Today's Double Standard

We justify devoting vastly disproportionate amounts of our tax dollars to African-Americans because of their deficits: low achievement, low income, high rates of crime, drug abuse, and AIDS,

We similarly justify disproportionate spending on women. If women are not proportionately represented in the boardroom and only earn 80 cents on the dollar—even if it’s because, of their own choice, they don’t want to work long hours--advocacy groups, through their mouthpieces in the media, decry the situation and promulgate an endless series of efforts to help women, usually at the expense of men.

So, it would only seem fair that when men have a deficit, they get disproportionate attention. What’s that deficit? A crucial one: how long they live. Men die six years sooner than women. There are more than four widows for every widower!

So, it would only seem fair that more health research and health education dollars be spent on men than on women. Yet in the budget of every federal health agency, more money is spent on women’s health than on men’s. There are seven federal health agencies specifically for women. Not one for men. 39 of the 50 states have an office of women’s health, only six have one for men. A search of more than 3,000 medical journals listed in Index Medicus found that 23 articles were written on women’s health for each one written on men’s. Although a woman is only 14 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than a man is from prostate cancer, funding for breast cancer research is 660 percent greater than funding for prostate cancer research. Even the post office has gotten into the act: there is only one disease for which you can buy a postage stamp and the profits will go to research to cure the disease: breast cancer, even though heart disease kills millions more men prematurely. !

Before the age of 65, men die of heart attacks at three times the rate of women.

The bias against men is not limited to government-funded efforts. Even though men die younger, and men’s last decade is spent in worse health than women’s, most media and private sector attention goes to women’s health: features on menopause on CNN, articles on osteoporosis in the Kaiser Permanente newsletter, and nonstop corporate-sponsored fundraisers for breast cancer: runs for breast cancer, walks for breast cancer, even go to an A’s game for breast cancer. Baseball, a game played by and watched primarily by men, has a Breast Cancer Day, but not a Heart Attack Day, even though millions more people—primarily men—die prematurely of heart disease. Yet when the media pays attention to heart disease, most of it is focused on women, even though women get heart disease long after the average man is dead.

Feminists and other liberals offer excuses such as, “Men got most of the research money in the past. Let’s even the score.” The implication is that researchers were only interested in making men healthy. The real reason men were overrepresented among medical research subjects was because few women would volunteer for the often dangerous trials. As a result, most research was done on volunteers from prison or the military, the vast majority of whom were men. And did men inadvertently benefit? Men still live six years shorter than women, a gap that, over the past four decades, has decreased by just one year.

Another feminist excuse for the underspending on men’s health is, “Men just need to organize like we women do.” I don’t hear women making that argument to other groups. Could you imagine feminists responding to African-Americans’ concerns about lack of funding with, “Blacks just need to organize like we women do?”

Most often, feminists and other liberals justify underspending on men’s health by blaming men themselves for their early demise: “If they only saw their doctor more often.” Fact is, far more potent than doctor visits in staving off the major killers (cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes) are avoiding overweight and not smoking. Yet women, not men, have higher rates of obesity and smoking. Despite that, I don’t hear feminists or liberals saying, “It’s women’s own fault. Let’s not fund research on women and heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.” They want ever more money spent on women’s health. Nor do liberals say, “AIDS is caused by careless behavior so we shouldn’t spend money on AIDS.”

Only when straight men are involved, do the liberals sound like conservatives, telling men to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. With women, gays and minorities, the message is, “It takes a village.”

A fair society cannot have it both ways. It either needs to decide to allocate resources based on deficits or spend in proportion to the population: men 49% and women 51%, minorities 25% and whites 75%, heterosexuals 98% and homosexuals 2%. A double standard that hurts straight men is grossly unfair.

© 2010, 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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