Not all is great in the world of men: a reference book of men's issues

Men's issues at a glance: key points

The idea that "men have it great" is often treated as self-evident or undeniable, but in reality the condition of men in our society is not that simple. Men are doing better in some areas, but they're doing worse in some very important areas too.

Down-and-out: men make up a large majority of the homeless population, drug/alcohol addicts, and suicide deaths. Health: the gender gap in life expectancy (which has grown since the beginning of the 20th century) has men living 4-5 years less than women. Violence: men are significantly more likely to be the victims of homicide, robbery, and more serious types of physical assault. Sexual orientation-based hate crimes disproportionately target gay men. Institutional discrimination: in the justice system, a man committing a crime will get a substantially longer sentence than a woman with similar circumstances (same crime and criminal history). Crimes with women as victims result in harsher sentences, too. Negative social attitudes: male sexuality is often seen as dangerous, demeaning, and disrespectful to women. Violence against men carries much less social stigma than violence against women. Perceptual bias: in a relationship, the same behaviour is more likely to be seen as psychologically abusive if done by a man. Also, people are more likely to attribute positive attributes to women as a group than men as a group. Gender politics: there exists an unfortunate belief that gender disadvantage is a one way street and that men are largely immune, which hurts our ability to recognize and address men's issues.


My primary goal with this project is to create a comprehensive and reliable resource detailing the major gender issues and negative attitudes facing men in the Western world. I've done my best to make it grounded, factual, and well-sourced. My secondary goal is to stay non-paristan and mostly set aside questions of ideology and movements (feminism, the men's rights movement, etc.). Those questions on how to solve the problems are important, but here I'm only interested in establishing what the problems are.

I want to make it clear that I'm not interested in the question of whether men's issues or women's issues are worse. My intent is just to show that men's issues exist and are serious enough to warrant being more than an afterthought.

This project was started by reddit user dakru in January 2015. If you find this resource useful, feel free to share or link it. If you have suggestions, feel free to contact me on reddit.


Section 1: Male disposability

Section 2: Issues of life, death, well-being, and safety

  1. Homelessness

  2. Homicide, robbery, and physical assault

  3. Drug addiction and alcoholism

  4. Suicide

  5. Life expectancy gap

  6. Workplace injury and death

  7. Hate crimes targeting gay men

  8. Sexual assault in prison

  9. Gendercide

Section 3: Legal, governmental, or institutional policies and practices

  1. Discrimination in the criminal justice system

  2. Lack of reproductive rights

  3. Discrimination in divorce/family courts

  4. Rape laws excluding male victims

  5. Non-medical infant male circumcision

  6. Compulsory military service for men

Section 4: Harmful social attitudes

  1. Male pedophile hysteria

  2. Demonization of male sexuality

  3. Permissive attitudes to violence against men

  4. The “women are wonderful” effect and in-group bias

  5. “Men's bodies are gross”

  6. Attitudes towards male victims of domestic violence

  7. Precarious manhood

Section 5: Harmful gender politics

  1. The "men are oppressors, women are oppressed" world-view (with five sub-entries)

  2. A hyper-critical attitude towards men

  3. Hostility to acknowledging/addressing men's issues

Section 6: Other men's issues

  1. The pedestal and one-sided lessons on respect

  2. Hostile reactions to men showing weakness

  3. Paternity fraud

  4. Overuse of the word "creep"

  5. High school dropout rates

  6. Negative portrayals of men in media/culture

  7. Employment discrimination against men

Section 7: The interaction between gender and race

Section 8: Further reading

(Clicking on a link to jump directly to an issue adds a tag like #homelessness or #health to the web address. Use this full address to link directly to the issue from another webpage.)

Section 1: Male disposability [Return]

Overview: Male disposability refers to our society's tendency to have a greater concern for the well-being of women than the well-being of men. It means having less sympathy and compassion for men, and seeing their suffering and death as less tragic and worthy of action. It means that violence, tragedies, and crimes that hurt men will generally receive less attention, outrage, and calls for action than when such things happen to women. When both men and women are the victims of an event, the women's suffering will tend to be focused on and emphasized more (even in the cases where there were more men than women as victims). Male disposability also often comes with the expectation for men that they sacrifice themselves to protect women. It's a “women (and children) first” mentality.

More detail: Having greater compassion for women is so deeply-ingrained in our culture that it just seems so natural and unremarkable. Not only does male disposability cause many issues for men, but it also leaves people less likely to care about men's issues. This makes it an important concept to understand if your goal is to understand men's issues. For this reason, male disposability gets its own section at the beginning of this document.

Male disposability has many parallels in the realms of nationality, race, and class (e.g. citizens of non-Western countries are often seen/treated as more disposable than Westerners).

Examples/evidence: Regarding the expectation of sacrifice, either 3 or 4 of the 12 deaths at the 2012 Aurora theatre mass shooting were men who died protecting their girlfriends [1].

Regarding our society seeing women's suffering or death as exceptionally tragic, there has been enormous public outcry over the issue of “missing and murdered Aboriginal women” in Canada, with countless calls for an official government inquiry into the 750 Aboriginal women murdered over the past three decades [2]. The 1,750 Aboriginal men murdered in the same time-frame are rarely mentioned [3]. The story is similar for missing people [4].

Margaret Leishman, whose son Philip has been missing since July 2004, is calling for more attention to be given to cases of missing aboriginal men, in addition to those of aboriginal women.

Recent numbers released by the RCMP show eight aboriginal women have gone missing in the Northwest Territories since 1960, and 35 aboriginal men. [These numbers are low in absolute values because NWT has just 0.1% of Canada's population.]


She says she hopes that the spotlight on missing aboriginal women will help raise awareness about missing men as well.

A second example is Western coverage of Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist group that received widespread attention for its kidnapping of 200+ schoolgirls [5]. The gender of the victims was a key focus in the coverage. The slogan "bring back our girls" was the rallying cry at protests, and many celebrities (including First Lady Michelle Obama) spent time campaigning for their cause.

The numerous other incidents where the group spared the women/girls and targeted the men/boys for murder (often brutally, including burning alive) received much less attention in general, and the coverage put immensely less focus on the gendered nature of the victims [6]. This is seen in the CNN article "Reports: Boko Haram village raids kill hundreds in Nigeria" that opens by with "Hundreds of people were killed in raids by Boko Haram Islamic militants ... with some sources putting the death toll at 400 to 500" [7]. You have to read to the ninth paragraph to see that the men and boys (and male infants) were targeted. (In many other articles the gendered nature of the victims isn't even mentioned.)

A third example comes from the research of Adam Jones, genocide researcher and political science professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. He investigated gender-selective mass killing of men in the Kosovo War and how it was portrayed in Western media. He looks at “[a] broad sample of media commentary ... to demonstrate that ‘unworthy’ male victims tend to be marginalized or ignored entirely in mass-media coverage”, which contrasts “with the attention given to the victimization experiences of ‘worthy’ victims, such as women, children, and the elderly” [8].

Also consider how common it is for Western newsmedia to mention the total number of people involved in an event and then note how many women were included in that. This is shown in the BBC's reporting on successful efforts to save children who had been forcibly recruited for a militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. From the article: “[the United Nations Mission in DR Congo] said that since the beginning of the year, 163 children, including 22 girls, have been removed from the militia” [9]. What makes the girls worthy of the special mention other than that we are especially concerned for their well-being?

Another example comes from Portland, Oregon, where the homeless population is 64% male and 36% female [10]. The mayor said that one of his priorities is to "house all homeless women by the end of the year". He commented that "when I see a homeless woman on the street, or in a doorway, my heart is touched, and i know Portlanders' hearts are touched". Another individual in the newscast (included with the Huffington Post article) asks "do we want any women sleeping on the street when the weather gets bad and it's cold?" [11]. These quotes illustrate male disposability because although men are doing worse, women garner more sympathy.

One statement from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is especially interesting. According to her, “[w]omen have always been the primary victims of war” because they “lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat” and because they are “are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children” [12]. The idea that men aren't even the primary victims of their own deaths seems to be a particularly insensitive application of male disposability.

One phenomenon likely linked to male disposability (and a similar attitude to racial minorities) is “missing white woman syndrome” [13]:

When a young white girl goes missing in America, it immediately becomes a national story. Nancy Grace dedicates her show to every aspect of every missing girl, regardless how long a case drags out. These girls, their parents and everyone associated with them gets a magazine cover, or two, or three.

TV Tropes explains a trope called "Men Are the Expendable Gender" that backs up the idea of male disposability [14].

A Double Standard in media whereby women automatically have the audience's sympathy and men don't. [...]

A female character can lose that some or even all of the audience's sympathy if they are manipulative, somehow 'immoral', ugly, or just plain evil. Male characters on the other hand have to earn the audience's sympathy by entertaining or interesting us with their their actions. If they don't, we either don't care what happens to them or want them to suffer for failing to entertain/interest us. [...]

If the story requires random anonymous characters to die just to move the plot forward, they'll likely be male. If the plot requires a tragic death that motivates the protagonists or shows how evil the villains are, the victim will be female. [...]

Male characters get more explicit and brutal deaths. If a man and a woman are killed in equally brutal ways, the woman's death is treated as worse. Extra points if the camera cuts away right before she gets butchered.

Male villains who target female characters are portrayed as more evil than those who target men. Female villains that target primarily men are often considered sympathetic, oftren more than a bit Anti-Villain or simply not taken seriously.

Sympathetic male characters are expected to put themselves at risk to protect female characters. Female characters do not lose as much audience sympathy for being unwilling to put themselves at risk to protect characters of either gender and are less likely to be accused of cowardice.

In his book The Second Sexism (chapter 3), David Benatar mentions the fact that men are overwhelmingly the ones sent to war as an example of male disposability. He quotes a politician in the U.S. House of Represenatives who spoke in favour of exempting/excluding women from combat roles in the U.S. military: “We do not want our women killed”. This attitude, he says, “partly explains why societies have been prepared to send males to war but have been extremely reluctant to send females”. He explains the historical reason for male disposability (and then explains why it's no longer necessary):

It has been suggested that the reason why men and not women are sent to war is not that male lives are valued less but rather that too many fatalities of women of reproductive years would inhibit a society’s ability to produce a new generation and thus threaten its own survival. The facts of reproduction are such that an individual man can father thousands of children if there were fertile women to gestate them, whereas an individual woman can produce only one child per year or so (depending in part on how and how long she breastfeeds the previous child), and then only as long as she still has ova and has not reached menopause. Because of this asymmetry, more women than men are required to produce new generations.

The problem with this suggestion is that instead of showing that male life is not valued less than female life, it (at least partially) explains why male life is less valued. In other words, there is a good evolutionary explanation why male lives are regarded as more expendable. Large numbers of male fatalities need not impede a society’s ability to reproduce, whereas large numbers of female fatalities would. This was more true in our evolutionary past, when there were so many fewer human beings and societies were consequently so much smaller. Today, given how many more humans there are, societies could survive with higher female fatality rates, but it is in our species’ distant past that the attitudes to male and female life evolved.

[1] (CNN article that says 3), (ABC News article that says 4)

[2] Including from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, and former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney

[3] (Toronto Star article “Aboriginal men murdered at higher rate than aboriginal women”)

[4] (CBC article "Missing aboriginal men need more attention, too: N.W.T. mother")

[5] At least at the time of writing, this seems to be what the group is most well-known for. However the group is still quite active so it's possible that future incidents could eclipse this incident.

[6] (CNN article "Reports: Boko Haram village raids kill hundreds in Nigeria")

[7] (Mediaite article “Why Did Kidnapping Girls, but Not Burning Boys Alive, Wake Media Up to Boko Haram?”), (Reddit post documenting incidents)

[8] (Adam Jones' article “Effacing the Male: Gender, Misrepresentation, and Exclusion in the Kosovo War”)

[9] (BBC article “DR Congo unrest: Children freed from militia, says UN”)

[10] ("2015 Point-in-Time Count of Homelessness in Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County, Oregon")

[11] (Huffington Post article "Portland, Oregon, Mayor Wants To House All Homeless Women By End Of Year")

[12] (Hillary Clinton's speech at the First Ladies' Conference on Domestic Violence in El Salvador, 1998)

[13] (The Huffington Post article "How Trayvon Martin Became a Missing White Girl")

[14] ("Men Are the Expendable Gender" on TV Tropes)

Section 2: Issues of life, death, well-being, and safety

This section covers the very concrete issues that involve the physical well-being of men.

1. Homelessness [Return]

Overview: Men quite consistently make up a large majority of the homeless population. They're especially concentrated among the homeless living on the street (instead of a shelter) and among the long-term homeless (suggesting women exit homelessness more easily) [1].

More detail: Despite the fact that men make up a large majority of the homeless population, we're actually less eager to support homeless men [2].

Approximately 70 per cent of Canada’s homeless are male. Dion Oxford of Toronto’s Salvation Army Gateway shelter for men tells us it is harder to raise funds for men’s shelters. “Single, middle-aged homeless men are simply not sexy for the funder,” he says.

The lesser concern for men even though they are in greater need is likely related to male disposability and the greater concern for the well-being of women. This can be seen in an article from the British newspaper The Independent on the “growing problem” of homelessess among women [3]. The author calls it “distressing” that 1/4 homeless people in shelters and 1/10 homeless people on the street are women.

Examples/evidence: One study conducted in New York City and Philadelphia found that those who are chronically homeless are overwhelmingly male (and black). 82.3% were male in New York City, and 71.1% were male in Philadelphia [4].

UK homeless charity St Mungo's Broadway found that men made up 87% of rough sleepers in London (those on the street instead of in shelters) [5]. Another UK homeless charity provides a break-down of homeless deaths by age and gender [6].

The Toronto Homeless Memorial provides a list of those who've died as a result of homelessness in the city [7], and it overwhelmingly has male names, including 135 nameless men (John Doe) to 13 nameless women (Jane Doe). This compilation only includes those who died while associated with the shelter system, which means that it doesn't include the various (reasonably well-publicized) instances of homeless men freezing to death outside during the coldest days of winter, for example [8].

[1] (coursepage for Sociology 498G at the University of Maryland)

[2] (Globe and Mail article “Should universities be opening men’s centres?”)

[3] (The Independent article “Homeless and broken: how women are catching up with men”)

[4] (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration document "Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States")

[5] (St Mungo's Broadway “Street to Home Bulletin 2013/14” report)

[6] (document on mortality among homeless people from Crisis, a UK charity for the homeless)

[7] (Toronto Homeless Memorial's list of deaths from homelessness)

[8] (NOW Magazine article "740 homeless people have died on Toronto streets since 1985... we think")

2. Homicide, robbery, and physical assault [Return]

Overview: One commonly cited example of a women's issue is the fact that women are more likely to be the victims of sexual assault. There are also various serious violent crimes that disproportionately target men, including homicide, robbery, and the sub-categories of physical (meaning non-sexual) assault that involve the greatest amount of injury: assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, and aggravated assault. These should be understood as men's issues in a similar way.

More detail: Some people dismiss this by noting that men are also more likely to commit homicide, robbery, and physical assault. This is true, but the murder victim receives no solace from the fact that his murderer was the same gender as him. (This argument is also often applied to dismiss higher victimization rates among other groups like racial minorities: “that's just blacks killing other blacks, who cares”.) In addition, even though there are fewer female murderers, those that exist are still significantly more likely to kill men than to kill other women (at least according to the statistics below).

Examples/evidence: The following table includes numbers on the gender of perpetrators and victims of homicide (using statistics from the United States [1]) and assault (using statistics from Norway [2]).

Genders Homicide (USA) Assault (Norway)
Male → Male 65.3% 74%
Male → Female 22.7% 21%
Female → Male 9.6% 2%
Female → Female 2.4% 4%

The assault statistics from Norway just counted the more serious incidents requiring a visit to an urban accident and emergency department. This is important to note in light of assault statistics from Canada, which have overall rates of physical (i.e. non-sexual) assault similar between men and women, but with a difference in the severity [3].

According to data for 2008 from Statistics Canada, women are 1.2× more likely than men to be the victims of common assault, which is the less serious and less injurious form of physical assault. Men, on the other hand, are more often the victims of assault with a weapon or causing bodily harm (1.9× more likely), aggravated assault (3.6× more likely), robbery (1.9× more likely), and homicide or attempted murder (3.5× more likely) [4].

An even bigger disparity is visible in the Chicago Tribune's page documenting victims of shootings in the city. Of the 100 shootings in a one-month period in early 2015 (January 20th to February 16th), 93 had male victims---and the other 7 were listed as "unknown gender" [4].

[1] (“Homicide trends in the U.S.” from U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics)

[2] (“Gender and physical violence” by Steen and Hunskaar)

[3] (“Gender Differences in Police-reported Violent Crime in Canada, 2008” from Statistics Canada)

[4] (Chicago Tribune page "Chicago shooting victims", last updated 2015/2/19)

3. Drug addiction and alcoholism [Return]

Overview: Women are by no means immune, but statistics do show that addiction affects men disproportionately. Addiction can have an immensely negative affect on a person's quality of life (in a range of areas including their physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial well-being), which makes this quite a serious problem for men.

More detail: This disparity should inspire us to ask questions and figure out what exactly about life as a man is pushing so many more men to substance abuse and addiction. Are they dealing with traumatic events, harmful attitudes and expectations, or a lack of social support?

Examples/evidence: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 17% of men and 8% of women will meet criteria for alcohol dependence (which is a higher standard than simply binge-drinking) at some point in their lives. They also note that men “consistently have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women” [1]. The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the United States found that rates of current illicit drug use to be 11.6% for men and 6.9% for women [2], and the 2009 New Jersey Household Survey on Drug Use and Health found that “[m]ales (14%) were significantly more likely than females (5%) to abuse or be dependent on alcohol, drugs or both alcohol and drugs in the past year” [3].

[1] (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Fact Sheets - Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men's Health”)

[2] (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings”)

[3] (New Jersey Department of Human Services “2009 New Jersey Household Survey on Drug Use and Health”)

4. Suicide [Return]

Overview: Like drug/alcohol addiction, there are many women who commit suicide but the fact is that men still kill themselves at disproportionately high rates. And unlike addiction, suicide is not something you can come back from.

More detail: Of course not all areas of mental health/wellness are men's issues (consider that self-harm, which includes cutting and burning, is more common among women [1]), but many are. One group working to address the issue of disproportionate male suicides is CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) in England: (which says that suicide is the single biggest cause of death for men aged 20-45 in England/Wales).

Examples/evidence: In Canada in 2011, the rate of suicide among men was three times higher than among women (a rate of 16.3 compared to 5.4 per 100,000 people) [2]. The disparity was even bigger in the United States, which had a rate of 20.3 for men and 5.4 for women in 2012. The graph below provides historical data on suicide in the United States [3].

Middle-aged men and poor men are especially at risk, according to the Department of Health in England [4]. Unfortunately, many people's response to the issue of male suicide is to be more critical than supportive [5].

The Samaritans report says most people have no idea what they can do to combat male suicide. Too many they say, simply “ 'upbraid' men for being 'resistant to help-seeking' or 'not talking about their feelings.' ”

Mental-health specialists especially, says the Samaritans report, “need to move from ‘blaming men for not being like women,’ ” to designing projects and public services that can help them.

[1] (, a non-profit dedicated to self injury information and support)

[2] and (“Suicides and suicide rate, by sex and by age group” from Statistics Canada)

[3] (from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2012)

[4] (The Guardian article "Suicide numbers rise sharply, especially among middle-aged men")

[5] (Vancouver Sun article "Men and suicide: The silent epidemic")

5. Life expectancy gap [Return]

Overview: Men's health is lagging behind women's health according to many metrics. The most important of these is life expectancy, where men are losing out on an average of 4-5 years of life compared to women.

More detail: There are biological differences between men and women that contribute, but there is strong evidence suggesting that biology only accounts for part of the gap (approximately 1 to 2.5 years). The rest of the difference in life expectancy seems to come from social and behavioural factors that we can change, including more work stress for men, less social support, alcoholism/smoking, going to the doctor less, and less attention given to men's health issues by governments.

Examples/evidence: First I look at evidence for why biological factors only account for part of the current gap, and then I look at what other types of factors are at play.

My two main sources are an article “Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health” from a 2010 edition of the Harvard Men's Health Watch [1] and the series of papers by Barbara Blatt Kalben called Why Men Die Younger: Causes of Mortality Differences by Sex for the Society of Actuaries [2].

The life expectancy gap has grown over the past 100 years, which is one reason to believe that the current large gap is not completely biologically determined. Below we have historical differences in life expectancy in the United States (from the Harvard Men's Health Watch article) and similar data on historical life expectancy in Canada (from Barbara Blatt Kalben's series of papers). The numbers from canada are measured from age 7 to take infant mortality out of the picture.

Year Females Males Gender gap
1900 48.3 46.3 2 years
1950 71.1 65.6 5.5 years
2000 79.7 74.3 5.4 years
2007 80.4 75.3 5.1 years

The German-Austrian Cloister Study provides interesting insight onto how much of the life expectancy gap is biological. Monks and nuns have similar lifestyles, and so their life expectancies are less influenced by the behavioural/social factors that exist in the general population. As it turns out, nuns live just one year longer than monks [3].

The article “Hypotheses Explaining the Sex Mortality Differential” (from Barbara Blatt Kalben's series of papers) cites three researchers' estimates of how much of the overall gender gap is biological: half of it, two years, and five years. I'm hesitant to believe the estimate of five years, however. A gap of 5 years is what we have today, but we certainly haven't eliminated the social/behavioural factors (like the ones below) to leave only the biological factors.

Thus it seems most likely that a biological gap in life expectancy gives women an advantage of approximately 1 to 2.5 years. The rest of the current disadvantage for men comes from behavioural, environmental, and social factors, like these ones mentioned in the Harvard Men's Health Watch article.

  1. Men experience more work stress/hostility, which can increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke.

  2. Men have less social support. Social support has been shown to protect against the common cold, depression, heart attacks, and strokes.

  3. Men are more likely to smoke, drink, or do drugs.

  4. Men are less likely to go to the doctor and make use of health-care (and actually less likely to have access to it). From the article: "Women are more likely than men to have health insurance and a regular source of health care. According to a major survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund, three times as many men as women had not seen a doctor in the previous year ...".

Although that article does not mention it, differences in awareness, attention, and funding between men's health and women's health could also be part of the gap [4].

There are at least 7 new agencies and departments devoted solely to women while there is not one office for men or male specific ailments. Men’s health advocates long have pushed for an Office of Men’s Health to act as a companion to the Office on Women’s Health, established in 1991. Instead of rectifying that disparity, the new health care law intensified it.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, has been critical of Obama’s gender policies, charging that his administration has pushed initiatives that favor women over men. According to Roth, the health care bill was no different.

“[The women’s] lobby is very well funded, active and vocal. It is really paradoxical because women in many ways are doing better than men, so for example, if you do a search in the health care bill there is not one mention of ‘prostate’ and are over 40 mentions of ‘breast’ and men are tax payers, they should get equal health treatment,” Roth told The Daily Caller

[1] or (“Mars vs. Venus: The gender gap in health” from the Harvard Men's Health Watch)

[2] (Why Men Die Younger: Causes of Mortality Differences by Sex from the Society of Actuaries)

[3] ("Causes of Male Excess Mortality: Insights from Cloistered Populations" by Marc Luy), (German-Austrian Cloister Study homepage")

[4] (The Daily Caller article “Does Obamacare discriminate against men?”)

6. Workplace injury and death [Return]

Overview: Men are quite a bit more likely than women to get injured at work, and they're overwhelmingly more likely to die at work.

More detail: Why are men so much more likely to work dangerous jobs? It's likely that men having higher physical strength on average is one factor, since many of these jobs need physical strength. Is this the only factor, though? Is male disposability at play too?

Examples/evidence: In the United Kingdom in 2010/11, the rate of major injuries was almost twice as high for men as it was for women (130.5 compared to 68.8 per 100,000 workers) [1]. The difference in workplace deaths is even more stark; the following pie chart comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [2].

[1] (“Reported injuries to employees by age and gender” from the UK Health and Safety Executive)

[2] (“Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries” from the Bureau of Labor Statistics)

7. Hate crimes targeting gay men [Return]

Overview: Hate crimes based on sexual orientation disproportionately target homosexual men, with homosexual women being the victims noticeably less often (and heterosexual people of both genders noticeably less often than that).

More detail: When minority men face issues (e.g. hate crimes against gay men, incarceration rates of black men), it's often painted solely as an issue of sexual orientation or race. Obviously these things play a role, but so does gender. If it didn't, then gay women would experience hate crimes as often as gay men, and black women would be in jail as often as black men.

Examples/evidence: Here's the break-down of sexual orientation motivated hate crimes in the United States in 2012 [1]:

  1. Anti-male homosexual bias — 54.6%
  2. Anti-homosexual bias (i.e. gender-neutral homophobia) — 28.0%
  3. Anti-female homosexual bias — 12.3%
  4. Anti-bisexual bias — 3.1%
  5. Anti-heterosexual bias — 2.0%

In Canada in the same year, 80% of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation targeted men [2]. Among all hate crimes, those based on sexual orientation were the most likely to involve assault and physical injuries. Interestingly, other hate crimes (based on race, religion, or ethnicity) also disproportionately had men as the victims, although the disparity isn't quite as high as for sexual orientation.

[1] (FBI 2012 Hate Crime Statistics page “Incidents and Offenses”)

[2] (Statistics Canada page “Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2012”)

8. Sexual assault in prison [Return]

Overview: Considering that men make up such a large majority of prisoners, the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in prison (and our culture's often indifferent attitude towards it) is especially a concern for men.

More detail: Sexual assault in prison is often trivialized or joked about ("don't drop the soap"). At worst, it's considered a natural part of the punishment of the criminal.

Examples/evidence: Different studies report quite different numbers on sexual assault rates in prison. Here are three studies that provide a range of numbers, starting with the lowest.

  1. Finding: 1.91% of prisoners have experienced a completed sexual assault over their lifetime [1].

  2. Finding: 4.0% of prison inmates (and 3.2% of jail inmates) reported one or more incidents of sexual victimization (either by another inmate or by faculty staff) in the previous 12 months [2].

  3. Finding: 21% of inmates had experienced "pressured or forced sexual contact" since being incarcerated in their state [3].

The third study explains some reasons for why different studies can diverge so greatly in their findings. First, differences in methodologies play a role. Since it's likely that male inmates underreport sexual assault (due to "fears of reprisals, unwillingness to be a 'snitch,' and fear of being labeled a homosexual or weak"), anonymous surveys result in higher percentages. In addition, different definitions of sexual assault change the numbers substantially. Previous research has found that incidents like genital fondling and failed attempts at intercourse are much more common than completed rapes.

[1] ("Prison Rape: A Critical Review of the Literature" by Gerald G. Gaes and Andrew L. Goldberg)

[2] ("Sexual Victimization in Prisons and Jails Reported by Inmates, 2011–12" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics)

[3] ("Sexual Coercion Rates in Seven Midwestern Prison Facilities for Men" by Cindy Struckman-Johnson and David Struckman-Johnson)

9. Gendercide [Return]

Overview: Gendercide (gender-specific mass killing) often targets men, although the gender of the victims generally receives less attention than when women experience gendercide. This issue (which is obviously more of a phenomenon in the developing world, where war and large-scale violence are more common) is the exception to my intention of focusing on the Western world in this document.

It's important to include gendercide in a list of men's issues so that we are aware that this happens in other parts of the world. In addition, looking at how these events are portrayed in our own Western media is a useful way to see our own attitudes towards gender.

More detail: Adam Jones, genocide researcher and political science professor (at the University of British Columbia's Okanagan campus), points out that targeting men can seem so “natural” that “almost no media commentator bothers to mention it”. This is most likely related to male disposability. He goes on [1]:

I find myself thinking of the point, early in the Gulf Crisis, when Iraq's Saddam Hussein released all women and children among the western hostages he had seized to stave off outside attack. A handful of males from Muslim countries had also been released; all those still held were men. The New York Times analyzed the mass release under the headline: ‘Who Can Leave Iraq? A Matter of Randomness and Ethnicity’.

Examples/evidence: In what the former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan called the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War, over 8,000 unarmed civilians [2] were massacred in the small mountain town of Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995. Two characteristics united the victims: they were Muslim, and they were male [3].

Although Srebrenica had been designated a U.N. “safe area” three months earlier, “[t]housands of men and boys as young as 10 were rounded up and murdered ... Serbian TV footage shows woman and children being separated from the men and put on buses” [4]. The busses were searched to make sure men weren't on them [5]. According to the BBC, 23,000 women and children were allowed to leave while men aged 12-77 were taken "for interrogation"---two days later, reports of massacres started to emerge [6]. The “five-day orgy of slaughter” included 60 truckloads of (male) refugees being "taken from Srebrenica to execution sites where they were bound, blindfolded, and shot with automatic rifles", and other victims being “hunted down like dogs and slaughtered” and pushed into mass graves with industrial bulldozers. It was described by a war-crimes tribunal as “truly scenes from hell written on the darkest pages of human history” [4].

David Benatar also gives the Rwandan genocide as an example of gendercide (from The Second Sexism, chapter 4):

Consider, for example, the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which Hutus “were determined to seek out and murder Tutsi boys … They examined very young infants, even new-borns, to see if they were boys or girls. Little boys were executed on the spot.” Older boys were also “relentlessly hunted down. Many mothers dressed their little boys as girls in the hope – too often the vain hope – of deceiving the killers. The terrified boys knew exactly what was happening.” This is not to deny the many female deaths in the Rwandan genocide, but only to note that males were most at risk.

There are numerous other examples of gendercide of men that can be found on Adam Jones' website Gendercide Watch at, which is a great resource that covers incidents of gendercide against both genders.

[1] (Adam Jones' article “Terminal Sexism: Men, women and war in ex-Yugoslavia”)

[2] (New York Times article “Mladic Arrives in The Hague”)

[3] (Adam Jones' article “Pity the Innocent Men”)

[4] (CNN article “Srebrenica: 'A triumph of evil'”)

[5] (document from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia)

[6] (BBC article "Srebrenica massacre verdicts upheld at war crimes tribunal")

Section 3: Legal, governmental, or institutional policies and practices

This section covers issues of discrimination against men in the policies and practices of our society's institutions.

1. Discrimination in the criminal justice system [Return]

Overview: Men make up a very large majority of the prison population. In England and Wales, for example, 95% of prisoners are men [1]. Men do commit more crime overall, but in addition being male results in significantly harsher treatment and sentencing in the criminal justice system even with all other circumstances equal (i.e. controlling for the crime, criminal history, etc.). One study found that men receive 63% longer sentences with those factors controlled for. In addition, crimes with women as victims result in harsher sentences than crimes with men as victims.

More detail: The gender sentencing disparity is similar in nature to the race sentencing disparity (the more well-known fact that being black results in longer sentences even with all other circumstances equal). As a result, black men are hit especially hard by this, since they face racial biases and gender biases. The mass incarceration of black men in the United States is a major issue.

In addition to direct sentencing discrimination, it's also relevant that men have more of a pressure to provide. This makes them more likely to turn to gangs, drugs, and other illegal activities as a way to make money.

Examples/evidence: By age 23, 49% of black men, 44% of hispanic men, and 38% of white men (in the United States) will have been arrested at least once, compared to 12%, 11.8%, and 11.9% for white, hispanic, and black women respectively [2].

Numerous studies show discrimination at sentencing, including the article “Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases” (2012) by Sonja B. Starr of the University of Michigan [3]. Noting that men in the United States are fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than women, she asks: "do otherwise-similar men and women who are arrested for the same crimes end up with the same punishments, and if not, at what points do their fates diverge?". After controlling for factors other than gender (crime type, criminal history, etc.), she found that men receive 63% longer sentences than women. In addition, women are "significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions, and twice as likely to avoid incarceration if convicted".

David B. Mustard of the University of Georgia found similar results in his 2001 article “Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Courts” [4]. He asked whether "an individual sentenced in the same district court, who commits the same offense, and has the same criminal history and offense level as another person receives a different sentence on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender". The result:

Blacks and males not only receive longer sentences but also are less likely to receive no prison term when that option is available, more likely to receive upward departures, and less likely to receive downward departures. When downward departures are given, blacks and males receive smaller adjustments than whites and females.

The sentencing disparity also depends on the type of crime, according to a group of researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso. They found that for property and drug crimes, women are less likely to be sentenced and receive shorter sentences. For violent crimes, women are no less likely to receive prison time, but they still receive substantially shorter sentences [5].

In another study, the same researchers found an effect of the victim's gender on the sentencing. Crimes with women as victims were sentenced more harshly than crimes with men as victims. Victim gender effects are also conditioned by offender gender, meaning that male offenders who victimize women received the longest sentences of all the victim/offender gender combinations [6].

That study found the influence of gender after controlling for other factors like like type of crime, severity of victim injury, etc. Another study got around the need to account for these factors by looking specifically at vehicular homicide. Due to the fact that the victims are random and the severity and conditions of the crime are pretty similar across incidents, there's no conceivable reason why the gender of the victim would matter. It found that drivers who kill women still receive 56% longer sentences (and drivers who kill black people receive 53% shorter sentences) [7].

The harsher treatment of men in the justice system has an effect long after the men have left the justice system, due to the common preference among employers to avoid hiring people with criminal records. From The New York Times article "Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work" [8]:

The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.

The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men like Mr. Mirsky; it is also taking a toll on the broader economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming, in that old phrase, productive members of society.

[1] (British House of Commons Library document “Prison Population Statistics”)

[2] (Huffington Post article “Nearly Half Of Black Males, 40 Percent Of White Males Are Arrested By Age 23: Study”)

[3] and (“Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases” (2012) by Sonja B. Starr)

[4] (“Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Disparities in Sentencing: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Courts” (2001) by David B. Mustard)

[5] (“Gender Differences in Criminal Sentencing: Do Effects Vary Across Violent, Property, and Drug Offenses?” (2006) by S. Fernando Rodriguez, Theodore R. Curry, & Gang Lee)

[6] (“Does Victim Gender Increase Sentence Severity? Further Explorations of Gender Dynamics and Sentencing Outcomes” (2004) by Theodore R. Curry, Gang Lee, & S. Fernando Rodriguez)

[7] (“The Determinants of Punishment: Deterrence, Incapacitation and Vengeance” by Edward L. Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote)

[8] (The New York Times article "Out of Trouble, but Criminal Records Keep Men Out of Work")

2. Lack of reproductive rights [Return]

Overview: If a woman doesn't feel she's ready for the responsibilities of parenthood, she has various options after the act of sex (at least in most of the Western world). This includes the morning-after pill, abortion, adoption, and safe haven laws (which exist in many jurisdictions to allow a baby to be dropped off anonymously at a fire station, hospital, etc.). If you're a man in the same situation and you're not ready for the responsibilities of parenthood, you do not have any comparable options. All you can do is hope that the woman exercises one of her legal options.

More detail: Given the commendable focus on securing and defending reproductive rights and options for women in the past 50 years, a critical look at lack of rights and options for men is warranted. As Karen DeCrow (previous president of the National Organization for Women) put it [1] [2]:

The courts have properly determined that a man should neither be able to force a woman to have an abortion nor to prevent her from having one, should she so choose. Justice therefore dictates that if a woman makes a unilateral decision to bring pregnancy to term, and the biological father does not, and cannot, share in this decision, he should not be liable for 21 years of support. Or, put another way, autonomous women making independent decisions about their lives should not expect men to finance their choice.

Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson comment on the disparity in their book Legalizing Misandry (chapter 6):

Women who make mistakes are allowed an escape clause, in short, but men who make mistakes are told to shut up and pay up.

One option to fix this issue is called legal paternal surrender (LPS). In this system, a man would be allowed to opt-out of all the rights and responsibilities (including child support) to the potential child. He would only be able to make this choice well within the time-frame that the woman has for an abortion so that she can make an informed decision on whether she wants to have the child on her own. In the jurisdictions where women do not have access to abortion (like Ireland), that right should be secured for them before giving men the option for LPS. (And where abortion is legal it should be accessible and either free, or with the costs divided equally between the man and the woman.)

Examples/evidence: The New York Times article “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?” explains the problem [5].

Women’s rights advocates have long struggled for motherhood to be a voluntary condition, and not one imposed by nature or culture. In places where women and girls have access to affordable and safe contraception and abortion services, and where there are programs to assist mothers in distress find foster or adoptive parents, voluntary motherhood is basically a reality. In many states, infant safe haven laws allow a birth mother to walk away from her newborn baby if she leaves it unharmed at a designated facility.

If a man accidentally conceives a child with a woman, and does not want to raise the child with her, what are his choices? Surprisingly, he has few options in the United States. He can urge her to seek an abortion, but ultimately that decision is hers to make. Should she decide to continue the pregnancy and raise the child, and should she or our government attempt to establish him as the legal father, he can be stuck with years of child support payments.


The political philosopher Elizabeth Brake has argued that our policies should give men who accidentally impregnate a woman more options, and that feminists should oppose policies that make fatherhood compulsory. In a 2005 article in the Journal of Applied Philosophy she wrote, “if women’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a fetus, then men’s partial responsibility for pregnancy does not obligate them to support a resulting child.” At most, according to Brake, men should be responsible for helping with the medical expenses and other costs of a pregnancy for which they are partly responsible.

Few feminists, including Brake, would grant men the right to coerce a woman to have (or not to have) an abortion, because they recognize a woman’s right to control her own body. However, if a woman decides to give birth to a child without securing the biological father’s consent to raise a child with her, some scholars and policy makers question whether he should be assigned legal paternity.


Feminists have long held that women should not be penalized for being sexually active by taking away their options when an accidental pregnancy occurs. Do our policies now aim to punish and shame men for their sexual promiscuity? Many of my male students (in Miami where I teach), who come from low-income immigrant communities, believe that our punitive paternity policies are aimed at controlling their sexual behavior. Moreover, the asymmetrical options that men and women now have when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy set up power imbalances in their sexual relationships that my male students find hugely unfair to them.

[1] (The Atlantic article “The Feminist Leader Who Became a Men's-Rights Activist”)

[2] (The New York Times, short statement from Karen DeCrow)

[3] (Go Ask Alice question “Does having an abortion hurt?” on Columbia Health)

[4] (“Abortion FAQs” at the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health)

[5] (New York Times article “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?”)

3. Discrimination in divorce/family courts [Return]

Overview: Treatment of men by the divorce system is one of the very few men's issues that actually has relatively widespread awareness. It's hard to underestimate just how scary divorce can be for men, due to both the financial consequences (the chance of unreasonably high child support or alimony payments) and the personal/emotional consequences (the likelihood that you'll see your children much less, and the possibility that you'll hardly see them at all).

This isn't to say that divorce is always a nightmare for men (the examples below are extreme cases), or that it's all sunshine and rainbows for women either. However consider the fact that the gap between men's and women's suicide rates grows even bigger when we look just at people who are divorced, as well as the fact that a large majority of divorces are initiated by women (since they know that they have less to lose from the process). These do certainly suggest that the divorce system is harder on men.

More detail: Like with the issue of paternity fraud mentioned in a later section, bringing up this issue often results in charges of being misogynist or "not trusting women". But the problem isn't women, the problem is the system. It's true that women have some discretion in how much they can try to get from divorce proceedings, and it's true that many abuse this. But I don't doubt that just as many men would do the same, if the roles were switched and the system more often gave that option to men instead.

Remember that break-ups can be emotionally charged. Quite often one person is left spiteful, if not both people. This is even more likely in a divorce, which is the "ultimate" break-up. This can result in people trying to "get all they can" instead of trying to reach a fair settlement. In addition, lawyers and family members often encourage that behaviour. Many people will (or would) jump at the ability to screw over their ex-husband or ex-wife by getting unreasonably high financial payments from the other partner and unreasonably low amount of time with the children for the other partner. Some even deny visitation.

Examples/evidence: Chapter 6 ("Maternal Rights v. Paternal Rights: The Case of Children") of Legalizing Misandry by Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson is a great resource on this subject. I'm providing a few quotes from it here. First we have a general quote on divorce from psychiatrist Robert Seidenberg that was featured in the book, and then some cases of unreasonable treatment of men after divorce.

But the largest part of this discrimination [racial discrimination against blacks] is subtle or hidden because no one today would want to be labelled a racist. The discrimination against men in divorce-custody proceedings, on the other hand, is blatant and shameless. Protective orders, which evict men from their homes at a moment’s notice, are issued without evidence; restraining orders are issued without testimony; at times custody is awarded without testimony; and false child abuse allegations against fathers are rampant.


