On Monday we posted an article questioning why news reports of armed conflict highlight numbers of female deaths, but tend to leave unmentioned the number of casualties who are male -- even when more men than women have been killed.
The article triggered a passionate debate across Twitter and Facebook -- some arguing men's deaths shouldn't be highlighted because men are responsible for starting wars in the first place; others saying that deaths of conscripted men and of male civilians, are being unjustly minimised by a "hierarchy of victimhood".
One of insideMAN's regular readers, Darren Ball, was part of the discussion. Here's his response.
Biologically speaking, men are much more disposable than women. We are only here as a species because we have been successful at reproduction; because one man can father thousands of children, we don’t need many men. Scientists have been able to prove that throughout history a much higher proportion of women than men have passed on their genes, which suggests that women have been selective in their breeding.
Another clue is that men are generally stronger than women – this is a sign that men have an innate protective role. We would be a very badly adapted species if we weren’t innately more protective of women. If nature had selected a characteristic in which women, not men, were most inclined to fight off an invading force or hostile animals, then our offspring would have been slaughtered in the womb whilst the much stronger men cowered in a corner.
Some will counter that men are not more protective of women and cite male-on-female violence as proof. However, my claim is that men are innately more protective of women in their circle of concern (their own family, tribe, country, creed, etc.), but not necessarily of women of enemy civilisations.
'Visceral and innate'
As for domestic violence, there are some cultures in which male-on-female domestic violence is allowed, and even encouraged, but this is not a human universal characteristic: it is only acceptable in certain cultures, so it is not innate. Even in those cultures, men protect “their” women from external assaults.
DV is quite common in all cultures, even where it is not tolerated; this may suggest that it is rooted in some innate characteristics. However, it does not disprove the theory that men are innately protective towards women. British men are twice as likely to be violent towards a male partner than a female partner, and women in lesbian relationships are at three-times the risk of heterosexual women. Similar patterns are to be found in other western countries. This evidence suggests that in societies where DV towards women is not an acceptable part of the culture, violent men exercise more restraint around women than they do around men, and women are more violent to other women than men are.
Men are more violent than women overall, but usually they are violent towards other men despite the greater risk to themselves.
Our greater outrage to mortar attacks on women is visceral and innate, no matter how much we rationalise it otherwise; it’s a reaction that has served our species well. However acknowledging that society is naturally more protective of women than men does not fit our current paradigm of women being disadvantaged everywhere and maleness being a dysfunctional mutation of the human species.
'What about the menz?'
Acknowledgement of our greater concern for women, would require us to bestow a virtue on men for favouring the interests of women over themselves, and of bravery and chivalry. This wouldn’t fit our paradigm either: men are not allowed to have any particular virtues.
The reaction by many men (often myself) to our current feminist-inspired paradigm is to say “what about the men being [insert issue of choice]?” Is what feminists often dismissively describe as “what about the menz?”
These men have a good point: you can’t hold the view that men have nothing particular to offer and society discriminates only against women, and then start calling for special treatment for women whenever some nasty shit happens (which we don’t just do in war zones, but also in the criminal justice system, domestic violence, mental health, physical health, etc.).
Asking for equal care for men is valid and rational, but it’s only one way to square the circle. The alternative, which may sometimes be more appropriate, is to reject the paradigm altogether. Perhaps a war zone is one such instance where we allow ourselves to be more concerned for the women than the men, because men are a tougher bunch who should be protecting their women and children, as they have done since the birth of civilisation. Men are good like that.
By Darren Ball
What do you think? Should we give equal importance to male deaths in conflict as we do to female deaths? If not, why not? Tell us what you think in a tweet or a comment.
Photo courtesy: State Library of South Australia
Also on insideMAN:
- Gaza: Why are we more concerned when women and children die?
- Is sexism to blame for the number of men in prison?
- Land Diving: courage, pain and the cost of becoming a man