Monday, May 18, 2009

Whose lives are valued more, men's or women's?

Nicholas Kristof's latest op-ed is about women in Africa who die in childbirth. He says:

According to the World Health Organization, Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality in the world, and in several African countries, 1 woman in 10 ends up dying in childbirth.

It’s pretty clear that if men were dying at these rates, the United Nations Security Council would be holding urgent consultations, and a country such as this would appoint a minister of paternal mortality. Yet half-a-million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth without attracting much interest because the victims are typically among the most voiceless people in the world: impoverished, rural, uneducated and female.
When he links to this op-ed on Twitter, he uses the feminist point as the draw:
If men were dying in childbirth, this would be a crisis.
"Reader_iam" (who sometimes comments on this blog) responds:
It would? Are you sure? Which men? All men? Everywhere?
I've become exhausted with feminist counterfactuals like Kristof's. You hear them frequently: "People would take this problem more seriously if it were happening to men." "No one would care if a man did this." It's easy to make these claims without any evidence, because they're usually unfalsifiable.

But I actually do think Kristof's claim is falsifiable -- and indeed, false. You don't need to go through the Rube Goldberg-esque procedure of (1) starting with a problem that only leads to women's deaths, then (2) imagining a world where it happened to men, then (3) comparing the real-world reactions with the alternate-universe reactions. All you have to do is look at how people react in the real world when a disaster such as an earthquake kills a large number of people. The fact that "women and children" died will be specifically noted, as if the expected reaction is: "Not just people died, but women -- oh no!" It's similar to how the American media will report that a bomb in a foreign country killed a large number of people ... "including 3 Americans" -- horrors!

In fact, even the headline of Kristof's piece (which I know he might not have written) suggests that people are more moved by the deaths of women than of men -- or, at least, the media expects them to be. The headline is: "This Mom Didn't Have to Die." Do you think the Times would be as likely to run a tear-jerker headline: "This Dad Didn't Have to Die"?


IN THE COMMENTS: "Jason (the commenter)" has some questions for Kristof:
Who has longer life expectancies? Who gets off of boats first? Is more money spent on breast or prostate cancer research? ... Does the media worry about men dying unnoticed? Who makes up a greater proportion of the prison population? Who makes up a greater portion of the people begging on the streets?
If the average woman's lifespan were several years less than the average man's, it would be a crisis!

Also, "reader_iam" follows up with a couple important points:
I do want to be clear that the high rate of deaths in childbirth in Sierra Leone, and elsewhere, is not something I wish to make light of (nor you, I know). Indeed, it was the framing that bothered me, especially in light of the broader situation in Sierra Leone, based on other WHO statistics which (coincidentally) I'd happened to review recently, and therefore they jumped to mind when I saw Kristoff's piece.

As you'll notice, the stats here are appalling all the way around, but in all categories divided by sex, you can see that males are slightly worse off.
If you follow that link, you'll see that this includes general lifespan and infant mortality -- both are worse for males than females in Sierra Leone.

4 comments:

Jason (the commenter) said...

Who has longer life expectancies? Who gets off of boats first? Is more money spent on breast or prostate cancer research? Do they ever have just "Bring your Son to Work" days? Do they ever try to get just boys interested in math/science/college? Does the media worry about men dying unnoticed? Who makes up a greater proportion of the prison population? Who makes up a greater portion of the people begging on the streets?

Did I make my point?

reader_iam said...

I do want to be clear that the high rate of deaths in childbirth in Sierra Leone, and elsewhere, is not something I wish to make light of (nor you, I know). Indeed, it was the framing that bothered me, especially in light of the broader situation in Sierra Leone, based on other WHO statistics which (coincidentally) I'd happened to review recently, and therefore they jumped to mind when I saw Kristoff's piece.

As you'll notice, the stats here are appalling all the way around, but in all categories divided by sex, you can see that males are slightly worse off.***

Thanks for the link, John. Nice to know you're following.

Arthur said...

I hear you brothers. My questions is, why do we men put up with nonsense? My answer is that this whole 'movement' has been going on for 30 years, part of whose purpose was to dumb men down in the k-12 educational system. Ever notice how girls love horses--yes, big dumb animals that they can control. Well, that's what the radical feminists brainwashed the US female into 'wanting'. By and large it worked--males under the age of 35 in the US are docile morons who haven't a clue what's going on. I mean really, as if any woman in the US would put up with the reverse situation! But, men are expected to excuse the expression, 'bend over'. Feminism in its current form is noting less than fascism. Just as in Nazi Germany, no one can disagree, no one can comment, no one can criticize, no one can judge--even to ask a question is seen, as some rad-fems say, 'an attack on women'. And, it goes much further than men and women. RF's aim is, by their own admission to destroy the family unit and the US gov. goes along with this because then it can then provide a whole host of 'services' for women and children--at tax payers expense of course. RF wants all groups (not men) to have whatever they want just for the asking--no having to earn it or work hard or understand the value of anything other than their own impulses. Lincoln said it best, 'a house divided against itself cannot stand.' Political correctness and RF will bring down America, and no one will be more surprised than these far left loons when the Chinese or Russian or Mexicans simply dismantle and pillage everything the US has to offer. Unlike Dora the Explorer--which is what the US has turned into--there will be no happy ending.

reader_iam said...

Arthur:

Docile? You'd be surprised at the number of decidedly "not" docile young males with whom I interact these days.

But then, they're mostly under the age of, say, 12.

Fancy that.