Consider the case of a Canadian man. He had been married to his employer, a physician who had paid him a handsome salary and wrote off the expenses for tax purposes. When they divorced, he had to take an eight-dollar-an-hour job. Nonetheless, he was required to pay child support based on the much higher salary earned previously. He lost more money by trying to get the payment adjusted to his new circumstances. (Noncustodial parents are forced to spend a lot of money, by the way, if they decide to challenge court rulings.) Once, when he was two days late, his ex-wife tried to have him jailed. Forced to live in his car, he committed suicide in 1999 by inhaling the exhaust fumes.


Consider the following case, that of a well-to-do household. “Michael” goes to court in the hope of having the judge reduce his family-support payments. On the surface, his case seems preposterous. After all, he earns $158,000. The judge rejects his plea, perhaps not surprisingly, and orders him to continue paying his former wife $7,153 every month. But that amount represents 96% of his take-home pay; after deductions, he takes home $7,455 every month. And after making his family-support payments, he has only $302 on which to live. The fact is that even single men on welfare in his city actually receive more money: $520. His son and former wife, on the other hand, are hardly living at the poverty line. Was Michael evil enough to have deserved this situation? Neither infidelity nor physical violence caused his divorce. Nor, for that matter, did “psychological violence.” It was caused, according to his wife, by the fact that he spent too much time at work. When the local newspaper ran a story on deadbeat dads, nevertheless, his sixteen-year-old son had this to say: “Dad, did you read that article in The Star? Well that’s what I think of you.”

There's also the situation of Dave Foley, Canadian actor and comedian best known for The Kids in the Hall. As of 2011 he owed $500,000 in child support to his ex-wife for his two teenage sons. This was being accrued at a rate of $17,000 a month, which was based on the income that he made earlier in his career when he was doing better. He ended up having to leave the country to avoid being arrested. From a series of interviews with him:

“My income has dropped in the last 10 years, as anyone can tell from the number of s---ty movies I’ve been in,” says Foley. “I’m not exactly picking and choosing my projects.” However, four years ago, Superior Justice Nancy Backhouse denied his motion to vary his support payments. [1]

"I'm happy to give away half my money, that would be great," said Foley. "But I'm literally obligated to give away 400 per cent of my income, or otherwise go to jail. [2]

“The judge ruled that my ability to pay was not relevant to my obligation,” the cross-dressing comedian tells Sharp over the phone from LA. “That’s what she said in her decision. It didn’t matter what I was earning or if I was paralyzed from the neck down or dead.” [3]

Here's a man who killed himself due to how he was treated by the divorce system [4].

Andrew T. Renouf committed suicide on or about October 17, 1995 because he had 100% of his wages taken by the Family Responsibility Office, an agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada. He asked for assistance for food and shelter from the welfare office and was refused because he had a job, even though all of his wages were taken by the Family Responsibility Office. Andy was a loving father that hadn't seen his daughter in 4 years. [And not for lack of trying.]

From his suicide letter:

I have no family and no friend's, very little food, no viable job and very poor future prospects. I have therefore decided that there is no further point in continuing my life. It is my intention to drive to a secluded area, near my home, feed the car exhaust into the car, take some sleeping pills and use the remaining gas in the car to end my life.

The article "Why do women initiate divorce more than men?" in The Telegraph addresses the issue of women being more likely to initiate divorce [5].

It’s undeniable that women request the great majority of divorces in the UK. The Office of National Statistics’ (ONS) most recent number crunch reveals that in 2011, the woman was the party granted (therefore initiating) the divorce in 66% of cases that year.


So what are the factors driving that female choice to divorce? The popular misconception is that it’s all down to adulterous men and their wandering penises. But you’d be wrong. [...] In fact, slightly more men claim to have been cuckolded in court (15% of male-initiated divorces) than women (14%).


On the other hand, it’s possible that women are more likely to initiate divorce than men because in the divorce court, especially where children are involved, the odds are in the female’s favour. Married men who get divorced are generally afraid of losing their kids, with good reason: over 80% of children of separated parents live exclusively or mainly with their mother. Men, often the higher earners, fear the crippling costs of a split. Women raising children and without much income can use taxpayer funds (through Legal Aid – for example) to fight a divorce, only paying the Crown back if they get a sufficiently large settlement. Not to sound crude, but this is like going to the Divorce Casino and playing with the house’s cash.

Legalizing Misandry provides a similar answer.

In order to find out why men and women initiate divorce proceedings, economists Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen conducted a massive study of divorce, analyzing all forty-six thousand divorce suits filed during 1995 in four states: Connecticut, Virginia, Montana, and Oregon. Although one reason for women is to get away from violent or adulterous husbands, “in the state with the best records of grievances, Virginia, only 6 percent of divorces were granted on grounds of violence, and husbands were cited for adultery only slightly more often than wives.” Another reason is “the belief that your partner is no longer good enough for you. The classic example is the guy who takes a trophy wife after dumping the high-school sweetheart who sacrificed her own potential to put him through medical school, but a woman can be similarly tempted to leave a husband who is less successful than she is.” What then?

The solution to the mystery, the factor that determined most cases, turned out to be the question of child custody. Women are much more willing to split up because – unlike men – they typically do not fear losing custody of the children. Instead a divorce often enables them to gain control over the children.

“The question of custody absolutely swamps all the other variables,” Dr. Brinig said. “Children are the most important asset in a marriage, and the partner who expects to get sole custody is by far the most likely to file for divorce.”

CNN commentator Jack Cafferty talks about the issue of suicide rates after divorce on his blog [6].

Experts say suicide rates are higher among divorced men - and lowest among those who are still married. Single men fall in between. One sociologist who studies family structure and suicide rates says divorced men are almost 40 percent more likely to commit suicide than those who are still married.

He includes the words of one of the divorced men who shared his story.

As a divorced man, I can honestly say I contemplated suicide for the first time in my life during the first year or two of my separation. It's incredibly difficult to have your entire family life – children, home and even wife – pulled away from you. Prior to the divorce, I was very happy, making a good salary and living in a nice neighborhood. Soon after the divorce, I was saddled with very high child support payments, debt from legal fees and barely enough left over to pay the rent of my small 1 bedroom apartment.

The Second Sexism (by David Benatar, chapter 2) quotes an even higher figure:

While divorced women are no more likely to kill themselves than are married women, divorced men are twice as likely as married men to take their own lives.

The Vancouver Sun article "Men and suicide: The silent epidemic" gives various reasons that the disparity in suicide grows after divorce, including lack of access to children, financial difficulties, lack of social support, getting caught off guard by the divorce (since women initiate divorce more they have more time to process it), men feeling as if they were at fault for the divorce, and men self-medicating grief with alcohol and drugs [7].

Adult males aren’t the only victims of divorce either. Boere tells the harrowing story of a Vancouver Island teenage boy who took his own life after his mother’s lawyer convinced the son to testify against his father.

An article from the Smart Marriages Archive mentions many of the same reasons for the increase in the suicide disparity [8].

"It's still generally the case that when children are involved, the mother becomes the custodial parent," said Hillowe. Generally speaking, "men lose the role of being a father in a way that women do not lose the role of being a mother."

Compounding the problem: Men often feel like they're responsible for the failure of a marriage, said Alvin Baraff, Ph.D., an expert on relationships from a male perspective, and founder and director of Men Center Counseling in Washington, D.C.

Legalizing Misandry summarizes the uncertainty that divorce (and by extension, marriage) can be for men.

One message given to boys and men is discouraging, to say the least: fatherhood can be a nightmare – legal, financial, and emotional – due to the laws governing divorce, custody, and access. These laws are not going to prevent all men from investing in family life, certainly not those who consider marriage a religious covenant, but they have already made many other men think twice before becoming involved in what could easily become a no-win situation. Why invest so heavily in family life, after all, if your children can be taken away from you or even turned against you so easily? At the very moment when men have begun to think about being fathers in ways that their own fathers never considered, being more physically and emotionally available than ever before, they hear that fathers are disposable – except as a financial resource, of course, and ultimately not even as a financial resource, given their replacement by the state and the glorification of single mothers.

[1] (Toronto Star article "Comedian Dave Foley fears arrest, owes $500,000 in child-support")

[2] (Yahoo! News Canada article "Kids in the Hall member Dave Foley claims he can’t afford a return to Canada")

[3] (Sharp article "Dave Foley is a Perfect Gentleman (but not a very good American)")

[4], (memorial page and suicide letter from F.A.C.T, or Fathers are Capable Too)

[5] (The Telegraph article "Why do women initiate divorce more than men?")

[6] (Cafferty File post "Why does divorce make men more suicidal than women?")

[7] (Vancouver Sun article "Men and suicide: The silent epidemic")

[8] (Smart Marriages Archive "Men more likely to commit suicide after divorce, study finds")

4. Rape laws excluding male victims [Return]

Overview: Many jurisdictions have rape laws that exclude male victims to some extent or another. Sometimes this involves wording the laws so that rape is defined as something that happens to a woman, and sometimes this involves defining rape as something that only a man can do (meaning that a man can legally be raped by another man but not by a woman).

More detail: This is related to the fact that many people don't believe that men can be the victims of rape, especially by a woman. There are two major points that people make to support this.

First, they'll say that sex (or at least penis-in-vagina sex) can only happen if a man has an erection, and if the man had an erection then he must have wanted it. This is misguided because erections are unpredictable. Sometimes they don't happen when you want them to (erectile dysfunction), and sometimes they happen even though you don't want them to (especially if you're a teenage boy!). Remember, women can get physiologically aroused during rape too. It doesn't mean that they wanted it (or consented).

Second, they'll mention that men are usually physically stronger than women. It's true that a woman is less able to physically force a man to have sex, but as anti-rape campaigners frequently (and rightfully) point out, this is not the only way to rape or sexually assault someone. Excessive use of alcohol or drugs can leave a person of any gender in a state where they can be raped, for example. Threats (physical or otherwise) can be effective too.

There's no reason that a man who passes out drunk and wakes up to a woman having sex with him should not legally be considered a rape victim. It would certainly be considered rape if the genders were switched. It's true that women are raped more often than men (at least outside of prison) but it doesn't mean that rape of men doesn't exist or matter.

Examples/evidence: Switzerland is an example of a country that defines rape as something that can only happen to women. Act 190 of the Swiss Criminal Code defines rape in this way [1]:

Any person who forces a person of the female sex by threats or violence, psychological pressure or by being made incapable of resistance to submit to sexual intercourse is liable to a custodial sentence of from one to ten years.

The United Kingdom is an example of a country that defines rape as something that only a man can do (meaning that a man can only legally be raped by another man). This is Section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 [2].

(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,

(b)B does not consent to the penetration, and

(c)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

Mary P. Koss, influential rape researcher/activist (and professor at the University of Arizona), argues in favour of rape laws being gendered like this. Rape of men by women is only "unwanted sexual intercourse" [3].

Although consideration of male victims is within the scope of the legal statutes, it is important to restrict the term rape to instances where male victims were penetrated by offenders. It is inappropriate to consider as a rape victim a man who engages in unwanted sexual intercourse with a woman.

[1] (Swiss Criminal Code as of 2015/1/1)

[2] (UK Sexual Offences Act 2003)

[3] ("Detecting the Scope of Rape: A Review of Prevalence Research Methods" by Mary P. Koss)

5. Non-medical infant male circumcision [Return]

Overview: In a time where the concept of bodily autonomy is a widely held value in our culture, it's strange that it's still legal to cut parts off of baby boys' genitals for reasons of religion, aesthetics, or tradition. Consider that ritual cutting of baby girls' genitals is much more widely outlawed and condemned as barbaric.

More detail: Many are quick to point out that female genital cutting is much more severe than the practice of circumcision performed on boys. This is true for many/most variations of it (which are indeed quite brutal), and if we consider only these then a disparity in legality might be warranted. But some variations of it are actually less severe than what's done to baby boys, and these are disallowed as well.

Examples/evidence: Consider the Seattle Compromise, the attempt of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle to deal with the African immigrants who wanted to perform ritual cutting on their daughters' genitals in addition to on their sons' genitals [1].

The question came up when doctors routinely asked expectant refugee mothers if they wanted their baby circumcised if it was a boy. Some mothers responded, "Yes, and also if it is a girl."

Doctors were told that the procedure would take place "with or without the doctors' participation", so the hospital proposed a compromise involving a "symbolic cut" or a "nick" that would draw blood but not involve any tissue removal or scarring. Many of the immigrants indicated that they would accept this, but in the end the procedure was not allowed [2].

Ultimately, despite this unprecedented effort at compromise, the procedure was never performed because some prominent opponents of FGM, who generally take a categorical position against any form of the traditional practice, launched a successful campaign against the hospital’s efforts.

I'm not aware of any Western countries that allow even this minor form of female genital cutting.

[1] (Chicago Tribune article "Refugees' Beliefs Don't Travel Well: Compromise Plan On Circumcision Of Girls Gets Little Support")

[2] ("The Seattle Compromise: Multicultural Sensitivity and Americanization" by Doriane Lambelet Coleman)

6. Compulsory military service for men [Return]

Overview: Many Western countries have abolished conscription fairly recently (e.g. France in 1997, Italy in 2005, Sweden in 2010, and Germany in 2011 [1]) and others did so more distantly in the past, which means that conscription is much less of a problem in the Western world than it used to be. Despite this, there are still various Western countries (and many more in the developing world) that have kept such policies. Like in the past, this compulsory military service is generally required only for men, while women are exempt.

More detail: One possible justification for this gender-based discrimination is that women are generally physically weaker than men, making them less suited to military service. The strength disparity between men and women is real, but the women who are too weak for physically demanding military service could certainly still be required to do mandatory service in roles that require less strength. They could work in the civilian service, which many countries countries have for men who are conscientious objectors or unfit for military service. The civilian service includes things like working at nursing homes.

Examples/evidence: Switzerland has gender-based conscription [2].

Conscription is alive and well in Switzerland. When a male Swiss reaches the age of 20, he must undergo 15 weeks of military training. Over the next 22 to 32 years, he'll attend a succession of two- to three-week training camps during until he's accrued 300 to 1,300 days of active service. (Service requirements depend on rank: the higher the rank, the more years and accrued days are required.)

Until 1996, being a conscientious objector didn't count in Switzerland. If you said "no," you went to jail. It's now possible to serve in a noncombatant role, although this isn't common. In rare instances, conscientious objectors may perform Zivildienst (civilian service) in a nursing home, sanitarium, etc. instead of joining the military, at the cost of serving 50% longer than they would in the armed forces.


Swiss men who live in other countries don't have to serve in the army, but they're required to tithe 2% of their income to the mother country in the form of a military exemption tax. (The tax is also paid by men who flunk the physical or otherwise don't qualify for military service.) Women aren't required to pay the tax, nor are they expected to serve in the army--although, if they wish, they can can enlist as noncombatants.

Austria is another example. When they turn 18, Austrian men must serve six months in the military (or nine months in the civilian service, which involves community service like driving an ambulance or working in nursing homes). 22,000 men are drafted each year [3].

As of 2015, Finland also has mandatory military service for men. It lasts 165, 255, or 347 days and is generally carried out at the age of 19 or 20 [4]. Women may volunteer, but only approximately 400 do so each year [5]. Compare this to the fact that 80% of 30 year old men in Finland have completed their military service [6].

Israel is one of the few countries that has compulsory military service for both men and women, although men's required service is 36 months while women's is 21 months [7].

[1] ("Driven Out of Employment? The Impact of the Abolition of the Draft on Driving Schools and Aspiring Drivers" by Paul Avrillier, Laurent Hivert, and Francis Kramarz), (SwissInfo article "Support wanes for conscript system in Europe")

[2] (Europe for Visitors page "The Swiss Army")

[3] (BBC article "Austrians vote to keep compulsory military service")

[4] ("Conscript 2015: A guide for you who are preparing to carry out your military service" from the Finnish Defense Forces)

[5] (Today Online article "Ng Eng Hen leads delegation to study Finnish conscription system")

[6] (The Finnish Defence Forces Annual Report 2011)

[7] (CIA World Factbook page "Military Service and Obligation")

Section 4: Toxic social attitudes

This section covers the negative attitudes towards men that exist in Western society. As is the case for negative attitudes towards women, how common you find any particular attitude to be can depend heavily on where in the Western world you live, which sub-culture you interact with, etc.

1. Male pedophile hysteria [Return]

Overview: There is a tendency in our society to associate maleness with pedophilia and to treat men who interact with children with suspicion (especially when the children are not known to be his own). This can discourage men from going into fields like child-care or education (at least primary and secondary education), and it can result in men fearing being seen as a pedophile in public when they interact with other people's children (or even when they have their own children).

More detail: In addition to our society associating maleness with pedophilia, we associate homosexuality with pedophilia too. This means that gay men can be hit especially hard by male pedophile hysteria [1]. On another note, male pedophile hysteria in general is something that a lot of women (and even some men) have a hard time believing exists. One reason might be that this issue seems to vary considerably by country/region; from reading men's experiences it seems to be more common in the USA/UK than in mainland Europe.

Examples/evidence: One example is the controversy surrounding the policies of four airlines (British Airways, Qantas, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia) that have (or had) policies against men sitting beside unaccompanied minors [2]. Two more examples can be found in the Wall Street Journal article “Eek! A Male!” [3]. One is an Iowa daycare where the one male aide employed there is not allowed to change diapers, and in fact has been asked to leave the classroom when the diaper changing was happening. The next is an incident where a woman followed a man around at a store because he was clutching a pile of girls’ panties; “I can't believe this! You're disgusting. This is a public place, you pervert!” she said to him. It turned out that he was a clerk who worked there and he was restocking the underwear department.

A similar example is an incident in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in Arizona when Omar Amin, a 73 year old man (and doctor specializing in infectious diseases), was in the children's section buying books for his grandchildren. He was approached by an employee, asked if he was there by himself, and then told "You cannot stay. This is not an area where men are allowed to be by themselves". He recounts being escored out of the store "firmly". This reportedly happened because a female shopper told an employee that she "felt uneasy" that he was in the children's area. For a month the company stood by the employee's actions, but he ended up receiving an apology [4].

Those examples are embarrassing, hurtful, and denigrating, but sometimes it can even get tragic. The BBC reported an incident in England from 2006 where a bricklayer spotted a toddler at the side of the road but didn’t stop to help because he was afraid he would be accused of trying to abduct her. The child ending up drowning in a pond [5]. In Men on Strike (chapter 4), Helen Smith talks about the effect this has on men.

However, the cost to society of portraying men in this manner is high. Because men are afraid to engage in many areas of public life and work, especially those that involve children, kids have fewer and fewer role models and can end up harmed or worse, dead. “A poll conducted by a NCH, a children’s charity, and volunteer group Chance UK, has identified what they believe is the reason so many charities are struggling to recruit men to work with children. Turns out, many men are afraid of being labeled as pedophiles.”

[1] (post on /r/Gaybros)

[2] (Wikipedia article “Airline sex discrimination policy controversy”), (CNN article “Should male passengers be allowed to sit next to unaccompanied children?”)

[3] (Wall Street Journal article “Eek! A Male!”)

[4] (Global Post article "Omar Amin, kicked out of children’s section of bookstore, receives apology from Barnes & Noble")

[5] (BBC article “'I was treated like a paedophile'”)

2. Demonization of male sexuality [Return]

Overview: There are fair points to be made regarding how our society views female sexuality (like the focus on women being “pure” and the related slut-shaming), but our western culture looks at male sexuality quite negatively too in that it's seen as threatening and damaging to women. This happens on a physical level (many people see men as a sexual assault or rape waiting to happen, similar to how some other people see black people as a physical assault or robbery waiting to happen) and also on a more abstract level (men's sexual desire is often considered disrespectful and dehumanizing to women).

More detail: I believe that most men have been affected by this to some extent (at least at some point in their lives), but a lot of them don’t realize it because they’re used to it and it feels normal and natural at this point to see their sexuality as threatening and damaging.

The idea that male sexuality is threatening to women on a physical level comes from many places. This is a common component of the traditionalist view of sex, but it's also reinforced by the fact that most of the campaigns against rape and sexual assault (which usually come from progressives) tend to be exceptionally gendered, with men almost always seen as perpetrators and women almost always as victims. The result is that it's fairly easy for someone to associate male sexuality in particular with the chance of sexual assault and rape.

