In Defense of Men

What do the following people have in common: Aristotle, Plato, Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci, Beethoven, Monet, the Wright Brothers, Jonas Salk, Steven Spielberg, 98% of the Nobel Prize Winners for science, the key scientists behind the development of every drug from aspirin to breast cancer breakthrough Herceptin, from anesthetic to heart bypass surgery, from refrigeration to heating, from the electric light bulb to the radio, the television, the computer, and the mapping of human genome? They’re all men.

And in the five decades since the women’s movement began, 97% of science, 92% of literature, and 100% of economic Nobel Laureates still are men.

Turning to the lower rungs of the work world, do you want any of these jobs: Fumigator? Prison guard? Coal miner? Steelworker? Sewer maintainer? Neither do most women. Almost everyone who does such grungy, dangerous, life-shortening work is a man.

Yet today, men are falsely accused of so much:

ACCUSATION: Catalyst and the National Organization for Women complain than men have erected a glass ceiling that causes women to earn just 75 cents for every dollar men earn.

DEFENSE: According to an exhaustive analysis in the new book by Dr. Warren Farrell, Why Men Earn More (Amacom, 2005), when equating for job difficulty, unpleasantness, hours per week worked, years of experience, etc., women earn more than men for the same work. Jobs as computer programmers pay well but require never ending training in highly technical material and long, deadline-driven days cogitating at maximum in isolation. Few women are willing to do that work, so 75 percent of programmers are men. Jobs in sweltering, clanging, carcinogenic iron foundries pay well, but few women are willing to do that work. According to the Jobs Rated Almanac, fewer than one percent(!) of ironworkers are women. Jobs as CEOs pay very well but require 60-hour workweeks and, usually, decades of willingness to move themselves and their families every few years to places like Birmingham, Alabama or Bismarck, North Dakota to accept a promotion. Based on my experience as career coach to 1,500 female and 700 male professionals, many, many fewer women than men are willing to do that.

ACCUSATION: Men are too aggressive in the workplace. They’re just not process-oriented enough. “Men just don’t get it.”

DEFENSE: Women are allowed to make that criticism. Yet imagine if a man said, “Women are too process-oriented. They need to be more aggressive.” That man would be immediately censured.

And just imagine if a male employee asserted that a female coworker’s overemotional behavior is caused by pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) even though there’s a billion-dollar industry selling products to women suffering from PMS.

Or even worse, imagine if a feminist overheard a male manager saying,

“I prefer to hire men because they’re less emotional most of the month and dramatically so the rest of the time. I also prefer to hire men because they devote more time to their careers. More women want to work shorter hours so they can have enough time for family, friends, and so on. Yet another reason I like to hire men is that women, on average, are more devious. Guys are more direct; you’re more likely to know where you stand.” Even though there is a reasonable basis for that manager’s assertions, he would be fired faster than you could say, “sex discrimination.”

Yet if that same manager were to say, “I prefer to hire women because they’re more interpersonally sensitive and better team builders,” that equally gender-generalizing statement would likely be met, not with a lawsuit, but with praise. There is a new double-standard. People, the media, and the colleges can attack men but not women.

ACCUSATION: We must focus more on women’s health. After all, most medical research is done on men.

DEFENSE: In decades past, more research was done on men than on women, but that was not because of sexism. Drugs companies didn’t want to use women during childbearing years for fear of liability if the woman got pregnant during the study and the drug hurt the unborn child. Also, men, on average, are bigger risk takers so more men than women were willing to take the risk of being a guinea pig. Nevertheless, in recent years, the situation has completely changed. Dr. Farrell searched Index Medicus, which indexes 3,000 medical journals to find that there now are 23 articles on women’s health for every one on men’s! In addition, there are 15 federal agencies on women’s health. None for men, despite the fact that men’s health needs are profound: Men die six years younger than women, leaving 4 widows for every widower.

When women have a deficit—for example, that there are fewer female engineers than males--there’s a massive effort to encourage math teachers to call on girls more, and many college engineering programs have set up reverse discrimination admission criteria to reject more male applicants so they can accept more females. But when men suffer even the ultimate deficit—they die younger--it is ignored.

Worse, an ever higher percentage of attention than ever is paid to women’s vs. men’s health, which will increase the male-female death gap further. In addition to the above disproportionate attention to women’s health, there are, for example, countless walks, runs, and other fundraisers and TV awareness campaigns for breast cancer. I rarely see one for sudden heart attack, the leading cause of early death among men. And men die younger of all 10 of the 10 leading causes of death! Yet I get my phone bill and the envelope bears a large pink ribbon. Inside, there’s a pitch for breast cancer. I go to the post office and there’s a big sign trumpeting that profits from breast cancer stamps will go toward breast cancer. I go to my Wells Fargo ATM and I am greeted by a pink-ribbon breast cancer screen. I even go to the Oakland A’s game, a sport predominantly patronized by men, and they announce Breast Cancer Day. Where’s the Sudden Heart Attack Day? Men have a right to live too.

And let’s not forget that we send only men into direct combat. Maybe Warren Farrell is right: Today, despite all males’ contributions, “men are the disposable sex.”

© 2007, Marty Nemko

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Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in (NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on . 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website and is a co-editor of Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.

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