When 80% of people killed in the Gaza airstrikes are male, why is no-one talking about gender asks Glen Poole?
A total of 172 men, children and women were killed in Gaza over a seven-day period by Israeli airstrikes last week and the death toll continues to rise. It’s a shocking figure and the scenes of death and destruction that have been broadcast around the world will be a concern to anyone with an empathetic heart.
But the question for those concerned about the wellbeing of men and boys to ask is this --why do we care more when women die? More than we care about the children and more than we care about the men? Women account for just one in eight of the deaths (each one of them tragic), but they are in the minority when compared to the men and the children.
According to the German press agency DPA:
- 119 of those killed are men (69% of the death toll)
- 31 are children (18%)
- 22 are women (13%)
Women and children first
When you look at the number of men, children and women killed in Gaza it is clear that women are the smallest group. And yet the media make women the number one victim group in its reports from Gaza. Here’s Russia Today, for example, with an article headlined "30 percent of Israeli airstrikes victims in Gaza are women and children":
“Of the 172 Palestinians killed around 30 percent are women and children. The dead include 29 women, of whom seven are under the age of 18. They also include 24 men under 18. About half are small boys aged 10 or under, the youngest an 18-month-old baby.”
Can you see who’s missing after first women, second girls and third boys (referred to here as men under 18)... that’s right it’s adult men. Here comes their mention:
“It is not immediately possible to independently verify how many of the 119 men killed are civilians.”
Presumably this is mentioned because the death of a civilian is somehow more tragic than the death of a male soldier? We live in an era where nation states still rely on men to put their lives at risk in order to protect national security and yet those men's lives are deemed to have a different value to the lives of the female and male civilians who are killed in conflict.
Men's injuries ignored by media
Meanwhile, The Independent newspaper played a similar trick with reports that 1361 Palestinians were injured in the strikes, 53% of whom were men; 29% children and 18% women. The newspaper chose not to mention the 700 plus men who were injured, focussing instead on the fact that “out of wounded Palestinians, almost 390 were children and 250 were women".
The Independent, at least, put children first, but was blind to the fact that the majority of those injured are men -- more than women and children combined -- with men three times more likely to suffer injury than women.
If all this wasn’t bad enough, Baroness Tonge, an independent Liberal Democrat in the House of Lords, managed to overlook the fact that seven out of 10 victims were men and 80% were male as she declared in parliament that nearly half of those killed were women and children -- a statement which stretched the definition of "nearly half" beyond statistical credibility.
These figures are not extraordinary. The World Health Organisation estimates that there are around half a million violent deaths in the world every year and more than eight out of 10 victims are men and boys. The horrific killings in Gaza are consistent with this trend, with 80% of the victims being male an 20% being girls.
The invisibility of the disposable male
When it comes to gender equality, both the the socially conservative and the progressive liberal mindset works on the principle of women and children first. According to this logic, if the only people killed were male then we would have less cause to be concerned, because the male of the species is a disposable resource not worthy of note as a victim of gendered violence.
This has certainly been the case in other conflicts. There was no mention of the gender of the victims when the BBC and others reported that extensive photographic evidence revealed 11,000 "detainees" had been tortured and executed by Syrian forces.
According to one blogger: "The vast majority of the images were of young men most likely between the ages of twenty and forty. There were no children. Within the images seen, there was only one female body."
When the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram caused international outcry earlier this year, the few lone voices that pointed out that Boko Haram had been slaughtering boys for months were drowned out by a noisy global conscience that deems the mass kidnapping of girls to be more worthy of concern than the mass killing of boys.
And when the Syrian government was attacking the city of Homs, the United Nations was successful in negotiating the release of women and children, but the men were left behind. This is the same UN that has an international strategy to End Violence Against Women and Girls by doesn't deem men and boys---who account for more than 80% of victims of violent death---worthy of such strategic concern.
When it comes to violent death it seems, we all, men and women, remain collectively more tolerant of the harm that happens to men and boys---and that includes the men and boys who are the majority of people currently dying and being injured in the Israeli strikes on Gaza.
Written by Glen Poole author of the book Equality For Men