Many justify this by noting that men are more likely to rape or sexually assault women than the other way around. This is true, but the most common type of sexual assault isn't the only kind that's bad. And many people already think that it's not possible for a man to be raped or sexually assaulted; we do not need to encourage this, especially by doing something that many men have indicated has pushed them to be ashamed of their maleness. It's similar to how a campaign aimed at teaching people that stealing is wrong should not have all (or almost all) of the material portraying black people as the theives. Fortunately there does seem to be progress in how these campaigns depict sexual assault.

Demonization of male sexuality on the abstract side often happens with idea of objectification. The concept has some valid uses, but often it's used when all that has happened is that a man has expressed sexual attraction for a woman or some form of media is portraying a woman in a sexual way. The idea seems to be that "sexualizing" her, i.e. portraying or seeing her in a sexual light, is disrespectful, demeaning, or even dehumanizing. Often assumptions are made about how expressing interest in her sex appeal (or putting her in a role where others could do so) amounts to denying that she could have appeal outside of sex.

The important point here is that people treat sex quite differently from other things. A movie with a character whose sole purpose is sex appeal can get accused of "objectifying someone as a sex object", but a movie with a character whose sole purpose is to drive a taxi won't get accused of "objectifying someone as a taxi driver". This difference probably makes intuitive sense to most people, but ask yourself this: what's so special about sex? If we're going to assume a sex-positive attitude (and reject the notion that sex and sexuality are dirty and demeaning), then seeing sex as special in this regard does not seem reasonable. It's no more wrong to have an interest in someone for their sex appeal than it's wrong to have an interest in them for their music appeal.

One possible counter-point is to say that it only counts as objectification if one group is disproportionately portrayed in this way consistently. This would be more reasonable than claiming objectification each and every time an individual is portrayed in one specific role, but instances of this happening (like Russians or Arabs in villain roles, or men in “sacrificing their lives” roles) still do not get nearly the same attention as the “sexual objectification of women”, and even when the portrayals do receive attention, the word “objectification” is rarely/never used. The question remains: what's so special about sex?

Examples/evidence: The controversy over Rosetta Project scientist Matt Taylor's shirt is a great example of this attitude. After the historic landing of the project's robotic lander on a comet, much of the attention was given to Taylor's shirt, which depicted women wearing lingerie in sexualized poses. It was widely called “sexist” and “demeaning” [1]. I can certainly understand how sexually explicit material would be considered inappropriate for a professional environment, but it's not clear what's sexist or demeaning about portraying people in sexually explicit ways.

As for the harmful effect that the demonization of male sexuality can have on men, Scott Aaronson (computer science professor at MIT) has a post on his blog where he opens up and recounts the story of his time as a teenager and young adult with the toxic attitude towards his own sexuality that he had internalized [2]. A few of the things he mentions (in this passage and the rest of his post) show that his case is an extreme one, but there are still many points that a surprisingly high number of men can relate to.

(sigh) Here’s the thing: I spent my formative years—basically, from the age of 12 until my mid-20s—feeling not “entitled,” not “privileged,” but terrified. I was terrified that one of my female classmates would somehow find out that I sexually desired her, and that the instant she did, I would be scorned, laughed at, called a creep and a weirdo, maybe even expelled from school or sent to prison. And furthermore, that the people who did these things to me would somehow be morally right to do them—even if I couldn’t understand how.

You can call that my personal psychological problem if you want, but it was strongly reinforced by everything I picked up from my environment: to take one example, the sexual-assault prevention workshops we had to attend regularly as undergrads, with their endless lists of all the forms of human interaction that “might be” sexual harassment or assault, and their refusal, ever, to specify anything that definitely wouldn’t be sexual harassment or assault. I left each of those workshops with enough fresh paranoia and self-hatred to last me through another year.

Of course, I was smart enough to realize that maybe this was silly, maybe I was overanalyzing things. So I scoured the feminist literature for any statement to the effect that my fears were as silly as I hoped they were. But I didn’t find any. On the contrary: I found reams of text about how even the most ordinary male/female interactions are filled with “microaggressions,” and how even the most “enlightened” males—especially the most “enlightened” males, in fact—are filled with hidden entitlement and privilege and a propensity to sexual violence that could burst forth at any moment.

Interestingly enough, I know of at least one instance of a gay woman expressing similar sentiments [3]. This raises the possibility that we're dealing not with the demonization of male sexuality but instead the demonization of sexual desire directed at women (and it just seems like the demonization of male sexuality because there are more straight men than gay women), although it is probably more likely that both of these things co-exist and are intertwined.

There are a hell of a lot of people attracted to women who seem to have internalized the message that their attraction makes them sick and wrong and evil and creepy, that basically any interaction they have with a woman is coercive or harmful on their part, and that initiating a romantic interaction makes them a sexual predator.

I know this because I’m one of them.

I’m a woman. I’m gay. By the time I realized that second thing, I’d internalized that all attraction to women was objectifying and therefore evil. I spent years of my life convinced that it was coercive to make it clear to girls that I wanted to date them, lest they feel pressured. So I could only ask them out with a clear conscience if I was in fact totally indifferent to their answer. I still decide I’m abusive pretty frequently, on the basis of things like ‘i want to kiss her, which is what an abuser would want’ and ‘i want to be special to her, which is what an abuser would want’.

One woman wrote an article about accepting that her three daughters would grow up and have sex lives. The following is her recalling the feedback that she got on it [4].

I got a lot of email about that post, comments on Facebook. People using words like “protecting” and “saving” their daughters from sex. Talking about how strong the parental need is to protect their daughters from….. From what?

From boys? From boys.

I remember when my daughter was a baby, and people would make jokes that maybe we’d luck out and she’d be a lesbian. It’s not that I’m humorless, but I never laughed. I just don’t get it. I mean, lesbians have sex too. And boys aren’t dangerous creatures hell-bent on destroying my daughter with their boyness. (If she’s anything like her mother, she’s gonna find great joy from playing with boys, in all ways.)

Another woman's experience in sex ed in a Globe and Mail article [5]:

Mr. Gym Teacher spent a great deal of time telling the girls not to let the boys pressure us into having sex – pressure from boys was presented as the only possible motivation for a girl ever wanting to have sex.

And this is a question from a user on reddit's /r/AskMen on how to deal with seeing his attraction for women as a bad thing [6]:

Alright, so I realized something the other day. I noticed that, whenever I'm attracted to a woman, I tend to dismiss my attraction as a bad thing. That she doesn't want me to be attracted to her and that I was/am being creepy for talking to her and being interested in anything but a friendship. I'm not really sure when I started thinking this way, but it really bothers me because I'd like to not feel like a creep for just being interested a woman. So, any advice on how to get over this?

[1] (CNN article “Philae researcher criticized for shirt covered in scantily clad women”)

[2] (post on Scott Aaronson's blog Shtetl-Optimized)

[3] (post on The Unit of Caring, a blog on “effective altruism, programming, mental health and neuroatypicality, fantasy and science fiction”)

[4] (“If I Had Sons, This Is What I Would Tell Them About Sex” at The Good Men Project)

[5] (The Globe and Mail article "Mr. Gym Teacher and the whistle (or how I aced sex ed)")

[6] (post by reddit user hyperbolicthrowaway on /r/AskMen)

3. Permissive attitudes to violence against men [Return]

Overview: “Violence against women” is considered something separate from, and worse than, regular violence (i.e. against men). Violence done to men receives much less social stigma than violence that is done to women, which gives women a certain protection from violence that is not afforded to men. Many people even consider it socially unacceptable for a man to use force against a woman in self-defense (“you never, ever, ever hit a woman, even if she's hitting you” is a common message).

More detail: Of course this does not mean that women have nothing to worry about when it comes to violence. Still, the social stigma surrounding “violence against women” does give them extra protection that is observed in a lot of situations and by a lot of different people. Bridging the gap and giving men the same protection from violence should be a worthy priority.

One common justification of the double standard is the idea that women are generally physically weaker than men. This is true, but the damage inflicted by an act of violence is determined by so much more than just the genders of the participants. It's still entirely possible for someone who's weaker to harm someone who's stronger, especially if the stronger person is caught off guard, or if the weaker person uses a household object like a lamp as a makeshift weapon (or if the stronger person, through certain gender taboos, is unable to use force to defend himself).

The gender differences in the types of assault in one domestic violence study show this well; a higher percentage of female victims than male victims experienced being beat up (38.5% vs. 8.1%) and choked or submersed in water (27.6% vs. 6.8%), but a higher percentage of male victims than female victims were hit with an object (43.2% vs. 22.6%) and threatened with a knife (21.6% vs. 12.7%) [1]. In addition, it's entirely possible, although not terribly common, for a woman to be physically stronger than a man. (This can happen especially if he's skinny. Unfortunately many feel contempt for such a man when he can't defend himself; he can be seen by many men and women as not a "real man" and considered undeserving of respect, compassion, or protection.)

Another common justification for the special taboo against "violence against women" is that women are more often the victims of violence. This is not true; see the sections on crime victimization rates and on domestic violence for more details. All of this leads me to believe that the “violence against women? barbaric! violence against men? ehhh that's bad I guess” attitude is unreasonably simplistic.

Quite often "violence against women" is called "gender-based violence". The idea is that violence that happens to women must have been on account of their gender. I think this is a symptom of gender-based attitudes to violence, where we care (much) more about violence when it happens to women.

Examples/evidence: The idea that violence against women is something separate from (and worse than) violence against men is so entrenched in our culture that even criminals and murderers, who have significantly fewer moral qualms than the average person, still have the stigma. A National Post article tells the story of the trial of James Bulger, “once the daring overlord of Boston’s Irish mob”. On trial for 19 murders (17 men and 2 women), he was largely unfazed by being called a “gangster, killer and thief”, but he had two objections: “Bulger is intent on showing two things — that he’s not an informant and that he didn’t kill the two women. He wants to get into the gangster hall of fame, and you can’t get in by killing women or being a rat” [2].

An article in the newspaper The Telegraph explains the problem exceptionally well [3].

While as a society we rightly give lots of attention to protecting women against violence, from warnings about predatory cab drivers to reports on women’s refuges, from the understanding that it’s wrong to hit a woman to walking women home, very little seems to be being done to protect men, or to dissuade anyone from the idea that it’s also wrong to hit a man. Is male life cheaper?


And yet the gender bias is never spoken of – but why? The fact that men commit violence more than women may be part of it – do we imagine that the higher death rates are somehow just deserts? This would only be true if those individuals committing the crimes also happened to be the victims, which we know is not the case – a glance through the list of victims includes a roll call of good Samaritans, unfortunate bystanders, police officers and so on. And in any case, what sort of callousness is it for a society to choose to let one of its constituent groups rip itself to bits, without questioning the reasons for the phenomenon?


When female stereotypes began to be dismantled, much of what was sloughed off were the outdated cultural assumptions. Although they had long behaved with subservience, as society required, women are not somehow biologically suited to subservience – this much we know. And if that is true, then perhaps men are not naturally predisposed to committing violence, much less to being condemned to suffer its effects.

The special stigma against "violence against women" is taught very young. Consider the viral video by an Italian media company that raises awareness about "violence against women" by asking some boys to hit a girl and recording their reactions [4]. It's received 26 million views on YouTube as of 2015/2/20. Some of the refusals are gender-neutral, but many indicate a special aversion to hitting girls. Of course, it's good that they didn't hit the girl; the problem is that a boy in the place of that girl might not be so lucky (because he doesn't receive the protection of "you're not supposed to hit girls"). Interestingly, according to an an article on The Daily Dot, the intention of the video was to answer the question of whether men are "born with a predisposition toward violence against women, or [whether it's] taught to them at a young age" [5].

A few more examples of campaigns that single out violence against women as something separate from, and worse than, "regular violence". One calls it "gender-based violence".

[1] ("The Risk of Serious Physical Injury from Assault by a Woman Intimate" by Bert H. Hoff)

[2] (National Post article “‘No honour among thieves anymore': Modern gangsters break most basic rule of organized crime — don’t be a rat”)

[3] (The Telegraph article “Our attitude to violence against men is out of date”)

[4] (YouTube video "'Slap her': children's reactions" from channel

[5] (The Daily Dot article "These boys offer very revealing answers when they're told to hit a girl")

4. The “women are wonderful” effect and in-group bias [Return]

Overview: Various studies have suggested the existence of the “women are wonderful” effect, which is a tendency for people to attribute more positive attributes to women as a group than men as a group. This research has also found a greater in-group bias among women, which roughly refers to a “girl power!” or “you go girl!” attitude being more common among women than a corresponding “guy power!” or “you go guy!” attitude among men.

More detail: It must be emphasized that gender issues and gender-specific negative attitudes can vary by country, region, and sub-culture. The findings of these studies probably don't apply to all countries, regions, and sub-cultures in the Western world, but they do apply to many.

Examples/evidence: Wikipedia describes the “women are wonderful effect” as “the phenomenon found in psychological research which suggests that people associate more positive attributes with the general social category of women compared to men”. It cites two papers from the 1990s. From one of them: “strong evidence was found that women are evaluated quite favorably as a general social category, and significantly more favorably than men” [1].

Another study from 2004 found that “[w]omen are nearly five times more likely to show an automatic preference for their own gender than men are to show such favoritism for their own gender” [2].

Through four experiments, psychologists Laurie A. Rudman, PhD, of Rutgers, and Stephanie A. Goodwin, PhD, of Purdue University, used the Implicit Association Test to discover 204 heterosexual college students' automatic gender preferences and gender identity by asking them to associate positive and negative gender-free words with either "men" or "women." They also tested participants' self-esteem by asking them to associate those words with "I" or "others."

Both male and female participants associated the positive words--such as good, happy and sunshine--more often with women than with men, Rudman says. Moreover, men and women tended to show high implicit self-esteem and high gender identity; however, men showed low pro-male gender attitudes, according to the study.

"A clear pattern shown in all four studies is that men do not like themselves automatically as much as women like themselves," Rudman says. "This contradicts a lot of theoretical thinking about implicit attitudes regarding status differences."

More specifically, men are historically and cross-culturally viewed as the dominant sex, so it might logically follow that they'd have a greater in-group bias, Rudman says.

To explore why their study found the opposite pattern, Rudman and Goodwin evaluated several possible reasons. They found:

Women's high self-esteem and female identity, on average, bolstered their automatic liking for women, whereas men's liking for men did not rely on high self-esteem or masculine identity. In other words, women can be characterized as thinking "if I am good and I am female, females are good," whereas men can be characterized as thinking "even if I am good and I am male, men are not necessarily good."

[among others—see the source for more]

[1] (Wikipedia page “'Women are wonderful' effect”)

[2] (American Psychological Association write-up “Women like women more than men like men”)

5. “Men's bodies are gross” [Return]

Overview: From what I've seen personally, men and women arrive at body image issues in different ways. For women the problem is usually comparing themselves to the cultural ideal of female attractiveness (female actors and models) that gets so much attention in the media. Male actors receive less attention for their attractiveness and male models receive less attention entirely, meaning that men aren't as affected by this quite as much.

Men have their own unique challenges when it comes to body image, however. There's less focus on the ideal man's attractiveness but there's also less focus on men as a gender being attractive at all (if women wear tight/revealing clothes it's frequently seen as sexy, but when men do the same thing it's frequently seen as gross; “no one wants to see that!”). Because of this, a lot of men struggle seeing themselves as attractive because they don't think that men in general are attractive. A woman can certainly end up feeling that her own body is gross, but it's pretty unlikely that she'll get the impression that women's bodies in general are gross.

More detail: What adds another dimension is the fact that while some women have body image issues and trouble feeling sexy, other women feel oversexualized. These are the women who feel that people appreciate them only for their sexual appeal and not for anything else, like their humour or intelligence. To the extent that this has a parallel in men, it's much less common among them. For men the problem seems to be a more consistent undersexualization (they are quite consistently portrayed as the desirers, but much less often the desired).

Examples/evidence: This isn't to say that men aren't affected by the type of body image issue where they see themselves comparing unfavourably to an ideal male body. Muscle dysmorphia, common in the body-building community, is one example of this [1].

This media pressure can lead to muscle dysmorphia (colloquially known as “bigorexia”), which is an obsession with not being muscular enough. Listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it strikes primarily among men who are already lean and muscular, compelling them to quest for even more muscle mass and ever lower levels of body fat. It can lead to compulsive exercise regimens that decrease quality of life, as well as disordered eating. Sometimes, anabolic steroids are sought out to quench one’s desire to be huge. The supplement industry sure has cashed in on all of this. It’s worth noting that many of those muscle mags are owned by supplement companies and used as vehicles to hawk their mass gaining wares.

But I do believe that this makes up a lower percentage of body image issues among men, and that men have their own unique source for body image issues. The Good Men Project as a website can be hit-or-miss, but two of its articles illustrate the problem especially well. The first is from a woman in an article “The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality” [2].

And lastly,know that your body is beautiful. I, like most females, was warned that penises and balls and anuses were gross. I was told to hold my nose, close my eyes, get it over with. Imagine my disappointment when I saw my first penis and there were no festering boils hissing my name, no sulfurous clouds wafting up from a menacing member. I thought it was kind of cute. As I learned more about them, I grew to love them, in and out. Hell, there are times when I was sure I heard angels giving hummers on high when I’ve see one. Most of us straight chicks really like your bodies. You don’t need to trick us into liking them. That is what makes us straight, after all.

The second is the article “The Male Body: Repulsive or Beautiful?” from a man recounting how he came to believe that men's bodies are gross, and talking about the effect this has had on him and on other men [3].

But growing up with the right to be dirty goes hand-in-hand with the realization that many people find the male body repulsive. In sixth grade, the same year that puberty hit me with irrevocable force, I had an art teacher, Mr. Blake. (This dates me: few public middle schools have art teachers anymore.) I’ll never forget his solemn declaration that great artists all acknowledged that the female form was more beautiful than the male. He made a passing crack that “no one wants to see naked men, anyway”—and the whole class laughed. “Ewwww,” a girl sitting next to me said, evidently disgusted at the thought of a naked boy.


A year later, in my first sexual relationship, I was convinced that my girlfriend found my body physically repellent. I could accept that girls liked and wanted sex, but I figured that what my girlfriend liked was how I made her feel in spite of how my body must have appeared to her. Though I trusted that she loved me, the idea that she—or any other woman—could want this sweaty, smelly, fumbling flesh was still unthinkable.


So many straight men have no experience of being wanted. So many straight men have no experience of sensing a gaze of outright longing. Even many men who are wise in the world and in relationships, who know that their wives or girlfriends love them, do not know what it is to be admired for their bodies and their looks. They may know what it is to be relied upon, they may know what it is to bring another to ecstasy with their touch, but they don’t know what it is to be found not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but worthy of longing.

[1] (TIME article "‘Bigorexia’ and the Male Quest For More Muscle")

[2] (“The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality” at The Good Men Project)

[3] (“The Male Body: Repulsive or Beautiful?” at The Good Men Project)

6. Attitudes towards male victims of domestic violence [Return]

Overview: Men suffer domestic violence much more than is commonly believed but their gender often results in them having enormous difficulty being acknowledged as victims, let alone receiving any support. In some cases male victims of domestic violence are even assumed to be the perpetrators and arrested themselves.

Reluctance to accept men as victims of domestic violence is common both from traditionalists (being victimized in this way does not fit in with men's traditional gender role) as well as progressives (who commonly see domestic violence at is core being a male→female phenomenon related to the power that they believe men have over women in our society).

More detail: Eugen Lupri (Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Calgary) points out that many see domestic violence “a manifestation of our culture’s ‘patriarchal’ structure”, and a “gender issue rather than as a human problem” [1]. The Duluth Model (an influential domestic violence prevention program) is one implementation of this; it sees the root cause of domestic violence as men’s desire to control women and “sustain a patriarchal society” [2].

This ignores various causes of violence like substance abuse and violent backgrounds [2], but also it excludes/downplays victims who are not straight women. This means straight men and gay people of both genders, who all suffer domestic violence more than is commonly believed [1][3][4].

