If your exposure to men’s issues comes from online resources then you might be surprised to find out that there is actually a pretty strong body of offline literature too. The first two books work well as an overview or introduction to men’s issues (one is more philosophical and the other more personal, so they complement each other well). The other books cover other relevant topics (specific men’s issues, gender roles, feminism, etc.) in more detail.
The most widely-used male privilege checklist that I am aware of is Barry Deutsch’s 47-point list (modeled on Peggy McIntosh’s original white privilege checklist). It started as a blog post in 2001 (2017 version), but is now used by the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS), Project Humanities from Arizona State University, Diversity & Social Justice at California State University, women’s shelters, orientation at the University of Western Australia, the provincial government of Saskatchewan, etc.
Overall, the points vary a lot in validity. Some are basically true, some are basically wrong, and others are exaggerated, misleading, or require more context. Also note that this is just a list of advantages for men. Even if they were all 100% true, it would still just show that there are advantages to being a man. It wouldn’t show that men are “the privileged sex” (what most people mean by “male privilege”) any more than a list of good things about living in one country proves that it’s a better place to live than another country.
Given the large number of points, this is a work in progress. Suggestions welcome.
(Length: 4,700 words.)
The people most skeptical about men’s issues are often those on the social justice left who are very passionate about issues facing racial minorities. This is puzzling, given the substantial overlap between men’s issues and minority issues. If it’s a major concern that incarceration rates are six times higher for blacks than whites, surely it’s also a major concern that they’re eleven times higher for men than women (U.S.A. 2010).
Here I look at a 7-point white privilege list from Everyday Feminism called “7 Actual Facts That Prove White Privilege Exists in America”. As it turns out, in most of the areas given as examples of racial inequality, it is men rather than women who are worse off.
This is a quick demonstration of the overlap between minority issues and men’s issues, and why it’s strange to care about the former but dismiss the latter. Don’t take it as a comprehensive comparison of men’s and women’s advantages or disadvantages.
(Length: 1,300 words.)
1. You Are Less Likely to Be Arrested
The article says that minorities are more likely to be arrested and jailed than whites. Minorities are 30% of the overall population but 60% of the prison population.
It goes without saying that men are worse off here. Men are 49% of the American population but 93% of the federal prison population (Oct 2017). There is strong evidence (studies here) that men are treated more harshly in the justice system, throughout the process (chance of arrest, likelihood of incarceration, length of incarceration, etc).
2. You Are More Likely to Get into College
The article is ambiguous about whether it’s referring to raw rates of college attendance, or chance of acceptance given the same qualifications (it appears to hint at the latter without actually saying it—pay attention to the word “many”). But, according to a 2009 study, blacks and Hispanics actually get a boost to their chances (Asians are penalized), so I will judge this according to raw rates of attendance, where blacks and Hispanics are behind.
Rates of post-secondary attendance (college and university, two year and four year) are lower for men than women in all races provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (U.S.A, 2014), so it is men who are worse off in this area.
3. You Are More Likely to ‘Fit In’ and Get Called Back for a Job
The article says that having a black-sounding name is a burden when looking for a job. It only mentions anecdotes, but there’s actual research supporting this.
For gender I really think this is debatable. Some studies have found a bias against women, but overall there’s conflicting evidence (e.g. conflicting studies on hiring bias in science), and it probably varies by field and industry. Still, this is a common point made by feminists so I’ll give it to them and say that women are worse off here.
4. You Are Less Likely to Be Perceived as a ‘Thug’
The article says that non-whites are much more likely to be seen as “thugs”, citing a sports figure who calls it “the accepted way of calling people the n-word nowadays”.
For gender, it should be clear that the term is primarily used on men rather than women, so men are worse off here. See these results of an image search for the word:
(It’s actually strange to look at perception of “thuggishness” without taking into account actual rates of thuggishness. Realistically, the fact that black men are considered thugs more often than white women is not just an artifact of perception. But my intention here isn’t to critique the article’s points for race, it’s to show how they apply to gender.)
5. You Are Less Likely to Be Labeled ‘Angry’
The article talks about minorities who express anger in a public or professional setting receiving a more negative reaction than they’d get if they were white.
I don’t know which gender is more likely to be seen as angry, but I do know that there’s evidence suggesting that being seen as angry is more of a negative for women. This study created fictional male and female jurors trying to make their case about a judgement. Being angry helped men’s persuasiveness, but it hurt women’s persuasiveness. For this reason I’m saying that women are worse off here.
I do want to note though that the article also mentions emotions in general, saying that being able to express a range of emotions without blow-back is a privilege. Clearly men do not have the privilege of expressing a range of emotions. Even feminists pretty widely accept that men’s overall emotional expression is more restricted by social norms than women’s (this article advocating feminism for men quotes a sociologist saying that gender norms pressure men into “repressing their emotions”).
6. You Are More Likely to Make Headlines When Missing
The article talks about Missing White Woman Syndrome, which is the media’s “habit of sensationalizing the cases of missing white young women and girls”.
The very name of “Missing White Woman Syndrome” shows that men are also less likely to make headlines, so men are worse off here. It’s male disposability.
7. You Are More Likely to Find Adequate Housing
The article talks about housing discrimination against blacks and Latinos, in both renting apartments and buying homes.
There are some gender differences in home ownership rates, but they aren’t consistent enough or large enough for me to focus on them too much.
(In the U.S. in 2014, single female-headed households had a slightly higher home ownership rate: a 1% gap. Women had a somewhat higher home ownership rate than men in Australia in 2011-12: a 4% gap. Older data from Canada, 2006, show a large advantage for lone father households over lone mother households: a 12% gap, and a small advantage for women living alone over men living alone: a 2% gap.)
Now let’s look at renting. I compared the combined number of results for “female only” + “females only” with “male only” + “males only” in a search for housing on Craigslist in five North American cities (December 10th, 2017). There were 7.3× more advertisements excluding men than excluding women, so men are worse off here.
|Exclusions||Vancouver||San Francisco||Chicago||Toronto||New York||Total|
These are, of course, a relatively small percentage of all listings, but they are only the people who explicitly stated a gender requirement. This doesn’t even count listings with unstated gender requirements or preferences. I don’t know how how many listings have those, but from these results we can reasonably guess at which gender they’d prefer.
Although the article didn’t mention it, it’s also notable that racial minorities (particularly blacks in the U.S. and Aboriginals in Canada) are disproportionately likely to be homeless. For gender, men are also disproportionately likely to be homeless.
After this evaluation, we’re left with five areas where men are worse off: #1 (criminal justice system), #2 (rates of postsecondary education), #4 (perception of thuggishness), #6 (making headlines when missing), and #7 (housing), and two areas where women are worse off: #3 (job callback) and #5 (perception of anger).
There are a few different choices I could have made. For #3 (job callback) I could have pushed more about the evidence on job discrimination not being nearly as consistent as people assume, and not give the disadvantage to either gender. For #4 (perception of thuggishness) I could similarly not give the disadvantage to either gender, since it doesn’t take into account actual rates of thuggishness. For #5 (anger and emotions) I could have focused less on anger in particular and more on the ability to express a wide range of emotions without blow-back, and instead say that men are worse off.
But we’d still have fundamentally the same picture: major overlap between minority issues and men’s issues. If you’re enthusiastic about issues facing racial minorities but dismissive of men’s issues then you’re treating many of the same issues differently depending on which group is affected.
October 2017 saw a series of allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in Hollywood spark a conversation about sexual misconduct in society. I don’t object to that conversation happening, but I do object to one concerning trend: people and outlets conflating unwanted sexual advances with sexual harassment.
(Length: 800 words.)
This is a chapter-by-chapter summary of Discrimination Against Men: Appearance and Causes in the Context of a Modern Welfare State, a 2009 doctoral dissertation by Pasi Malmi (University of Lapland) that provides an impressively detailed and balanced investigation of discrimination against men in Finland (the theory and results actually give almost as much detail on discrimination against women, although men will be the focus here).
Chapters 5 to 8 are the most critical. Chapter 5 explains six biases that cause gender discrimination, chapter 6 delineates the patriarchal and matriarchal subsystems of Finnish society, chapter 7 examines the various discourses that justify discrimination against men, and chapter 8 analyzes a database of gender discrimination complaints made to the Finnish gender equality ombudsman, a third of which were made by men.
One of the most widely-used tools to measure sexism is the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI), by social psychologists Peter Glick and Susan T. Fiske. The original 1996 paper (available here) has been cited more than 2,800 times (Google Scholar). It’s been influential for its idea that sexism has two components: hostile sexism (overtly negative attitudes towards women) and benevolent sexism (subjectively positive attitudes towards women that still contribute to gender inequality). The actual test (take it for yourself here) has been used for educational resources, population research, etc.
While I appreciate that Glick and Fiske (being academics) have a more nuanced view of sexism (and power) than most activists, I still want to point out some problems.
The average man lives significantly fewer years in retirement than the average woman. This happens because men have a lower life expectancy than women in practically every country in the world, and because the age of retirement is higher for men than women in some countries (counter-intuitively, given the life expectancy gap).
There is a widespread tendency within feminism to address men’s issues by framing them as really being about women (i.e. merely a side-effect of negative attitudes towards women, problems with how we see women, or disadvantages for women). This could be called the “trickle-down equality” approach to men’s issues, because it means that we can focus on women and their issues and equality will “trickle down” to men and their issues. This reluctance to acknowledge men’s issues as real issues in their own right is one of the clearest deal-breakers to feminism being the answer to men’s issues.
I think this comes from a general bias towards seeing women as victims, and a tendency for people (here, feminists) to situate new topics in terms of what they already know (a doctor might have a tendency to assume that a new patient’s unexplained problem will turn out to be related to the area of medicine they specialize in, for example).
Attitudes towards women are hostile and contemptuous, according to the standard model of prejudice (as described by Glick & Fiske, 2001). This view is prevalent:
A “culture of misogyny” is “deeply-rooted in our society” (Kathleen Wynne, former Premier of Ontario). “We live in a culture of casual misogyny” (Megan Leslie, former deputy leader, New Democratic Party in Canada). We live in a “patriarchal misogynistic society” (Tina Garnett, Equity Committee Coordinator, York University). “Misogyny runs so deep in this society […] all the women-hating, woman-blaming, woman-fearing instincts” (Polly Toynbee, columnist for The Guardian). “[W]e should look in the mirror for woman-hating culture” (Stephen Hume, columnist for the Vancouver Sun). “This Is How Much America Hates Women” (Anne Helen Petersen, PhD, writer for BuzzFeed News). “America really, really hates women […] there is actually nothing women can do that is right” (Megan Murphy, Feminist Current).
But the actual psychological research on gender attitudes and stereotypes paints a very different picture, one where women are viewed more positively than men. Glick and Fiske describe this phenomenon (the women-are-wonderful effect) as an “extremely robust” finding (although it is found more strongly among women than among men).
How much of the difference between men and women in terms of employment outcomes (different fields, positions within a field, salary, leadership roles, etc.) is a result of men’s and women’s different priorities and interests? Here I look at two large meta-analyses covering over one million subjects to find out. The main findings:
- While men care more than women about earnings and having a leadership role, the difference is actually very small, and so it would be only a small factor in explaining men’s higher salaries and higher chance of being in a leadership role.
- There are quite large differences between men and women in vocational interests, with men being more thing-oriented and women being more people-oriented. These differences in interests would thus be relatively large factors in explaining men’s predominance in fields like engineering and computer science, and women’s predominance in fields like education and nursing.
Are there any preferences that can explain (partially) gender differences in leadership roles and average salary? Yes: mothers are much more likely than fathers to prefer to stay home with their children, which puts career development on hold.
I see nothing fundamentally wrong with encouraging men and women to consider different options and interests, but we can’t ignore when differences exist.
Read on for a closer look at the evidence.
- Effect Sizes
- Job Attribute Preferences
- Interest Areas
- Stay-at-Home Parenthood
(Length: 900 words)
1. Effect Sizes
If you take a random man and a random woman, there’s a very high (92%) chance that the man will be taller. That’s a very large gender difference in height. If this chance was 50% it would mean they both have an equal (50:50) chance of being taller, which would indicate no gender difference. As a simple rule of thumb, let’s say that 50-60% is a small difference, 60-70% is a moderate difference, and above 70% is a large difference.
(This percentage is called CL, or common language effect size. I’m calculating it from Cohen’s d statistic provided in the meta-analyses, using this tool from R Psychologist.)
2. Job Attribute Preferences
The first meta-analysis looks at men’s and women’s preferences for different qualities and outcomes in their work. It surveys 242 previous studies, covering 600,000+ Americans, 1970 to 1998. Of the 40 job attributes looked at, 33 had gender differences, but the effect sizes were generally quite small.
Surprisingly, men were only a bit more likely to care about earnings (and women a bit more likely to care about benefits). The (relatively) larger and more notable differences (as pointed out by the authors) involved women being more socially-oriented.
Here are some of the findings. Note that the 53% by earnings does not mean that men care 53% more—it means that given a random man and a random woman, there’s a 53% chance that the man cares more (and a 47% chance that the woman does).
|Physical work conditions||Women||54%||Small|
|Feeling of accomplishment||Women||54%||Small|
|Opportunity to make friends||Women||56%||Small|
|Leisure time off job||Men||57%||Small|
|Solitude (n/s: small sample size)||Men||57%||Small|
|Easy commute (n/s: small sample size)||Women||58%||Small|
|Opportunity to help others||Women||60%||Moderate|
|Working with people||Women||60%||Moderate|
- Study: “Sex Differences and Similarities in Job Attribute Preferences: A Meta-Analysis” by Alison M. Konrad, J. Edgar Ritchie, Pamela Lieb, and Elizabeth Corrigall (2000, Psychological Bulletin)
3. Interest Areas
The second meta-analysis looks at men’s and women’s broad vocational interests. It includes 47 inventories published between 1964 and 2007 with a total of 81 samples consisting of ~500,000 (American and/or Canadian) men and women.
This study uses a few different ways to measure interest areas and they overlap with each other. It looks at two dimensions (things–people and data–ideas), six RIASEC types (widely-used vocational choice categories), and three STEM interests.
Their results both support and expand on those from the previous meta-analysis. They find only small gender differences in the interest category (enterprising) that includes leadership roles and economic objectives (in line with the minimal gender difference in desire of influence/authority and leadership roles from the previous meta-analysis).
They find quite large differences in preferring to work with things rather than people. This backs up the finding from the previous meta-analysis of women being more socially-oriented (although these effect sizes are larger and thus even more notable).
Here are all of the findings. Given a random man and a random woman, there is a 74% chance that the man will be more things-oriented than the woman. This difference is highly visible in other categories as well (realistic, social, and engineering).
|Things (vs. people)||Men||74%||Large|
|Data (vs. ideas)||Women||53%||Small|
|Realistic (things, gadgets, outdoors)||Men||72%||Large|
|Artistic (creative expression)||Women||60%||Moderate|
|Social (helping people)||Women||68%||Moderate|
|Enterprising (leadership, economic objectives)||Men||51%||Small|
|Conventional (well-structured environments, e.g. business)||Women||59%||Small|
- Study: “Men and Things, Women and People: A Meta-Analysis of Sex Differences in Interests” by Rong Su, James Rounds, and Patrick Ian Armstrong (2009, Psychological Bulletin)
4. Stay-at-Home Parenthood
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, almost 6 in 10 mothers would prefer to stay home with their children, compared to almost 3 in 10 fathers. Even for couples without children, almost 4 in 10 women prefer to stay home (compared to over 2 in 10 men).