to me):

The group said that tossing male chicks, which have little value because they can’t lay eggs [my emphasis] or be raised quickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, into grinders is common industry practice. United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that.

Male disposability even affects poultry, for the very same reason that it affects men (men don’t have wombs).

Here’s the full article.

The Depths of Male Disposability

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Male disposability is so deeply ingrained into the very fabric of our culture, that we rarely even think about it. And yet, it is one of the defining features of what it means to be a man. Throughout history, men have filled the roles and performed the tasks that demanded that you risk your life. The only risk that couldn’t be removed from women was that of child-bearing, but apart from that women have more or less always been kept out of harms way.

Now let’s not make the mistake that many contemporary feminists do and start talking about women’s evil oppression of men or something along those lines. Men being defined as the disposable sex was not a personal thing nor was it some kind of gender war (there wasn’t any room for a gender war in historical times). Women simply needed to be kept safe to ensure that the next generation was large enough to sustain or increase the influence of the community in question.

Nevertheless, it is important to analyze and raise awareness around male disposability, because it is truly the missing link of the gender discourse. As the early feminists put forward the very just demand that men and women be given equal rights and equal access to the labor market, the whole issue of male disposability was forgotten. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that it hadn’t even been conceptualized, since it takes a higher intellectual development to deconstruct a gender role than it does to notice that men and women aren’t equal in the eyes of the law.

Early feminism was an honorable struggle, and while it may not have been the perfect way to kick off the whole gender liberation movement, focusing on women’s rights was certainly a pressing concern at the time. However, what was forgotten was that men’s rights in the public sphere, had always been accompanied by pretty harsh responsibilities (go to war, perform the dangerous jobs, work all day so you hardly ever see your family). So in one sense women were handed the rights of men, without being expected to share in the responsibilities. Another example of this way of thinking is that feminists demand that half of all board members be women, without demanding that half the soldiers or half of the garbage collectors be women.

So what are some of the ways that men remain disposable?

  • War. In every country where people can be drafted or be forced to do military service, it is only the men who are forced to fight for their country. And even when people sign up voluntarily, it is mostly men who do it (eg. US forces in Iraq).
  • As a (straight) man you are expected to protect your girlfriend/spouse/wife at all times.
  • Dangerous jobs are predominantly done by men: police officer, fire fighter, construction worker, etc.
  • Outdoor jobs are predominantly done by men: lumberjack, oil platform worker, garbage collector, etc.
  • Men still perform most of the jobs where you are expected to work insane hours, and only see your family at weekends (at best).

What’s interesting to note is that feminism often depicts male disposability as a form of male power. The men who work long hours are the men with power. The military is a sign of male power. Being a heroic fire fighter is a sign of male power, and so on.

However, as Warren Farrell says, true power is about having the freedom to shape your own life, and as long as many men automatically choose dangerous professions in order to be eligible for marriage and a family–then men cannot be said to be free. The argument could be made that women are freer than men nowadays, since every young woman knows that there are many acceptable options for a woman (work fulltime, part-time or be a housewife), and there is no expectation of choosing a “disposable career”.

This is not to say that men need to stop performing the jobs that men currently do. As you may have noticed from reading this blog, I do not believe that men and women are identical on the inside; as far as I’m concerned there is ample proof that innate sex difference exist in the brain and in behavior. This means that men may be more likely to continue choosing the dangerous jobs as well as the outdoor jobs. But the choice needs to be made consciously, rather than automatically. Also, society as a whole needs to become more conscious of  what male disposability means. The people who perform dangerous jobs should be adequately paid, and safety measures should improve continually.

I also believe that a sense of appreciation for what men do for society, and for what each man does when he’s a 24 hr lifeguard to his spouse, needs to be reinstated. At this point, especially in Western societies where feminism is strong, the appreciation for male sacrifice has dwindled, and there is more focus on the negative aspects of masculinity than on the positive ones.

The reason that society has been able to evolve so rapidly the past few hundred years, is that male sacrifice and male disposablity has been far greater than male violence or male brutality, something that we would all do well to remember.

Gender Workshop

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Last night I came back home from the Netherlands, where I’ve attended a leadership retreat focusing on sustainability. I was both a participant and a teacher at the retreat, and one of my two workshops was about gender issues and leadership.


I presented some of the ideas that I write about here on the blog, especially focusing on how gender roles developed historically, and that the goal was never to oppress either women or men, but to be as efficient as possible in obtaining food and security. In my opinion, it’s tremendously important that we stop shaming men and women for the gender roles we have been handed down.

When we say that men as a group have conspired to oppress women as a group for thousands of years, we are labeling men as evil and women as sheep. Is it really plausible to assume that men have managed to collectively oppress women across all cultures and large time spans? That assumption gives men far too much credit; it is exceedingly hard to maintain an empire, and to continually oppress 50 percent of the population seems like an impossible task. Women also aren’t as meek or weak as the radical feminists suggest when talking about patriarchy having a stranglehold on women since forever. It’s crucial that these historical insights become mainstream knowledge, so boys and girls aren’t taught confusing and incorrect insights about their ancestors.

This is not to say that gender roles haven’t been oppressive, because they have, for both sexes. I’m also not saying that feminism is entirely bad. Classical feminism, the original form of feminism that simply strives for equal rights between the sexes, is an honorable struggle. However, once equal rights have been achieved (which includes any laws about the draft or military service, mind you), then we need to focus on both gender roles, not only the female one. Only looking at the female gender role is far too partial, and therefore feminism quickly becomes outdated the moment a society is fully democratized and has equal rights between the sexes.

I also talked about male disposability and “the missing men’s studies” (hardly anyone studies men’s issues without having a feminist agenda).

All the material was well received by the group and relevant questions showed that the participants were following the line of reasoning without any trouble. People were also curious about my personal experience of growing up in a country where (radical and poststructural) feminism has a strong presence in public policy and the media. My experience is one of having been shamed for being male, so my work on gender issues has a very real personal experience as its starting point.

The feedback after the workshop was the the material and the discussion had been both usable and “fresh”, as opposed to the standard take on gender issues that most leaders and professionals have heard more times than they care to remember. So all in all it was a very positive experience for me, and it fills me with hope that parts of Europe are ready to move on beyond feminism, and into an era where gender roles are looked at with compassion and intellectual sharpness.

Male Sacrifice

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I visited the American Military Cemetery in The Netherlands yesterday. More than 8000 American soldiers are buried there, most of them represented by white crosses.

All of these soldiers have one thing in common: they were men, and they died because they were men.

Never has my experience of male disposablility and male sacrifice been stronger than when walking around that cemetery. It angers me that many feminists will dismiss male war sacrifice by saying that “men are the ones who start wars anyhow”. Saying that is akin to dismissing women traditionally being stuck in the home by saying “that’s where women have chosen to be anyhow”.

We all need more compassion when discussing gender issues.

The men who lie buried in Margraten, The Netherlands, fought to keep Nazism as bay. As such, they are heroes. And as always, when humankind needed a dangerous task to be performed, men came to the rescue.

Margraten American Military Cemetery