Examples/evidence: A BBC article on gay victims of domestic violence talks with a gay man who said that as a man trying to get help from a domestic violence program, you were either “hung up on or referred to a batterers’ intervention programme” [4]. Emily Douglas and Denise Hines published an article in the Journal of family violence on the experiences of male victims who sought help. Of the 132 men they looked at who had sought help from DV agencies, 95.3% walked away with the impression that the agency was biased against men, 49.9% were told "we only help women", and 40.2% were accused of being the batterer themselves. 15.2% reported that the staff made fun of them [5].

There are many different places to look for statistics on domestic violence victimization rates by gender. The Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice produced a report called "Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003–2012" which said that men made up 24% of domestic violence victims in those years [6]. The "2012 Personal Safety Survey" from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that of the people who'd experienced violence in the past 12 months from a partner they lived with, 28% were men [7]. A British study using data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey found that men were 40% of all domestic violence victims between 2004 and 2009 in Britain [8]. More recent numbers from the Office for National Statistics also have men being 40% of the domestic violence victims in 2011/12 in Britain [9].

Many sources even have men and women experiencing domestic violence at similar rates; Eugen Lupri cites a multitude of studies showing that rates of domestic violence victimization are quite similar for both genders, although women experience injuries somewhat more often. He cites a meta-analysis finding that women experience 62% of domestic violence injuries while men experience the other 38% [1]. Barbara Kay of the National Post also notes that 8% of women and 7% of men report being physically abused in Canada each year [3]. Martin S. Fiebert of the Department of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach provides a bibliography of 286 scholarly investigations (221 empirical studies and 65 reviews/analyses) showing that in relationships women aren't any less violent than men [10]. The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project is another source [11]:

The most comprehensive review of the scholarly domestic violence research literature ever conducted concludes, among other things, that women perpetrate physical and emotional abuse, as well as engage in control behaviors, at comparable rates to men. The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project, or PASK, whose final installment was just published in the journal Partner Abuse, is an unparalleled three-year research project, conducted by 42 scholars at 20 universities and research centers, and including information on 17 areas of domestic violence research.


Among PASK’s findings are that, except for sexual coercion, men and women perpetrate physical and non-physical forms of abuse at comparable rates, most domestic violence is mutual, women are as controlling as men, domestic violence by men and women is correlated with essentially the same risk factors, and male and female perpetrators are motivated for similar reasons.

“Although research confirms that women are more impacted by domestic violence,” stated Hamel, “these findings recommend important intervention and policy changes, including a need to pay more attention to female-perpetrated violence, mutual abuse, and the needs of male victims.”

From all the resources cited so far, this is the picture of domestic violence that I have:

  1. In terms of severity of victimization (i.e. injuries), domestic violence seems to affect women somewhat more than men, but not overwhelmingly more.

  2. In terms of frequency of victimization, many studies suggest that domestic violence does not affect women more than men, but if it does then it's still somewhat more and not overwhelmingly more (e.g. men are still 24%-40% of victims).

  3. Support, recognition, and acceptance of male victims of domestic violence is severely lacking considering the amount they're affected by it.

Murray Straus, professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, expands on the lack of acceptance of male victims. He examined 12 surveys used to gather data on domestic violence and found that 10 of them only reported assaults from men. “[T]he exclusive focus on male perpetrators and the exclusive focus on just one of the many causes” has hindered “the effort to end domestic violence”, he argues [12]. Straus also remarks on a time in 2005 when the National Institute of Justice invited grant proposals to investigate domestic violence, but stated that studies invovling male victims were not eligible to receive funding [13].

Consider the case of Earl Silverman, who tried (and failed) to get resources from the government to run his shelter for male victims of domestic violence [14].

The man who created Canada’s only shelter dedicated solely to male victims of domestic violence died on Friday of an apparent suicide.

The day after he packed up his recently sold home — also the site of the Men’s Alternative Safe House — Earl Silverman was found hanging in his garage.

Mr. Silverman closed his shelter last month, saying he could no longer afford its upkeep. He long sought funding from provincial and federal governments to help run his hybrid shelter and home, but believed he was always refused because the space was dedicated to helping male victims and their children. He said he was unable to pay for heat and grocery bills.

The possibility of a male victim of domestic violence being arrested as if he were instead the abuser comes from policies like the “predominant aggressor doctrine” [15] (34 states are listed by the Battered Women's Justice Project as having such policies [16]).

Under the predominant aggressor doctrine, when police officers respond to a domestic disturbance call, they are instructed not to focus on who attacked whom and who inflicted the injuries, but instead consider different factors which will almost always weigh against men. These factors include: comparable size; comparable strength; the person allegedly least likely to be afraid; who has access to or control of family resources (i.e., who makes more money); and others. Given these factors, it is very difficult for officers to arrest female offenders.

If you're wondering what a case of domestic violence against a man looks like, here's one man's story [17].

Simon* is one man who understands the consequences of abuse better than most. For most of his 17-year marriage, this 47-year-old was subjected to domestic abuse from his wife, from having hot drinks poured over him to dinner plates smashed over his head.

While his wife was never physically violent towards their three children, she would often attack him in front of them.

“I didn’t think of it as domestic violence and I think that’s often true for male victims,” he says now. “You put it down to mood swings. There was also the pressure of thinking that if I walked away, I might get a raw deal when it came to custody of the children.

“One day, though, my youngest child replicated her behaviour. They came into the kitchen and smashed a plate over my head – I got really angry, shouted and I remember them looking so shocked. They didn’t realise it was wrong because this is what they had seen their parents doing. I wondered whether I was really protecting any of them.”


“But as a boy, growing up, I was always told that boys don’t hit girls. That was the most important thing. It didn’t matter how I was provoked, I would just never do that. So I would let her anger burn out rather than ever retaliate.”

Another man's experience, from the same article:

Ian McNicholl, 52, is another male survivor of domestic abuse. He was subjected to a 14-month ordeal by his ex-partner which saw her pour boiling water over him, put out cigarette butts on his face and genitals and attack him with a hammer.

He still bears the physical and psychological scars from that relationship, and needed his septum replaced after his ex assaulted him with a metal bar. The police became involved after McNicholl confided in a neighbour that suicide was the only way he could see out of the relationship.

[1] (“Institutional Resistance to Acknowledging Intimate Male Abuse” by Eugen Lupri)

[2] (“Beyond Duluth: A Broad Spectrum of Treatment for a Broad Spectrum of Domestic Violence” by Johnna Rizza)

[3] (National Post article “Barbara Kay: Our male-victimizing myths live on”)

[4] (BBC article “Is violence more common in same-sex relationships?”)

[5] ("The Helpseeking Experiences of Men Who Sustain Intimate Partner Violence: An Overlooked Population and Implications for Practice" by Emily Douglas and Denise Hines)

[6] ("Nonfatal Domestic Violence, 2003–2012" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics)

[7] ("2012 Personal Safety Survey", section "Experience of Partner Violene", from the Australian Bureau of Statistics)

[8] (The Guardian article "More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals")

[9] ("Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12" from the Office for National Statistics)

[10] ("References examining sssaults by women on their spouses or male partners: an annotated bibliography" by Martin S. Fiebert)

[11] (“Unprecedented Domestic Violence Study Affirms Need to Recognize Male Victims” press release at PRWeb)

[12] (“Processes Explaining the Concealment and Distortion of Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence” by Murray A. Straus)

[13] ("Thirty Years of Denying the Evidence on Gender Symmetry in Partner Violence: Implications for Prevention and Treatment" by Murray A. Straus)

[14] (National Post article "Man who ran Canada’s only shelter dedicated solely to male victims of domestic abuse dies in apparent suicide")

[15] (Washington Times article “NOW's complaint over Tebow ad heard loud and clear in police departments”)

[16] (“Primary Aggressor Statutes” from the Battered Women's Justice Project)

[17] (The Telegraph article "‘I’m a big, strapping bloke. Who would believe I was a victim of domestic abuse?’")

7. Precarious manhood [Return]

Overview: Manhood and womanhood refer to one's gender-specific status as an adult man or woman (respectively), and they're tied to respect and value. Research has suggested that these two concepts are seen quite differently, with manhood being defined more by social proof and womanhood coming instead more from biological markers. The result is that womanhood is seen more as an inherent property of an adult woman, while manhood is "elusive and tenuous", meaning that it is "difficult to earn and easy to lose". This is why it's more common to talk about what makes a man a "real man", while it seems less natural to question whether a woman is a "real woman".

More detail: Anecdotally, I really only see the "real woman" language used in the context of transgender women, who are biologically male but who identify as women (often going on hormones and having sexual reassignment surgery). It's much more common to question their status as "real women".

Examples/evidence: The 2008 article "Precarious Manhood" by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and the University of South Florida in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looks at five studes that show this [1]. The abstract:

The authors report 5 studies that demonstrate that manhood, in contrast to womanhood, is seen as a precarious state requiring continual social proof and validation. Because of this precariousness, they argue that men feel especially threatened by challenges to their masculinity. Certain male-typed behaviors, such as physical aggression, may result from this anxiety. Studies 1–3 document a robust belief in (a) the precarious nature of manhood relative to womanhood and (b) the idea that manhood is defined more by social proof than by biological markers. Study 4 demonstrates that when the precarious nature of manhood is made salient through feedback indicating gender-atypical performance, men experience heightened feelings of threat, whereas similar negative gender feedback has no effect on women. Study 5 suggests that threatening manhood (but not womanhood) activates physically aggressive thoughts.

They note that this is not an absolute, and that a woman's status as an adult of her gender isn't completely divorced from her actions (e.g. the "motherhood mandate", which expects women to have and care for children).

Although we do not deny that a violation of the motherhood mandate can pose a challenge to a woman’s status, we argue that manhood can be threatened more easily than womanhood and through a wider range of transgressions. Furthermore, a woman’s actions may damage her reputation and that of her family, and she may be deemed a “bad” woman, but these shortcomings will not usually threaten her (socially constructed) status as a woman as easily as a man’s actions can threaten his (socially constructed) status as a man. Thus, our argument is one of degrees rather than absolutes.


Women who do not live up to cultural standards of femininity may be punished, rejected, or viewed as “unlady-like,” but rarely will their very status as women be questioned in the same way as men’s status often is.

A ScienceDaily article on a later study quotes one of the researchers who says that men are mostly to blame [2] (although anecdotally looking at all the times when I've seen this happen, I do not have the impression that women only play a minor role in this).

Interestingly, people tend to feel manhood is defined by achievements, not biology. Womanhood, on the other hand, is seen primarily as a biological state. So manhood can be "lost" through social transgressions, whereas womanhood is "lost" only by physical changes, such as menopause.

Who judges manhood so stringently? "Women are not the main punishers of gender role violations," says Bosson. Other men are.

Bosson says that this area of research gives psychological evidence to sociological and political theories calling gender a social, not a biological, phenomenon. And it begins to demonstrate the negative effects of gender on men -- depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or violence.

[1] ("Precarious Manhood" by Joseph A. Vandello, Jennifer K. Bosson, Dov Cohen, Rochelle M. Burnaford, and Jonathan R. Weaver)

[2] (ScienceDaily article "Think it's easy to be macho? Psychologists show how 'precarious' manhood is")

Section 5: Harmful gender politics

1. The "men are oppressors, women are oppressed" world-view [Return]

Overview: Although I try to set aside questions of gender politics in this document, some elements of gender politics are themselves issues for men. This means they need to be included in a list of men's issues that aims to be comprehensive. In particular I'm talking about one model of gender relations based on an "oppressor/oppressed" dichotomy. This view is argued for by many authors, activists, and theorists. Here is a summary (actual examples given further down):

"Men as a class have power over women as a class. Men use their power to privilege themselves and to exploit, oppress, and dominate women. As a result, women suffer rampant sexism and gender-based hardships. There are some ways that men are hurt in this system, but they're much less serious than the ways women are hurt, and they only come as a side-effect of men's power, misogyny, and oppression of women, rather than anything specifically targeted at them for being men."

This view is problematic because it takes men and women (two incredibly diverse groups of people) and reduces/simplifies them down to two internally-cohesive entities. For men, this is an entity that has power and privilege, and for women an entity that is powerless and oppressed. This glosses over the numerous ways that men can be disadvantaged or powerless on account of their gender. This view also paints men and women as locked in some sort of power struggle where women are fighting to gain their liberation and men are fighting to maintain their privilege, which encourages an "us vs. them" gender war attitude.

In the rest of this entry I look at five specific beliefs that commonly go together in this "oppressor/oppressed" model of gender relations. I provide examples of people arguing for these ideas and I explain why the ideas are wrong (and harmful to men).


  1. "Men as a group have power"

  2. "Life as a woman is much worse than life as a man"

  3. "Men as a group bear most of the responsibility for gender issues"

  4. "Sexism against men doesn't exist or doesn't matter"

  5. "Any issues that men have are just side-effects of women's issues"

1a. "Men as a group have power"

Examples: According to University of Michigan legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, "women/men is a distinction not just of difference, but of power and powerlessness…. Power/powerlessness is the sex difference" [1]. Joseph Pleck (professor of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois) calls women an "underclass" [2]. Author and academic Michael Kaufman says "the world of men is ... a world of power" [3].

In a world dominated by men, the world of men is, by definition, a world of power. That power is a structured part of our economies and systems of political and social organization; it forms part of the core of religion, family, forms of play, and intellectual life.

The FinallyFeminism101 FAQ uses the term "institutional power" for what men are said to have [4]

A running theme in a lot of feminist theory is that of institutional power: men as a class have it, women as a class don’t.

Arguments against: The most common argument for why "men have power" is that there are more men than women in the top positions of power (among politicians and business executives). A possible conclusion from this is that power (at least the political/economic kind) is more commonly held by men, but this does not mean that "men have power". This is because politicians and business executives are a small, small minority of men. The fact that a small minority in a group has a trait is not proof that the group as a whole has that trait.

This is not to say that the demographic traits of those in power don't matter, or that it's not desirable for the political class to have a similar demographic make-up to the general population. However, it is an overstatement to say that sharing a demographic trait with powerful people automatically gives you power too. For example, old people and Jewish people are also disproportionately common in positions of political power [5]. This doesn't give power to old people as a group, or Jewish people as a group.

In addition, even though there are more male politicians than female politicians, these politicians are elected as representatives of the population, and each individual man has the same influence as each individual woman: one vote. And in fact, if we do want to talk about groups then it's actually the case that women make up a majority of the voting population. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, 71.4 million women and 61.6 million men reported voting in the 2012 U.S. elections [7]. That's almost 10 million more votes from women than men. I wouldn't take this and conclude that "women have power", but it is a point against the idea that "men have power".

And finally, men aren't just more common in the top positions of power. They're also more common the bottom positions of powerlessness, or at least many of them (as seen on this page: homeless, drug addicts, prisoners, etc.). If the bottom 1% isn't considered representative of men as a whole then the top 1% shouldn't be either.

The claim of "male power" actually made more sense in the past, when women were expected to obey men (subject to social class restrictions). This was a tangible, concrete way that men (including regular men) had power over women. This no longer exists (at least not in mainstream Western culture), and thus it no longer seems appropriate to say that "men have power" for the Western world.

Harmful effect on men: By painting men as having much more power than they actually have, this view makes it more difficult to recognize the multitude of ways that men can feel or be vulnurable and powerless (e.g. in the family court system). It biases us towards seeing men as the agents in any situation, and women as those acted upon by others.

[1] (cited on the "Feminist Perspectives on Power" page from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, originally from MacKinnon's 1987 book Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law)

[2] (“Understanding Patriarchy and Men’s Power” by Joseph Pleck)

[3] ("Men, Feminism, and Men's Contradictory Experiences of Power" by Michael Kaufman)

[4] (FinallyFeminism101 page "FAQ: What is 'sexism'?")

[5] Median age of American governors is 61 years, but median age of the population is 37 years Jewish people make up ~2% of the American population, but 5% of the House of Representatives and 12% of the Senate

[6] (FBI 2012 Hate Crime Statistics page “Incidents and Offenses”)

[7] (Center for American Women and Politics fact sheet) -- "In every presidential election since 1980, the proportion of eligible female adults who voted has exceeded the proportion of eligible male adults who voted ... The number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters in every presidential election since 1964"

1b. "Life as a woman is much worse than life as a man"

Examples: Author John Scalzi wrote a popular article on how being a straight white man is like playing life on easy mode [1]. (Gender, race, and sexual orientation are separate, and I'm only interested in challenging his claims about gender.) Another example of this sentiment comes from a popular one-sided take on the concept of gender-based privilege. In this view, male privilege is extensive but female privilege either isn't a thing at all (argued by the FeministFAQ on FinallyFeminism101 [2]) or that if it exists, it absolutely pales in comparison to male privilege. The second position is argued by Kaimipono Wenger (of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law) on the blog Feminist Law Professors [3]:

Female privilege, if it exists, is a ragtag combination of consolation prizes to keep the women quiet and content in a system which subordinates them.

Lea Anderson at Luna Luna Magazine makes some provocative claims regarding men's (supposed) overwhelming advantage [4].

We exist in a patriarchal society. Men, at every turn, have far more opportunities than women, enjoy far more freedoms, and work half as hard for the same amount of success.

Arguments against: Many people treat it as self-evident fact that life as a woman is much worse than life as a man, but this usually relies on an incomplete picture of the issues facing men. Take the examples given in the Feminist Law Professors article comparing male privilege and female privilege.

Door number one is membership in a group with a 90%+ chance of being on the Supreme Court, a 100% chance of being President, a 90% chance of being CEO or major business leader, an overwhelming majority in generals and scientists and the wealthy and powerful. Door number two is membership in a group that gets free drinks on Thursday, draft immunity, occasional compliments about being pretty, and affirmation and validation about the importance of the feminine role. No one in their right mind would choose Door Number Two.

Women getting "free drinks on Thursdays" is indeed a relatively minor advantage, but getting 4-5 years extra in life expectancy is not. Getting a significantly shorter sentence for the same crime is not, either. Mentioning free drinks and leaving those other things out is painting an incomplete picture of men's issues. This paragraph also uses a generous interpretation of men's advantage, which can be seen in the wording of the first sentence. Notice how it talks about the group having a 90% chance of being on the Supreme Court. A group doesn't hold positions on the Supreme Court---individual people (who are part of a group) do.

What are the average man's chances of being on the Supreme Court? Slightly higher than the average woman's chances, but still miniscule. And the difference isn't even as big as he portrays it. Instead of 90% men, the Supreme court is 67% men in the United States (6 men, 3 women [5]) and 56% men in Canada (5 men, 4 women [6]) as of 2015/04/17. His numbers are more accurate for other things like president and CEOs, but he still words it in a way that implies these positions are held by groups rather than individuals, and he leaves out many other percentages that show male disadvantage (like men making up 80-90% of the unsheltered homeless, 95% of the prisoners, etc.).

My argument here is not that there aren't real disadvantages to being a woman, only that they don't seem to be magnitudes worse than the disadvantages to being a man. At the very least, the answer to "who has it better?" is "it depends where you are in life". Accused of a crime, and hoping to not get a long sentence? Probably better off as a woman. Trying to make it to the top of the business world? Probably better off as a man.

The notion that neither gender is that much worse off overall is backed up by the OECD Better Life Index, which measures population well-being. It has different numbers based on gender, and overall the numbers are quite similar: men are at 7.4 and women at 7.6 across various Western countries [7]. (There are some disparities in individual categories, though. Women have a noticeable disadvantage in jobs, while men have a noticeable disadvantage in health and education.)

Gender Fra. Ger. UK USA Net. Swe. Can. Aus. Mean
Men 6.7 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 7.4
Women 6.8 7.2 7.4 7.9 7.3 8.1 8.0 8.1 7.6

Harmful effect on men: Seeing gender disadvantage as something that happens exclusively (or almost exclusively) to women discourages people from actually doing anything about areas where men are doing worse. In the eyes of many people (e.g. John Scalzi), talking about the issues men face is as absurd as talking about the issues white people or straight people face. It's true that the disadvantages to being white or straight are few and far between, but gender does not cleanly map onto race or sexual orientation where only one side faces serious issues.

In fact many men's issues (more likely to be the victims of homicide, lower life expectancy, and harsher sentences for the same crime in the justice system) are also issues faced by black people and many other racial minorities. Ignoring this and treating people who talk about men's issues as the equivalent of "white people whining about facing racism" means ignoring many real (and very serious) problems.

