A Grounded Look at Women’s Issues for Non-Feminists

Many feminists present women’s issues with exaggerated rhetoric (like that women are an oppressed underclass) and misleading or false statistics (like that women make 23% less for the same work). Learning this might make you disillusioned with feminism, but it shouldn’t make you dismiss women’s issues themselves. There are still real issues for women after you set aside the misconceptions and exaggerations.

(Length: 900 words)

  1. Stalking. Women are 2.5 to 2.6× more likely to experience stalking (U.S. data for 2011, Canada data for 2008—it’s called criminal harassment in Canada).
  2. Eating disorders. There’s under-reporting and under-treatment of eating disorders among men. However, even sources that acknowledge and highlight this still find that eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder) are more prevalent among women (muscle dysmorphia is an exception).
  3. Domestic violence. Many studies do find (contrary to public perception) that men and women experience domestic violence at comparable rates. Still, these studies generally also find that women still face higher rates of injury, making domestic violence generally more impactful on women.
  4. Reproductive rights. Being forced into parenthood as a man means serious financial consequences and that’s concerning. But for women the consequences are physical and medical, which are special concerns. Childbirth is not trivial, and the ways for women to avoid childbirth (especially abortion), even when legal, are often not very accessible.
  5. Political representation. You don’t have to have the same characteristics as someone to represent them, but it’s still valid to want the political class to not be too far removed from the general population. There’s little controversy over the idea of regional representation; is gender that different from region?
  6. Sexual assault. Physical assault is a different story, but women do report higher levels of sexual assault, not just to the police but also on crime surveys.
    • The Australian Personal Safety Survey (2012) found that 4.5× more women had experienced it since the age of 15 (and 2.4× more in the last 12 months).
    • The Canadian General Social Survey (2009) found 2.3× more women had experienced sexual assault in the last 12 months.
    • The Partner Abuse State of Knowledge project found that sexual coercion is the one type of partner abuse not perpetrated by both genders are comparable rates (though note that sexual assault is a broader category than sexual coercion or rape).
    • (But see here for a discussion of a source, the CDC NISVS, showing gender parity in rape victimization in past 12 months but not in lifetime data.)
  7. Employment discrimination. We can’t assume discrimination wherever women are less than 50% in a field, but there is evidence for discrimination against women in some fields.
  8. Income/wealth differences. Let’s set aside married couples, because income differences don’t matter as much when it’s all shared. Using data from Canada, male lone-parent families make more money (and have a higher net-worth) than female lone-parent families. Maybe it’s because men need to be more impressive to get sole custody? Perhaps, but there’s also a gender difference (in both income and net-worth) for unattached individuals.
    • A big part of the gap is different choices (e.g. of occupation). But the same can be said for many men’s issues, like lower life expectancy. Just because it’s not discrimination doesn’t mean it’s not a valid issue.
    • And the studies don’t rule out discrimination as a factor, only as the factor.
  9. Passive gender role. The “men = active, women = passive” dichotomy hurts both genders in different ways. For women, it encourages them to feel (and be) helpless in many different areas of their life, likely including romance, career, and safety. This is to their detriment. (I think some kinds of feminism encourage helplessness in some ways too, unfortunately.)
    • From TVTropes (“Men Act, Women Are”): “In media, male characters are defined more by their actions than their personalities or appearances. Female characters, on the other hand, are defined by their personalities and appearances but not their actions.”
  10. Cyber-bullying. Some research on school-children suggests that girls are more likely to experience cyber-bullying than boys.
  11. Sex as demeaning to women. The idea that sex is demeaning to women is prevalent and it can cause women to develop unhealthy attitudes to sex and have a hard time enjoying it.
  12. Being dispreferred for managerial positions. According to Gallup in 2014, 46% of Americans state no preference for boss gender, while 33% prefer male bosses, and 20% prefer female bosses, giving men a moderate edge.

That’s just a few, and someone whose primary interest is women’s issues could list more. Certainly there’s more attention on women’s issues, and there’s been more progress on fixing them, but at this point in time women’s issues do still exist.


5 thoughts on “A Grounded Look at Women’s Issues for Non-Feminists

  1. You have to be kidding, right? Nobody has claimed that women don’t face issues because of their sex. Rather, the claim is that while women’s issues get attention and get addressed, men’s issues are (at best) mocked.

    Let’s just take that last point…


    “About 95% of victims of sextortion were men or boys”.

    And isn’t it interesting that at the article you linked, with the title “Girls gang up on boys…” containing the statement “…girls are almost twice as likely as boys to be both victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying…” you managed to turn that into “…girls are more likely to experience cyber-bullying…”


    1. I think denying women’s issues is a smaller problem in the men’s movement than denying men’s issues is in the feminist movement (in terms of frequency), but with that said, I do see it happen often enough to dedicate one of my posts on here to it.

      As for my last point on cyber-bullying, what is your main concern? The title of the page I linked was “Girls gang up on boys in new cyberbullying craze called ‘roasting’, expert warns”. That’s a particular type of cyber-bullying that doesn’t necessarily represent the phenomenon as a whole. The only source on the phenomenon as a whole that I’m aware of is the one mentioned further down on that page that should be highlighted when you click the link. If you’re aware of other sources on cyber-bullying in general then I’ll be happy to take a look, and if it turns out that both genders face it as often (or boys more often), I can delete that point from this list.

      Your BBC link is also one particular type of cyber-bullying rather than the phenomenon as a whole, although that particular type (sextortion or webcam blackmail) on its own looks concerning enough that I’m going to save the link to possibly include in a write-up in the future, so thanks for that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians”

    While it’s entirely plausible that there was discrimination going on there, there are other plausible explanations for women getting higher scores when playing behind a curtain.

    The first is stereotype threat. The fact that one is playing behind a curtain might alleviate any stereotype threat the women might be feeling due to her gender and the internalized stereotypes associated with it.

    The second is stage fright. Women are higher in apprehension than men (men tend to be higher in vigilance–a different sort of “threat/stress response” propensity). It only stands to reason that apprehension would be more likely to negatively affect performance than a vigilance response, so taking some of the stress out of the situation with a curtain could improve performance, no?

    I would suggest that a better, more controlled and truly “blind” experiment would have been to record candidates’ best performances and play them for judges. This is essentially what was done to determine gender bias in grading by female primary school teachers–male and female teachers were given identical work to grade with either a female name, a male name, or no name at the top.

    Likewise, a sample of recordings with either a male name, a female name, or no name randomly attached to them, submitted to judges would be “double blind”, in that neither the judges nor the performers are “in on it”.

    I’d be interested what you think of this informal experiment: https://blog.interviewing.io/we-built-voice-modulation-to-mask-gender-in-technical-interviews-heres-what-happened/

    “Contrary to what we expected (and probably contrary to what you expected as well!), masking gender had no effect on interview performance with respect to any of the scoring criteria (would advance to next round, technical ability, problem solving ability). If anything, we started to notice some trends in the opposite direction of what we expected: for technical ability, it appeared that men who were modulated to sound like women did a bit better than unmodulated men and that women who were modulated to sound like men did a bit worse than unmodulated women. Though these trends weren’t statistically significant, I am mentioning them because they were unexpected and definitely something to watch for as we collect more data.”

    “What I learned was pretty shocking. As it happens, women leave interviewing.io roughly 7 times as often as men after they do badly in an interview. And the numbers for two bad interviews aren’t much better. You can see the breakdown of attrition by gender below (the differences between men and women are indeed statistically significant with P < 0.00001)."

    If this is indicative of broader trends, does the constant assertion that women face sexism in these fields play a role in women giving up so quickly? Could the "male privilege" narrative play a role in men being more willing to stick with the process even when they suck?

    After all, women are being told that no matter how well they perform, their work will be judged as sub-par because of something they can't change–their gender. If that's the case, then why bother continuing after a bad interview? Could the narrative itself be causing women to not do as well in interviews as they might have in the first place, because they're expecting to fail?

    If men are being told that no matter how poorly they perform, they have an advantage because penis, then why not continue? "Sure, the old "look, I have a penis!" trick didn't work THIS time, but my privilege will probably pay off at some point." Could the narrative itself be causing men to do well in interviews, because they're expecting to succeed?


    1. As far as I know, there are serious doubts surrounding stereotype threat as a phenomenon, even from some of the original researchers (http://michaelinzlicht.com/getting-better/2016/2/29/reckoning-with-the-past). And Scott Alexander of SlateStarCodex writes that even if it’s real, the actual original findings were never that it explains existing gaps, but rather that it can be used to make existing gaps bigger (http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/01/24/perceptions-of-required-ability-act-as-a-proxy-for-actual-required-ability-in-explaining-the-gender-gap/). So I’m cautiously skeptical about the influence of stereotype threat here.

      As for stage fright, the stakes of the competition and the pressure to perform are just as high when they can’t see you so my first thought is that gender differences in stage fright wouldn’t matter. But it does remove the stress of worrying about how you look, or having people stare at you. Do you think those would have a large effect?

      I very much agree on your suggestion for a better experiment, especially one where the same work is given with either a female name or a male name.

      I have seen that tech hiring experiment before and it’s indeed a really interesting way to test this. I have some concerns about the actual voice modulation process itself (the woman modulated to male sounds like a gay man; it doesn’t specifically explain away any of the results but it’s something to consider) but overall I think it’s pretty telling, at least for tech. My instinct for hiring bias overall is that it probably differs a lot based on field rather than “being this gender is a ticket to a job, period”.

      I think your idea that telling women how sexist everything is will make them give up easier (or less likely to try in the first place) is quite likely. I actually hadn’t given that much thought for employment before but it makes a lot of sense, and it would closely parallel parallel politics, where (according to this 2012 report: http://www.american.edu/spa/wpi/upload/2012-Men-Rule-Report-web.pdf) women’s chances of winning elections are just as high as men’s, but the false idea that they’ll be so discriminated against (as well as many other factors) results in them being less likely to run.

      Thanks for your thoughts!


  3. I think it’s wrong to frame opposition to abortion as a women’s issue. You say the consequences of lack of abortion access primarily hurt women, and so it’s a women’s rights issue. However, many men do risk physical harm providing for their families if they work in hazardous jobs (and, as you know, they do so at a much higher rate than women), so banning abortion does have comparable consequences for men.

    More importantly, though, abortion is a an ethical issue. Those opposed to abortion believe that a fetus is an innocent human and that it is wrong to kill an innocent human. To that end, the parents are obligated to sacrifice for their child, whether that means risking non-lethal medical complications for the mother, or extra hours in a dangerous job for the father.


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