ME(N) TOO: part 3
How the Problem Emerges from Male Disposability
*Trigger Warning: This article deals with the difficult subjects of sex trafficking and domestic abuse. Though it is never explicit or graphic in its language, if you are a victim of such abuse, I suggest you read this with a friend you trust, as some parts of it may be triggering.
In Part 1 of this four-part series, we explored some of the facts behind how boys and men are silently suffering from the same problems that are widely thought to be “women’s only” problems—focusing particularly on domestic abuse and sex trafficking. Though they suffer in many of the same ways as women, our culture marginalizes male victims and refuses them help. In Part 2, we explored how our culture’s definitions of masculinity contribute to this marginalization. We acknowledged how both conservatives and liberals have co-created and co-maintained this problem. In this part of the series, we will further the arguments begun in the previous two parts, stepping in a direction that will likely make everyone uncomfortable. Like I said in the previous part of this series, many readers will disagree with at least some what I’m about to say and this is only the beginning of what needs to be a much longer conversation. This is only an introduction to an extremely complex issue—not an extensive account. While I welcome and invite disagreement for the sake of uncovering and agreeing about the truth in love, I also invite you to lay aside any biases you might have about manliness, male privilege or patriarchy so you can give these arguments a fair chance. Do it for the victims—not for me. I promise to be open and loving, so long as you promise to be the same. With all that said, in this part of the series we will begin to explore the complex issue of male disposability.
Put simply, male disposability refers to a given society’s tendency to have less concern for the safety and well-being of men than of women.
I will argue that, contrary to the popular narrative, our society (and almost every other society in human history) values the lives of women more than the lives of men. This explains the marginalization of male victims because if our culture cares more about women, then it will matter more to us if a woman is a victim than if a man is, and if we view men as disposable then we might not care about male victims at all.
So, let’s begin.
Throw Away or Recycle?: An Introduction to Male Disposability
Any conversation about gender roles or the differences between men and women should begin with biology—those clear and definable differences between the sexes that have sociological implications. So what are the biological differences between men and women? For our purposes, we only need the obvious ones. First, women carry, give birth to and have the natural capability to nurture children. Pregnancy, birth and breast feeding—those are all things a male definitionally cannot do. Second, men have the capacity to get significantly physically stronger than women. This is not a sexist thing to say, it is simply a biological fact. Even female bodybuilders who use tons of steroids and testosterone can’t come close to the physical strength of male body builders. So, we have reproductive differences and we have strength differences.
What are the sociological implications of these biological differences?
Well, think of it this way. If 99 men and 1 woman were all stranded on an island, how many babies could they produce and take care of in one year? Unless the woman has twins or triplets, the answer is 1. On the other hand, what if you had 99 women and only 1 man? How many babies could they produce and take care of in one year? Well, 99+. So, in terms of societal progress, population growth and the development of a civilization, whose lives are more objectively valuable: men or women? The answer is clearly women.
This is where male disposability begins.
If women are more objectively valuable to creating and maintaining a population, then we have to protect women at all costs. And who is the better protector going to be? Well, if the women are going to be pregnant for nine months and then breastfeeding for two more years afterward—not to mention they’re the ones we are trying to protect in the first place—and if the men are capable of getting significantly physically stronger anyway, then men are clearly and objectively going to be the better protectors. Men thus display their value to an infant civilization in a different way than women. Whereas the women are valuable in a way that requires the protection of their lives, men are valuable for their ability to fulfill this need for protection on the basis that their lives are less important and they are better equipped to protect. In order to protect the highly valuable lives of the women, the men need to take on all the dangerous roles in the infant civilization. In other words, the men need to be treated (and need to treat themselves) as disposable for the sake of women and the civilization at large.
Though this is arguably the way it should be when a civilization is first developing and learning self-sufficiency, it has sketchy implications later on in a civilization’s lifespan because it indoctrinates people into thinking that women are too valuable for us to allow them to do dangerous things and that men are so disposable that we should throw them into every dangerous job and position.