[1] (John Scalzi blog post "Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is")

[2] (FinallyFeminism101 page "FAQ: Don’t women have 'female privilege'?")

[3] (Feminist Law Professors post "On female privilege")

[4] (Luna Luna post "Reasons your concept of female privilege is bullshit")

[5] (Supreme Court of the United States page "Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court")

[6] (Supreme Court of Canada page "The current Judges")

[7] (OECD Better Life Index)

1c. "Men as a group bear most of the responsibility for gender issues"

Examples: Joseph Pleck provides a view that clearly blames men for the gender-based ills that exist [1].

Patriarchy is a dual system, a system in which men oppress women, and in which men oppress themselves and each other.

Bell hooks presents a similar opinion in Understanding Patriarchy [2].

Male oppression of women cannot be excused by the recognition that there are ways men are hurt by rigid sexist roles. Feminist activists should acknowledge that hurt, and work to change it—it exists. It does not erase or lessen male responsibility for supporting and perpetuating their power under patriarchy to exploit and oppress women in a manner far more grievous than the serious psychological stress and emotional pain caused by male conformity to rigid sexist role patterns.

She paints a paticularly severe picture of how men act to women in her book Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics (page ix):

In return for all the goodies men receive from patriarchy, they are required to dominate women, to exploit and oppress us, using violence if they must to keep patriarchy intact. Most men find it difficult to be patriarchs. Most men are disturbed by hatred and fear of women, by male violence against women, even the men who perpetuate this violence. But they fear letting go of the benefits.

The common saying “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” (i.e. not challenged) is a specific example of idea that women's issues are caused by male power and male oppression of women [3].

Arguments against: The general idea that men bear most of the responsibility for gender issues relies on the idea that men have power. In the first sub-section I made many points that are relevant here, including that an individual man has no greater influence over political decisions than an average woman does (since they both have just one vote), and that overall there are actually more votes cast by women than men. (To be clear, I don't have any intention of turning around the "blame men" rhetoric and instead saying "blame women".)

The saying “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” deserves particular attention. First of all, opposition to abortion is only marginally higher among men (43% compared to 40% in the United States [4]). In addition, policies and rulings on male reproductive rights are certainly no more permissive [5].

Though abortion is controversial, few believe that women should be compelled to bear and be responsible for children who were conceived as a result of a criminal act, such as a sexual assault. Yet numerous courts have ruled that boys must be held responsible for the children they involuntarily fathered in their early teens as a result of a criminal act--statutory rape by an adult woman.

For example, in 2004 a Michigan appeals court ruled that a man who had conceived a child with an adult when he was 14 must pay her child support. Though the court acknowledged that the sex act which produced the child would have been a crime under state law, they decided that the case should be resolved "without regard to the fault of either of the parents."

This suggests that the attempts to reduce/eliminate access to abortion do not come specifically from "male power and male oppression of women".

Harmful effect on men: Blaming an ethnic group or a religious group for a disproportionate amount of society's ills encourages hostility towards that group, and it's no different when we put a disproportionate amount of blame on one gender. Robin Morgan, editor of Ms. Magazine and co-founder of the Women’s Media Center with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, is one example: "I feel that ‘man-hating’ is an honorable and viable political act, that the oppressed have a right to class-hatred against the class that is oppressing them" [6].

[1] (“Understanding Patriarchy and Men’s Power” by Joseph Pleck)

[2] (Understanding Patriarchy by bell hooks)

[3] (“The Humanist Interview with Gloria Steinem”)

[4] (Pew Research Center for the People & The Press page "More Support for Gun Rights, Gay Marriage than in 2008 or 2004"), (The New York Times article "The Abortion Stereotype")

[5] (Huffington Post article “If Men Got Pregnant, Would Abortion Be Legal?”)

[6] (Wikiquote page for Robin Morgan)

1d. "Sexism against men doesn't exist or doesn't matter"

Examples: Feminist Frequency (Anita Sarkeesian's popular website and video series focusing on the portrayal of women in video games) summarizes [1].

There’s no such thing as sexism against men. That's because sexism is prejudice + power. Men are the dominant gender with power in society.

The FinallyFeminism101 FAQ backs this up [2]. (I agree with them that "reverse sexism" does not make sense as a term, although unlike them I still think it's sexism.)

No matter what definition of sexism you’re starting with, 'reverse sexism' is an invalid claim to make. If you go strictly by the dictionary definition, then a woman being prejudiced against a man is simply 'sexism', no 'reverse' needed. If you go by the feminist definition, sexism is predicated on having institutional power over a group, and since women do not have that power, they cannot be sexists, reverse or otherwise.

Arguments against: The argument for why sexism against men doesn't exist or doesn't matter is usually that men's supposed power protects them from harm. This is difficult to believe when considered in light of the fact that many men's issues on this page that do have a real effect on men. Men's "power" doesn't protect them from the bias against them in the justice system, nor does it protect them from making up a most of the homeless population.

Those cases show us that men's "power" doesn't protect them from sexism harming their material well-being. What about their mental well-being? The effects of sexism against men can be especially damaging to young boys especially. One BBC article cites research from the University of Kent that found such effects in local schoolchildren [3].

Girls believe they are cleverer, better behaved and try harder than boys from the age of four, research suggests. By the age of eight, boys had also adopted these perceptions, the study from the University of Kent found. Researchers questioned 238 children in two Kent primary schools. They warn the stereotypes could become a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Remember too that the argument for why "men have power" can also be used to say "old people have power" and "Jewish people have power". If we are to also apply the logic regarding sexism to those two groups then we would have to say that ageism against old people and racism against Jewish people either don't exist or don't have any effect due to the "power" of these groups. This logic doesn't make sense when applied to those groups, which helps show why it doesn't make sense when applied to men.

Harmful effect on men: Denying the effect of sexism against men means that instances of sexism against men receive less outcry and are generally allowed to be more blatant. The Wall Street Journal is the largest newspaper in the United States by circulation [4], and yet it published an essay seriously arguing that women are superior and that men are biologically defective women [5]. This would be recognized as hate speech if targeted at women or racial minorities, but targeted at men it resulted in no major controversy. Here are some excerpts:

Research has found that women are superior to men in most ways that will count in the future, and it isn’t just a matter of culture or upbringing—although both play their roles. It is also biology and the aspects of thought and feeling shaped by biology. It is because of chromosomes, genes, hormones and brain circuits.


We must give up the illusion of sameness between the sexes. The mammalian body plan is basically female. The reason males exist is that a gene on the Y chromosome derails the basic genetic plan. It causes testes to form, and they produce testosterone while suppressing female development.

Testosterone goes to the brain in late prenatal life and prepares the hypothalamus and amygdala for a lifetime of physical aggression and a kind of sexual drive that is detached from affection and throws caution to the winds. (I know, not all men, but way too many.) By contrast, almost all women, protected from that hormonal assault, have brains that take care of business without this kind of distracting and destructive delirium.

[1] (Feminist Frequency @femfreq tweet)

[2] (FinallyFeminism101 post “FAQ: Aren’t feminists just sexists towards men?”)

[4] (Wikipedia page "List of newspapers in the United States by circulation")

[5] (The Wall Street Journal essay "A Better World, Run by Women")

1e. "Any issues that men have are just side-effects of women's issues"

Examples: Author and academic Michael Kaufman (cited previously) describes men's issues as the "price" they pay for their power [1].

Men enjoy social power, many forms of privilege, and a sense of often-unconscious entitlement by virtue of being male. But the way we have set up that world of power causes immense pain, isolation, and alienation not only for women, but also for men. This is not to equate men’s pain with the systemic and systematic forms of women’s oppression. Rather, it is to say that men’s worldly power – as we sit in our homes or walk the street, apply ourselves at work or march through history – comes with a price for us.

The article on the blog Feminist Law Professors called "On female privilege" (also cited previously) provides various quotes that go through men's issues and claim that they're really just side-effects of misogyny [2].

Just about anything that can be put forth as so-called female privilege has roots in misogyny.

Commonly Cited Female Privilege: When custody arrangements are made during a divorce, rarely does a woman have to fight for the right to be with her children.

Misogynist Roots: Women have always been considered the primary caretakers of children, and are pressured from every side to do so to the point where men who are observed publicly tending to their own children are often asked if they’re “babysitting” them until their wife gets home. If men and women were equally considered to be caretakers, custody arrangements would more than likely be equally considered.

Here's an article from The New Yorker about women being more likely to get away with crime (which is relevant for the gender gap in sentencing in the criminal justice system). The idea offered is that that associating criminality with malehood is actually sexist against women [3].

The detection of crime, as MacFarquhar notes, is “one of the most stubborn redoubts of male chauvinism.” Women have fought to undo the patriarchal notions of gentle femininity that in the past have excluded them from suffrage, employment, and combat roles in the military. But in the criminal-justice system, they may still be construed as lacking in the moral and physical agency that is necessary to carry out a violent crime.

The FinallyFeminism101 FAQ describes traditional military policies towards women (not forcing them to fight, but also not letting them fight) as sexism against women because they say that women are weak and need to be protected [4].

Arguments against: The idea is that while men might be hurt in some ways under the current system, it's never caused by negative attitudes against men or anything else targeted at them for being men. Instead, this hurt only happens as a side-effect of something else, like their own power and privilege, or the misogyny women face. In essence, men's issues exist only as side-effects of women's issues.

The problem with this type of thinking can be seen from the fact that it can easily be flipped around and applied to women's issues. Instead of saying "yes, men have a harder time getting custody of their children after a divorce, but it's only a side-effect of the fact that we expect women to care for children", we could instead say "yes, we expect women to care for children, but it's only a side-effect of the fact that we see men as bad parents".

The reason either statement can be made is that men's and women's issues are often (though not always) two sides of the same coin. However by doing this, all we're doing is choosing one side of the coin as the "real side" and insisting on its primacy over the other side. This reduces the toolbox of concepts that we can use for understanding phenomena. If we have to try to understand men's issues using female-focused concepts like misogyny or male power (which work for understanding women's issues) but without male-focused concepts like misandry and male disposability then we're severely limiting ourselves.

Let's take a closer look at the FinallyFeminism101 FAQ page cited above. It examines various arguments in favour of the traditional policies that excepted (but also excluded) women from fighting in war, and explains why they are really just sexist against women. One argument for these policies that it presents is that "[i]t's worse when women die or suffer hardship than when men die or suffer hardship". That idea is textbook male disposability (previously explained here), but the FAQ entry has another interpretation:

This argument (that women’s lives are more valuable than men’s) does, on the surface, appear to privilege women. But in fact it’s putting women in a gilded cage (much like chivalry). If it wasn’t used, as in situations like these, to deny women rights and privileges that men have and women want then perhaps there would be a case for it being a privilege for women to be considered “more valuable”. As it stands, it’s just a more flowery way of saying women are weak and need to be protected.

To paraphrase, this is saying that what looks like male disposability is not actually a phenomenon in its own right. Rather, it is the side-effect of the phenomenon of seeing women as weak. Can we really look at the idea that women's lives are more valuable than men's and see only misogyny there? Probably not. It is true that there's some overlap between things that look like attitudes of male disposability and things that look like attitudes of female fragility, but importantly there isn't complete overlap. For example, in vehicular homicide cases, drivers who kill women receive 56% longer sentences. This can be explained by male disposability (caring less when men are hurt), but it can't be explained by pointing to female fragility---any gender-based strength (physical or mental, real or assumed) was irrelevant for the victim. Since male disposability exists independently of female fragility here (and in other possible examples), it's hard to say that it's not really its own phenomenon.

In addition, there are plenty of other groups that suffer an attitude of disposability without being a side-effect of weakness (real or perceived) in another group. The attitude of disposability towards racial minorities is not just a side-effect of seeing white people as weak, for example. To be completely clear, my argument in this section is not that attitudes of female fragility aren't part of the story in the traditional "women are exempt from fighting in war, but also excluded" policies. My point is only that they aren't the whole story.

Harmful effect on men: This leads to the idea of "trickle down equality". If men's issues are just side-effects of women's issues rather than real issues on their own, then we can put most/all of our focus on women's issues because solving them will be solving men's issues. This is used to justify setting men's issues aside and not doing anything (or doing very little) about them.

[1] ("Men, Feminism, and Men's Contradictory Experiences of Power" by Michael Kaufman)

[2] (Feminist Law Professors post "On female privilege")

[3] (The New Yorker article "Did a Murderer in Waiting Go Undetected Because She Was a Woman?")

[4] (FinallyFeminism101 FAQ page "Feminism Friday: Addressing claims of 'female privilege' – The Military")

2. A hyper-critical attitude towards men [Return]

Overview: The overly-severe and antagonistic view of gender relations from the last section has resulted in a slew of terms aimed at being specifically critical of men's thoughts/behaviour like “mansplaining”, “manspreading”, “male privilege”, “male entitlement”, “toxic masculinity”, “male narcissism”, “check your privilege” (which is used to ask men to reflect on their biases, but not women), “manslamming”, “manterrupting”, “manstanding”, and “bropropriating”. Women do not seem to receive this same critical treatment (at least from this section of society).

More detail: This isn't to say that there aren't people out there who are critical about women in these (or comparable) ways. For example, blogger Matt Forney has a post where he talks about “female solipsism” (or “extreme egocentrism”) and how “modern society encourages women to be selfish and solipsistic” (in his view, men can be the same way “but the crucial difference is that male solipsism isn’t encouraged by society and pop culture”) [1]. This is pretty similar to how author bell hooks talks about men (in Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics, page 70):

We do know that patriarchal masculinity encourages men to be pathologically narcissistic, infantile, and psychologically dependent on the privileges (however relative) that they receive simply for having been born male.

The difference, however, is that this female-specific criticism happens on websites like Forney's blog (the 60,638th ranked website in the United States, according to Alexa analytics on 2015/1/26) and the blog/website Return of Kings (#7,106 in the U.S.), which he also writes for. The male-specific criticism (examples given in the next section) happens on websites like Alternet (#1,141 in the U.S.), Salon (#350 in the U.S.), and Jezebel (#233 in the U.S.). The male-specific criticism is much more mainstream.

Of course, it is possible that society encourages (or tolerates) certain bad behaviours more in one gender than the other, and that as a result this one gender exhibits this bad behaviour more often. However when I see people/outlets only finding these faults in one gender (which is men, at least for the more mainstream outlets), it suggests to me that they're only looking for them in that gender.

Examples/evidence: One example of the hyper-critical language and attitude is the Jezebel article on “male narcissism” [2]. The response to the 2014 Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger provides many other examples, like a Feminist Current article on “male entitlement” [3], a Salon article on “toxic male entitlement” [4], and an AlterNet article on “Aggrieved White Male Entitlement Syndrome” [5]. “Manterrupting”, “manstanding”, and “bropropriating” can be seen in the TIME article “How Not to Be 'Manterrupted' in Meetings” [6]. Could you imagine any of these outlets writing articles on “female narcissism” or “female entitlement”?

Here's Warren Farrell talking about the decade of his life that he spent in the women's movement (from The Myth of Male Power, introduction):

Then one day (in one of those rare moments of internal security) I asked myself whether whatever impact I might have had was a positive one; I wondered if the reason so many more women than men listened to me was because I had been listening to women but not listening to men. I reviewed some of the tapes from among the hundreds of women's and men's groups I had started. I heard myself. When women criticized men, I called it "insight," "assertiveness," "women's liberation," "independence," or "high self-esteem." When men criticized women, I called it "sexism," "male chauvinism," "defensiveness," "rationalizing," and "backlash." I did it politely-but the men got the point. Soon the men were no longer expressing their feelings. Then I criticized the men for not expressing their feelings!

[1] (“The Eternal Solipsism of the Female Mind” by Matt Forney)

[2] (Jezebel article “Political Sex Scandals Are Rooted In Male Narcissism”)

[3] (Feminist Current article “Male entitlement begets male entitlement: On Elliot Rodger, misogyny, and the sex industry”)

[4] (Salon article “Elliot Rodger’s fatal menace: How toxic male entitlement devalues women’s and men’s lives”)

[5] (AlterNet article “The Santa Barbara Mass Shooting, Elliot Rodger, and Aggrieved White Male Entitlement Syndrome”)

[6] (TIME article “How Not to Be 'Manterrupted' in Meetings”)

3. Hostility to acknowledging/addressing men's issues [Return]

Overview: It's certainly not the case that desire to address men's issues exists in abudance but is just being stifled by ideologues. Our society has rather little awareness that men's issues and negative attitudes towards men exist, and this is probably the biggest obstacle to actually addressing them. However it is important to note that many of the efforts to spread awareness of men's issues or address them are met with actual hostility by those who believe in the overly-severe and antagonistic view of gender relations where women's issues must come first.

More detail: From my experience, the one major exception to this is men's issues that can be explained by misogyny and negative attitudes towards women (e.g. insulting a man by comparing him to a woman). These are accepted much more easily than men's issues that can't as easily be explained as really being women's issues at their core.

Examples/evidence: The first example comes from Simon Fraser University near Vancouver, where the women's centre opposed efforts to create a comparable men's centre (which was to be given the same funding). The idea behind the men's centre was to address men's issues like suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, and negative stereotypes, but the women's centre opposed it by insisting that “the men's centre is everywhere else” (despite the fact that those men's issues certainly aren't being addressed “everywhere else”). Instead they offered a rather spiteful alternative [1]:

The website lists support for the idea of a “male allies project” that would “bring self-identified men together to talk about masculinity and its harmful effects.” Masculinity, it says, “denigrates women by making them into sexual objects, is homophobic, encourages violence, and discourages emotional expression.”

The second example comes from an incident at the University of Toronto. When author Warren Farrell went to give a talk on the boys' crisis (addressing topics like boys dropping out of school and committing suicide at higher rates), the response from many was not as warm as one would hope. In fact it was downright hostile [2]:

But instead of letting free thought prevail, agitators barricaded the doors, harassed attendees, pulled fire alarms, chanted curses at speakers and more. Police had to get involved. On a related note, the University of Toronto Student Union — funded by student levies to represent all students — held a town hall on shutting down men’s rights events on campus. Some attendees reportedly wanted to expose where men’s rights advocates lived and worked. Other student unions have since moved to ban the creation of men’s groups and one student group called for physical confrontation.

The involvement of the student union leadership in the hostile response is noteworthy [3].

“We recognize that they [the men’s issues awareness movement] are really messed up … men are at a point of privilege, so we need to recognize privilege and become an ally [of women’s rights],” said Guled Arale, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union vice-president, external during a speech about 20 minutes before the event was scheduled to start.

The third example comes from Ryerson University, which is also in Toronto. Three students (one man and two women) decided to start a club dedicated to men's issues. They were blocked by the Ryerson Students' Union, which associated the men's issues club with supposed “anti-women's rights groups” and called the idea that it's even possible to be sexist against men an “oppressive concept” [4]:

There’s been a lot of work across campuses not only in Ontario but also across the country that have been working sort of [as] anti-women’s rights groups. We want to acknowledge that the additions that we added here are regarding the ideas of misandry and reverse-sexism, both of which are oppressive concepts that aim to delegitimize the equity work that women’s movements work to do.

A fourth example comes from an event at the University of Ottawa [5].

Janice Fiamengo, who teaches in the English literature department, tried to give a public lecture on men’s issues, equality and rape culture at the university on March 28. But as shown in an hour-long YouTube video, she was repeatedly interrupted by a group of about 30 students shouting and blasting horns.

Representatives from the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), which organized the talk, tried to quell the crowd, but they eventually called security. The talk was moved to another room, but somebody pulled the fire alarm, which effectively shut it down.

A fifth example comes from Oberlin College in Ohio, where various students had invited equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers (known for her individualist/libertarian perspective on gender) to give a talk. Sommers is a controversial figure for the fact that she talks about men's issues and argues that many of the higher estimates of the prevalence of rape are based on bad statistics. Instead of debating against her in a civil manner, many activists hung posters up identifying those who invited her (by their full names) as "supporters of rape culture" [6]. While many of them talked about "feeling unsafe" with Sommers on campus [7], ironically they did something that could reasonably make the students who invited Sommers feel unsafe.

A sixth example comes from Durham University in England. A student, affected by the suicide of a close male friend, tried to open up the Durham University Male Human Rights Society: "[i]t’s incredible how much stigma there is against male weakness. Men’s issues are deemed unimportant, so I decided to start a society". The idea was rejected by the Societies Committee as it was deemed "controversial". He was told he could only have a men's group as a branch of the Feminist Society group on campus [8].

