When are we going to do something about sexism against young men? Yes you read it right, not sexism by young men but sexism AGAINST young men. And what about tackling the discrimination and inequality that young men face or fighting for equal rights for young men? There’s a good chance at this stage that you’ve got no idea what I’m talking about.
You may have heard of sexism against women and discrimination against black people and the inequality that disabled people face and equal rights for gay people—but equality for young men, am I really serious? Well yes I am serious, very serious and here’s 10 quick reasons why:
* Young men and boys are more than twice as likely to die before they reach 25 than young women and girls
* Young men are three times more likely to be murdered than young women
* Young men are 50% more likely to be unemployed
* Young women are a third more likely to go to university
* Young men are paid less than young women on average
* Young men are four times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the rest of us
* Young men are more likely to be sent to jail or receive harsher punishment if they commit a crime
* Young fathers have no rights to be involved in their children’s lives but do have a legal responsibility to pay for their children
* Over half of British soldiers who die each year are young men aged under 26
* Young men are three times more likely to kill themselves than young women with suicide now the biggest killer of young men in the UK.
In short, if you’re a young man in Britain today you are less likely to get a good education, to get a job or to earn as much as young women. You’re also more likely to be a victim of crime, to end up in prison or to be killed by someone (or kill yourself).
So why is no-one particularly concerned about these problems? Why does the Government only have a strategy to end violence against women and girls when the biggest victims of violence are young men?
Why is the National Union Students (NUS) campaigning against “laddism” on campus, but not campaigning to get more lads on campus? Why is the TUC only campaigning about the problems young women face getting work when young men who make up 70% of the long-term unemployed? Why is all this happening? The short answer is sexism and discrimination against men.
This can be a difficult idea to get your head around at first so take a deep breath and give yourself time to consider this. You will have been told from an early age that sexism is something that only happens to women. Maybe no-one ever said those exact words to you but it’s a message you’ve been brainwashed into believing in many different ways throughschool, the media and by government. Without realising it, you’ve been fed a drip, drip, drip of messages about men and women that can be summed up in the following phrase: “women HAVE problems and men ARE problems”.
Now, I’m not saying that this is some crazy conspiracy where a bunch of sinister people sat down in a darkened room and planned to brainwash you into believing that only women have problems—-it’s just the way our society has evolved over the past century.
When the Titanic sank in 1912 100% of children in first and second class and 75% of all women passengers survived—but only 20% of men escaped. Why did that happen? Because they put women and children first— and 101 years later, we still put women and children first.
We are conditioned from an early age to be collectively more tolerant of any harm that happens to men and boys. We may not be aware of if, but we want boys to grow up to be strong and tough and independent because, as a society, we expect men to protect us and provide for us.
Over 99% of British soldiers who die every year protecting the country are men; 96% of people who die at work every year while providing an income are men. And while women now have the opportunity to take on a provider role if they choose, they are also far more likely to be provided for by a partner or the Government if they decide they don’t want to be the main breadwinner.
Sure, we know that the majority of politicians and people in top jobs are still men, but the overwhelming majority of men are not in that exclusive 1% club. Over 99% of men are not in positions in power, but we are in a position where we are expected to protect and provide for others—and if we fail to do this we will face consequences that most women don’t face.
We know that 84% of recession suicides were men, that 90% of homeless people sleeping rough are men and that the majority of the unemployed are men. We also know that when relationships breakdown, men are more likely to end up losing their home and even their kids, with women getting custody of the children in more than 92% of cases.
None of this means that we should stop caring about the issues that women and children face, far from it, but when we fail to address big issues like homelessness, suicide, long-term unemployment and violent crime because the main victims are men—well that’s simply sexism against men and boys on an institutional scale.
There are many different reasons this happens and I’ll just mention one, because it’s the one that you personally have the most power to influence. One of the reasons young men face so much inequality is that not enough men have spoken out about these issues.
There is, however, a growing men’s movement in the UK and it takes many shapes and forms. I’d encourage all men (and women) to get try and find a place for yourself in this movement and the first step is arm yourself with knowledge.
The statistics in this article are the result of several years’ research which I’ve just published in a handy little eBook called Equality For Men. Of course I’m totally biased so here’s a recommendation from someone else, the Psychologist Martin Seager who says it’s: “A truly excellent, accessible and compelling read that should reach many people and change attitudes towards gender.”
And if you want to find out more about the men’s movement and how you can get involved I’d recommend the following links:
- Which men’s movement should you join?
- 10 ways you can fight for equality for men and boys
- Buy the Equality For Men book by Glen Poole
Glen Poole is Director of the consultancy Helping Men, UK co-ordinator for International Men’s Day and host of the National Conference for Men and Boys in Brighton and Hove.