Notice how much this goes against the popular narrative of many modern day feminists. The claim of many feminisms is that the evil and privileged men, who have all the power, have done everything they can throughout history to make women weak and submissive. They lock them in the home, cut them off from education and ensure that they keep all the life-fulfilling jobs to themselves. These feminisms claims that men do this because they view women as lesser. What I am claiming is very different. When a civilization is first starting out, it has to view women as more valuable than men because only women have the ability to keep the civilization’s population growing and alive. For a newborn civilization, women must be protected at all costs. Therefore the less valuable men of the civilization must be willing to protect the women at all costs. Otherwise the civilization dies. Thus, the women are treated as so valuable that they cannot do anything dangerous and the men are treated as so disposable that they must do everything dangerous. And thus, the sexism against women to which feminism points does not originally stem from a devaluation of women and an overvaluation of men, but rather from an overvaluation of women and a devaluation of men.
As the civilization grows up and there is less of a need to devalue male lives and overvalue female lives, things get a lot more messy. In a civilization’s infancy, male disposability ensures that certain roles in the civilization are filled exclusively by men (government, military, public careers, et cetera) and other roles are filled exclusively by women (child-raising, housekeeping, et cetera). Unfortunately, habits formed in youth are the hardest habits to overcome. As the civilization ages, if it doesn’t escape this childhood habit, then the men start to devalue the women because they see women as contributing less to the civilization, and—because men did not bother to give women equal education early on, et cetera—they start to view women as lesser than themselves. The overvaluation of women therefore morphs into a complicated mess of both twisted overvaluation and now devaluation of women, and the men ironically secure their own disposability.
So it is also worth noting that although this view is different from the popular feminist narrative it does not delegitimize any of feminism’s claims to the historical oppression of women—it simply adds a way to those claims to account for the historical oppression of men.
Though it is arguably good for a civilization to view the lives of women as being more valuable to that civilization while that civilization is in its infancy, it is extremely bad—both for women and for men—for a civilization to carry this view into its maturity. Once a civilization becomes well-established, because the original need for the strict protection of women is lost, to shut women in the home and keep them away from danger becomes oppressive. Similarly, once a civilization becomes well established, because the original need for the systemic devaluation of male lives is lost, to force men into every dangerous position and treat them as disposable against their wills becomes extremely oppressive as well. This is, in my view, a much more nuanced and well-rounded explanation for sexism than the popular feminist claim, first, because it is able to account for sexism against both women and men, and second, because it allows for a far greater diversity of causes for both individual and institutional sexism—it does not simply shout that all men are privileged, sexist pigs who hate women and want to keep them in submission, though it does include that as a possibility in some (or even many) cases.
We should value women, but we should not value them more than men. Nor should we value men more than we value women.
Though we have done much as a society to address the ways in which this indisposible-female/disposable-male dynamic negatively affects women, our society has yet to do almost anything to address the ways in which it negatively affects men. Though the overvaluation of women and the devaluation of men is something we should have almost entirely done away with by now, it is still alive and well—and only getting worse. So how does male disposability manifest itself in the modern day?
The Modern Disposable Male
The question is…where to start? When I first heard the claim of male disposability, I thought it was stupid and wrong, but the more I listened the more I was willing to give the theory a shot. And the more open I became, the more I started to see it…everywhere.
I have never seen the movie Titanic, but we all know the story. Jack and Rose fall in love and when the ship goes down, we all know who should be saved and at whose expense. I was raised (and I don’t know anyone else who wasn’t raised) to always put ladies first. If there is a crisis—if the ship, the plane or the building starts to go down—I was taught just like everyone else to raise the classic alarm, “Save the women and children!” Regardless of whether or not you think this is right, here is what that is objectively saying—the lives of women and children are inherently more valuable than the lives of men. In fact, most of us hold this “save the women and children” belief so staunchly that we would call any man who tries to save himself (or another man) an evil, sexist coward who should be shamed out of society. In a crisis, men are not only treated as disposable, but are treated as if they should be disposed of. If the school is on fire, it’s always “ladies first.” Why? Because men don’t matter, and God forbid they ever think that they do.
But this, quite frankly is pretty trivial compared to other instances of modern male disposability. Things get much more systemic than that. What, for instance, is the biggest institution in existence that discriminates purely on the basis of sex? Is it not the Selective Service System? Regardless of whether or not you think women should be added to the draft, it is true that the draft only pulls out of our nation’s men. Frankly, I don’t even know what I think about the draft. It would feel wrong to me if we added women to the draft, but should it feel that way? Or have I bought into the false idea that male lives don’t matter? Whatever the case, it is objectively true that in the eyes of our nation, if we are going to send people to die for us—it ought to be the men. This is written in the law. The punishment for failing to register for the Selective Service as an 18-year-old male is a fine of up to $250,000 or 5 years in federal prison. It is more systemic than anything to which feminism makes claim.
When the movie Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan, was released, countless people in the media complained that women were underrepresented in the film. Ironically, however, no one complained that women were underrepresented in the actual war. Or that the people who were sent to Dunkirk against their wills and told that they were cowards who should be rejected by everyone in society if they didn’t go to die—were all exclusively male. Though many feminists and women’s rights activists have historically denounced the sexism of the U.S. military for not allowing women to choose to fight in a war in which they will either die or have to live with the trauma for the rest of their lives, I have yet to hear a single feminist or women’s rights activist demand the equal right to be forced against their wills to risk their lives and mental health for their country. I have yet to hear a single feminist or women’s rights activist demand the right to be legally viewed as disposable, or denounce our national government for viewing men as such.
According to The Red Pill, approximately 99.9% of all military deaths are male. For an example of how the draft plays into this, The Red Pill states that out of the 58,000+ U.S. soldiers who died in Vietnam, 17,000+ of those men were drafted into the war against their wills. From World War I through the Vietnam War, 17,713,273 U.S. males have been drafted into war. I could not find statistics on how many of them survived.
But male disposability isn’t just in the military or our convictions about who should be saved first—it is also in the workplace. Though feminists often complain about how the big CEOs are almost all men, they are only looking at the select few most successful men in the workplace—they are not looking at the millions of men on the opposite side of the spectrum. 93% of all workplace deaths are male. While feminists are off fighting for better working conditions for women, countless men are literally dying from unsafe working conditions. If a man dies on the job, no one gets upset. But if a woman dies on the job, everyone is outraged. Feminists aren’t fighting to get more coal mining jobs, more sketchy construction jobs, or other exceedingly dangerous positions that are almost exclusively filled by men. Why? Because women are more valuable than that, and if someone is going to die doing a dangerous job then it should be one of those unvaluable, privileged men.
But it gets worse. Male disposability has not only invaded the workplace, it has invaded the home.
If you are a father, you are the disposable parent. For almost all of U.S. history, it has been expected that you will work while your wife raises the kids. You’ve been societally deemed as less important to the development and upbringing of your children. Women were forbidden from the workplace, and fathers were (and still are) forbidden from the home. Moreover, while working mothers has become a socially acceptable norm, you are still likely to get judged as less of a man or a failure of a dad if you decide to be stay-at-home. But the disposability of fathers goes beyond their simply being exiled from the home. In Planned Parenthood v. Danforth (1976), the Supreme Court declared that it is unconstitutional for a woman to need the father’s consent to have an abortion. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court took things further and declared that it is unconstitutional for a woman to be required to even notify the father before having an abortion. That means that in the U.S., if you are a male and your partner wants to abort the child who is just as much yours as hers, there is literally nothing you can do about it. She can legally kill your child without even telling you.
There is much more that needs be said about the disposability of fathers, but let’s keep moving.