Example number seven comes from Saint Paul University (part of the University of Ottawa) on September 24th, 2015. Journalist Cathy Young gave a talk that included topics including gender politics on university campuses, GamerGate, the tendency to neglect men's issues in society, and the focus on the victimization of women (in the areas of sexual violence and cyberbullying). She was met by masked protestors who called her "rape apologist scum" and interrputed the event by pulling the fire alarm [9].

[1] (Globe and Mail article “A men’s centre at Simon Fraser University raises questions”)

[2] (Toronto Sun article “For some, feminism no longer about equality”)

[3] (The Varsity article “Arrest, assaults overshadow 'men’s issues' lecture”)

[4] (Globe and Mail article “Ryerson Students’ Union blocks men’s issues group”), (A Voice for Men article “Ryerson Student Union denies misandry”)

[5] (Metro News article "Protesters shut down U of O professor’s men’s rights talk")

[6] (Reason article "Oberlin Activists Posted Creepy Messages Accusing Specific Students of Perpetuating Rape Culture")

[7] (The Washington Post article "Where and when did this 'makes me feel unsafe' thing start?")

[8] (The Telegraph article "Why are our universities blocking men's societies?")

[9] (The College Fix article "Campus speaker touting men’s rights has fire alarm pulled on her")

Section 6: Other men's issues

This section covers any issues or negative attitudes facing men that don't cleanly fit into any previous section.

1. The pedestal and one-sided lessons on respect [Return]

Overview: From spending time as a moderator of a men's forum (/r/AskMen on reddit) it's become quite clear to me that many men have a strong habit of putting women on a pedestal and seeing them as these amazing, special, magical creatures. This is especially common among younger men (teens and early 20s). Generally it results in low self-esteem (they see themselves as unworthy) as well as a lack of ability to stand up for themselves.

It seems to be related to them receiving one-sided messages regarding respect. In many places in the Western world, men grow up hearing seemingly unending messages of how they need to “respect women”, “respect women”, and them “respect women” some more. These are rarely accompanied with messages telling them of the respect they deserve too, either from women or from themselves. These one-sided messages are amplified when relationships are explicitly the subject; overwhelmingly more often the message is “treat her like a princess”. Almost never is it “you deserve to be treated like a prince”.

More detail: The messages to “respect women” and "treat her like a princess" come from people who are worried about the possibility of men treating women badly. Unfortunately they aren't as concerened about the possibility of men being treated badly by women, so they don't feel the need to teach men that they deserve respect too (which would help them stand up for themselves in the face of bad, disrespectful, or abusive behaviour). The difference in concern comes from the perception that in relationships men are generally much worse to women than women are to men. Is that actually the case?

Examples/evidence: The Liz Claiborne 2006 Teen Relationship Abuse Survey gives us insight into whether treating a partner badly really is unidirectional. It turns out that this doesn't seem to be the case, at least for this segment of the population [1].

“Power and control actions” (actual experiences by gender) Male Exp. Female Exp.
“Asked whom you were with all the time” 32% 39%
“Asked where you were all the time” 31% 35%
“Tried to tell you what to do a lot” 33% 31%
“Asked you to only spend time with him/her” 24% 24%
“Tried to prevent you from spending time with family or friends” 22% 21%

If men aren't worse to women than women are to men, why are we so much more concerned with men treating women badly than women treating men badly? Interestingly, there is evidence to believe that the same behaviour is more likely to be seen as abusive if a man does it than if a woman does it.

To show this, one study sent out a survey to practicing psychologists asking them to give their opinion on whether certain behaviours constituted psychological abuse [2]. First, 1,000 psychologists received a version of the survey where the behaviours were said to be husband-to-wife. Around one year later, 1,000 different psychologists received a survey with almost the same list of behaviours but this time said to be wife-to-husband. Both groups of psychologists were very similar demographically (in gender, median age, and race).

Strikingly, the version of the survey (i.e. the gender of the hypothetical abuser) had a significant effect on the likelihood of the behaviour to be considered psychologically abusive for almost one half (43/100) of the behaviours surveyed. Of these, all but one involved men being more likely to be considered abusive than women. I recommend actually reading the study for more detail, but I've provided in the table below a handful of the 43 behaviours where gender had a significant effect. The Husband→Wife and Wife→Husband columns both have the percentage of “yes”, “maybe”, and “no” answers to the question of whether this behaviour counts as psychological abuse.

Results indicated that psychologists, irrespective of demographics, rated the husband's behaviour as more likely to be psychologically abusive and more severe in nature than the wife's use of the same actions.

Potentially abusive behaviour Husband→Wife (Y-M-N) Wife→Husband (Y-M-N)
Made decisions about spouse's appearance 63% - 32% - 5% 13% - 56% - 31%
Would not let spouse go anywhere without him/her 88% - 10% - 2% 66% - 27% - 7%
Decided what spouse could eat 78% - 18% - 4% 37% - 43% - 20%
Kept spouse from self-improvement activities 71% - 25% - 4% 49% - 40% - 11%
Monitored spouse to know where s/he was 66% - 27% - 7% 35% - 45% - 20%
Checked spouse's belongings to confirm suspicion 61% - 33% - 6% 31% - 53% - 16%
Chose spouse's friends 77% - 20% - 3% 42% - 42% - 16%

If this bias exists even among trained and experienced psychologists, I wouldn't be surprised if it's even worse among the general population.

I've provided a few more examples of the one-sided messages on respect and treatment in the form of some snapshops of “respect women” campaigns (although often this message is just spread informally).

[1] (Liz Claiborne Inc. Topline Findings Teen Relationship Abuse Survey 2006)

[2] (“Psychologists' judgments of psychologically aggressive actions when perpetrated by a husband versus a wife” by Diane R Follingstad, Dana D Dehart, and Eric P Green)

2. Hostile reactions to men showing weakness [Return]

Overview: Men expressing any significant amount of mental/emotional weakness or vulnurability can experience a gender-specific response from other people of disgust, dismissal, and ridicule. Stereotypically this involves other men (especially those with more traditionalist attitudes to gender) telling him to “man up”, or perhaps calling him a “whiner” or a “pussy”.

Traditionalist men are certainly common sources of hostility towards men showing weakness, but it's also prevalent from women and progressives of both genders (although the language is sometimes different; calling him a “whiner” and a “pussy” might be replaced by calling him a “whiner” and a “cry-baby”, and saying to him “check your privilege, your problem is nothing compared to what women go through”).

The general dislike of men showing weakness is one of the reasons men trying to bring attention to men's issues often receive scorn (and sometimes hateful mocking) from both traditionalists and progressives. Both sides of society are still stuck with the "men should suck it up and stop complaining" attitude (even though "complaining", bringing attention to these as societal problems, is necessary to fix them).

More detail: There's nothing unreasonable with encouraging strength over weakness because strength is a great ideal to strive for. You should be trying to deal with your minor issues without too much fuss, but expecting to deal with everything on your own without support from others is often unrealistic, and sometimes downright dangerous (keep in mind the gender disparity in addiction and suicide).

Think about it as if you were an athlete. If you can't learn how to deal with the soreness, fatigue, and general discomfort of training and competing, you're not going to go far. But if your response to a real problem (like an injury) is to ignore it, you're putting yourself at a risk.

Examples/evidence: The story of MIT professor Scott Aaronson was mentioned in a previous section. He made a blog post where he opened up about the troubles he had as a teenager and young adult where he had internalized a lot of the negative attitudes towards male sexuality that exist in our society (like that male sexuality is predatory and always coloured with the chance of sexual assault). This resulted in bad self-esteem and difficulty interacting with women. He attributed a large part of this to the depiction of the connection between men and sexual assault in feminist literature and campaigns, although he was clear that he was still “97% on board with the program of feminism”.

Prominent blogger/writer Amanda Marcotte responded to Aaronson's piece by mocking him in an article titled “MIT professor explains: The real oppression is having to learn to talk to women” [1]. She called his post a “yalp of entitlement combined with an aggressive unwillingness to accept that women are human beings just like men”. Her response to what he wrote can be summarized with the picture that she decided to include at the top of her article, which I've included below.

(If you're interested, I encourage you to actually read his post and then her response to draw your own conclusions about whether her reaction was reasonable.)

The following is an interview with Brené Brown, who researches vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. The interesting part is when she realized that hostility to men showing weakness doesn't just come from other men [2].

What Brown also discovered in the course of her research is that, contrary to her early assumptions, men's shame is not primarily inflicted by other men. Instead, it is the women in their lives who tend to be repelled when men show the chinks in their armor.

"Most women pledge allegiance to this idea that women can explore their emotions, break down, fall apart—and it's healthy," Brown said. "But guys are not allowed to fall apart." Ironically, she explained, men are often pressured to open up and talk about their feelings, and they are criticized for being emotionally walled-off; but if they get too real, they are met with revulsion. She recalled the first time she realized that she had been complicit in the shaming: "Holy Shit!" she said. "I am the patriarchy!"

[1] (“MIT professor explains: The real oppression is having to learn to talk to women” by Amanda Marcotte)

[2] (The Atlantic article “'Messages of Shame Are Organized Around Gender'”)

3. Paternity fraud [Return]

Overview: Paternity fraud involves a man being wrongfully named as the biological father of a child. The actual numbers for how common it is are hotly debated, but even ignoring the disputed higher rates (like 10%) leaves us with a reasonable, conservative estimate of 2-4%. Considering the gravity of what paternity fraud means for a man (being deceived into investing a large portion of his life in both time and money into a child that is not actually his), even this “small” percentage warrants at least something to be done about it. Consider that there are 70 million fathers in the United States [1]; if for simplicity we assume that they only have one child each, this leaves 1.4-2.8 million men as victims of paternity fraud.

More detail: There are three main problems to identify. First, little is being done to avoid paternity fraud, and in many cases there are policies and practices that stop men from finding out that they've been the victims of it. Second, it's often the case that men who find out that they're not the father after some time has passed are still expected to pay child support for the child that is not actually theirs. And third, when the problem of paternity fraud is brought up, it's often downplayed and men are told that they shouldn't care whether they're actually the father.

If you're a woman, imagine that 2-4% of babies in the hospital were switched between mothers soon after birth. Your response probably wouldn't be “oh well, biology doesn't really matter, as long as I have a child I'm happy”. You'd want something done to ensure that you have your own child! Interestingly, cases of swapped babies do get taken quite seriously; consider the hospital swap in France that resulted in a court awarding a two million euro payout [2].

Paternity fraud is a sensitive topic for a lot of people (especially women) because it's easy to assume that raising the issue of paternity fraud as I've done here must come from some gender-specific distrust (or even hatred) of women. That's unfortunate, because the reality is that people sometimes do bad things. Since women are people, they're capable of bad things too. This just happens to be something that, for biological reasons, is much harder for a man to do to a woman than for a woman to do to a man.

One suggestion to fix the issue is for hospitals to add paternity testing to the slate of medical tests performed on a child at birth. A more moderate implementation of this is to have paternity testing included as a policy before any child support is ordered. For most couples none of this will have an effect, but for 2-4% this will allow the man to avoid being deceived. (Actually, having paternity tests be the norm would probably significant reduce the prevalence of it, since people would know that they couldn't get away with it.)

Examples/evidence: A safe, conservative estimate of paternity fraud in the general population is 2-4%. The 2005 paper “Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences” looked at 17 studies and found a median of 3.7% (although the lowest report was 0.8% and the highest was 30%) [3]. A paper from 2008 surveyed previous studies and found a median of 2.1% [4].

These numbers apply to the general population. In certain sub-groups of the population, paternity fraud is more or less common; notably, rates are higher among people of low socioeconomic status (according to the 2005 paper). In addition, a Slate article interviews a researcher who notes that rates vary considerably depending on whether the father has any suspicions that he is the victim of paternity fraud [5].

The study of false fatherhood, or nonpaternity, has turned up a wide variety of answers. University of Oklahoma anthropologist Kermyt Anderson says that measured rates of nonpaternity vary quite dramatically depending on the group of people being tested. Among those men who are quite confident of their status as biological fathers—the ones who volunteer their families for genetic studies of inheritance, for example—Anderson found a rate of nonpaternity of roughly 1.7 percent. At minimum, he says, 1 in 60 dads raises children that don't belong to him.

Anderson also went through data from companies that make their money testing for paternity. The men who send off DNA for these commercial tests presumably have cause to be suspicious. These men should have the highest incidence of nonpaternity, Anderson says. When he checked the research on this population, he found a median rate of close to 30 percent.

As for policies and practices put in place to stop men who've been deceived find out about it, the article notes that “[i]n the last few decades, the medical establishment has decided that these findings [of nonpaternity during routine testing, like if the blood type of the baby could not have come from the father] should be concealed, to protect the mother's privacy and avoid unnecessary harm”. Note that this is being seen as an issue of the mother's privacy, not the man's livelihood or dignity. And according to a page from DNA testing company International Biosciences, paternity tests are actually illegal in France to preserve peace in French families [6]. (The actual text of the law, in French, bans the act of finding the identity of someone through DNA profiling, with exceptions for fallen soldiers, medical/scientific purposes, and court orders [7].)

If those samples were found in the post by officials on their way to foreign laboratories, the French men who sent them could theoretically face a year in prison and a 15,000 Euro fine. This year the ban was challenged but the French Government decided to uphold and maintain the anti-paternity testing law.

The reasons for which the Government said the ban should remain were related to the preservation of peace within French families. [...] French psychologists suggest that fatherhood is determined by society not by biology.

The given justification for the ban on paternity testing is idea that fatherhood is determined by society, not biology. This is a common theme among those who downplay the issue of paternity fraud. The logical response is, of course, that this is up to the man to decide. If he wants to (in-effect) “adopt” his partner's kid as his own then that's fine (many people do), but deceiving him and taking away his choice is an awful act.

Consider some of the anti-paternity-testing articles like this one from The Spectator, written by a woman who laments that “the one thing that women had going for them has been taken away, the one respect in which they had the last laugh over their husbands and lovers” and calls DNA tests “an anti-feminist appliance of science” [8].

Many men have, of course, ended up raising children who were not genetically their own, but really, does it matter? You can feel quite as much tenderness for a child you mistakenly think to be yours as for one who is.


But in making paternity conditional on a test rather than the say-so of the mother, it has removed from women a powerful instrument of choice. I’m not sure that many people are much happier for it.

Hugo Schwyzer, former gender studies instructor (and writer for Jezebel and The Atlantic), wrote an article where he criticized the fear of paternity fraud from the father's rights movement, saying that “it’s telling as well that their definition of 'father' is so fragile, so contingent, so limited, and so utterly narcissistic” [9]. In another article he talks about casually dating a woman named Jill who got pregnant; neither knew whether it was his child or if it belonged to the other man she had sex with in the same week (and who she started dating seriously soon after). They decided to assume that it was the other man's and not tell him that it might not be [10].

The strange thing about much of the anti-paternity-testing literature that I've seen is that when they discuss cases of paternity fraud, they're so much more critical of the men who don't want to pay to support another man's child (that they were deceived into believing was their own) than they are of the women who deceived their partner in such an intimate and devastating way in the first place. Consider the article “Who's the father? Rethinking the moral 'crime' of 'paternity fraud'”, published in the journal Women's Studies International Forum [11]. It's critical of men who pursue paternity tests “not to satisfy a disinterested pursuit of the truth” but in hopes of getting out of obligations to children (as if not wanting to pay for another man's child was wrong), and yet for women the tone switches to excusing and justifying their behaviour: “However, a necessary caveat to this conclusion (that mothers are morally culpable in such situations for failing to disclose discrepant paternity or paternity uncertainty) arises from cases where disclosure puts a woman or her child at risk of violence.”

As a final point, while jurisdictions and rulings vary, many of them do continue to expect child support from men who've used DNA testing to prove that they aren't the child's father, as long as at one point they they believed that they were the father and had previously acted in a fatherly role or paid child support [12]

Over the last decade, the number of paternity tests taken every year jumped 64 percent, to more than 400,000. That figure counts only a subset of tests — those that are admissible in court and thus require an unbiased tester and a documented chain of possession from test site to lab. Other tests are conducted by men who, like Mike, buy kits from the Internet or at the corner Rite Aid, swab the inside of their cheeks and that of their putative child’s and mail the samples to a lab. Of course, the men who take the tests already question their paternity, and for about 30 percent of them, their hunch is right. Yet as troubled as many of them might be by that news, they are even more stunned to discover that many judges find it irrelevant. State statutes and case law vary widely, but most judges conclude that these men must continue to raise their children — or at least pay support — no matter what their DNA says. The scientific advance that was supposed to offer clarity instead reveals just how murky society’s notions of fatherhood actually are.

One case, from the book Legalizing Misandry (chapter 6):

As one father, paying $1,400 a month for a child whom he has never met and who was the result of his wife’s adultery, put it, “I can get out of jail for murder based on DNA evidence, but I can’t [use DNA evidence to] get out of child support payments.” Meanwhile, financially strapped, he and his new wife and their three children live with his in-laws, and he has lost his driver’s license for missing support payments

[1] (United States Census Bereau page "How Many Fathers?")

[2] (BBC article "French baby swap: Two million euro payout")

[3] (“Measuring paternal discrepancy and its public health consequences” by Mark A. Bellis, Karen Hughes, Sara Hughes, and John R. Ashton)

[4] (“Recent decline in nonpaternity rates: a cross-temporal meta-analysis” by M. Voracek, T. Haubner, and M.L. Fisher)

[5] (Slate article “Who's Your Daddy? The perils of personal genomics”)

[6] (International Biosciences page “Paternity Testing Ban Upheld in France”)

[7] and (Légifrance page “Code pénal - Article 226-28”)

[8] (The Spectator article “Who’s the daddy?”)

[9] (“'Cuckolding is the worst thing that can happen to a man'” by Hugo Schwyzer)

[10] (“I May Have a Son, but I’ll Never Know for Sure” by Hugo Schwyzer)

[11] (“Who's the father? Rethinking the moral 'crime' of 'paternity fraud'” by Leslie Cannold)

[12] (The New York Times article “Who Knew I Was Not the Father?”)

4. Overuse of the word "creep" [Return]

Overview: Some words (like "slut") are almost exclusively used on women. Other words (like "creep"/"creepy") are almost exclusively used on men. The "ideal" usage of the word "creep" is someone who's threatening in their sexuality, for example someone who hits on you and won't take "no" for an answer, someone who follows you home, or someone who gropes you on a bus. This usage is what gives the term a lot of weight, as this is obviously very bad behaviour. The problem is that the word can also be used for anything that makes someone (usually a woman) the least bit uncomfortable, even if it's something as innocent as a guy hitting on her who she finds awkward and unattractive. Even when used for such innocent behaviour it still has a lot of weight due to its association with actual threatening behaviour.

The problem here is that we give men the dating role where for all practical purposes they have to make moves (approach, ask for a number, ask on a date, etc.) based on imperfect knowledge of the woman's interest, and then when they inevitably get it wrong some of the time, it's considered quite acceptable to socially shame them for that (with words that imply that they're threatening in their sexuality). This is also problematic because it creates a connection in people's minds between unattractiveness and being threatening.

(Of course you don't have to enjoy being hit on by people you find awkward or unattractive, but you should treat them with civility and empathy. If he knew that you weren't interested then he probably wouldn't have hit on you in the first place, but he can't read your mind.)

More detail: Discussions of the word "creepy" are often polarizing. Some insist that use of the word on men simply for being awkward or unattractive is just a myth, while others dismiss the existence of legitimately creepy actions and legitimate uses of the word. From what I've seen personally, both legitimate uses and illegitimate uses are common.

In terms of its usage it's most comparable to the word "crazy", which seems to be used on women more often than men. It has a lot of weight due to the many legitimate reasons a person could be called crazy, but at the same time you can use it on someone (again, usually a woman) for relatively minor "infractions" and it still carries a lot of weight. I'm sure many women can relate to the feeling that the word "crazy" is often thrown around without giving thought to the full weight of the word. If people could have more empathy before calling a woman "crazy" or a man "creepy" think I think the dating world would be a better place.

Examples/evidence: The idea that unattractiveness leads to uncomfortableness which in turn leads to feeling threatened is actually quite sad. Consider this story from a black man with a skin condition (which causes his skin to peel away in flakes leaving areas of discoloured skin) who spends a lot of time in coffee shops [1]:

I’m a creep.

