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‘Dehumanizing the male’, by Daniel Jimenez (Book Review)

Book review by Pablo Malo

That our society, culture or system uses and exploits both sexes differently – men in one way and women in another – is an idea whose time is yet to come. Roy Baumeister has stated that culture is humanity’s biological strategy to solve the problems that all species face: survival and reproduction. And cultures compete with each other. To survive in this struggle, cultures have to use men and women effectively and this doesn’t necessarily mean using men and women in the same way. In fact, most cultures have used men and women in different ways.

On the contrary, the discourse that currently dictates how gender relations are to be interpreted is a feminist one, a discourse that describes our culture as a patriarchy: a conspiracy of men to oppress and exploit women. To propose that men are exploited in this society is little less than madness or sin. After all, isn’t it obvious that men occupy positions of power in politics, in the economy, that 90% of the top 500 of CEOs are men and so on? If men rule and govern the world, how is it possible to say that this society doesn’t favor men nor privileges them?

The problem with this popularly accepted discourse is that it comes from looking only upwards, pointing out that positions of privilege are dominated by men and drawing conclusions for society in general and for all men as a whole. Yes, it is true that there are more men on top, but we often forget to look down. And if we look down, we see that there are also more men in the mud and in the sewers of society, in the less privileged places. Men also do poorly in many areas. To give some well-known examples: they commit suicide in a much greater proportion than women, they are 80% of the homeless, they are the main victims of workplace fatalities (of the 652 people killed at their workplace in Spain in 2018, 602 were men and 50 were women), boys have greater school drop-out rates and men are the main victims in military conflicts (the majority of both military and civilian casualties). That men lead easy and privileged lives while women suffer and are exploited is incorrect, or at least not the whole story. While it may be true that some men are doing great, to conclude that it is a bargain to be a man and that society is set up to benefit men represents a view colored by the mistake of not looking down.

If we really want to understand our culture, we have to look at the way in which society also exploits men, as well as women. And this is what Dehumanizing the Male does, effectively helping us to better understand the society and culture in which we live. The main thesis of the book is that there is no system that harms women and benefits men in a unidirectional way, but that the gender system harms both sexes differently for the benefit of the group, as well as granting them advantages (or privileges) in different areas. According to Daniel, generally, what our culture does is granting greater status to men and greater protection to women. Thus, men would enjoy, generally, the advantages of higher status and women the advantages of greater protection, while men would suffer the disadvantages of lower protection and women the disadvantages of lesser status.

The book takes a tour of the past and the present – although proposals are also made for the future – of the situation of men in society and of the discrimination and disadvantages that they have also suffered and continue to suffer. It is a rigorous book, with references to everything that is stated and that does not fall into antifeminism or competition for victim status. At no time does it deny the disadvantages or discrimination that women have suffered or suffer today but, next to them, places and points out those that impact men. The overall result, I believe, supports the general thesis that most cultures indeed grant men higher social status and women greater protection.

Nevertheless, male problems are invisible or, rather, are rendered invisible. According to Daniel, given the position assigned to the male sex as oppressor and privileged, male problems (those experienced exclusively or mostly by males) are excluded from political discourse, mainly in three ways:

1-Invisibilization or denial. This can be observed in many government surveys or reports on gender discrimination and dating violence in which men are not directly asked about their experience. Examples would be the Macro-survey of violence against women commissioned by the Spanish government and the European Union survey on the same subject. It must be said that in countries like the United States this has already changed and in the main official surveys, such as the NISVS (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey), both sexes are represented.The results can be found here.

2-Reclassifying male problems into other categories: social, racial, class, immigration, etc. Female problems are gendered, but male problems are not. Previously we talked about workplace fatalities. Well, if you read this article in the newspaper ElDiario.es you will realize that data segregated by sex is not provided. The article refers to “dead people” or “workers”. If you read it in Europa Press the same thing happens. But if you read it on RTVE and you have the patience to reach exactly the end of the last paragraph, you will find the sex segregation. Imagine that the numbers of male and female workers killed was the opposite (that is, 602 dead women and 50 men), do you think the media treatment would have been the same? Do you think that society’s and social agents’ response would have been the same? (that is, none) As Daniel repeats throughout the book, there is no gender spinning for men’s problems. If a problem or violence affects primarily women, it is a gendered problem, but the opposite does not happen.

3-Limiting male problems to purely internal issues based on gender roles. Males suffer social pressures to prevent expressing their feelings and they are constrained by their role as providers and protectors, but all they have to do to solve their problems is to change their attitude, learn how to communicate better and ask for help. This approach is present, for example, in the subject of suicide. The discussion of female suicide tends to be focus on external factors: the living conditions of women, the stress they endure, etc. When talking about male suicide, on the other hand, the main focus is on internal factors: men don’t cry, they have to be tough, they can’t ask for help, etc. Why is it not possible to conceive that perhaps men commit suicide at higher rates because they have harsh and stressful living conditions that turn their lives into hell?

I believe the thesis of this book explains very well the changes we are currently experiencing. What happens when a society gives more status to women and also more protection to women? Well, women are claiming, and obtaining, greater status, but without renouncing greater protection, or sometimes even demanding more protection (and special protections) than before. For example, we have heard a vice-president of the Spanish government state that women have to always be believed [literally sí o sí]. When feminism demands greater protection for women, it is not breaking with the traditional rules of chivalry or with its gender identity. In contrast, traditionally, men don’t demand protection. The woman who demands protection doesn’t lose her femininity, but the man who asks for it does damage his reputation as a man in the eyes of society, who perceive him as less than a man (in the case of traditionalism) or as a privileged person who pretends to be a victim and has no right to complain (in the case of feminism). Men do not demand protection, men protect others and especially themselves. A man who is not able to protect himself is simply regarded as not being man enough.

 

I have learned many things that I did not know in this book (about rape of men in military conflicts, human trafficking in forced labor, the history of partner and family violence, etc.). In my view, the evidence that men experience discrimination and violence in numerous settings, both disproportionately and/or because they are men, is strong. It is also true that the press, the media and society as a whole ignore these disadvantages and discriminations. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this will change in a long time and one of the reasons for this is that our mind is programmed by our evolutionary history to value women’s lives more than men’s. There are many tests and experiments where it can be observed that both men and women value women’s lives more, consider that the suffering of women is greater and show more sympathy towards women than men (in this Twitter thread you have several links: https://twitter.com/Scientific_Bird/status/1095403852214472706). This empathy bias is completely logical from an evolutionary standpoint: women are simply more valuable biologically and genetically than men and men are more disposable. Cultures that have evolved with this bias have survived better and displaced those that haven’t. It has never happened but if a society had sent its women to war, to explore the oceans and to work in the mines, that society would have committed suicide.

In any case, if you want to learn about gender issues that have little coverage in the mainstream media, Dehumanizing the Male is a highly recommended book. Racism, homophobia and sexism towards women continue to be part of our reality. They are incompatible with human dignity, we reprove them socially, they are even punished by law, and we are fighting them even if not everyone has advanced at the same speed. But males also experience problems overwhelmingly in some areas and this society has to fight for their rights and dignity. It is not a zero-sum game and the empathy and solidarity of our society must reach all the people who need it.

 

Dehumanizing the Male is available in Spanish, and can be purchased in the UK in both digital and print versions at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deshumanizando-var%C3%B3n-presente-masculino-Spanish-ebook/dp/B081HWBYYT/ and in the US at https://www.amazon.com/-/es/Daniel-Jim%C3%A9nez-ebook/dp/B081HWBYYT/  ISBN 0578575337

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The season of goodwill to all dads?

by Dr John Barry

One of the iconic images of Christmas is the family sitting around the tree opening presents. Although images of this kind are commonplace at this time of year, for some people it serves as a cruel reminder of what they are missing out on. A large number of such people are fathers who won’t see their children at Christmas due to family separation and child custody issues.

In a survey of over 1,000 divorced parents, fathers went on average over three years without spending Christmas day with their children, and travelled on average 392 miles to see their children at Christmas. Another survey of 402 parents by Families Need Fathers (FNF) found that about half the children of separated families only saw one parent at Christmas. In many cases court orders for contact with the child were ignored. For those who didn’t see their children, around three quarters didn’t get a card, gift or phone call from the child. Many respondents said that parental alienation was an issue.

The mental health impact on fathers who are unable to see their children at Christmas must be enormous, inducing in some a state of grief. Very little research has been done on this topic however, which tells us some important things:

  • There is a gender empathy gap. In general, it seems likely that problems facing men aren’t noticed as much as problems facing women
  • It is the fashion to view fathers negatively. Fathers may see themselves as important to their children’s wellbeing and development, but are often viewed in a negative light by organisations that deal with issues, such as domestic violence, that can result in family breakdown
  • Sympathy for fathers is discouraged. The legal rights of fathers are often minimised or dismissed, and sympathy is sometimes actively discouraged, as shown by this workshop which makes the harmful claims that “Father’s rights groups… are interested only in reducing their financial obligation to their children [and] Are interested only in extending or regaining power and authority over ex-partners and children” (p.47).

These three issues mean that fathers don’t receive the support that they should do, and are left at risk of mental health problems, especially at key family occasions such as Christmas. Moreover, we don’t even know the true scale of the problem, because interest in this topic is discouraged so funding is virtually non-existent.

 

What can fathers do?

Although Christmas can be a very challenging time to be a father without his children, there are several things you can do, including:

  • Don’t give up. The new year is around the corner, and things might change for the better, especially if you set out a few achievable goals for yourself.
  • Talk to someone about how you feel and what you want to do about your situation. Families Need Fathers have helplines to offer practical advice and emotional support . Other helpline numbers are listed below.
  • Realise that you are not alone. There are many fathers in exactly the same situation as you are, and despite the efforts from some quarters, sympathy for your situation is increasing, even amongst the judiciary. No doubt one day common sense will prevail and fathers in the UK will no longer be treated in a way that causes such deep distress.

 

For further help over the Christmas period:

CALM is open 5pm – midnight (365 days), phone 0800 58 58 58 or webchat https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/get-help/

Samaritans are one of the few helplines that is open right through the holiday period (open 24/7, 365 days) Tel. 116 123 (UK & Ireland)

 

About the author

Dr John A. Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Honorary Lecturer in Psychology at University College London, clinical hypnotherapist, and author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications on a variety of topics in psychology and medicine. John is a professional researcher and has taken an interest in improving the teaching of research methods and statistics. He has practiced clinical hypnosis for several years and is a member of the British Association of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis. His Ph.D. was awarded by City University London, on the topic of the Psychological Aspects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is also the topic of his new book (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is co-founder of both the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS), lead organiser of the Male Psychology Conference, and co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (London: Palgrave Macmillan IBSN 978-3-030-04384-1   DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1).

Open post

It’s easier to blame men than to see men as victims

by Dr Tania Reynolds

A cursory glance through recent news articles surrounding gender suggests women are struggling in modern society, and uniformly have it worse than men. Indeed, there are many contexts where women are disadvantaged, such as the pattern of fewer female world leaders, CEOs, and full professors. At the top of the societal distribution, men are overrepresented, which is certainly worthy of attention and concern. However, if one were to take a careful look at the bottom of the societal distribution, they might be surprised to see men are also overrepresented. For example, compared to women, men are more likely to be homeless, suffer from substance abuse, commit suicide, drop out of high school, never attend college, be imprisoned, and even die 5 years sooner on average.

Why is it that the social discrepancies whereby men are disproportionately afflicted receive significantly less attention? A reader might espouse the argument, “well these are issues under men’s control”. Perhaps that is true, to some degree. However, there are some cases where these discrepancies are at least partially the result of active biases. For example, legal research demonstrates that men receive longer prison sentences than do women, even when they commit identical crimes (Mazella & Feingold, 1994; Mustard, 2001). Why then, do we fail to recognize these cases where men are suffering?

Researchers in cognitive moral psychology have discovered that when people evaluate situations in which harm occurs, they instinctively cast the involved parties into one of two roles: intentional perpetrator and suffering victim (Gray & Wegner, 2009). That is, the human mind naturally perceives moral actions through a dyadic template, such that we assume those involved are either the harm-inflicting agent or the harm-experiencing patient. Moreover, once we cast a target as a perpetrator, it is incredibly difficult to subsequently view them as a victim, and vice versa.

In our research, we tested the hypothesis that the application of this cognitive template might be biased by gender (Reynolds, Howard, Sjastad, Okimoto, Baumeister, Aquino, & Kim, 2019) Specifically, we predicted that people more readily place men in the role of perpetrator and women in the role of suffering victim. If so, this tendency might suggest it is challenging for us to perceive men as victims and respond compassionately to their suffering.

To test this hypothesis, we had participants evaluate situations involving workplace harm, such as a surgeon bullying their surgical trainee.  We manipulated whether we referred to the targets in the scenarios as either victim and perpetrator or more neutrally, “party A or B”. We asked participants to recall whether the harmed target was male or female, even though the scenario never mentioned this. Across the different scenarios, we found that people overwhelmingly assumed the harmed target was female, but especially when we labeled the targets as perpetrator/victim. This finding suggests we more easily place women in the victim role. Moreover, when participants assumed the harm target was female, they felt more warmly towards her and perceived her as more moral, compared to when they assumed the harmed target was male.

In another study, we had participants evaluate an ambiguous joke made in the workplace. This time, we manipulated the sex of both the employee making the off-colored joke and the recipient of the statement. Participants assumed a female employee who heard the joke experienced more pain than a male recipient of the identical statement.

Moreover, participants also shifted their perceptions of the employee making the joke. When a man made the joke, participants were more willing to punish him, less willing to forgive him, less willing to work with him, and less willing to nominate him for a leadership position, compared to a woman who made the same exact joke. These patterns suggest we not only more easily recognize harm to women, we also more strongly desire to punish men, a response typical to those placed in the perpetrator role.

We then wanted to explore whether this pattern holds for groups of men or women. We had participants evaluate a scenario where a managerial team needed to make the decision to fire a group of employees whose jobs were redundant. We manipulated whether those fired employees were male or female, but kept everything else identical. Participants assumed the fired female employees suffered more pain than the fired male employees, even though real world data suggests men who lose their job suffer worse outcomes (Wang, Lesage, Schmitz, Drapeau, 2008).

Moreover, participants also differentially judged the managerial team based on our manipulation. Managers who fired women were assumed to have inflicted more harm, to have made a more unfair decision, and to be less moral. This pattern suggests we not only more easily recognize female suffering, but also more harshly judge those who inflict suffering onto women than those who inflict suffering onto men.

Altogether, this body of findings indicates that our application of moral typecasting is biased by gender. We more readily place women in the victim role, which makes us more sensitized to their suffering. We also more readily place men into the perpetrator role, which makes us more inclined to punish and blame them.

This gender bias in moral typecasting has many important implications. It suggests that when we encounter men’s suffering, we will be less inclined to notice it, perceive it as unjust, or feel motivated to alleviate it.

Our findings may help explain the asymmetric discussion surrounding gender differences in social outcomes. It is cognitively easier for us to detect women’s suffering and respond with sympathy and aid. However, when we learn these statistics about the negative outcomes suffered by men, we are less inclined to view men as victims, and might instead, either overlook the suffering or just blame it on men themselves.

 

Dr Tania Reynolds will be giving a talk on this topic at the Male Psychology Conference at UCL, 21-22 June 2019.

About the author

Tania Reynolds received her PhD in Social Psychology from Florida State University under Dr. Roy Baumeister and Dr. Jon Maner. Her research examines how pressure to compete for social and romantic partners asymmetrically affects the competitive behaviors and well-being of men and women.

Through a joint appointment with the Gender Studies department, Reynolds offers courses on human sexuality and sex/gender differences. As a collaborative research team with Justin Garcia and Amanda Gesselman, Reynolds hopes to examine the dispositional predictors and physiological correlates of individuals’ romantic relationship experiences, as well as how these associations may differ across gender and sexual orientation.

 

References

Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2009). Moral typecasting: divergent perceptions of moral agents and moral patients. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology96, 505-520.

Mazzella, R., & Feingold, A. (1994). The effects of physical attractiveness, race, socioeconomic status, and gender of defendants and victims on judgments of mock jurors: A meta‐analysis. Journal of Applied Social Psychology24, 1315-1338.

Mustard, D. B. (2001). Racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in sentencing: Evidence from the US federal courts. The Journal of Law and Economics44, 285-314.

Reynolds, T., Howard, C., Sjastad, H., Okimoto, T., Baumeister, R. F., Aquino, K., & Kim, J. (invited revision). Man up and take it: Gender bias in moral typecasting.

Wang, J., Lesage, A., Schmitz, N., & Drapeau, A. (2008). The relationship between work stress and mental disorders in men and women: findings from a population-based study. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health62, 42-47.

 

 

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