Though many of us live under the notion that women need more protection from violent crime than men, the opposite is actually true. Though it is true (so far as we know) that women suffer from sexual violence more frequently than men, it is also true that men suffer from violent crime as a whole substantially more frequently than women. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 62 females are victims of serious violent crime. The accompanying male statistic? 1 in 41. Meanwhile, when it comes to aggravated assault, the U.S. Department of Justice tells us that men are on average twice as likely to be victims as women. In fact, start googling statistics on victims of violence by sex and you will quickly discover that in almost every type of violence there is—men are more likely to be victims than women.
The Netherlands Institute for Social Research gives the following two helpful graphs that put victimization by sex into perspective:
Notice that the only place in which there are more female victims than male victims is in the area of sexual offenses. Also notice that sexual offenses are the least common type of crime by a massive margin. These two facts raise an interesting question. Why is our culture so obsessed with talking about sexual violence and not other forms of violence? I think there are a number of reasons for this. First, our culture is obsessed with sex. Second, sexual violence has an especially horrifying element of violation that is lacking in other crimes. But here is another reason that I would like to propose for consideration: One of the reasons we talk about sexual violence more than other types of violence is precisely because it disproportionately affects women, and as a society we value women more than men. Consider what would happen if statistics on other forms of violence were actually talked about. It would reduce the claim that all men are privileged to absolute rubbish, and most contemporary feminisms—which stand on the claim that women suffer more than men in every single area—would fall apart. Because the feminist narrative is the winning narrative, it’s no wonder we can’t talk about other forms of violence.
Back to Domestic Abuse and Sex Trafficking
So what does all this have to with the marginalization of male victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking? Well, we have substantial evidence (a lot more than I’ve given here) to believe that as a society we care more about female lives than we do about male lives. This means that if a woman is raped, we are going to care a lot more than if a man is raped. Or if a woman is trafficked, we are going to care a lot more than if a man is trafficked. Or if a woman is beaten, we are going to care a lot more than if a man is beaten. (Think about the social experiment video from the Part 2.) Translation: female victims are put at the forefront of our individual and legal concern, and male victims are pushed to the back of the line. Once again, it is ladies first.
The funny thing is, we can actually see this happening right on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s website. For the record, I think the NCADV is a great organization that has done a lot of good. If you remember from my first article, most of my statistics on male victims came from them. But even they have fallen into the pro-female/disposable-male bias.
When you open their website, you are greeted by this:
Five smiling women and an overall aesthetic and color palette that is clearly designed to appeal to women. Almost every page on the site follows this aesthetic of smiling women and a more “feminine” design, subtly reinforcing the oppressive idea that only women suffer from domestic violence and need an NCADV, while also shying away male victims from using their website because if they do, they’ll be “girly” and “unmasculine.”
But it gets worse. If you click through the various pages of their site, you’ll find that men are hardly pictured at all, and that when they are they are almost always pictured as abusers and not once as victims. In fact, the only places you can find men represented as anything other than abusers is on their “Resources” and “Events” pages—the not-so-subtle narrative being that if you are male and not an abuser, then you must surely need to be educated about domestic violence because you, being male, must not know much about it.
But most importantly, when I started using their website I was immediately struck by the overwhelmingly large number of statistics for female victims and the comparatively much smaller number of statistics for male victims. In fact, I was so struck, that I decided to go through all of the NCADV’s printable fact sheets (minus the “Additional Topics” and “Additional Sources for Statistics on Domestic Violence” categories) and count one-by-one how many statistics they had on female victims, how many on male victims, and how many in which the sex of the victims was unspecified. (Because this was done by hand, I could be off by a number or two.) Here’s what I found:
As you can see, there are overwhelmingly more statistics on female victims than there are on male victims (a whopping difference of 21%). But I decided to take things a step further. Most of the statistics on male victims come specifically from their fact sheet titled “Male Victims of Intimate Partner Violence” (and most of these statistics are repeats of the same statistics given in other fact sheets). This made me wonder how my pie chart would change if we removed the statistics that came from fact sheets that explicitly focused on a specific sex. Here’s what happens if you do that:
The number of statistics on male victims is cut almost exactly in half (from 50 to 28) and the discrepancy gives women a whopping 32% more statistics than men. This means that if someone is going through the NCADV’s statistic sheets, and happens to not look at the specific sheet on male victims, they are going to see overwhelmingly more statistics on female victims than on male victims, despite all the evidence that there are nearly as many male victims of domestic violence (and potentially more) as there are female victims. Furthermore, surrounded almost entirely by statistics on women as well as the overtly feminine color palette and design, the statistics in which the sex of the victims is non-specified seem to be about women as well. Thus, someone reading through these statistic sheets could easily be misled into thinking that domestic violence is a women’s only problem.
But why this disproportional focus on female victims when we have so many reasons to believe than men suffer from domestic violence about as much? And in some ways, even more? That’s what I thought too. And then I found this:
According to Wikipedia:
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law […] signed […] by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994 […]. The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave un-prosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice.
Praise be to God that VAWA has reduced intimate partner physical abuse by 67% since it was first established in 1994! That is an incredible achievement and victory! … BUT why give $1.6 billion to focus exclusively on female victims of violence, especially when we know that men suffer from violence at much higher rates? Why not make a “Violence Against Human Beings Act?” Or why not at least make an accompanying “Violence Against Men Act?” Why have an “Office on Violence Against Women” in the Department of Justice but not an “Office on Violence Against Men?” Oh right, because men are privileged. Men are never victims, and we don’t care if they are.
The reason why the NCADV disproportionately focuses on women is because the Office on Violence Against Women is paid by the U.S. federal government to find statistics on female victims only. We aren’t paying them to study male victims. Why? Because men are disposable and women are infinitely valuable.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg…
Conclusion: Where Do We Go From Here?
So, once again, where do we go from here? How do we change the narrative so that we view men and women as equally valuable? How do we dismantle the idea of male disposability that our entire nation has seemingly bought into?
Once again, these are all very difficult questions and I will not pretend to have the final or best answers. In order to find those answers, we have a lot more work to do. For now, though, here are the directions I would like to suggest:
- We need to study the issue of male disposability a lot more. Our society has focused so much on studying women’s issues that most of us cannot name a single men’s issue. This needs to change.
- We need to champion the biblical sex ethic that preserves sex for a monogamous, heterosexual marriage relationship. Why? This is just one reason, but because it acknowledges men and women as equally valuable. If you can only have sex with the person you are married too, then whether there are 99 men and 1 woman on the island or 99 women and only 1 man—you will only be able to have 1 baby per year in both cases. As a result, both men and women will be able to contribute equally to the protection of the civilization as well as their family’s domestic lives. Thus, both men and women will be equally valuable to the development of the civilization.
- We need to start inspecting ourselves, our society and our government to try to uncover all the ways that we explicitly or implicitly view men as more disposable than women.
- We need to have a serious, honest and difficult conversation about the just-ness of the draft.
- We need to create programs that specifically focus on studying men’s issues to complement the programs that specifically focus on studying women’s issues, in the hope of eventually eliminating all sex-specific programs and replacing them simply with human programs that still acknowledge sex-specific injustices.
- We need to raise awareness about the ways in which men are suffering and dismantle the notion that only women suffer from domestic violence and sex trafficking, while still acknowledging that men and women suffer from domestic violence and sex trafficking differently.
- We need to find ways to make dangerous jobs safer for all people, regardless of their sex.
- We need to find ways to express more meaningful gratitude toward those men who have been treated as disposable for our sake, or who have treated themselves as disposable for our sake, rather than telling them that they are privileged and that their suffering is illegitimate.
- We need to have a much longer conversation.
Once again, there is a lot more that could be said on the subject of male disposability, but this should be enough to get the ball rolling.
In Part 4 of this series, we will take the ideas in this and the previous two articles even further into what may be the most controversial territory yet. We will begin to explore how both feminism and the men’s movement contribute to the marginalization of male victims and how all of us could benefit from a longer, more peaceful, conversation.