I know this because people — mostly but not always random strangers — tell me so. What sort of creep is significant, I think. I’m not the catcaller or the leerer, the public masturbator or the stalker. These deviants are creeps by choice; they live the creep lifestyle. Instead, I’m just a dude who looks the part, and it’s amazing how much that affects my life.


A group of teenagers who otherwise are comfortable enough sitting near me will mumble comments like “yuck” or “gross” or, significantly in this case, “creepy” — as though I’m not clearly within earshot.


I don’t mean to validate the creep label. It’s a word meant to pigeonhole someone’s existence. It is also a variation of the word freak in a world where the culture of other-ism that birthed that particular designation is no longer considered moral. While the word freak heaps sin on its user, the word creep has the advantage of allowing its wielder to blame the victim. A creep is a mugger, chat-room victimizer or necrophiliac in waiting. Evidence of such isn’t necessary. The creep’s nature can be discerned from his (it is an overwhelmingly masculine label) appearance and mannerisms. To do so isn’t cruel or prejudiced: by labeling the creep a creep, you’re victimizing the creep before the creep can victimize you.

Here's a post from a female reddit user who emphasizes that the word can be useful but notes that the misuse actually detracts from this [2].

On the one hand, I like that there is a term that has weight, that women can use to call men out on their behaviour. It's good that being called a creep is harsh. It needs to be harsh to do it's job.

And i don't think it's comparable to slut shaming, in the sense that there's not really anything wrong with being a "slut", but there's something wrong in genuinely being a creep.

However the term is abused. It's often used by women to shame men who unattractive, or just minorly socially awkward. It's overused by some women, and wrongly applied to some men.

I get that where and how someone may feel their boundaries have been crossed can be very subjective. But I don't like that it seems like women want the right to use it with impunity. If you use it inappropriately, you deserve to be called out on it.

If you want it to maintain it's weight, don't just throw it around for minor social infractions. It's not fair on the men in question, either. Objectively, some women use it as a shaming technique. I think we need to acknowledge that this happens.

She goes on:

It's easy for us to dismiss the concept of creep shaming because it is something we don't do. I don't think that's the whole truth of the situation though, because those who abuse it make it an issue overall.

A male user replies:

The "creep-shaming" is why I am terrified to approach a woman. I don't want to deal with that.

[1] (The New York Times article "Diary of a Creep")

[2] (post by reddit user sehrah on /r/AskWomen)

5. High school dropout rates [Return]

Overview: Although the gender gap for high school dropout rates is not as extreme as it is for things like suicide and homelessness, boys are still noticeably more likely to drop out of school.

More detail: The issue of gender disadvantage in education is a contentious one. Christina Hoff Sommers has a book The War Against Boys where she argues that boys are doing worse in education (more-or-less) across the board, although some disagree. In addition to her book, she has an article on The Atlantic where she presents her perspective [1].

Data from the U.S. Department of Education and from several recent university studies show that far from being shy and demoralized, today's girls outshine boys. They get better grades. They have higher educational aspirations. They follow more-rigorous academic programs and participate in advanced-placement classes at higher rates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, slightly more girls than boys enroll in high-level math and science courses. Girls, allegedly timorous and lacking in confidence, now outnumber boys in student government, in honor societies, on school newspapers, and in debating clubs. Only in sports are boys ahead, and women's groups are targeting the sports gap with a vengeance. Girls read more books. They outperform boys on tests for artistic and musical ability. More girls than boys study abroad. More join the Peace Corps. At the same time, more boys than girls are suspended from school. More are held back and more drop out.

I'm just going to focus on dropout rates, which is one area where boys are doing worse that is (to my knowledge) uncontested.

Examples/evidence: The event dropout rate in the United States during the 2009-10 academic year for grades 9-12 was 3.8% for boys and 2.9% of girls, according to the U.S. Department of Education [2]. The extent of the gender gaps varied by state, but boys were more likely to drop out in all of them [3]. The status dropout rate (calculated differently, which is why the numbers are higher) in 2008 for the United States from the National Center for Education Statistics is provided below [4]. Interestingly, while boys are more likely to drop out for whites, Hispanics, American Indians, and overall, the dropout rates for girls were higher for blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders. (The estimate for people of two or more races was described as "unstable", marked with exclamation marks.)

The data from Canada also show a gender gap in dropout rates [5].

[1] ("The War Against Boys" by Christina Hoff Sommers)

[2] ("Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009-10" from the U.S. Department of Education)

[3] (Providence Business News article "High school dropout gender gap highest in R.I., Conn.")

[4] ("Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972–2008" from the National Center for Education Statistics)

[5] ("Learning - School Drop-outs" from Employment and Social Development Canada)

6. Negative portrayals of men in media/culture [Return]

Overview: The issue of how women are portrayed in media/culture is currently a hot topic. Fair points have been made about how women are more likely to be portrayed as passive or helpless (e.g. needing a man to save them), but it's important to recognize that men also face many negative stereotypes, portrayals, and tropes too. From some research cited below: "[m]en were predominantly reported or portrayed in mass media as villains, aggressors, perverts and philanderers, with more than 75 per cent of all mass media representations of men and male identity showing men in on one of these four ways". As a society we're questioning the predominance of men in hero roles, but we're not questioning the predominance of men in villain roles.

More detail: It's unrealistic to expect any group to always be portrayed positively. In both reality and in fiction, people have flaws and people sometimes do bad things. Any individual instance of a man being portayed negatively is not a problem, but broader trends regarding how men are portrayed shound be identified and questioned, as they are for women. These trends both reflect our attitudes toward gender and reinforce them.

Examples/evidence: Jim Macnamara did his PhD research at the University of Western Sydney on men's portrayal in the media and found it to be quite negative.

As part of the study, he undertook an extensive content analysis of mass media portrayals of men and male identity focusing on news, features, current affairs, talk shows and lifestyle media. Over six months, the study involved detailed analysis of over 2,000 media articles and program segments.

Dr Macnamara found that, by volume, 69 per cent of mass media reporting and commentary on men was unfavourable, compared with just 12 per cent favourable and 19 per cent neutral or balanced.

Some of the recurring themes in media content portrayed men as violent, sexually abusive, unable to be trusted with children, 'deadbeat dads', commitment phobic and in need of 're-construction'.

"Men were predominantly reported or portrayed in mass media as villains, aggressors, perverts and philanderers, with more than 75 per cent of all mass media representations of men and male identity showing men in on one of these four ways," Dr Macnamara says.

Further, in somewhat of a back-handed compliment, when positive portrayals of men as sensitive, emotional or caring were presented, these were described as men's and boys' 'feminine side.'

He explains some of the ramifications of this:

"Highly negative views of men and male identity provide little by way of positive role models for boys to find out what it means to be a man and gives boys little basis for self-esteem."

"In the current environment where there is an identified lack of positive male role models in the physical world through absentee fathers in many families, and a shortage of male teachers, the lack of positive role models in the media and presence of overwhelmingly negative images should be of concern."

He's also written a book called Media and Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men that is based on his research.

Here's a personal story from a woman who wrote an article called "Raising a Feminist Son in the Princess Culture" [2].

A week ago [my son] snuggled into me and proclaimed, “boys are not nice.” I asked him which boy and he told me ALL boys. All boys are not nice. They are mean.

He was right. In almost every “girl triumphs” story there is a slew of “mean boys.” Or there are boys that have to be told to be kind.

I asked my son if it worried him that main character was a girl — and that the heroines of the movie were both girls. “No,” he replied. “It’s just the way things are. Girls are better than boys.”

[1] (University of Western Sydney news archives page "Men become the main target in the new gender wars")

[2] ("Raising a Feminist Son in the Princess Culture" on

7. Employment discrimination against men [Return]

Overview: Employment discrimination against men happens in various different sectors for different reasons, whether it's a service industry position that prefers women due to the belief that customers prefer interacting with women, or a government/academic position that prefers women for political reasons.

More detail: This isn't to deny that women can also suffer employment discrimination, but there's generally more awareness that such discrimination exists. Fewer people know (or care) about employment discrimination against men.

Examples/evidence: The service industry seems particularly bad for this. One example comes from Park City, Utah [1].

In an unusual twist, a national restaurant chain is facing a civil rights lawsuit for discriminating against male job candidates.

Ruby Tuesday, the ubiquitous chain of suburban family restaurants, is being sued by the government on behalf of male employees who were excluded from a “lucrative” temporary work assignment because they were male, according to the lawsuit.

What perhaps is most surprising about the case is that Ruby Tuesday was pretty upfront about wanting only women to apply for the positions, which would have meant an opportunity to earn extra money in a busy resort town, with housing provided by Ruby Tuesday.


The company was seeking to fill seasonal bartender and server positions at its Park City, Utah, location with “an explicit and exclusive preference for female applicants,” according to court documents. In the end, Ruby Tuesday hired seven women and no men for the 2013 summer jobs.

The second example is a study that looked at university job positions in biology, economics, engineering, and psychology and found a clear bias in favour of women.

When hundreds of U.S. college faculty members rated junior scientists based on scholarly record, job interview performance and other information with an eye toward which should be hired, they preferred women over identically qualified men two-to-one, scientists reported on Monday. [2]

The only evidence of bias the authors discovered was in favor of women; faculty in all four disciplines preferred female applicants to male candidates, with the exception of male economists, who showed no gender preference. [3]

Janice Fiamengo (professor of English at the University of Ottawa) talks about her experiences in the Canadian university system with regard to hiring biases (subtle or not) against men (and other groups deemed to not contribute to "diversity") [4].

Next came the creation of a shortlist of three or four candidates for interview; some members of the department were keen to stack the list with members of the diversity groups. To this end, there was much sophistry about why a (white) male candidate’s book with a prestigious university press was really no better than — was actually perhaps a bit inferior to — a female candidate’s single article with an academic journal of no repute; or about why a (white) male candidate’s expertise in highly competitive Shakespeare studies was no better than — was actually far less original than — a female candidate’s untested, largely speculative work on an obscure seventeenth-century woman playwright. Thus were well-qualified white men kept out of the competition. Moments of levity occasionally occurred when we were forced into elaborate interpretative dances to determine if a male candidate might be black or Asian or gay, though usually the savvy candidate made that clear in his cover letter.

At the hiring stage, there was the same special pleading. Poor presentations by women candidates were praised as “provocatively unorthodox” or “strategically unconventional” while polished ones by men were criticized as “safe” or “unoriginal.” Women’s mistakes could be overlooked or seen as strengths (“I like that she was courageous enough to present on material that she is still working through”) while men’s mistakes were definitive (“I’m shocked that he could be finishing a PhD and still not know that [minor detail”]). One male candidate who had given the best demonstration class I’d ever seen was criticized by our leading feminist professor — presumably because she could find no other faults — for having never visited England to do archival work, a criticism the poverty-conscious lady would almost certainly never have made of a struggling single-mother candidate. That a man might have life circumstances preventing him from travel seemed not to have occurred to her.

Many employers actually have official quotas that mandate hiring a certain percentage of women regardless of the talent pool. Interestingly, one study found that both genders are actually less likely to apply to such positions, with ~25% of men and 13% of women saying they would be less likely to apply. There are other unintended consequences for women, on top of the gender discrimination against men [5].

First, when offered a job in the presence of a gender quota, female respondents were 18% more likely to attribute their success to preferential treatment rather than to their own merit. Second, when another woman was offered a job instead of the respondent at the firm with the gender quota, female respondents were 20% and male respondents 29% more likely to stigmatize that woman as incompetent, attributing her success to gender and preferential treatment rather than merit.

[1] (The Washington Post article "Ruby Tuesday accused of employment discrimination. Against men.")

[2] (Reuters article "Academics rate women job applicants higher than identical men: study")

[3] (Cornell Chronicle "Women preferred 2:1 over men for STEM faculty positions")

[4] ("Manufacturing Racism: Academic Hiring and the Diversity Mandate" by Janice Fiamengo)

[5] (Forbes article "Gender Quotas in Hiring Drive Away Both Women and Men")

Section 7: The interaction between gender and race [Return]

Many men's issues interact with issues facing racial minorities to create a "perfect storm" for minority men, leaving them affected by a particular issue more than people of any other race/gender combination. In this section I give a quick overview of some areas where this is the case, both by bringing attention to points mentioned in previous sections and with new information.

Perhaps the most striking statistic illustrating this comes from a New York Times article called "1.5 Million Missing Black Men" [1]. This refers to the number of black men "missing" from everyday life in the United States, mostly due to incarceration and early death.

Many people look at the issues facing minority men and see them solely as issues concerning race, but race is only part of the story. Take homelessness or incarceration; if these were purely issues of race, we'd see as many black women in prison and on the streets as black men, but that's not the case.

Life expectancy: Numbers on life expectancy from Denver, Colorado show stark effects of both race and gender [2]. At the very bottom we have black men, and at the very top we have white women. The gap between them is more than 10 years. Interestingly, white men and black women (who both have one trait giving an advantage and one a disadvantage in life expectancy) are at a similar place.

Ethnicity Male Female
Black 70.8 77.2
Hispanic 75.3 81.6
White 76.2 82.0

Justice system bias and mass incarceration: David B. Mustard's study on sentencing bias in the justice system (cited in the section on the criminal justice system) found that "blacks, males, and offenders with low levels of education and income receive substantially longer sentences" (with other factors like type of crime and criminal history controlled for).

This is one contributing factor behind the mass incarceration of black men in the United States. The following table (data from 2010) shows that for every 100,000 black men, 4,347 are incarcerated. Compare this to 91 per 100,000 for white women [3]. A black man is 48 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white woman.

Ethnicity Male Female
White 678 91
Black 4,347 260
Hispanic 1,775 133
Total 1,352 126

Homelessness: The document "Current Statistics on the Prevalence and Characteristics of People Experiencing Homelessness in the United States" (cited in the section on homelessness) mentions data from Philadelphia and New York City showing that those experiencing chronical homeleness are overwhelmingly male and black. In New York City, 92.9% were Black and 82.3% were male. In Philadelphia, 92.9% were Black and 71.1% were male.

Stereotypes: Many of the negative stereotypes of men apply doubly so to men who are racial minorities. While men in general are often stereotyped as dangerous, minority men are especially targeted by this stereotype, for example [4].

There has always been a tradition in the U.S. of demonizing the black (or Latino or Chinese or Jewish) male, and depicting him as violent, rebellious, stupid/incompetent/lazy, sexually predatory, and so on. When you see how the gender variable operates in that case, you can easily apply it in other circumstances—men in general tend to be the ones depicted, not least by other men, as more violent, incompetent, predatory, and the like.

[1] (New York Times article "1.5 Million Missing Black Men")

[2] ("Life Expectancy by Gender and Race/Ethnicity (years), Denver, 2007-2012")

[3] ("Correctional Populations in the United States, 2010" from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs)

[4] (The Atlantic article "It's Not a Contradiction for Men to Discriminate Against Other Men")

Section 8: Further reading [Return]

Men's issues advocacy is certainly not limited to the internet. Its offline/academic clout can't compare to that of feminism or the broader women's movement (seeing as most universities have women's studies programs, or gender studies programs where “gender” means “women”), but it does have a real-world presence.

The Second Sexism: Discrimination Against Men and Boys

(by David Benatar: professor of philosophy and head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa)

David Benatar's 2012 book is a more comprehensive and detailed general introduction to men's issues than this current crash course, which makes it a great next-step for those interested in these topics. In chapter 2 it addresses many of the issues mentioned here but in more detail (as well as certain issues not listed here, like policies/practices of harsher application of corporal punishment towards boys/men, and male prisoners being given less protection from invasions of bodily privacy than female prisoners). It also does an excellent job of explaining the seriousness of these issues and the effect that they have on men. Chapter 3 looks at the causes of men's issues on a broad level, including male disposability and various beliefs about men. Chapter 4 returns to the individual issues to examine the causes on a case-by-case basis, with the goal of showing that many of them are the result of wrongful discrimination (i.e. that the beliefs/attitudes sustaining them are not justified).

Chapter 5 is the highlight of this book, at least for those who are already relatively knowledgeable on men's issues. It provides a very thorough examination of (and rebuttal to) the most common methods used to deny or dismiss men's issues. It looks at the inversion argument (“the argument that instances of discrimination against men are instead forms of discrimination against women”), the costs-of-dominance argument (that any male disadvantages are merely “by-products of a dominant position and thus not evidence of discrimination against males”), the distraction argument (that any attention given to men's issues is bad because it distracts us from women's issues), and the defining discrimination method (i.e. defining discrimination and sexism such that men cannot experience them, thus shutting down any conversation about discrimination/sexism against men). Chapter 6 argues against preference-based (as opposed to equal opportunity) affirmative action, for either men or women, and chapter 7 concludes by looking at a few remaining questions.

One recurring theme of the book is that even within the same area (e.g. sexual assault, or education) it's possible for men to be disadvantaged in some ways and women disadvantaged in other ways. Indeed throughout the book he's very willing to accept the existence of women's disadvantage/discrimation too. Another strength of this book is that Benatar is very thorough and precise with his arguments (likely related to him being a philosopher), although not to the point of being unreasonably dense or difficult to read.

The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex

(by Warren Farrell: activist, men's movement icon, former member of the board of directors of the National Organization for Women in New York City, and former professor)

Although Farrell's 1993 book (a men's movement classic) references many of the same issues mentioned more recently here and in David Benatar's The Second Sexism, Farrell provides unique awareness that makes his book entirely worth reading as well. Specifically he gives an interesting and insightful rethinking of men's relation to power; his central thesis is that power is more practically defined as "control over one's life", and that under this definition there are numerous gender-specific ways that men lack power.

For example, the fact that men overall make more money than women is often described as oppression of women. Farrell is certainly open to seeing how this can hurt women, but he also notes that the other side to this is that there is a certain obligation for men that they earn more money. Being expected to support women and provide for them leaves men less able to prioritize fulfillment over income in their studies and career. According to Farrell, power is not "the obligation to earn money so that someone else can spend it".

In The Myth of Male Power I look at how we have taken women's traditional area of sacrifice - raising children - and called it "sacrifice," while we have taken men's area of sacrifice - raising money - and called it "power."

Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream - and Why It Matters

(by Helen Smith: psychologist specializing in forensic issues and men's issues)

This book focuses on the effect of men's issues on individual men. Much of the book is personal and anecdotal; the author talks to men in real life and online about their experiences and thoughts regarding marriage, the educational system, interacting with children, etc. She also includes many of her own observations on how our culture treats men. Some of her generalizations are provocative (and perhaps lacking in nuance) but you can see that she has a deep empathy for men and she's right about a lot of what she talks about.

I especially like her commentary on how men's issues (like declining interest in marriage, a major focus of her book) are portrayed in the media. Rarely do people focus on the man's point of view and give a critical look at what marriage means for a man and what it has to offer to men. Instead the media is generally either highly critical of men (calling them "man-children" and talking about how they need to grow up) or they focus on why it's a bad thing for women that men are less interested in marriage. As she puts it, "[t]hey treat men more like resources that haven’t been extracted yet, rather than human beings who make rational decisions". Instead of responding to a low interest in marriage among men by asking "what's wrong with men today?", she suggests that we should be asking "what's wrong with marriage today?".

Media and Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men

(by J.R. Macnamara, adjunct professor in public communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia)

Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men

(by Roy F. Baumeister: professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

(by Norah Vincent: writer who has had columns on, The Advocate, the Los Angeles Times, and the Village Voice)

Spreading Misandry, Legalizing Misandry, & Sanctifying Misandry

(by Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson: both professors of religious studies at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Gendercide and Genocide

(edited by Adam Jones: professor of political science at University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada)". Instead of responding to a low interest in marriage among men by asking "what's wrong with men today?", she suggests that we should be asking "what's wrong with marriage today?".

Media and Male Identity: The Making and Remaking of Men

(by J.R. Macnamara, adjunct professor in public communication at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia)

Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men

(by Roy F. Baumeister: professor of psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, USA)

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

(by Norah Vincent: writer who has had columns on, The Advocate, the Los Angeles Times, and the Village Voice)

Spreading Misandry, Legalizing Misandry, & Sanctifying Misandry

(by Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson: both professors of religious studies at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada)

Gendercide and Genocide

(edited by Adam Jones: professor of political science at University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada)