Much attention is rightly given to the atrocious violence suffered by women across the globe, especially in war-torn areas such as those under the boot of Islamic State jihadists. Nonetheless, a recent article in The Economist reminds readers of the sobering reality that men are the primary victims of violence in the world and their situation is getting worse, not better.
The Economist notes that “the world’s most dysfunctional people are nearly all male.” Men are generally more violent than women, and both suffer and commit acts of violence at much higher rates than women. In the United States, men commit 90 percent of murders and make up 93 percent of the prison population. Globally, 95 percent of homicide perpetrators are men.
Sufferers of lethal violence worldwide are also overwhelmingly male, with nearly 80 percent of murder victims being men and boys. In the United States, 77 percent of homicide victims were male and 23 percent female in 2010, whereas in 2011, 89.3 percent were males. In any given year, sex proves a greater indicator of likelihood to become a murder victim than either age or race.
Men are also four times more likely to kill themselves than women are (though women attempt suicide more often), in what has come to be known as “the gender paradox in suicide.” Far from declining or even remaining stable, suicide among men in their forties and fifties has risen 40 percent in the last ten years.
Violence committed on males, however, as disturbing as it may be, is just the tip of the iceberg of problems facing men in the 21st century, the article suggests.
As employment for unskilled labor shrinks, and the market shifts toward “brain work,” education becomes more and more important, and here men are lagging further and further behind. Women outnumber them on university campuses everywhere except South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and in the 34 OECD nations males earn only 42 percent of college degrees. Meanwhile, teenage boys in wealthy countries are “50 percent more likely than girls to flunk all three basic subjects in school: math, reading and science.”
In her book The End of Men: And the Rise of Women, journalist Hanna Rosin observes that of the 30 occupations expected to grow fastest in America in the coming years, women dominate 20, including nursing, accounting, child care and food preparation. “The list of working-class jobs predicted to grow is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes,” she writes.
Along with growth in demand for skilled labor requiring an education, the unskilled jobs that do remain now pay less than they did a generation ago. In the U.S., “pay for men with only a high school diploma fell 21% in real terms between 1979 and 2013.” Meanwhile, pay for those who never finished high school fell by a staggering 34 percent in the same period. Women, on the other hand, did significantly better, with female high-school graduates gaining 3 percent and high-school dropouts losing a modest 12 percent.
In highly feminized countries like Sweden, there has been a backlash resulting in a growing political divide between men and women. A recent poll found that 23 percent of Swedish men supported the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), which is more than twice the number of women who did. The Economist discovered a similar pattern in other European countries, with men being far more likely than women to vote for protest parties such as Greece’s Golden Dawn, Hungary’s Jobbik, the Netherlands’ PVV and France’s Front National.
Increasing popularity of the right-wing SD party is, according to one of its leaders, William Hahne, a revolt against “extreme feminism.” Among other programs, the SD favors a return to a family-based tax system that would benefit single-breadwinner homes. Hahne complains that “If a man is masculine in Sweden today he is seen as bad.”
If all of this is bad news for men, it is bad news for women as well. The cheapening of male life ends up having repercussions on marriages, families, the business environment and society in general.
Efforts to improve the lot of women and girls in the past decades have been remarkably successful, and show what a concerted effort can do to raise awareness of problems and provoke solutions.
Mounting evidence suggests that the neediest target group for such a campaign now is the world’s male population.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome